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Remembering Vernon C Manley


Vernon C. Manley passed away on Monday, November 9, 2020, in New York, NY.  He was 70 years old.  Vernon dedicated his professional life to public service, with a focus on fighting discrimination and driving criminal justice reform.  In his personal life, he was a loyal friend, family member and global citizen.   

Born in Bronx, NY, Vernon spent his early years in Queens, NY, and on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he was a member of the Boys’ Club of New York.  Upon successful completion of the student program, A Better Chance, Vernon received a scholarship to attend Millbrook School. At Millbrook, he excelled academically and in athletics, earning letters in varsity basketball and track and field. In 1968, Vernon matriculated at Williams College, from which he received a B.A. in Political Science in 1972 and served as Senior Class Marshall. 

Vernon was one of the most accomplished basketball players in Williams College history; he was a co-captain and a three-year varsity player, as well as the recipient of the Tower Basketball Award.  Vernon also served as President of Gladden House, and was a member of the Gargoyle Society (senior honor society) and the Afro-American Society.  Vernon also received an M.A. in Urban Management and Policy Analysis from The New School of Social Research in 1977.

Recognizing the critical role of the criminal justice system in society, particularly in disadvantaged communities, Vernon was motivated to become a “change agent.”  His interest in criminal justice began in the 1970s while working as an investigator for the New York City Human Rights Commission.  There, he examined patterns and practices of systemic discrimination across various industries, the work place, and housing. 

Vernon’s focus continued through graduate school where he analyzed the inequitable justice process from arrest through court arraignment.  Using the Brooklyn, NY, Criminal Courts as a pilot program, his research showed that discriminatory practices affected the arrest and processing of the poor, women and people of color. These biases and inefficiencies resulted in extended jail time, uneven sentencing and higher unemployment.

Vernon’s leadership as Director of Bias Prevention and Deputy Director of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program supported key reforms throughout NYC, resulting in an 80% reduction in time between initial arrest and arraignment until court date.

Vernon was appointed Assistant Commissioner of New York City Department of Probation during the early stages of his career. In this role, he addressed discriminatory practices that existed within the criminal justice system. Vernon advanced a job program for adult probationers, the Alternative to Detention Program, the Kings Juvenile Offender Program, and a Community Service Program, which targeted juveniles.

Vernon was most proud of the Community Service Program, which aligned support from NYC Family Court judges, encouraged 100 hours of community service to reduce sentencing and, allowed service to become a foundational component of rehabilitation. The program proved effective in decreasing the recidivism rate to almost zero.

Vernon was appointed Commissioner to the New York State Parole Board by Governor Pataki in 1999.  In this capacity, he supported the fair and equitable hearing and treatment of incarcerated individuals. 

Vernon was a strong proponent of accountability but also recognized the need to consider ex-offenders’ redemptive qualities, which would enable them to reenter society and become contributing members of the community.  Upon retiring from public service, Vernon became the Director of Alumni Affairs at the Boys’ Club of New York.

As a volunteer, Vernon served on the admissions team for the Window on Williams program, was a member of the Society of Alumni Executive Committee, and in 2014 became a member of the Williams Club Board of Governors.

Vernon will be remembered for his warm and caring engagement of all.  He was a strong proponent of diversity, inclusion & belonging and educational opportunities for those in need.  He was a mentor, sponsor, advisor, and friend to many. 

An avid tennis player, outdoor enthusiast and world traveler, Vernon remained dedicated to the idea of leveraging athletics for health and wellness as he built a network of friends across the globe.

Vernon is survived by his mother, Christina Morse; Joan Manley; Patrick Vatel;  Mark Morse and Billy Morse; Marsha Morse and Regina Darby; Linda Atkinson, Yvonne Jones, Pressy Walker, and Maggie Conway;  Vikki Roach-Bassey, Keith Roach, Stephen Roach, Jenny Jones, John Roach, Janice Simmons, Edward Atkinson, Donna Bernard, Quincy Demeritte, Austin Croaker, and Sandy Conway; dear friends Ben Jacobson, Colette Caesar, Penelope Johnson, Bill and Helen Covington, and countless other family members and friends.