Employment opportunities at the Prison Policy Initiative

Currently open positions:

Coming soon:

  • We are exploring adding several more positions in 2021. We are particularly interested in hearing from regular users of our work, including experienced policy analysts in the adjacent fields of racial justice, housing security, income security, education policy, electoral fairness, mental health advocacy, or immigration reform who would like to transition to full-time criminal justice advocacy from our Easthampton, Mass. office. (Updated May 2020)


Policy Fellow

posted May 11, 2020

Do you want to produce cutting-edge research to expose the harm of mass incarceration? Could your research and writing spark policy advocacy campaigns to create a more just society? The Prison Policy Initiative is seeking a recent law school graduate to join our team of eight full-time staff members in shaping the future of the criminal justice reform movement.

Founded in 2001, the Prison Policy Initiative (https://www.prisonpolicy.org) is a leading organization in the fight against mass incarceration. The organization uses data to explain the need for criminal justice reform and spark policy advocacy campaigns on a number of issues.

The Policy Fellow needs to have:

  • A recent or forthcoming law degree
  • An activist mindset
  • Written at least one public-facing piece of writing such as a law review article, court filing, or blog post that makes heavy use of the Prison Policy Initiative’s existing research from one of these 6 focus areas: telecommunications, consumer protection, bail, community corrections, redistricting, or voting rights.
  • A demonstrated commitment to racial justice and criminal justice reform.
  • Attention to detail and a knack for simplifying complex issues.
  • A desire to pursue policy work rather than litigation.
  • An appreciation for the value of data analysis for advocacy, and ideally experience using statistics/numbers to propel reform.
  • A willingness to work collaboratively from our office in Western Massachusetts. (As of May 2020, we are all working remotely; but we’re hoping for that to change.)

The position:

  • Will involve producing timeless reports and timely articles on a number of our issues (in and outside of your original area of expertise). Initial projects will likely build on your existing area of expertise.
  • Will likely involve working with the press, advocates and elected officials who are inspired by your work with us.
  • Will most likely not involve litigation.
  • Is intended to last for a full year, and there may be an opportunity to transition to a different, permanent, position.

To apply, send to jobs [at] prisonpolicy.org:

  • Resume
  • Unofficial law school transcript
  • Unofficial undergraduate transcript (if you graduated within the last 5 years)
  • A cover letter that describes your criminal justice reform experience
  • Two writing samples that demonstrate your ability to write clearly and persuasively. At least one writing sample should show your knowledge of our work and one of the six areas of interest for the fellowship.

We are an equal opportunity employer. People from communities that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and people with direct experience with the criminal justice system are especially encouraged to apply.

Salary & Benefits

The expected salary for this position is $50,000/year plus health insurance, all Massachusetts state holidays, two weeks paid vacation, two weeks paid sick time, and an IRA match.

Start date

This position is expected to start on September 1, 2021.

Hiring process

We will be reviewing applications and scheduling interviews on a weekly basis starting in September 2020. We anticipate doing a phone screen with the Executive Director, an interview by Skype with other staff members and then an in-person interview. The position will be filled when the right candidate applies.

Please allow us to keep our daily focus on improving the criminal justice system by refraining from writing or calling the office to check on the status of your application. We’ll keep our careers page at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/jobs.html up to date with the status of our candidate search.

Status of our search

We began accepting applications in May 2020 and began reviewing applications in September 2020. The position will be open until filled.



If I’m applying for a technical, communications, or design position, how should I be thinking about how to best meet the Prison Policy Initiative’s needs?
You can think of us like a magazine, with the technical, communications and design needs of an online magazine. We don’t think of ourselves that way, but for your purposes you’d be almost all the way there. (The biggest difference between the Prison Policy Initiative and an online magazine is that we think our “back catalogue” is as valuable, if not more valuable, than our newest material.)
What technologies does the Prison Policy Initiative use?
Almost all staff are using Macs, and the servers are all running variants of Linux. Standard office tools include Microsoft Office, Apple’s Keynote (where we make most of our graphs), Filemaker, and Pixelmator. The website runs Apache and our pages are built with a combination of handcoded HTML (via a PHP templating system), Wordpress, and several in-house content management systems. Most tools and web applications are built in PHP, although at least one legacy system relies on Perl.
What are some upcoming new technology projects?
We’re always looking for new ways to display the imagery in our most popular report, Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie, we’d like to do a data visualization about flow of people through the criminal justice system using a technique similar to one used by the New York Times to discuss a painting, and we’ll be building and updating several tools for research and advocacy around how incarcerated people are counted in the 2010 Census.
If I’m offered the position, can I negotiate my salary outside the listed range?
No. The Prison Policy Initiative lists the anticipated salary for all listed positions because we believe that doing otherwise wastes everyone’s time and increases inequality. For that reason, we’re not going to go outside of that range without re-listing the position, so the offer stage is too late to make this request. However, if you have some additional experience that would allow you to do the position in a greatly expanded way, feel free to pitch us in your cover letter. If we are persuaded that it would be appropriate to make a significantly more senior variant of the position, we will re-list a more senior variant of the position immediately before proceeding with interviews.
Some positions have a salary range of $20,000 or more, and I’m only interested in the position at the higher end of the range. What should I do?
We try to offer positions that have only a narrow range, but sometimes we list a position that can be filled by a more junior candidate who can grow into a senior role in time, or by a more senior candidate who can take on more responsibility immediately and we’d be happy to fill either variant. In that case, we understand that you might only be interested in the more senior variant, and you might be unsure whether we see your experience the same way you do. If this is important to you, you can feel free to tell us where you think you fit in in your cover letter, and we’ll make it a point to tell you very early in the interview process whether we are considering your application for the more junior, middle, or senior end of our published range.
Why do you pay for in-office interview time?
We consider the practice of making applicants do real work for free as part of the interview process to be exploitative. On the other hand, we’ve found that asking you to apply your creativity and experience to real (or simulated) problems to be a valuable way for us to find out what you can do. For that reason, as a matter of policy, we pay interviewees for their time when doing real or simulated work.
What makes for a strong interview for a communications position?
Our strongest candidates will recognize what we do well, will know how our work fits into the space, and will have ideas for how to take us to the next level. Strong interviewees will ask good questions about the backstory and lessons learned on projects that, to them, seem less successful. Many communications professionals present ideas to us that work well in traditional campaigns, such as creating videos or focusing on individual people’s stories. Stronger interviewees will have considered why we haven’t already embraced these strategies, and will have concrete ideas about how, when, and why we should innovate.
Why don’t you make interactive graphics? Should I bring that up at my interview?
We rarely do interactive visuals like Google Charts, d3, etc., mostly because we don’t think they are an effective way to communicate the limited amount of data that we have. On the other hand, when an interactive visual would be the best way to communicate something, we often can’t because we don’t have anyone on staff who is sufficiently fluent in javascript. Once we get more capacity on staff, we can take more of these opportunities.

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