Who we are:

The Vera Institute of Justice, founded in 1961, is a nonprofit criminal justice organization that strives to build just government institutions and safe communities free from the scourge of racism, white supremacy, profit, and inequity that is pervasive in this country’s legal systems. We are an “inside” lane organization that drives change at scale with ambitious public sector leaders who share our commitment to building anti-racist, reparative systems that deliver justice. We leverage our access to government to transform these systems and work collaboratively with stakeholders across many movements—including advocacy, grassroots, and grasstop organizations. Our role is to pilot solutions that are transformative and achievable, harness the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice, and use advocacy and communications to change narratives and norms.

Vera has a staff of 300 people and offices in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. We are an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity in the workplace. We expect our staff to embody respect, independence, collaboration, commitment, anti-racism, and equity—both in our outward-facing work and the internal culture of our workplace. We value a range of experiences in people’s educational backgrounds and encourage people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to apply.

About the Project: 

Involvement in the criminal legal system has a profound and persistent impact on the economic well-being of people and their loved ones. People of color, and particularly Black Americans, are incarcerated at much higher rates than their white counterparts and as a result bear the brunt of the economic impact of incarceration, further exacerbating longstanding racial disparities in income and economic opportunity. However, despite these disparate population-level and intergenerational effects, there is a lack of general awareness of the impact that incarceration has on economic mobility over the life course.  

The Vera Institute of Justice is leading an initiative to address this gap, by highlighting the nexus of incarceration and poverty as a national research and policy priority. Over a three-year period, Vera’s research, data science and communications teams will: construct datasets that describe the connections between incarceration and economic outcomes; develop an online visualization tool that can be used by wide-ranging audiences to elucidate these connections; conduct research, to inform policy and practice; and implement a strategic communications campaign, with the goal of increasing awareness of incarceration as a driver of poverty and income / wealth disparities. 

About the Role:

We are seeking a Senior Data Scientist to join a multidisciplinary team in Vera’s research department to develop data products and analysis that describe the relationship between incarceration in the United States over the last five decades and the economic wellbeing of communities. They will lead technical and analytical projects that make novel connections between disparate, messy data sources that have never been systematically combined to amplify the systemic impacts of mass incarceration and institutional racism felt daily by local communities. The successful candidate will work closely with an internal data engineer and a data visualization vendor to redesign and build upon existing data collection and analysis developed at Vera. They will work in partnership with Vera’s social science researchers to build new approaches to knowledge production on the economic impacts of current criminal legal system policies and practice. Finally, the Senior Data Scientist will work with Vera’s communication and research teams to align project priorities and bring data products to the public with a focus on real-world impact.

At Vera, we are attentive to the potential benefits and negative consequences of the use of technology in the criminal legal system, including by researchers and advocates. Under the leadership of Vera’s Associate Director of Data Science and Analytics, we are developing “public interest data science” approaches by prioritizing projects that constructively overcome the many challenges present in public and administrative datasets that hold key systemic information on the way our justice and public support systems function. We complement this work with a critical perspective on the current and potential ways data science, predictive algorithms, and AI can be used to exacerbate harm. The Senior Data Science role is an opportunity to hone project leadership and subject expertise skills as part of a collaborative team while building and implementing this vision for data science as a tool to dismantle mass incarceration and further racial equity.

Who You Are:

A data scientist with leadership experience in the end-to-end process of scoping, executing, and communicating data science products to a variety of audiences. You have a developed point of view on how large-scale data projects can expose issues that contribute to the systemic inequities of the criminal legal system and have the technical chops to overcome messy, divergent datasets and bring your ideas to life. You enjoy collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to data analysis and prioritize creating workable solutions in context over building the latest cutting-edge black box machine learning models.

What you'll do:

Data science project design and leadership

  • Scope project-level end-to-end analysis processes and lead data science practice standards in collaboration with other senior data science staff
  • Scope project requirements for technical development, data analysis, and data management with Associate Director of Data Science; work closely with Project Manager to ensure requirements are clearly translated to SCRUM tasks.
  • Steer project-wide adoption of analytical and coding process standards where applicable (e.g. style guides, pull request templates, etc.) in coordination with Associate Director of Data Science and other senior data science staff at Vera
  • Lead project peer code review processes
  • Lead centralization of the project’s dataset and facilitate access for researchers across the organization. This will include becoming both the technical and analytical expert on this dataset, working closely with the Vera’s tech support for integration into a planned enterprise data warehouse as well as mentoring and supporting research staff on data use context and best practices.

