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 four dedicated staff members who, a long with student interns and volunteers, shape national reform campaigns from our office in Western Massachusetts.

OUR MISSION

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.

WHAT WE DO

Our first campaign was born when the Prison Policy Initiative co-founders discovered that the sheer size of the prison population was combining with an outdated Census Bureau rule to undermine electoral fairness. In the decade that followed, we’ve come along way towards eradicating this problem of “prison gerrymandering.” Along the way, we’ve launched and supported other campaigns to expose and lessen mass incarceration’s harm to communities. Our work includes projects to:

  • 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 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.
  • Fuel the movement against mass incarceration with our National Incarceration Briefing Series, which includes four reports and 50 state profiles.

Beyond our campaigns, one of our main priorities is to expand the criminal justice movement by giving people the tools they need for positive change. The resource guides we edit and the visual data that we produce empowers advocates, journalists and policymakers to fully engage in and propel criminal justice reform.


Quote from Pete Brook: “PPI is one of the most imaginative research groups illuminating the dark recesses of our carceral landscape.”


thumbnails of Prison Policy Initiative annual report for 2012-2013 Annual Reports

Selected Awards

  • David Carliner Public Interest Award, American Constitution Society, 2014
  • Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2013
  • Finalist, Maria Leavey Tribute Award, Campaign for America‚Äôs Future, 2012

Videos about us and our work

Financial and tax information

Meet us

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