The Prison Policy Initiative's accomplishments are those of a much larger organization. Thanks to your support, we've added staff and our capacity to help make social change is growing quickly. Learn more about our current and past staff.
Peter Wagner is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. He co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative in 2001 in order to spark a national discussion about the negative side effects of mass incarceration. His report, Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in New York, launched the national movement to end “prison gerrymandering” more than a decade ago. His research and advocacy caught the attention of the press — including 21 New York Times editorials — and led four states and more than 200 local governments to end prison gerrymandering.
Under his leadership, the Prison Policy Initiative has helped propel other parts of the criminal justice reform movement forward by achieving critical victories in regulating the exploitative prison and jail telephone industry and quantifying the counter-productive effects of geography-based punishments.
Some of his most recent work has brought the need for criminal justice and electoral reform to new audiences, including reports exposing the entire mass incarceration pie, helping Hank Green explain the failed mass incarceration experiment in a VlogBrothers video, working with Josh Begley to put each state’s overuse of incarceration into the international context, and putting the problem of prison gerrymandering onto theatre screens nationwide.
In recognition of the victories he led on this and other issues, he is the recipient of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Champion of State Criminal Justice Reform Award (2013) and the American Constitution Society’s David Carliner Public Interest Award (2014).
He is @PWPolicy on Twitter.
A 2008 graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Aleks played a central role in building the Prison Policy Initiative’s campaign against prison gerrymandering, including her publication, Prison Gerrymandering in Massachusetts: How the Census Bureau prison miscount invites phantom constituents to town meeting. Aleks has also led the organization's work on its second major issue, sentencing enhancement zones, authoring The Geography of Punishment: How Huge Sentencing Enhancement Zones Harm Communities, Fail to Protect Children and Reaching too far: How Connecticut’s large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark.
Aleks continues to shed light on other hidden aspects of mass incarceration, for example sparking a New York Times editorial by highlighting mass incarceration's impact on women in States of Women's Incarceration: The Global Context.
In her spare time, Aleks plays hockey, competes in triathlons, and serves on the Finance Committee for the Town of Sunderland.
Wendy Sawyer is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. Wendy earned a Master’s in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University and a Bachelor’s in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked as an investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York City and as a research associate for Northeastern's Institute on Race and Justice. She is the author of Punishing Poverty: The high cost of probation fees in Massachusetts, a report comparing probation rates and incomes across the state, which shows that probation fees hit poor communities hardest.
Lucius Couloute is our Policy Analyst and leads our work bringing accountability to the video calling industry. He is also working on a PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, examining the role of race and insecure employment experiences post release. His academic work has appeared in Sociology Compass and some of his most recent analyses for the Prison Policy Initiative tackles the unique harms of putting older people in solitary confinement and the overlap between addiction and criminalization.
Wanda Bertram is our Communications Strategist. Wanda is a graduate of the University of Washington, where her focus on national security sparked her interest in prison policy and immigrant detention. Before joining the Prison Policy Initiative, Wanda reported on local criminal justice reform as a Seattle-based freelance writer while producing, managing, and strengthening the communications of area nonprofit organizations.
Bernadette Rabuy is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. Bernadette’s research has focused on prison and jail visitation and making key criminal justice data accessible to the public. She co-authored the first comprehensive national report on the video visitation industry, Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails, which has played a key role in protecting in-person family visits in Portland, Oregon and the state of Texas from the predatory industry. Her research was also essential to the movement that led the largest video visitation provider, Securus, to stop its automatic bans on in-person visits.
Bernadette has analyzed key Bureau of Justice Statistics data to make the criminal justice system easier to understand and therefore reform. She co-authored the report, Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned, which for the first time provides national income data for incarcerated women and Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2016, which answers essential questions like how many people are locked up, where, and why.
Bernadette is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and has previously worked with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Voice of the Ex-Offender, and Californians United for a Responsible Budget. You can say hi at @BRabuy.
Elliot Oberholtzer is a Research Associate at the Prison Policy Initiative. A graduate of Hampshire College, Elliot is a data analyst with experience in nonprofit communications and administration. He provides part-time research support, and has published blog posts on the violent victimization of disabled people and the ways that the criminal justice system — from police to prisons — fails disabled people.
Emily Widra is a recent graduate of the Smith College School of Social Work. During the 2015-2016 year, she interned with us one afternoon a week helping on various research projects, including a collecting historical crime data and organized criminal justice survey datasets to fuel future reports. She continues with us on a part-time basis and has published blog posts on what the psychology research says about the limits of video visitation technology, an analysis of Travis County, Texas' experiments replacing in-person visitation with video visitation, and why Black women are disproportionately affected by HIV.
Stephen Raher is a lawyer in Oregon who works with us through our Young Professionals Network on projects at the intersection of criminal justice and finance or criminal justice and telecommunications. He wrote our report on the abusive release card industry and our comprehensive reply to sheriffs about their claim that they need to make money on phone calls home from their facilities.
As a sophomore at Smith College, Sarah Hertel-Fernandez helped out as a intern in the Spring Semester of 2014, and was a part-time Research Associate in the summer. Currently pursuing a Master's Degree in library science, Sarah returned in the summer of 2017 to lead a reorganization of our data visualizations and other projects.
Maddy Troilo is a first-year student at Smith College and our newest volunteer. She spent the past year participating in a program studying the criminal justice system and mass incarceration, culminating in a community event focused on New Jersey's recent bail reform. At the Prison Policy Initiative, she is contributing research support on a variety of projects this semester.
Bill Cooper helps us access and analyze geographic and demographic data.
Jordan Miner develops the code behind some of our interactive features and internal tools. He made our map of sentencing enhancement zones in Hampden County Massachusetts interactive, upgraded our Prisoners of the Census FAQ, and created a lot of clever little features that help various parts of our websites talk to each other. Jordan lives in Illinois.