Director, Center on Youth Justice

Location: New York, NY

Department: Center on Youth Justice

Type: Full Time

Min. Experience: Executive

The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) seeks a visionary leader with a passion for justice to lead its Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) at an exciting transition in the life of the organization.  Vera’s new president has been in place since August 2013.


CYJ is an innovative locus of research, technical assistance and program development focused on youth who are involved in justice systems and the people and communities most affected by this involvement.  Launched in 2001, CYJ and its predecessor program have worked intensively in New York City, New York State and across the country with policymakers and practitioners who want juvenile justice to be rooted in the community, more effective, and smaller in scale, touching the lives of fewer children. CYJ aims to reduce bias in juvenile justice systems, expand the use of community-based services, divert youth who may be more effectively served by other resources and advance public safety.


Today, with a strong portfolio of work, a group of impressively talented and highly industrious colleagues and the opportunities for renewal that accompany any leadership change, Vera is looking for a director to build on CYJ’s considerable strengths and guide, challenge and inspire a unique organization to think afresh about how its work with youth can achieve the greatest impact.


Additional critical priorities for the director include working closely with the center’s research director and Vera’s broader leadership team to create a strategic plan for the center, maintaining and strengthening the quality of ongoing efforts and developing further the center’s public efforts to leverage its knowledge and skills.


The Vera Institute of Justice


Vera brings expertise in system change, commitment to research and evidence, and capacity for innovation to its mission to promote justice and fairness and improve lives. Through hypothesis-testing demonstration projects, academic-level research, technical assistance and policy guidance, Vera works closely with leaders in positions of authority to inform new policy choices and fill gaps in the provision of services.


Vera’s approach is rooted in its beginnings. It was founded in 1961 by philanthropist and chemical engineer Louis Schweitzer, who established the then-named Vera Foundation in response to concerns about the lengthy and costly detention of largely poor and minority people in New York City’s jails, especially those who were charged with minor crimes and remained in custody only because they lacked the means to make bail. Vera’s first Director Herbert Sturz partnered with the courts to design, operate, and then evaluate the Manhattan Bail Project, which introduced the mechanism of release on recognizance. This groundbreaking innovation changed the way bail and custody decisions are made in American courts and enhanced justice for those entering in the criminal justice system.


Today, Vera works in New York City, across the country and internationally. It is a matrix organization, structured into four substantive centers (Immigration and Justice; Sentencing and Corrections: Youth Justice: and Victimization and Safety) and four smaller programs (Cost Benefit Analysis Unit; Family Justice; Prosecution and Racial Justice; and Substance Use and Mental Health). Work within these centers and programs is expansive. It includes efforts to help states reduce prison populations; coordination of legal orientation programs for people in deportation proceedings; development and implementation of assessment tools to reduce juvenile detention and screen for mental health treatment needs; improvement of domestic violence service for people with disabilities; and assistance to police departments to improve relations with communities. Vera also runs demonstration programs – often in partnership with other organizations – providing guardianship service to the incapacitated and vulnerable, college education to the incarcerated and legal representation to people being deported, among other experimental services.


The Center on Youth Justice


CYJ currently has nearly a dozen active projects across the country, with a number focused on New York State and New York City.  CYJ’s work addresses key system issues, including reforms to status offender, detention and placement systems as well as developing and sharing juvenile justice system data.  CYJ’s budget was $2.5 million in each of the last two fiscal years.


Examples of current projects include the following:


  • Close to Home.  CYJ is helping the New York City Administration for Children’s Services and Department of Probation implement and monitor the  “Close to Home” initiative, an effort to keep young people in or near their home communities rather than in distant facilities. CYJ is helping to ensure that youth do not fall through the cracks of current programs and expanding the city’s capacity to use data to evaluate and monitor the reforms over time.


  • Status Offense Reform Center.  CYJ recently created and runs a one-stop resource for policymakers and practitioners to prevent youth engaged in problematic but noncriminal behavior, such as truancy or running away, from entering the juvenile justice system and providing them with community services and support better suited to their needs.


  • Youth Futures.  CYJ oversees the development of a new multi-site program to improve long-term employment prospects of at-risk and justice-involved youth living in, or returning to, high-crime, high-poverty communities in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.


  • New York State Placement Reform.  CYJ is helping the New York State Office of Children and Family Services to review and assess the current secure placement system for young people in the State, engage with families and communities affected by placement, and develop and implement strategies for improving the system.


CYJ Director’s Role


Reporting to the Vice President and Chief Program Officer, the director of CYJ will be a trusted leader within the organization.  She or he will work collaboratively with the center’s research director, senior leaders throughout the institute and CYJ staff to develop and implement youth justice strategies that will broaden and deepen the impact of Vera’s work.


The director of CYJ’s role can be divided into four components:


  1. Strategic planning. Developing a strategic vision to maximize CYJ’s impact;
  2. Operational oversight. Maintaining and strengthening the project’s operations and infrastructure;
  3. Research and Program Development.  Furthering CYJ’s role as a leader in innovative research and programs; and
  4. Advancing Discourse. Leading public efforts to leverage CYJ’s work and knowledge to advance justice.


