The Prison Policy Initiative challenges over-criminalization and mass incarceration through research, advocacy, and organizing. We show how the United States’ excessive and unequal use of punishment and institutional control harms individuals and undermines our communities and national well-being.
Featured project: Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails
The for-profit video visitation industry has been quietly sweeping the nation's state prisons and county jails. We released the first comprehensive national survey of the video visitation industry and found:
- Over 500 facilities are using this technology.
- Most county jails use video to replace traditional visits.
Also, we collaborated with NYC comedians to challenge the industry's offensive claim that video visitation is "just like Skype" with 4 short videos.
Four innovative reports and a national profile series show the whole pie of mass incarceration, state by state racial disparity and incarceration over time rates, and how individual U.S. states' use of incarceration measures up in the international context.
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.
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.
Our Clearinghouse links to virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online, organized by category and publication date (new updates are available via email newsletter). Related resources include our book, The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry, and our list of legal resources list for incarcerated people.
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.
We've since made the same point — that when states declare everywhere to be special, nowhere is special — in other states.
If our work is new to you, you might want to check out our 2013-2014 annual report.