This project could not have happened without the directors and commissioners, corrections staff, and the incarcerated mentors and young adults from Restoring Promise partner sites: Colorado DOC, Connecticut DOC, Idaho DOC, North Dakota DOCR, and South Carolina DOC. We are grateful to them for generously giving their time to review an early draft and provide feedback. The staff’s, mentors’, and young adults’ contributions to collaborative data analysis meetings over the years that led to changes in their respective states were the seeds that grew into this document.

This project is the culmination of years of work creating housing units grounded in human dignity for young adults in prison and a reflection of the collective efforts of the Restoring Promise team—building on the labor and ideas of team members past and present. The Restoring Promise team at the time of publication included Taline Agamy, Chloe Aquart, Jan Bindas-Tenney, Brittany Brown, Rafael Brown, Clinique Chapman, Selma Djokovic, Ashley Dufour, Brandon Fletcher, Cristian Franco, Elias Gonzales, John Hart, Valdez Heron, Matthew Lowen, Iván Lucas, Stephen Matthews, Daniel Mendoza, Marissa Milian, Veronica Miramontes, Angela Parks, John Pineda, Rashaad Porter, Ryan Shanahan, Josh Somers, Ofonzo Staton, and Sharon Taylor. We are grateful for the contributions of specific past team members: Shiqueen Brown, Alex Frank, Juan Gomez, Elizabeth Ige, Mia Legaspi-Cavin, Clyde Meikle, and George Villa.

We are also grateful to Scott Semple for his tireless advocacy and support of Restoring Promise and for feedback, guidance, and facilitation skills throughout the process; to David Cloud of Amend for his innovative ideas leading to the development of the transparency principle; to Vera teammates for their support and thought partnership: John Bae, Annie Chen, Ed Chung, Ruth Delaney, Margaret diZerega, Sean Kyler, Michelle Parris, and Hadi Sedigh, and former Veran Will Snowden; to Vera’s Communication team, specifically Cindy Reed for significant guidance in the early editing process; Elle Teshima for editing; Elizabeth Allen, Ariel Goldberg, Abbi Leman, Maris Mapolski, and Ingrid VanTuinen for editorial support; Karen Ball and Megan Diamondstein for digital web design; and Jessie Knuth and Neil Shovelin for imagery curation and print design. We would like to recognize and thank the numerous partners who participated in feedback sessions on the Dignity Principles—their contributions were critical to creating a dynamic product that the field can benefit from and use in their zealous missions to fight for those who are incarcerated and work in carceral systems across this country. They are listed as follows:

  • ACLU
  • Amend
  • Black & Pink
  • Flikshop
  • Impact Justice
  • Incarceration Nation
  • JustLeadership USA
  • Maine DOC
  • MASS Design Group
  • Prison and Jail Innovation Lab
  • Tyrone Walker
  • Unlock the Box

Finally, we are grateful for the Nelson Mandela Rules and the United Nations for creating a set of standards that recognize the need to foster a more humane and just way of treating people who are imprisoned internationally.


© Vera Institute of Justice 2023. All rights reserved.

The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit

This report would not have been possible without funding from Arnold Ventures.

For more information about this report or to provide feedback on these dignity principles, contact Clinique Chapman, associate director, Restoring Promise, at

Suggested Citation: Clinique Chapman, Brittany Brown, Selma Djokovic, Valdez Heron, and Ryan Shanahan, Dignity Principles: A Guide to Ensure the Humane Treatment of People in U.S. Carceral Settings (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2023).