Employment opportunities at the Prison Policy Initiative

January 27, 2023 Update: We are currently interviewing candidates for both open positions, and continuing to review the applications that have come in so far. Thank you to the many people who have already applied!

At this time, we have a number of strong candidates for the Policy & Advocacy Manager position, and we have determined that filling that position first makes the most sense. Therefore, we will be focusing on the hiring process for the Manager before we advance further with candidates for the Associate position. The hiring process for the Associate position will resume as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience with our process.

We are also going to stop accepting applications for both positions for the time being, effective 12 pm (noon) Eastern on Monday, January 30, 2023. If you have submitted an application by that time, it will be reviewed for consideration. If we re-open the application process, we will update this page at that time.


Policy and Advocacy Associate

(Work from home, preferably from Ill., Mass., or N.Y.)

posted January 3, 2023

About the Prison Policy Initiative:

The Prison Policy Initiative (https://www.prisonpolicy.org) is a leading organization in the fight against mass incarceration. We use data to explain the need for criminal legal system reform, and we do so in a way that is designed to both bring in new allies and re-energize existing supporters. (For a high-level overview of our work, our history, and our impact, see our highly skimmable annual reports.)

Our approach to Policy and Advocacy work:

In 2021, the organization launched a Policy and Advocacy Department that focuses on supporting rather than leading on-the-ground reform efforts. While most Policy and Advocacy departments organize campaigns, mobilize volunteers, and pressure decision-makers for change, ours is a bit different. Rather than replicate the amazing work that hundreds of organizations are already doing to change the criminal legal system, we have chosen to leverage our expertise, data visualizations, and easy-to-understand narratives to help these organizations strengthen their campaigns. That’s why our advocacy work focuses on:

  • connecting state and local movement partners and decision-makers to data that can fuel their campaigns for reform;
  • identifying gaps where new research would support reform efforts;
  • producing trainings (written materials and webinars) for criminal legal system reform advocates; and
  • providing technical assistance, including identifying reform opportunities (such as our annual list of winnable state criminal justice reforms), giving messaging support, offering expert review of documents and legislation, and connecting partners working in similar spaces.

The Policy and Advocacy Department prioritizes providing support to state and local groups that are working on issues where we have expertise, particularly those led by directly-impacted people, that have reduced resources, and/or are located in states with less existing statewide organizing infrastructure.

About the position:

The Prison Policy Initiative is seeking a Policy and Advocacy Associate to help the department support the larger criminal legal reform movement by leveraging the power of our research strategies and publications, developing training materials for advocates, and providing technical assistance and added capacity to those engaging in criminal legal reform efforts at the state and local levels. This is a full-time (40 hours expected), junior- to mid-level position, with room for advancement based on performance and expertise. Primary responsibilities are outlined below.

The Policy and Advocacy Associate will ultimately report to the to-be-hired Policy and Advocacy Manager, but in the near term will report to the Research Director. This position will be permanently remote, with a preference for applicants from states where we already have staff: Ill., Mass., and N.Y.

Qualifications

The ideal candidate would bring with them a combination of the following experiences, skills, and mindsets:

  • Knowledge of the criminal legal system and its inherent problems
  • Ability to engage in critical analysis of legislation, state statutes, and administrative codes, regulations, ordinances, executive orders, etc., and has experience engaging with state and local legislative and administrative processes, preferably in more than one state
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including the ability to translate complex ideas and technical information into understandable messages that inform and engage targeted audiences
  • Experience working with, supporting, and centering the needs of directly impacted-run organizations
  • Enthusiasm for ensuring that racial justice is appropriately centered in our advocacy work
  • Ability to work effectively as a permanently fully remote staff member in a fast-paced and collaborative work environment, with people who have varied types of expertise and who are spread across the country
  • Ability to take initiative, manage multiple priorities, and organize time efficiently
  • Enthusiasm for the Department’s goals and the organization’s broader strategy
  • Direct personal experience with the criminal legal system or from a community that is overrepresented in the criminal legal system preferred

The Prison Policy Initiative is an equal opportunity employer. People from communities that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and people with direct experience with the criminal legal system are especially encouraged to apply.

