Vera Institute of Justice (VIJ) was founded in the 1960s as a project of Louis Schweitzer, an eccentric New York philanthropist and Herbert Sturz, a trustee of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.   Originally known as the Manhattan Bail Project, the organization was founded to help poor New Yorkers satisfy bail conditions they could not afford.
Now known as the Vera Institute of Justice, it has transformed into a broader left-of-center advocacy organization that agitates against what it characterizes as mass incarceration, racial disparities, and marginalization. Much of its work now focuses on immigration issues. 
Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network
The Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network is a campaign by VIJ that aims to use taxpayer dollars to pay for legal representation for illegal immigrants seeking legal permanent residence in the US.  Public funds are being spent on the program in Oakland, Santa Ana ($145,000) and Sacramento ($300,000), California; Denver, Colorado ($385,000); Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Dane County, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore and Prince George’s County, Maryland; and Atlanta, Georgia.   SAFE also received donations from nonprofit organizations such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Kresge Foundation, and Open Society Foundations. 
Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons
Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons is a project of VIJ that aims to reform prisons across America as part of the organization’s larger goal of “reducing the use of jail.”  The project was financially supported by Open Society Foundations.
Defund the Police
VIJ president and executive director Nicholas Turner wrote on June 8, 2020, that “Vera is committed to dismantling the current culture of policing and working toward solutions that defund police and shift power to communities.”  Jamila Hodge, who is the director of the Reshaping Prosecution Program at VIJ, wrote a blog at VIJ that calls for America to “radically dismantle” the current U.S. justice system because it “dehumanizes and devalues Black people.” 
Louis Schweitzer, a co-founder of Vera Institute for Justice, was a philanthropist in New York City best known for his attempts to reform the city’s justice system. Schweitzer purchased the New York Radio station, WBAI, which he later donated to the Pacifica Foundation, a progressive liberal group of radio stations with ties to the Tides Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Fund. WBAI remains one of the foundation’s five stations. 
Herbert Sturz is a co-founder of VIJ and a philanthropist who also serves as a senior advisor to George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF).
Board of Directors
Daniel Wilhelm serves as vice president and chief program officer for VIJ.
James Parsons is vice president and director of research of VIJ.
Gregory Klemm serves as controller of VIJ.
Susan Rai is the Secretary and special counsel for VIJ.
VIJ paid $245,000 to the Tides Center, a subsidiary of the left-of-center Tides Foundation, in the form of a cash grant labelled as a “subgrant to provide expertise on criminal justice strategy on stopping the cycle of crime,” according to 2016 IRS filings. 
VIJ received a $50,000 grant from the Open Philanthropy Project, a project of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, in 2017.  It has also received $600,000 in grants labelled as “Legacy” since 2005 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 
In June 2019, the NFL awarded $2 million worth of grants to eight nonprofit organizations, including VIJ, to support their social justice causes. The NFL explained their goal is to “support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity.” 
The bulk of the VIJ’s funding in the 2020 fiscal year came from the U.S. Department of Justice to represent illegal immigrants and refugees through various subagencies, including the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office for Violence Against Women. 
Despite the VIJ’s involvement in “defund the police” movements and its calls to “radically dismantle” police departments, it has received over $811 million in funding from the federal government since 2008. As of July 29 of the 2021 fiscal year, VIJ had received over $89 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal government agencies.