What's New

Welcome

The Prison Policy Initiative documents the impact of mass incarceration on individuals, communities, and the national welfare in order to empower the public to improve criminal justice policy.

Latest releases, March 2014:

report cover Our newest release, Reaching too far: How Connecticut's large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark, analyzes Connecticut's 1,500-foot sentencing enhancement zones, mapping the zones in the state's cities and towns and demonstrating both that the law is ineffective and that it creates an "urban penalty".


Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie graphicOur briefing, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, pulls back the curtain to reveal everyone who's behind bars in the U.S.:

"This briefing presents the first graphic we’re aware of that aggregates the disparate systems of confinement in this country, which hold more than 2.4 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,259 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories."

If our work is new to you, you might want to check out our 2012-2013 annual report.

thumbnails of Prison Policy Initiative annual report for 2012-2013

Our work

Prison gerrymandering

Our main focus is on ending prison gerrymandering, the distortion in our democratic process caused by the Census Bureau's practice of counting people where they are confined, not where they come from.

So far, four states and more than 200 local governments have ended prison gerrymandering.

Prison telephone industry

Our two reports call on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate exploitative prison phone rates.

Our work on the prison phone industry was cited in two letters from Congress, won the support of the New York Times editorial board, and was the basis for a collaboration with SumOfUs to collect 36,690 petitions to the FCC.

The FCC is now considering regulation.

Protecting letters from home

We're taking on the newest fad sweeping through county jails: the wrong-headed policy of banning letters from home and requiring loved ones to write on public postcards.

Sentencing enhancement zones

Most states have well-intentioned but counter-productive laws that enhance sentence based on where the offense is located.

We demonstrated that a Massachusetts drug law that set the penalty by where the offense is located — and not the harm caused by the offense — does not work, can never work, and has serious negative effects.

The recommendations of our two reports were endorsed by Governor Patrick and led to a change in the law.

We've since made the same point — that when states declare everywhere to be special, nowhere is special — in other states.

Facts, figures and graphics

Looking for a clear breakdown of how many people are behind which kinds of bars? Or want the latest research on issues like policing practices, the death penalty, incarceration rates, or drug policy? Our book, The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry, our research clearinghouse and our other resources help bridge the gap between existing criminal justice information and the people like you who want to make informed decisions.