Primary responsibilities:

In the first 4 months and ongoing:

  • Become deeply familiar with our past and current research projects to identify where our existing work could be useful to our national, state, or local allies.
  • Identify state-based and grassroots organizations that are working on issues Prison Policy Initiative is producing research on and share research with these groups when appropriate.
  • Take leadership over our ongoing project monitoring jail expansion and construction efforts and conduct outreach to local councilmembers, advocacy groups, and media.
  • Track and monitor state legislation on select issues where the Prison Policy Initiative has expertise and engage in outreach to legislatures and advocates as assigned.
  • Help identify opportunities for organizational engagement by looking for gaps in research that, if filled, would help advance advocacy efforts, as well as issues and topics where the Prison Policy Initiative could provide substantive or skills-based trainings.
  • Draft clear and concise internal and external memos on criminal legal reform issues.
  • Coordinate Zoom-based webinars aimed at advocates (no more than quarterly).

Before the end of year 1:

  • Draft blog posts, briefings, training materials, testimony, fact sheets, talking points, advocacy letters, and policy recommendations, and conduct research to aid the organization in developing such materials.
  • Develop relationships with state-based and grassroots organizations working on criminal legal system reform efforts in select states.
  • Follow up on requests for technical assistance from state and local groups and policymakers, as assigned. These requests may include supporting groups by:
    • providing original research;
    • providing concrete legislative or administrative policy reform solutions;
    • analyzing current or proposed changes to state and local laws, regulations, ordinances, directives;
    • identifying, evaluating, and developing model policies and best practices (legislation, ordinances, directives);
    • connecting advocates with potential allies engaged in similar reform efforts; and
    • helping groups identify strategies for intervention in reform fights.

Read more about the position

Salary and benefits:

Salary for this junior- to mid-level position will be $55,000-$75,000 per year, dependent on experience. Employees also receive the necessary equipment for working from home and a generous benefit package, which includes: reimbursement of at least $5,850 for health and dental insurance annually,1 an IRA match, all federal holidays, 15 days of vacation time per year, paid sick time, paid leave for visiting incarcerated loved ones and for supporting their successful return home from incarceration, fully-paid life and disability insurance, an educational subsidy, and more.

To apply:

Check out our FAQ and send the following to: jobs [at] prisonpolicy.org with the subject line "Policy and Advocacy Associate":

  • A cover letter that highlights your relevant experience and explains your interest in the position, as detailed in the job description;
  • Your current resume; and
  • Two short (no longer than 5 pages) policy-related writing samples, ideally written for different audiences (e.g., an internal memo and a piece written for the general public).

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and applying sooner is encouraged. Please allow us to keep our daily focus on improving the criminal legal system by refraining from writing or calling the office to check on the status of your application. We'll keep the job page at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/jobs.html up to date with the status of our candidate search.


Policy and Advocacy Manager

(Work from home, preferably from Ill., Mass., or N.Y.)

posted January 3, 2023

About the Prison Policy Initiative:

The Prison Policy Initiative (https://www.prisonpolicy.org) is a leading organization in the fight against mass incarceration. We use data to explain the need for criminal legal system reform, and we do so in a way that is designed to both bring in new allies and re-energize existing supporters. (For a high-level overview of our work, our history, and our impact, see our highly skimmable annual reports.)

Our approach to Policy and Advocacy work:

In 2021, the organization launched a Policy and Advocacy Department that focuses on supporting rather than leading on-the-ground reform efforts. While most Policy and Advocacy departments organize campaigns, mobilize volunteers, and pressure decision-makers for change, ours is a bit different. Rather than replicate the amazing work that hundreds of organizations are already doing to change the criminal legal system, we have chosen to leverage our expertise, data visualizations, and easy-to-understand narratives to help these organizations strengthen their campaigns. That’s why our advocacy work focuses on:

  • connecting state and local movement partners and decision-makers to data that can fuel their campaigns for reform;
  • identifying gaps where new research would support reform efforts;
  • producing trainings (written materials and webinars) for criminal legal system reform advocates; and
  • providing technical assistance, including identifying reform opportunities (such as our annual list of winnable state criminal justice reforms), giving messaging support, offering expert review of documents and legislation, and connecting partners working in similar spaces.

