Press Releases archives

June 1, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 1, 2016

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
brabuy [at] prisonpolicy.org

Easthampton, MA — Prisons are just one piece of the correctional pie. Some of the seemingly less punitive states are actually the most likely to put their residents under some other form of correctional control, finds a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative.

Correctional Control: Incarceration and supervision by state builds off of the Prison Policy Initiative’s popular report, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, to provide the big picture of mass incarceration. “We often get requests for versions of the pie chart report for each state. Our new report responds to this request with over 100 graphs illustrating the breakdown of the criminal justice system in each state plus D.C.,” said co-author of the report, Peter Wagner. The report also includes an interactive chart that ranks each state and D.C. by rate of total correctional control, which includes incarceration, probation, and parole.

Preview of interactive chart showing rates of correctional control for each state and D.C.

The report uncovers tremendous variations in the forms and rates of criminal justice control:

  • Georgia’s rate of probation is more than double every other states’ rate of probation and greater than every other states’ total rates of correctional control.
  • Rhode Island and Minnesota, two states with some of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, are among the most punitive when other methods of correctional control are taken into account.
  • The capital of the “free world,” D.C., has a higher incarceration rate than any U.S. state and higher than any nation on the planet.

Correctional Control provides another metric for understanding where each state falls within the national landscape of mass incarceration and where state-based advocates may want to focus their attention. The authors of Correctional Control conclude that criminal justice reform strategies should aim to reduce the total number of people under correctional control rather than simply transfer people to other pieces of the correctional pie.

“As the movement to end mass incarceration continues to gain steam, it would be wise to include probation, the leading type of correctional control, in discussions of reform,” explained co-author of the report, Bernadette Rabuy. “Probation has the potential to be a powerful alternative to incarceration but, when used unnecessarily, serves only to widen the net and funnel more people into incarceration.”

The report and the 100+ graphs are available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/50statepie.html

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May 10, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2016

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
brabuy [at] prisonpolicy.org

Easthampton, MA — People in local jails are significantly poorer than non-incarcerated people, and even poorer than people in prison, finds a new report by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Detaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time connects the large pretrial population in local jails to the criminal justice system’s reliance on money bail. “I kept hearing that 80% of defendants are indigent, but I was curious if people in local jails are even poorer than people in prison. To get a better picture of the role that money bail plays in the large unconvicted jail population in the U.S., we focused specifically on people unable to meet bail. I expected people unable to meet bail to be poor, but I was surprised that a majority fall within the poorest third of the national income distribution,” said Bernadette Rabuy, who, along with data scientist Dan Kopf, last year published a similar report on the pre-incarceration incomes of people in state prison.

The latest numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reveal that median bail for felony defendants was $10,000. “Using another BJS dataset, the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, we found that the typical detained defendant would need to spend eight months’ income to cover $10,000 in money bail,” explained Kopf.

Detaining the Poor’s release coincides with newly published research by the Federal Reserve showing that many Americans are unable come up with $400 in an emergency without borrowing money from others or selling something. “If the average American cannot easily come up with $400, it is clear that a system that requires $10,000 from the poorest members of our society for pretrial release is a system set up to fail,” explained Rabuy.

The report provides the pre-incarceration incomes of people in local jails who had the opportunity to be released pretrial, but were unable to meet the conditions of bail. The report further breaks down the incomes of the detained population by race, ethnicity, and gender. Additionally, the authors compare pre-incarceration incomes to the incomes of similarly aged non-incarcerated Americans.

While the report focuses on the incomes of people who were detained for their inability to meet bail, the authors recognize the scarcity of useful information about the jail populations in this country, so they also provide the pre-incarceration incomes of people in local jails generally in an appendix.

The new report, Detaining the Poor: How money bail perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty and jail time is available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/incomejails.html

The report is a collaboration between the Prison Policy Initiative and Dan Kopf, a member of the organization’s Young Professionals Network and co-author of last year’s report on the pre-incarceration incomes of people in state prisons.

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March 14, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 14, 2016

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
brabuy [at] prisonpolicy.org

Easthampton, MA — With 2.3 million people locked up in thousands of correctional facilities operated by various agencies, getting the big picture is anything but easy. Today, with the publication of Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2016, the Prison Policy Initiative provides the answer to how many people are locked up in the U.S., where, and why. Building upon our groundbreaking 2015 and 2014 reports, that, for the first time, aggregated the disparate systems of confinement, this updated version allows the reader to drill deeper, including into the reasons that so many people are locked up in local jails.