Project implementation

  • Lead data science workflow, analysis, and visualization vendor scope
  • Lead development of analysis-end ETL processes to maintain and optimize large-scale data collection in close collaboration with the internal data engineer and research staff. This entails building an optimal data architecture for end products in research, data analysis, and visualization using messy source datasets (e.g. large public federal datasets, scraped data, administrative data not originally collected for analysis purposes, etc.).
    • One of the core project deliverables includes building and publishing a unilateral dataset combining incarceration and economic data for public use and will require close collaboration between the research and data science teams to define the dataset parameters (e.g. variables, aggregation levels, imputation techniques, etc.).
  • Lead analysis of incarceration and economic data using data science techniques and methodologies in support of research and product goals
  • Guide the scope of the data visualization vendor’s product development with technical specifications, datasets, and results required to populate the public visualization tool as developed over the course of data science implementation

Research and knowledge building

  • Collaborate with social science researchers to advance knowledge on the economic impacts of mass incarceration
  • Collaborate closely with research staff on social science research questions and priorities to guide goals in data analysis and data product development
  • Lead development of innovative uses of data science to gain deeper understanding of criminal justice policy and the impact of other social and economic conditions and policies on incarceration; develop new data science projects collaboratively with colleagues on the team and the larger Vera community.
  • Support research report writing with contributions on analytical methods and results

Technical documentation and communication of results

  • Lead development, writing and/or editing, and presentation of internal and external data products in support of project goals. This will include a whitepaper on the project’s end-to-end architecture for a technical social justice-oriented audience.
  • Lead drafting and maintenance of key documentation including and beyond code repositories
  • Present analytical results and data products to external audiences
  • Facilitate cross-functional relationships that interact with data science (e.g. communications, legal, IT, vendor management, etc.)

Team Support

  • Team or department-wide tasks, as required
  • Mentorship and/or supervision of analyst and associate-level data science staff
  • Recruitment support as needed
  • Team events and convenings
  • Planning and other administrative duties

What qualifications are we looking for?

  • Commitment to using research and analysis to end mass incarceration and undo racism and inequity in the criminal legal system required
  • Lived experience, preferred
  • Bachelors’ degree AND 4 or more years of relevant experience
    • In lieu of a bachelor's degree, applicable work or life experience may be considered

Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities you'll bring: 

  • Demonstrated leadership skills working with data collection, processing, and analysis in Python, with preference for experience with web scraping and using the Python Pandas library 
  • Experience maintaining and optimizing complex data product development in an environment where multiple developers were contributing to a codebase 
  • Experience maintaining and optimizing SQL databases in a cloud-based environment 
  • An understanding of full-stack development with preference for some experience in a software engineering context 
  • Experience or familiarity conducting analysis of social policy or legal regulation is preferred 
  • Project management experience 
  • Ability to work effectively with a diverse array of people and positions, including advocates, government officials, criminal justice system personnel and people who are directly impacted by the criminal or immigration legal systems 
  • A professional dedication to issues of race, equity, and fairness 
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills 
  • Exceptional attention to detail 
  • Ability to work on multiple projects effectively and efficiently 
  • Ability to travel up to 5% of the time for events, conferences, and / or site visits 

Technical knowledge helpful for this role:

The current tech stack uses the following technologies, so some familiarity with the following is preferred: 

  • Python & R 
  • GitHub  
  • PostgreSQL 
  • Airflow 
  • Flask 
  • Docker 
  • D3.js 
  • Datawrapper  
  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Office Suite 
  • Google Cloud Platform 


Please note this role will report to our Brooklyn, NY, Washington, DC, New Orleans, LA, or Los Angeles, CA office. Vera employees adhere to a hybrid schedule and are in-office on an alternating schedule that generally amounts to 10 days per month.

Compensation and Benefits:

The compensation range for this position is $112,000 - $116,000. Actual salaries will vary depending on factors including but not limited to experience and performance. The salary range listed is just one component of Vera Institute’s total compensation package for employees. As an employer of choice in our field, supporting Vera staff—both personally and professionally—is a priority. To do this, we invest in the well-being of our staff through other rewards including merit pay, generous paid time off, a comprehensive health insurance plan, student loan repayment benefits, professional development training opportunities and up to $2,000 annual for education costs and fees relevant to Vera work, employer-funded retirement plan, and flexible time. To learn more about Vera’s benefits offerings, click here. 

Applications may also be faxed to:

ATTN: People Resources / Senior Data Scientist, Economic Impacts of Incarceration
Vera Institute of Justice
34 35th St, Suite 4-2A, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Fax: (212) 941-9407
Please use only one method (online, mail or fax) of submission.
No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.

In order to ensure a healthy and safe work environment, Vera Institute of Justice is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccine before their start date. Employees who cannot receive the vaccine because of a disability/medical contraindication or sincerely-held religious belief may request an accommodation (e.g., an exemption) to this requirement.

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, military status, prior record of arrest or conviction, citizenship status, current employment status, or caregiver status. 

Vera works to advance justice, particularly racial justice, in an increasingly multicultural country and globally connected world. We value diverse experiences, including with regard to educational background and justice system contact, and depend on a diverse staff to carry out our mission. 

For more information about Vera, please visit www.vera.org

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