The Policy and Advocacy Department prioritizes providing support to state and local groups that are working on issues where we have expertise, particularly those led by directly-impacted people, that have reduced resources, and/or are located in states with less existing statewide organizing infrastructure.

About the position:

The Prison Policy Initiative is seeking a Policy and Advocacy Manager to help support the larger criminal justice reform movement by leveraging the power of our research strategies and publications, developing training materials for advocates, and providing technical assistance and added capacity to those engaging in criminal legal reform efforts at the state and local levels. This is a full-time (40 hours expected) senior-level position, with room for advancement based on performance and expertise. Primary responsibilities are outlined below.

The Policy and Advocacy Manager will ensure that all activities of the department are executed consistently, efficiently, and in alignment with the organization’s strategy, high standards, and broader mission. When the Manager can reliably execute and oversee this work independently, we expect they will be ready to advance to an even more senior position involving more project development, strategic planning, and long-term responsibility for the success of the department. Therefore, rapid advancement is likely for a successful candidate.

The Policy and Advocacy Manager will report to the Research Director, and will supervise at least one to-be-hired Policy and Advocacy Associate. This position will be permanently remote, with a preference for applicants from states where we already have staff: Ill., Mass., and N.Y.

Qualifications

The ideal candidate would bring with them a combination of the following experiences, skills, and mindsets:

    • At least 2 years of experience successfully managing projects and supervising staff
    • Knowledge of local, state, and (to a lesser extent) federal criminal legal systems and their inherent problems
    • Experience engaging with state and local legislative and administrative processes, determining how these processes differ across jurisdictions, and conducting critical analysis of legislation, state statutes, and administrative codes, regulations, ordinances, executive orders, etc., ideally in the context of policy advocacy. Experience working across multiple states is particularly helpful.
    • Existing relationships within the criminal legal advocacy space are strongly preferred - particularly with groups that are led by directly-impacted individuals, in places with less existing statewide organizing infrastructure, and with a need for greater research capacity.
    • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including the ability to translate complex ideas and technical information into understandable messages that inform and engage targeted audiences
    • Experience working with organizers on campaigns for social change is helpful for anticipating and understanding the needs of our allies
    • Enthusiasm for ensuring that racial justice is appropriately centered in our advocacy work
    • Enthusiasm for this program’s goals and the organization’s broader strategy - particularly for finding impactful ways to support local leaders with key data and messaging at critical junctures in their campaigns or planning (as opposed to regular participation in coalition calls, for example)
    • Ability to work effectively - in a permanently remote position - in a fast-moving environment with colleagues who have varied types of expertise and are spread across the country
    • Direct personal experience with the criminal justice system or from a community that is overrepresented in the criminal justice system preferred

    The Prison Policy Initiative is an equal opportunity employer. People from communities that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and people with direct experience with the criminal legal system are especially encouraged to apply.

    Primary responsibilities:

    In the first 4 months and ongoing:

    • Build and maintain familiarity with our past and current research projects to identify where our existing work could be useful to our national, state, or local allies.
    • Maintain current relationships with state-based and grassroots organizations working on criminal legal system reform efforts in select states. This includes sharing research with these groups as appropriate and fielding their requests and feedback.
    • Follow up on requests for technical assistance from state and local groups and policymakers, with assistance from the Policy and Advocacy Associate and, in the near term, research staff. These requests may include supporting groups by:
      • providing original research;
      • providing concrete legislative or administrative policy reform solutions;
      • analyzing current or proposed changes to state and local laws, regulations, ordinances, directives;
      • identifying, evaluating, and developing model policies and best practices (legislation, ordinances, directives);
      • connecting advocates with potential allies engaged in similar reform efforts; and
      • helping groups identify strategies for intervention in reform fights.
    • Supervise the day-to-day activities, training, and professional development of the Policy and Advocacy Associate(s), ensuring high standards are met and all activities are in alignment with the department’s strategy.
    • Review forthcoming publications with an eye toward the inclusion of useful messaging or details that advocates might need, and lifting up models and practices in policy recommendations.

