Employment opportunities at the Prison Policy Initiative

Positions in interview stage:

  • Director of Advocacy (applications closed, January 14, 2020. We have a very strong pool of candidates and have begun interviews. If we have not already responded to your application, we will be in touch soon.)

Coming soon:

  • We’ll soon be posting a position for a Training Director to develop and run a series of written and webinar trainings to help our allies build skills in the research and communications areas where we are the strongest. We’ve budgeted for the training director to build out a total department of about 2FTE. Note that for this position, we’ll be looking for an experienced trainer and manager who can quickly learn the subject matter from our internal experts, and will not be hiring subject matter experts who want to learn training. This position will report to our new Director of Advocacy. (Added December 2020)
  • 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, immigration reform, or public health who would like to transition to full-time criminal justice advocacy. (Updated November 2020)


Director of Advocacy

Posted: December 15, 2020
Position Location: Remote work from home
FLSA overtime classification: Exempt
Deadline suggestion: We are getting a lot of strong applicants, so we suggest applying before January 4, 2021.

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 justice reform, in ways 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.)

About the position

We are seeking a Director of Advocacy to build a new department focused on growing, supporting, and sustaining the larger criminal justice reform movement by leveraging the power of our research strategies and publications.

The Prison Policy Initiative leads in developing projects that anticipate and respond to the needs of local, state, and national advocates. Until this year, however, we were a staff of 5 people with limited capacity for follow-up advocacy based on our work. Now, we have the exciting opportunity to maximize the impact of our work by developing a dedicated advocacy team, who will focus on helping other advocates use data to push for social change. We also envision a training component of this advocacy work, to be developed once the department is fully staffed and operational.

The Advocacy Department will engage in outreach to ensure our data and messaging reach more people who can use it in their advocacy and will offer technical assistance to make our persuasive research even more useful to policymakers and allies.

Primary responsibilities

  • In the first few months, develop, begin to execute, and routinely refine a strategy to engage in sustained affirmative outreach to a variety of audiences — such as allied advocacy organizations and activists (including local, state-based, grassroots, and under-resourced organizations), policymakers, and journalists — about our work and areas of expertise, and to respond to requests for technical assistance. This will involve strategic decisions about what issues to focus on, which groups to target for the greatest impact, which methods and communications are most efficient and effective, and the best ways to deploy staff.
  • Engage in outreach based on our work, build relationships with allies and other audiences, follow up on requests for data or other technical assistance (delegating as appropriate).
  • Identify needs from the field that might make appropriate topics for new research projects.
  • Develop systems and metrics to track and measure the impact of outreach, technical assistance, and training efforts, recognizing that impacts will often be indirect (through allies) or take time to demonstrate (given the pace of policy change and data collection and reporting).
  • Build a diverse, efficient, and self-reliant department budgeted to grow to a total staff of about 5 in the next year (including future trainers). (In the short run, support staff from other departments may be assigned to help with your early initiatives.) Provide excellent supervision/management of the team including coaching, staff engagement, team coordination, and staff development practices.
  • Once you’ve established a successful outreach and technical assistance program and identified common capacity gaps among our allies, we’ll ask you to help recruit a Director of Training who will lead a small advocate training team, which will sit within your Advocacy Department. The training program will focus on creating written material and webinars for non-data-expert allies to help fill capacity gaps, particularly skills we are well equipped to teach: locating and understanding relevant criminal justice data, creating compelling data visualizations, working with the media, and more.

Job requirements

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

  • Experience building and managing teams;
  • Experience running and winning social change campaigns;
  • Experience turning research into action, and demonstrated ability to synthesize academic and policy research for various audiences;
  • Existing expertise about local, state, and federal criminal justice systems, and relationships within the criminal justice advocacy space, are strongly preferred, but may not be required if you are a particularly quick study and have deep experience working in a similarly structured field;
  • Understanding that different communities have different resources and different needs, and experience adapting your original plan to better meet the needs of partners and the larger campaign;
  • Enthusiasm for ensuring that racial justice is appropriately centered in our campaigns;
  • Ability to work effectively in a fast-moving environment with staff from diverse backgrounds, with varied types of expertise, and spread across the country;
  • Vision, creativity, and enthusiasm for this program’s goals and the organization’s broader strategy; and
  • Direct personal experience with the criminal justice system or from a community that is overrepresented in the criminal justice system preferred.

What success looks like after 6 months

After 6 months, we expect that some of your hiring will be complete (and others will be underway); you’ll have identified and established relationships with advocacy groups and networks that would benefit from this work; and ideally, your department will have helped win some victories that would not have occurred on their own.

Salary and benefits

Salary for this position will be determined by your experience, but is expected to be in the range of $115,000 to $140,000. The generous benefit package for this position includes: health and dental insurance, an IRA match, all Massachusetts 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, and more.

How to apply

Applications closed, January 14, 2021.

Hiring process

We will be reviewing applications and scheduling interviews on a weekly basis. We anticipate doing a phone screen, a round of Skype interviews with another staff member, and then a final round of (paid) working interviews. 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 the job page at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/jobs.html up-to-date with the status of our candidate search.




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.
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.

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