Pie chart showing the number of people locked up on a given day in the United States by facility type and the underlying offense using the newest data available in March 2016.

As we discuss in the report and accompanying infographics, looking at the “whole pie” allows us to cut through the fog to answer key questions such as:

  • After state prisons, what is the next biggest slice of confinement?
  • Are there more people in local jails that have been convicted of a crime or have not been convicted?
  • How does the number of people that cycle through correctional facilities in a year differ from the number of people locked up on a particular day?
  • Are most people in state and federal prisons locked up for drug offenses?
  • How many youth are locked up in the U.S. and in what types of facilities?
  • How does the number of people in correctional facilities compare to the even larger number of people under the supervision of probation and parole?

Armed with the big picture, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2016, gives the public and policymakers the foundation to now consider the types of changes that would end the country’s reign as the number one incarcerator in the world.

The Prison Policy Initiative plans to release updated versions of this report each year on Pi Day, March 14.

The report is available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2016.html

To embed the report’s infographics into your website or blog, copy and paste the following code:

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January 21, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 21, 2016

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
brabuy [at] prisonpolicy.org

report thumbnailEasthampton, MA — Given the extreme distances that separate incarcerated people from their families, technological innovations that allow more frequent and faster communication between incarcerated people and their families would be a welcome improvement. A new report by the Prison Policy Initiative finds that while many facilities are still stuck in the last century, the growing number of facilities experimenting with electronic messaging are all too often providing incarcerated people and their families a product of questionable value at inflated prices.

The report, You’ve Got Mail: The promise of cyber communication in prisons and the need for regulation, analyzes the current state of electronic messaging in correctional facilities. The report finds that electronic messaging — which is often referred to as “email for prisoners” — actually has very little in common with the email services available to free-world users. For example:

  • Some electronic messaging systems are “inbound only.” With these systems, free-world users are able to electronically send a message to an incarcerated person, but the incarcerated person must respond with a handwritten letter.
  • While email is free for those of us in the free-world, private companies charge incarcerated people and their families anywhere from 5¢ to $1.25 per message to communicate electronically.

“Calling the electronic messaging offered to incarcerated people and their families ‘email’ would be an insult to email,” explains Stephen Raher, author of You’ve Got Mail. “Once again, it seems that the prison phone giants are providing more of the same old exploitation rather than providing true innovation.”

The report builds on the Prison Policy Initiative’s work uncovering the previously hidden prison and jail phone industry and exposing the harmful trend of video visits replacing traditional in-person jail visits. The report was submitted to the Federal Communications Commission in response to its request for comments on advanced communication services in prisons and jails and provides the FCC with nine recommendations. The report also offers seven other recommendations for legislators, state public utility commissions, and correctional administrators, all with an eye toward transforming electronic messaging from a poorly designed and expensive technology to a fair and reasonable tool for communication.

You’ve Got Mail: The promise of cyber communication in prisons and the need for regulation is a collaboration between Prison Policy Initiative and pro bono legal analyst Stephen Raher of the organization’s Young Professionals Network. Stephen’s previous work with the Prison Policy Initiative provided a first-of-its-kind analysis of high-fee release cards.

The report is available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/messaging/report.html

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December 8, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2015

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
brabuy [at] prisonpolicy.org

Easthampton, MA — With 2.3 million people locked up in more than 7,000 correctional facilities operated by thousands of agencies, getting the big picture is anything but easy. Today, with the publication of Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2015, the Prison Policy Initiative provides the answer to how many people are locked up in the U.S., where, and why. Building upon our groundbreaking 2014 report that, for the first time, aggregated the disparate systems of confinement, this updated version contains further detail on why people are locked up:

pie chart showing the number of people locked up on a given day in the United States by facility type and the underlying offense using the newest data available in December 2015

As we discuss in our report, looking at the “whole pie” allows us to cut through the fog to answer key questions such as:

  • After state prisons, what is the next biggest slice of confinement?
  • How does the number of people that cycle through correctional facilities in a year differ from the number of people locked up on a particular day?
  • How important is it to ending mass incarceration that we reform the policies that increasingly detain people pretrial?
  • How many people nationwide are imprisoned because their most serious offense was a drug offense?
  • How does the number of people in correctional facilities compare to the even larger number of people on probation and parole?

