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I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 17 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

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Were your headphones made in prison?

A new Forbes piece explores the international market for products made in prison, citing to our publication "The Prison Index."

by Leah Sakala, June 29, 2013

It’s really exciting to see our work being used in creative and compelling ways. For example:

The Prison Index

A new Forbes piece reveals that major international corporations are buying products, such as in-flight airline headphones, manufactured in inhumane Chinese work prisons.

While most people would rightly conclude that profiting from abusive forced labor is unconscionable, the author points out that this might also be a good time for some self-reflection. U.S. consumers regularly buy products from private U.S. corporations that capitalize on prison labor, and there’s a frightening push in this country to cut costs by replacing public sector jobs with work crews of incarcerated people. Citing to the “Prison Labor” section of our publication, The Prison Index, the author warns:

It’s not clear… whether U.S. citizens would feel comfortable using products that were made by prisoners making $0.13 cents per hour. But if U.S. citizens for some reason do become comfortable with it, there are plenty of companies and prison administrators worldwide who would be happy to oblige them.

We released the The Prison Index over ten years ago in order to give a broad overview of the criminal justice system by compiling reliable data on a wide array of criminal justice topics. We anticipated that it would have a shelf life of about two years, but, lo and behold, we’re thrilled that it’s still regularly cited by journalists, activists, and policymakers more than a decade later.

We’re working on raising the funds we need to update and expand The Prison Index. But in the meantime, check it out!

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