Employment opportunities at the Prison Policy Initiative

March 3, 2023 update: We have filled the Policy and Advocacy Manager position. The hiring process for the Policy and Advocacy Associate will resume in a couple of weeks, as we are focusing on several forthcoming reports. Thank you to the many people who have already applied; we appreciate your patience with our process.

As a reminder, we are not currently accepting new applications for the Policy and Advocacy Associate position. If you have submitted an application already, it will be reviewed for consideration when we resume the process and we will be in touch.

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.


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.


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



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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