Armed with the big picture, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2015, gives the public and policymakers the foundation to now consider the types of changes that would end the country’s reign as the number one incarcerator in the world.

The report is available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2015.html

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November 18, 2015

report thumbnailEasthampton MA — How does your state compare to the international community when it comes to incarcerating women? Not very well, says a new infographic and report from the Prison Policy Initiative.

The report, “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” shows that every American state is out of step with the rest of the world.

While there are important differences in the extent and rate at which different U.S. states incarcerate women, there are also differences between how American states, and the country as a whole, compare with most other nations in their propensity to incarcerate women.

“Our analysis shows that even states which seem to incarcerate women less than others in the U.S. are in fact incredibly punitive once that isolationist worldview is broadened,” said Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. “Every single state incarcerates women at a rate that far exceeds international norms.”

This report is the first to directly put individual U.S. states’ rates of incarcerating women in the global context. The report draws on international statistics from the London-based Institute for Criminal Policy Research, state-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau for interstate and international incarceration comparisons, and historical data from various sources for a detailed look at the U.S.’s past record on women’s incarceration.

The Prison Policy Initiative found that nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women are imprisoned in the U.S. even though only 5% of the world’s women live here. Overall, with the exception of Thailand and the U.S. itself, the top 44 jurisdictions throughout the world with the highest rate of incarcerating women are individual American states.

In Illinois, the incarceration rate for women is on par with El Salvador, where abortion is illegal and women are jailed for having miscarriages. New Hampshire is on the same level as Russia, and New York with Rwanda.

“The statistics revealed by this report are simple and staggering” the report concludes. “They suggest that states cannot remain complacent about how many women they incarcerate. Women should be a mainstay of any state policy discussions on the economical and effective use of incarceration if we hope to incarcerate fewer women.”

The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass incarceration, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. This report was prepared by Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, and Russ Immarigeon, an independent researcher and editor of the two-volume set, Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System: Policy Strategies and Program Options (Civic Research Institute, 2006, 2011).

For further information, contact Aleks Kajstura at akajstura [at] prisonpolicy.org.

Links:

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October 20, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 20, 2015

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
(413) 527-0845

report thumbnailEasthampton, MA — Less than a third of people in state prison receive a visit from a loved one in a typical month, puts forth a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative, Separation by Bars and Miles: Visitation in state prisons. The report finds that distance from home is a strong predictor for whether an incarcerated person receives a visit.

“For far too long, the national data on prison visits has been limited to incarcerated parents. We use extensive yet under-used Bureau of Justice Statistics data to shed light on the prison experience for all incarcerated people, finding that prisons are lonely places,” said co-author Bernadette Rabuy, who recently used the same BJS dataset for Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned.

Separation by Bars and Miles finds that most people in state prison are locked up over 100 miles from their families and that, unsurprisingly, these great distances — as well as the time and expense required to overcome them — actively discourage family visits. Given the obvious reluctance of state prison systems to move their facilities, the report offers six correctional policy recommendations that states can implement to protect and enhance family ties. Rabuy explained, “At this moment, as policymakers are starting to understand that millions of families are victims of mass incarceration, I hope this report gives policymakers more reasons to change the course of correctional history.”

The report focuses on incarcerated people in state prisons and is a collaboration between Prison Policy Initiative staff and data scientist Daniel Kopf of the organization’s Young Professionals Network.

The report is available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/prisonvisits.html

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July 15, 2015

report thumbnailOur newest report asks and answers the question for every county and state in the nation: to what degree do the people in prison in a given county resemble the people who live in the surrounding county?

In partnership with Daniel Kopf of our Young Professionals Network, we analyzed U.S. Census data on the race and ethnicity of people incarcerated in given counties with the corresponding data for the surrounding county.

The racial disparities underlying the United States’ record growth in imprisonment are well documented, as is the fact that the prison construction boom was disproportionately a rural prison construction boom. While these two characteristics have been studied separately, there has been, until now, no national effort to analyze each state’s decision to engage in mass incarceration through a racial geography lens.

This report fills a critical gap in understanding the mass incarceration phenomenon: it offers a way to quantify the degree to which, in each state, mass incarceration is about sending Blacks and Latinos to communities with very different racial/ethnic make-ups than their own.

