Employment opportunities at the Prison Policy Initiative
Digital Communications Strategist
Work from home from Ala., Ill., Maine, Mass., N.Y., or R.I.
About the Prison Policy Initiative:
The Prison Policy Initiative 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 recent annual reports.
About the position:
We’re looking for an experienced social media professional to serve as our first Digital Communications Strategist. This person will help the Prison Policy Initiative — a digital-first organization — navigate the shifting online landscape. In this mid-level position, the candidate will take day-to-day responsibility for our field-leading social media accounts, including creating and posting content, engaging with key stakeholders, identifying emerging trends and issues — both in social media as well as the criminal legal system reform space — and maintaining our collection of evergreen content. They’ll be responsible for not only translating our briefings and reports to the various platforms but also developing original, platform-specific content that highlights the deep harms of mass incarceration. This person will build on our existing success to help us reach new audiences and have a larger impact on public policy debates about mass incarceration in America.
The ideal candidate for this position is a quick learner who is nimble, creative, and flexible, can understand and accurately translate complex topics and data for diverse audiences, recognizes the unique role that the Prison Policy Initiative plays in the larger criminal legal reform movement, and can quickly execute on ideas.
This new position will play a key role in accomplishing our primary communications goals: changing how the American public thinks about mass incarceration and winning key policy victories that make the carceral system smaller and more just.
We are an organization that leads with our values. Qualified people directly impacted by the criminal legal system are encouraged to apply for this position.
- Manage the day-to-day activity on our existing social media platforms for the organization. Currently, we are active on X/Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Threads, with less active presences on BlueSky, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Post.
- Develop and implement platform-specific strategies to promote the underlying problems and solutions raised by our reports and briefings on each of our social media platforms.
- Identify and take advantage of opportunities on social media to inject our research into relevant policy debates to influence their outcomes and public opinion and support allied organizations.
- Monitor issues percolating on social media and use that knowledge to pitch topics for future reports or briefings.
- Be our go-to expert on long-term social media trends, and work with our Communications Director to adjust our strategy — including the adoption of new platforms or abandonment of others — as appropriate to ensure we continue to reach key audiences and influence policy in the criminal legal system.
- Help to maintain and improve the content on our website, particularly the parts that the Communications Department is responsible for maintaining.
- Maintain a deep familiarity with our work to successfully translate it for different online audiences.
Qualifications and requirements:
- Social media experience:
- A track record of using social media and other digital platforms to successfully shape public opinion on policy issues.1
- Solid understanding of the current social media landscape, trends, and practices, as well as opinions on the benefits, drawbacks, and most appropriate uses of different platforms.
- Communication skills:
- Strong written and verbal communication skills.
- Enthusiasm for working in an organization where accuracy and utility are key parts of the brand.
- Technological expertise:
- Experience using one or more graphic design tools to create social media visuals, such as Canva, Adobe Express, Pixelmator, or Photoshop.
- A willingness to learn HTML is required (previous knowledge is, of course, helpful).
- A strong commitment to criminal legal system reform and addressing the racial justice inequities in the carceral system.
- Ability to thrive in a remote work environment, including:
- Having a suitable working area. (All necessary equipment — a Mac computer, external monitor, printer, etc. — will be provided.)
- Understanding the importance of communicating with your supervisors and colleagues within the Communications Department and other departments about your work, successes, challenges, and needs.
- Being self-motivated and able to prioritize the various demands of your time, and able to articulate those choices to your colleagues.
- Familiarity with the Prison Policy Initiative’s work is desired and will be helpful on the job, but it is more important that applicants are able to quickly learn our publications — past, present, and the ones in the works.
Success after six months will look like:
- You will have developed enough expertise with our voice and content to take over the day-to-day management of our social media platforms and have smoothly transferred the responsibility from the staff members currently responsible for them. You’ll be able to point to new successes made possible by your efforts.
- Working with our Communications Director, you will have evaluated our existing social media channels and settled on appropriate changes to our strategy.
- You and our Communications Director will have developed a shared definition of success for this work that focuses on impact rather than metrics such as web traffic.
- From your monitoring of online criminal justice discussions, you’ll have identified and pitched a few potential topics for future Prison Policy Initiative briefings or reports.
- As the Communications Director develops ideas for new website content that builds on our existing expertise, you will have been able to partner with them to design and implement those ideas.2 (In the future, as you gain more experience in this area, you will be able to build on these ideas and then take on and successfully lead even larger projects in this vein.)
- You will have a solid knowledge of the work of the organization — past, present, and where we’re heading next — and how it is helping to end mass incarceration in America. With this deeper knowledge, you’ll have started to produce content — sourced from our publications and other research — for our platforms that successfully influences public opinion.
- You will have gained a firm understanding of our content management systems and our interactive features and be confidently able to create, edit, and manage content on our website.
Salary and benefits:
Salary for this position will be $75,000 - $90,000 per year, depending on the successful candidate’s experience using digital tools to win public policy victories. The generous benefits package for this position includes a budget of at least $5,850 for health and dental insurance, 3 participation in a SIMPLE IRA retirement savings plan including a 3% employer match of employee contributions, employer-paid life and short-term disability insurance, a quarterly professional development stipend, paid sabbatical leave, 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, and more.
How to apply:
Check out our FAQ and send the following to: jobs [at] prisonpolicy.org:
- Cover letter describing your relevant experience and, if possible, highlighting a time you successfully used social media to influence public debate or policy.
- One writing sample
- An example of social media content you have created that you’d like to discuss with us if you are interviewed for the position (it can be a link, screenshot, PDF, or any other format).
We will be reviewing applications and scheduling interviews weekly starting in late November. We anticipate doing a phone screening, formal interviews, and potentially some paid simulated work. 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 jobs page at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/jobs.html up to date with the status of our candidate search.
- Why aren’t you asking for experience creating video content, considering its importance in social media?
- We recognize that creating more video content, especially for platforms like TikTok and Instagram, is important and something we need to do in the future. While we would be thrilled if the successful candidate for this position had experience creating video content for these platforms, we do not consider it a current requirement of the position. We think it is more important that the person selected for this position can identify trends and changes in social media and help us create a pathway to ensure we continue to adapt to them.
- 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.