Our favorite news stories about our work in 2015

by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, December 28, 2015

Earlier today, we published our list of the best investigative criminal justice journalism of 2015. Here at the Prison Policy Initiative we enjoy seeing journalists, artists, advocates, the public, etc. use our research in new, clever ways. Today, we share some of our favorite stories of 2015 featuring our work and staff:

  • Editorial: F.C.C. Makes Telephone Calls for Inmates Cheaper
    by The New York Times Editorial Board
    The New York Times, October 26, 2015
    Recognizing the FCC for its important step capping the rates of all calls home from prisons and jails, The New York Times Editorial Board calls for the FCC to do more to prevent future abuses:

    There’s one big task left: to apply similar rules to newer technologies — like email, voice mail and person-to-person video — which are subject to the same kinds of abuses found in the telephone industry.

    If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our January 2015 report on video visitation in prisons and jails, which was referenced in the editorial.

  • Editorial: Women Behind Bars
    by The New York Times Editorial Board
    The New York Times, November 30, 2015
    This editorial highlights our report States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context, calling for public scrutiny of our nation’s overuse of incarceration for women.
  • Screening visitors
    The Economist, January 24, 2015
    Spurred by our report on video visitation, The Economist explains why the growth in video visitation isn’t necessarily a happy development for families:

    Most jails let relatives make a few free video calls if these are conducted within the prison itself. But travelling a long way, only to sit behind a computer screen, is time-consuming and frustrating.

  • Technical difficulty: Sheriff Staton’s move to replace in-person visits at Multnomah County jails with video visiting raises questions
    by Emily Green
    Street Roots, January 21, 2015
    Breaking the story on Multnomah County, Oregon’s video visitation plans, this Street Roots article helped get the Multnomah County Sheriff to reverse his ban on in-person visits.
  • America’s Horrifying Mass-Incarceration System, In 1 Chart
    by Nick Wing
    Huffington Post, December 9, 2015
    This article uses our recent report, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2015, to explain why ending mass incarceration will require an ambitious, comprehensive effort.
  • An offense that should come off the books
    by The Boston Globe Editorial Board
    The Boston Globe, September 21, 2015
    Referring to our 2014 report, Suspending Common Sense in Massachusetts, The Boston Globe calls for the immediate repeal of automatic driver’s license suspensions for drug offenses unrelated to driving, an outdated law from the tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and 1990s.
  • The Persuasiveness of a Chart Depends on the Reader, Not Just the Chart
    by Scott Berinato
    Harvard Business Review, May 27, 2015
    Berinato highlights our chart comparing the incarceration rate of the U.S. to those of other founding NATO members as a good example of a chart that creates an “immediate, visceral reaction.”
  • Video: Who profits from the billion-dollar prison phone business?
    Al Jazeera, September 30, 2015
    In this 5-minute video, hear from loved ones of incarcerated people and Executive Director Peter Wagner about how $1 per minute phone calls home from prisons and jails keep families apart.
  • Prison Vendors See Continued Signs of a Captive Market
    by David Segal
    The New York Times, August 29, 2015
    Columnist David Segal travels to the American Correctional Association conference to meet the companies who provide products and services to prisons to inquire whether the companies are worried about how “prison reform” might impact their bottom lines. (Spoiler: They aren’t scared, but for why, you’ll need to read the article.)
  • West Baltimore offers vivid reminder of failed mass incarceration policy
    by Amadou Diallo
    Al Jazeera, April 30, 2015
    Diallo uses our report, The Right Investment?, to provide some context about Sandtown-Winchester, the Baltimore neighborhood that Freddie Gray called home:

    Abandoned row houses and vacant lots dot this area, which is marked by high unemployment and low-performing schools — yet Maryland’s state budget allocates $17 million each year just to this single neighborhood. That money goes not to job training, family services or education, but solely to incarceration.

  • How Does Prison Gerrymandering Work?
    by Alex Mayyasi
    Priceonomics, October 20, 2015
    New to prison gerrymandering? Read this thorough article on how prison populations can distort political representation and then find out what solutions are out there.
  • Family visits make prisoners less likely to reoffend. But some states make visiting hard.
    by German Lopez
    Vox, October 22, 2015
    In response to our report that found that extreme distances actively discourage family visits, Lopez writes:

    Part of the visitation problem is also caused by mass incarceration itself. As states have struggled with overcrowding in their facilities, they’ve been more likely to turn to remote or out-of-state prisons to house inmates. But these far-off locations make it much more difficult for friends and family to reach inmates.

    Lopez then goes on to explain that making prison visits difficult for families of the incarcerated is shortsighted:

    The point of the criminal justice system is to keep us safe, and taking research-backed steps to prevent inmates from reoffending achieves that goal.

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