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Prison Policy Initiative, Inc

Northampton, MA   |  https://www.prisonpolicy.org

Mission

The Prison Policy Initiative challenges over-criminalization and mass incarceration through research, advocacy, and organizing. We show how the United States' excessive and unequal use of punishment and institutional control harms individuals and undermines our communities and national well-being.

Ruling year info

2006

Principal Officer

Mr. Peter Wagner

Main address

PO Box 127

Northampton, MA 01061 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

20-3671130

NTEE code info

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (R05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Anyone new to criminal legal system reform encounters the same unfortunate reality: the system collects and publishes far less data than one would expect. There are critical gaps in the data that prevent advocates from grounding reform discussions in specifics and also from making critical big-picture connections. Information that most people assume would be easy to find can be surprisingly inaccessible. The widespread agreement that the criminal legal system needs to change does not necessarily translate into major reforms, partly because the complex systems that keep people locked up elude easy explanations and lie at the intersection of messy messaging points. State and local activists are successfully campaigning on the ground for changes to our criminal legal system, but often dont have the time and resources to develop detailed research, data visualizations or communications strategies. The role for our national organization is to provide these key pieces to help them win.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

End prison gerrymandering

The Census Bureau's practice of counting two million incarcerated people in the wrong place encourages state and local governments to dilute the votes of everyone who doesn’t live next to a large prison. Our national movement to end the practice is growing stronger daily.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Some children have to pay $1/minute for a call home from an incarcerated parent. Why? Because prisons and jails benefit by granting telephone contracts to the company that will charge families the most.

Population(s) Served
Families

All too often, private companies and county jails work together to replace traditional in-person family visits with expensive video chats and grainy computer images.

Population(s) Served
Families
Adults

These zones blanket urban areas in mandatory increased sentencing areas, disproportionately punishing people of color and failing to protect children.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Ethnic and racial groups

At the height of the War on Drugs, Congress required states to begin automatically suspending driver’s licenses for drug offenses unrelated to driving. Our research on license suspensions has found that these suspensions are counterproductive and unnecessary. They make roads more dangerous, waste taxpayer and law enforcement resources, and inhibit people with previous involvement in the criminal justice system from fulfilling personal, familial, and legal responsibilities that require driving.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Beyond our specific campaigns for justice, we are fueling the larger movement for criminal justice reform with key data that illustrates that mass incarceration is both unprecedented and counterproductive. This includes a report comparing each state's incarceration of women to that of other nations, showing that even those states with relatively progressive policies are out of line with the international community. We also produced a report on the pre-incarceration incomes of people in jail, showing that bail bonds are unaffordable for the typical detained defendant. And each year, we publish a report, "Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie", to provide a big-picture view of the country's disparate systems of confinement.

Population(s) Served
Adults

One out of every three people who were behind bars last night was confined in a jail, two out of every three correctional facilities is a jail, and almost every person released from a correctional facility today was released from a jail. Jails are a main component of mass incarceration, yet the scant attention paid to jails and jail policy is itself a key impediment to reform.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society. Our work is a unique combination of research, advocacy, and organizing, and is designed around two goals: achieving real change on specific issues, and building a national consensus around the fact that over-criminalization is hurting our entire society.

There are a few key points to our strategy:
1. We directly fuel the national movement for criminal legal system reform by producing research that fills key messaging and data gaps, or that shines a light on overlooked systemic problems.
2. We work closely with the media to influence the national dialogue about criminal legal system reform.
3. Our work brings new allies into the movement for criminal legal system reform, by connecting the dots on different social issues, like our reports on homelessness among directly impacted people or our campaign to end prison gerrymandering.
4. We use our research and advocacy to make a difference on the pocketbook issues that affect incarcerated people and their families, like our work to bring fairness to the prison and jail telephone industry.
5. We directly support advocates on the local, state, and national levels working on issues related to our research offering technical assistance (such as custom research), designing skills-based and issue-specific resources specifically for advocates, and engaging in affirmative outreach.

The full-time staff members at the Prison Policy Initiative are criminal justice researchers who know how to turn hard data into a good story that incites change. The staff are well-versed in a variety of criminal justice issues, and frequently work in interdisciplinary coalitions at the intersections between the justice system and issues such as voting rights, communications policy, or the geography of communities. