Incarcerated people and their families are literally a captive market that private companies — with the collusion of the facilities — are all too eager to exploit. We are bringing these practices to light and fighting back.
Below is some of our key research and organizing:
Incarcerated people and their families often have to pay $1/minute or more for a phone call. Why? Because prisons and jails profit by granting monopoly telephone contracts to the company that will charge families the most.
We uncover how jails collude with telecom companies to eliminate human contact, by replacing in-person visits with expensive, low-quality video chats. Our research and campaign has achieved a number of important victories.
When prisons fail to provide adequate food and other basics, the commissary — which is often run by a private company — is the only option. We use state data to assess what people are buying at prison commissaries and how much they pay.
Telecom companies are marketing tablets to prisons and jails. Our report evaluates Colorado's "prison tablet" contract, uncovering hidden fees and shoddy services.
Email, which is free for people outside of prison, costs incarcerated people and their families anywhere from 5¢ to $1.25 per message. We investigate.
Prisons have traditionally given people a cash or check upon release, to repay them for money they received or earned while serving their sentence. Now prisons are increasingly giving people mandatory — and fee-riddled — prepaid cards.
How are consumer rights and protections different for people behind bars (and their loved ones), and what can be done to protect these consumers from exploitation? Prison Policy Initiative volunteer Stephen Raher’s law article explains.
Exactly how many people are incarcerated in the U.S., and how many are held in private facilities? Get the answers with our report Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie and other big-picture research.
Exploitation in prisons and jails frequently falls on poor people, who are overrepresented in the justice system. Read about how the criminal justice system effectively punishes people for being poor.
Didn't find what you were looking for? We also curate a database of virtually all the empirical criminal justice research available online. See the sections of our Research Library on privatization and the economics of incarceration.