Strategic Planning

The director of CYJ will work closely with Vera’s Vice President and Chief Program Officer, the center’s research director and staff and other senior leaders at Vera to conduct a strategic assessment of CYJ’s current work, evaluate opportunities and needs in the youth justice sector and identify how Vera – both CYJ and others parts of the organization – can achieve the greatest impact in advancing juvenile and racial justice.

She or he will be expected to draw upon the center’s work to date and think innovatively about opportunities on a number of fronts simultaneously—including technical assistance, demonstration projects and research (with the collaboration of the center research director).  The director will be expected to explore effective ways of integrating proven and promising methodological approaches into new projects.


Operational Oversight


The director of CYJ oversees a center composed of 15 program and research staff, with the center’s Director of Research providing direct supervision to researchers.


The director is responsible for maintaining the substance and delivery of CYJ’s current portfolio of work.  He or she will ensure that ongoing programmatic efforts develop or meet clearly articulated strategic goals and performance measures.  The director will also make certain that programmatic and research components of projects are well integrated and balanced.  This includes creating and monitoring work plans and staff labor distributions, ensuring the highest level of quality in programmatic deliverables and demonstrating the impact of the center’s work.


The director will be expected to monitor and maintain program budgets, authorize program expenditures and ensure that activities within the center are appropriately staffed and that funding is expended in accordance with good budgeting and fiscal practices.


He or she will be tasked with encouraging a diverse, stimulating and respectful workplace where priority is placed on continuous staff development and retention of talented staff.


The director will represent the interests of the center to the senior management team (such as those relating to operational needs, organizational structure, funding and programmatic direction and expansion).  He or she will also lead collaboration with Vera staff in other centers, programs, and offices to expand and promote the institute’s knowledge and expertise.  He or she will also devise a system to regularly relay pertinent information to center staff as appropriate.


Research and Program Development


The director is responsible for identifying, developing and implementing ideas for new, or advancing existing, juvenile justice programs.  Such programs should reflect CYJ’s strategic vision and show close harmony between the Center’s programmatic and research aims.


It is presumed that the director will think entrepreneurially about program development and will deploy the methodologies – technical assistance, research or demonstration project – most appropriate to the articulated goal.


Program development includes building and maintaining relationships with private and governmental funders, in close collaboration with the Chief Program Officer, to secure financial support for CYJ’s current and future projects.


Advancing Discourse

The director is responsible for developing, enhancing and promoting Vera’s juvenile justice profile among policymakers, practitioners, academics, advocates, the media and other interested parties.

He or she is responsible for establishing CYJ as an expert resource and to serve as an expert him- or herself.

The director will work closely with the director of communications and the director of Vera’s Washington, DC, office to advance and strategically publicize – through blogs, op-eds, legislative and executive branch briefings, speaking engagements and other means – the substance of CYJ’s work.

The director is specifically charged with overseeing the regular development of policy-focused publications that are high-quality, timely and accessible to policy, funding and governmental and community audiences, stakeholders and partners.

Near-Term Objectives

In the first nine months, the director will:

  • Maintain the substance and delivery of CYJ’s existing high-quality portfolio of work;
  • Develop good rapport and a positive and productive working relationship with CYJ staff;
  • Begin and complete a strategic review and planning process for CYJ; and
  • Be prepared to execute plans to implement CYJ’s strategic vision, including the development of new research and program activities.


The Ideal Candidate


The role of director of CYJ demands a broad array of skills in executive leadership, nonprofit management, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and system reform. The ideal candidate is an individual who thrives in a creative, multi-disciplinary environment, and who is prepared to lead an active center within an organization that is experiencing exciting change.


The preferred candidate will also have the following personal and professional qualifications:


  • A demonstrated commitment to advancing a just, fair and equitable society, particularly through juvenile and racial justice;
  • At least ten years of work experience, with specific experience managing a program or organization through a period of growth or transition;
  • Entrepreneurial drive and ambition to develop and implement research-based policy solutions within practical and politically accountable contexts;
  • Expertise in providing assistance to governmental and other partners;
  • Experience forming and maintaining strategic partnerships and fundraising from private and public sources to support research, policy and programmatic initiatives;
  • Strong interpersonal, collaborative, managerial, staff-development and leadership skills, a sense of humor and the flexibility necessary for working in a fast-paced and complex organization;
  • Ability to manage budgets with multiple funding streams;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills and an ability to articulate a strategic vision about CYJ’s work and to convey the knowledge and expertise of CYJ and its staff in a way that is compelling to partners, funders and other external stakeholders;
  • A bachelor’s degree is required and an advanced degree in a relevant field is preferred;
  • Willingness to travel frequently.



Residence in Vera’s New York City office is preferred; however, location in Vera’s Washington DC office will be considered.




Commensurate with experience, excellent benefits.

To Apply


Submit cover letter and resume. Online submission in PDF format is preferred.


However, if necessary, materials may be mailed or faxed to:

ATTN: Human Resources/Director, Center on Youth Justice Recruitment

Vera Institute of Justice

233 Broadway, 12th Floor

New York, NY 10279

Fax: (212) 941-9407


Please use only one method of submission (online, mail or fax).


No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.


Vera is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or citizenship status.  To do our work most effectively, Vera needs a staff with diversity in all of these categories, as well as in political beliefs, field of study, type of educational institution attended, and experience with the justice system.  We are proud to have assembled a staff that collectively embodies all these differences.

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