Our favorite news coverage of our work in 2016
by Kim Cerullo, December 27, 2016
One of our goals here at the Prison Policy Initiative is to engage the public in current criminal justice issues. Journalists who use our research in new, creative ways play a crucial role in that process. These were some of our favorite stories of 2016 featuring our work, starting with the most recent:
- Probation fees pose an undue burden
by The Boston Globe Editorial Board
The Boston Globe, December 13, 2016
The leading type of correctional control in the U.S. is not incarceration but rather probation. Probation may sound like a light punishment, but the substantial fines and fees burden families and make it harder for people to succeed. In Massachusetts, like many states, probation fees fall most heavily on those least able to afford them. This Globe editorial supports our report on probation fees and explains why we should not use “criminal justice as cash register.”
- New study critical of Virginia driver’s license suspensions for drug offenses
by Frank Green
The Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 10, 2016
Almost 39,000 safe drivers in Virginia lose their licenses each year. Why? Because Virginia is one of only 12 states in the country that still automatically suspend the driver’s license of anyone convicted of a drug offense, even if that offense had nothing to do with driving. Frank Green offers an in-depth analysis of our new report on the subject, which encourages states to opt out of this relic of the War on Drugs.
- In One N.H. Jail, Inmate Visits Don’t Look How You Might Think They Look
by Natasha Haverty
NHPR, December 5, 2016
If you have a loved one behind bars, there are more ways than ever to stay connected, including video visitation. But there’s a catch: when jails add video visitation, they often ban in-person visits. This New Hampshire Public Radio story puts a spotlight on Cheshire County Jail in New Hampshire, where these in-person visitation bans are tearing families apart.
- A Virtual Visit to a Relative in Jail
by Maya Schenwar
The New York Times, September 29, 2016
Video visitation can be a helpful way to keep families connected — as a supplement to in-person visits. What video visitation companies like Securus don’t advertise, however, is that in many places traditional visitation is banned. In this op-ed, Maya Schenwar builds on our report on video visitation with a description of her first video visit to her sister. With technical errors, glitchy screens, and a lack of eye contact, her experience makes it clear that video visitation doesn’t compare to the real thing.
- The Wrong Way to Count Prisoners
by The New York Times Editorial Board
The New York Times, July 16, 2016
When the Census counts people where they are incarcerated, rather than where they live, they inflate the populations of areas surrounding large prisons. The population boost leads to “prison gerrymandering” — giving undue influence to the political districts in those areas. Based on our analysis, this editorial explains why some states may be unable to prevent prison gerrymandering on their own and calls on the Census Bureau to take a stand for equality and fairness in the electoral process.
- The grotesque criminalization of poverty in America
by Ryan Cooper
The Week, May 16, 2016
At any given moment, 646,000 people are in American jails, with millions churning in and out of the system each year. Ryan Cooper builds on our report, Detaining the Poor, to make the case that forcing millions of people each year to spend unnecessary hours, days or months in behind bars just because they are too poor to make bail is “nothing less than a moral abomination.”
- The Prison-Commercial Complex
by Chandra Bozelko
The New York Times, March 21, 2016
A fee to create a calling account. A fee to add funds. A fee to get a refund. Those are just some of the ways that private companies put their hands into the meager pockets of incarcerated people and their families. Chandra Bozelko reviews our research on the prison telephone industry, the release card industry and the money transfer industry to bring attention to the hidden beneficiaries of mass incarceration.