Our findings include:

  • Entirely separate from the more commonly discussed problem of racial disparities in who goes to prison, this data addresses a distressing racial and ethnic disparity in where prisons have been built.
  • Stark racial and ethnic disparities exist between incarcerated people and the people in the county outside the prison’s walls.
  • The transfer of Black and Latino incarcerated people to communities very different than their own is a national problem not confined to select states.
  • Hundreds of counties have a 10-to-1 “ratio of over-representation” between incarcerated Blacks and Blacks in the surrounding county — meaning that the portion of the prison that is Black is at least 10 times larger than the portion of the surrounding county that is Black.

We anticipate this analysis will be most useful to address two questions:

  1. Why do some states struggle to hire sufficient Black and Latino correctional staff?
  2. To what degree does prison gerrymandering — the practice of using U.S. Census counts of incarcerated people as residents of the prison location for legislative districting purposes — have a racial character in particular states?

The reports contains:

  • Graphs and maps showing the frequency of racial/ethnic overrepresentation.
  • Interactive tables and graphics to allow further data exploration and use of the data in new ways.
  • Summaries of how the racial and geographic disparities stack up by state.

The report is available at: http://www.prisonpolicy.org/racialgeography/


July 9, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 9, 2015

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
(413) 527-0845

report thumbnailEasthampton, MA — Incarcerated people are disproportionately shut out of the economy even before they are locked up, demonstrates a new report by the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative.

“I was shocked to discover late last year that the most commonly cited source for the fact that incarcerated people are poor was decades old,” said Bernadette Rabuy, who recently published a report about the exploitative video visitation industry that works to supplant traditional in-person family visits in jails with expensive $1/minute video chats.

“All too often in criminal justice, the data we need doesn’t exist, but here the data was hiding in plain sight. The federal government collects the pre-incarceration incomes of incarcerated people in a periodic survey, but this data wasn’t being used,” said Rabuy who partnered with data scientist Daniel Kopf to decode the data and put it into context.

The report includes the pre-incarceration incomes of incarcerated people by race, ethnicity, and gender and provides comparisons to the incomes of similarly aged non-incarcerated people. The report updates the most commonly used numbers for the incomes of incarcerated people and for the first time provides national data on the pre-incarceration incomes of incarcerated women.

The report, Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned, is available at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/income.html.

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May 6, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2015

Contact:
Bernadette Rabuy
(413) 527-0845

Easthampton, MA — On Monday, Securus, the video visitation industry leader, announced that it will no longer explicitly require county jails and state prisons to replace traditional family visits with video visits. Securus CEO Richard A. Smith stated that the billion-dollar phone and video visitation company “found that in ‘a handful’ of cases,” Securus was including a clause that “could be perceived as restricting onsite and/or person-to-person contact.”

But Securus’s new policy is much more significant than Securus’s announcement implies, says Bernadette Rabuy of the Prison Policy Initiative. “There is clear language banning in-person visits in 70% of the Securus contracts we examined for our report, Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails.” The contracts plainly read: “For non-professional visitors, Customer will eliminate all face to face visitation through glass or otherwise at the Facility.”

This offensive clause was brilliantly challenged by comedians Ted Alexandro and Ben Rosen, arguing about whether video visitation lives up to the industry’s claims that it’s “just like Skype:”

While many of Securus’s competitors have worked with sheriffs to replace in-person visits with video visits, Securus was the only video visitation company that dictated correctional visitation policy in the contract. This clause has been controversial. After public protest, the Portland, Oregon Sheriff was the first to successfully amend an existing Securus video visitation contract, and in Dallas County, Texas county legislators were able to eliminate the clause before signing a contract with Securus.

Video visitation is a promising technology that could make it easier and more affordable for families to stay in touch despite the challenges of incarceration. But as it is too often implemented, going high-tech has been a step in the wrong direction.

“This announcement won’t necessarily bring back in-person visitation,” said the Prison Policy Initiative’s Bernadette Rabuy. “Traditionally, video visitation companies and sheriffs have played the blame game, neither has been willing to take responsibility for banning in-person visits. Now that Securus is shifting moral responsibility to the sheriffs, the Prison Policy Initiative will be working with concerned families across the country to ensure that sheriffs reverse these draconian policies.”

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    Our Policy Analyst Lucius Couloute will be at the LEDA Summit on Race and Inclusion in Holland, Michigan, presenting his research on the challenges and disadvantages people face when they are released from prison. Tickets are available on LEDA’s website.

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