    Within the first year, and ongoing:

    • Identify and develop relationships with more state-based and grassroots organizations that are working on issues the Prison Policy Initiative is producing research on.
    • Draft blog posts, briefings, reports, training materials, testimony, fact sheets, talking points, advocacy letters, and policy recommendations, and conduct research to aid the organization in developing such materials.
    • Take leadership over our ongoing work helping advocates fight proposals for new or expanded local jail projects by providing custom research and messaging support. (The Policy and Advocacy Associate will be responsible for tracking new jail proposals and conducting initial outreach to those communities.)
    • Identify opportunities for organizational engagement by looking for gaps in research that, if filled, would help advance advocacy efforts, as well as issues and topics where the Prison Policy Initiative could provide substantive or skills-based trainings.
    • Plan and execute trainings based on the organization’s research, policy, and advocacy work, including web-based resources and Zoom-based webinars aimed at advocates (no more than quarterly).

    Read more about the position

    Salary and benefits:

    Salary for this position (with room for rapid advancement depending on performance) will be $90,000-$115,000 per year, dependent on experience. Employees also receive the necessary equipment for working from home and a generous benefit package, which includes: reimbursement of at least $5,850 for health and dental insurance annually,2 an IRA match, all federal holidays, 15 days of vacation time per year, paid sick time, paid leave for visiting incarcerated loved ones and for supporting their successful return home from incarceration, fully-paid life and disability insurance, an educational subsidy, and more.

    To apply:

    Check out our FAQ and send the following to: jobs [at] prisonpolicy.org with the subject line "Policy and Advocacy Manager":

    • A cover letter that highlights your relevant experience and explains your interest in the position, as detailed in the job description;
    • Your current resume; and
    • Two short (no longer than 5 pages) policy-related writing samples, ideally written for different audiences (e.g., an internal memo and a piece written for the general public).

    Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and applying sooner is encouraged. Please allow us to keep our daily focus on improving the criminal legal system by refraining from writing or calling the office to check on the status of your application. We'll keep the job page at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/jobs.html up to date with the status of our candidate search.


Footnotes

  1. In New York City, we automatically increase this subsidy by $3,000.  ↩

  2. In New York City, we automatically increase this subsidy by $3,000.  ↩


 



FAQs

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.)
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.
I really want to work with the Prison Policy Initiative and I’m most skilled as a researcher and writer. But there aren’t currently any openings in the Research Department. Should I apply for other openings?
No. While we really appreciate people with a flexible, team-player attitude who are willing to consider other roles because they are enthusiastic about joining our team, the other departments generally require different skill sets. Experience as a researcher does not indicate much about how you might perform in other key areas of work, such as communications, development, or policy and advocacy work. Similarly, experience in communications or community organizing in the criminal legal reform space does not generally qualify applicants for research roles. Moreover, you are likely to be happiest in a role that best fits your skills, and it is uncommon for people, once hired, to transfer from one department to another. So instead of applying for any open positions, we encourage you to join our newsletter, to keep an eye on this Jobs page, or to get in touch with us about your interest.
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.
Are all of your positions remote, work-from-home jobs?
Generally, yes. While we have an office in Western Massachusetts, our staff generally work from their homes on a day-to-day basis, with most staff clustered in various parts of Massachusetts or New York City. We recognize that remote working provides both great benefits and significant challenges. The flexibility and commuting benefits are obvious, but being successful in a work-from-home environment also requires staff to be more proactive than might be necessary in an office. For example, because communicating with your colleagues in a remote environment is more difficult, staff need to be proactive about effectively sharing information and coordinating with coworkers and supervisors to ensure they understand their workload and priorities. Additionally, staff need to be more comfortable working through more of their own technological challenges than would be required in an office.


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Two positions in our Policy and Advocacy Department