About the Prison Policy Initiative
The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society.
WHO WE ARE
The Prison Policy Initiative was founded in 2001 to document and publicize how mass criminalization undermines our national welfare. Through groundbreaking research, innovative media work, and cross-sector organizing, the Prison Policy Initiative is changing the debate about the U.S. criminal justice system. Our team has grown to three dedicated staff members who, along with student interns and volunteers, shape national reform campaigns from our office in Western Massachusetts.
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.
WHAT WE DO
The Prison Policy Initiative fuels the movement against mass incarceration with critically needed insights and data like our National Incarceration Briefing Series and 50 state profiles. We empower grassroots groups, journalists and policymakers to fully engage in and propel criminal justice reform with our research clearinghouse and our powerful visual data.
Our first campaign was born in 2001 when our co-founders discovered that the sheer size of the prison population was combining with an outdated Census Bureau rule to undermine electoral fairness. All of our campaigns expose and lessen mass incarceration’s harm on our communities:
- End prison gerrymandering. The Census Bureau's practice of counting two million incarcerated people in the wrong place encourages state and local governments to dilute the votes of everyone who doesn’t live next to a large prison. Our national movement to end the practice is growing stronger daily.
- Bring fairness to the prison and jail phone industry. Some children have to pay $1/minute for a call home from an incarcerated parent. Why? Because prisons benefit by granting telephone contracts to the company that will charge families the most.
- Protect family visits from the video visitation industry. All too often, county jails replace traditional in-person visits with expensive video chats and grainy computer images.
- Protect letters from home in local jails. A growing number of sheriffs are experimenting with a harmful idea: banning letters from loved ones.
- Abolish ineffective and unfair sentencing enhancement zones. These zones blanket urban areas in mandatory increased sentencing areas, disproportionately punishing people of color and failing to protect children.
The Prison Policy Initiative is known for delivering big results with a small budget, including:
- leading four states (Maryland, New York, California and Delaware) and 200+ local governments to reject the practice of “prison gerrymandering” that gave extra representation to the legislators who had prisons in their districts and diluted the votes of everyone who did not live next to a prison.
- leading the Federal Communications Commission to lower the cost of interstate calls home from prisons and jails from $1/minute to $0.21/minute, and the FCC is currently considering further reductions in the rate, eliminating the hidden fees that can add an extra $0.38 to every $1 spent on calls, and regulating in-state calls.
- protecting family visits from the predatory video visitation industry in Portland, Oregon and Dallas, Texas.
- empowering activists to protect letters from home in Santa Barbara County, and Santa Clara County, California.
- leading Massachusetts to become the second state in the nation to roll back its sentencing enhancement zones law (aka school zones) that gave harsher prison sentences for drug offenses committed in dense urban areas.
Videos about us and our work
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