Meeting new board members: Jason Stanley
by Bernadette Rabuy, April 15, 2015
We are very excited to introduce the newest member of the Prison Policy Initiative board: Jason Stanley. Jason Stanley is a Professor of Philosophy at Yale and an author of four books. His fourth book, How Propaganda Works, will be coming out this May. Check out the interview below to learn why Jason joined the board:
Why did you decide to join the PPI board?
Jason Stanley: During my research for my book over the past several years, I was astonished at the number of complicated ways in which mass incarceration is embedded into the moral, political, and economic life of our country. I decided I wanted to get involved, and went looking for an effective organization that untied the complex knots for me. I started from scratch, looking at a number of organizations, local and national. I chose PPI for many reasons. My research suggested that they are the organization that does the most with the least; they are incredibly effective, and they need funders.
I had no personal connections with them, but I reached out and asked how I could help. There has been a 500% increase in my lifetime in the US prison population. My view is that this is an issue where my generation has some moral responsibility in causing the problem, and maybe we can get together and contribute to trying to solve it.
I’ve done the research to find this organization — I really started with a lot of potential ones, and ended up with PPI. This is a great organization that really puts donations to effective use.
What do you think is most unique about the Prison Policy Initiative and the projects it takes on?
JS: First, as academics can appreciate, they are drawn to the complexities of mass incarceration, rather than the obvious stuff that draws funding. For example, PPI is the nation’s leader on prison gerrymandering, which incentivizes rural communities with few residents to bid for prisons and push for harsher sentencing; they regularly uncover and litigate the most devious ways in which the impoverished prison population is used as source of cash for the unscrupulous; and they have become perhaps the central source for online information about mass incarceration.
Second, because they are drawn to the ignored complexities, they are unafraid to go after wildly popular policies, such as school drug zone laws, that in fact function as mechanisms to allow prosecutors to indiscriminately sentence residents of dense urban centers with extremely harsh sentences (I have heard that every place in New Haven except for somewhere on the Yale Golf course is in a school zone, defined here as ‘within 1500 feet of a school’).
While Jason just joined our board a few days ago, he’s already been hard at work to support PPI. Jason is generously donating royalties from the sales of his upcoming book How Propaganda Works to PPI and on Monday, May 11, 2015 we’ll be holding a book launch party in Harlem, New York. Ticket sales will also support PPI’s work. We hope that you’ll consider joining us! For more information and tickets, visit: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/stanley/