Employment opportunities at the Prison Policy Initiative

Recently closed positions:

  • Research Analyst (Applications closed April 7, 2021. We are reviewing applications and will be in touch shortly.)

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)


Research Analyst

Posted: March 26, 2021
Position Location: Remote work from home, with a preference for people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, or Oregon where we already have staff
FLSA overtime classification: Exempt
Application deadline: April 7, 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 Research Analyst to collect, organize, simplify, and write about quantitative data from government datasets, our datasets, your own open records requests, and previously published academic and journalistic research. The Research Analyst will be expected to become a subject matter expert on the areas assigned; locate, organize, and analyze relevant data; discover and solve data problems; identify what is possible to reliably say based on available data; and write about the findings that will serve as a foundation of our movement.

The Prison Policy Initiative is in a period of rapid expansion and some details of the position will evolve, but we expect this position to include, on day one:

  • Taking lead editorial responsibility for our Research Library, the internet's largest collection of curated empirical research about the criminal justice system.
  • Assisting with the analysis of large datasets produced by government agencies and scraped data that we collected.
  • Providing research - on statistical, messaging, and political topics - to help us complete an exciting new project that will build upon the work of our big-picture publication Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie to show the flow of people through the criminal justice system and where the most influential levers for reform are.

Job requirements

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

  • 2+ years of experience regularly working with complex criminal justice datasets and a portfolio showing the depth and breadth of your work in a professional or advocacy context;
  • Proficiency in at least one major statistical package (R preferred);
  • A demonstrated knowledge of the criminal justice system, its component parts, and the competing strategies for reform;
  • Experience designing and executing research projects;
  • Experience finding ways to most powerfully display and present data (please provide examples of your work);
  • A demonstrated ability to synthesize academic and policy research for various audiences;
  • An appreciation for the power of carefully chosen words to change people's minds and examples of your success;
  • Direct personal experience with the criminal justice system or from a community that is overrepresented in the criminal justice system preferred;
  • An ability to start as soon as possible and no later than June 1, 2021.

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.

What success looks like after 6 months

We expect that by the time you have been with us for three months, you will have had some early successes learning our research methods, our research strategies, and with learning to write in our organizational voice. We expect that after six months, you will have published several significant pieces and will be taking on projects of increasing complexity across a growing number of subject matters.

Salary and benefits

Salary for this mid-level position will be determined by your experience, but is expected to be in the range of $55,000 to $65,000. 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

Check out our FAQ and send, to jobs [at] prisonpolicy.org:

  • Resume
  • At least two writing samples demonstrating your knowledge of criminal justice datasets and your ability to make the complex more accessible
  • Cover letter describing your experience performing similar work, your proposed start date, and your state of residence.
  • Our Research Analyst skills assessment form at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/Research_Analyst_skills_assessment.doc

Hiring process

We will be reviewing applications and scheduling interviews on a daily 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 and making an offer to our chosen candidate by April 16. 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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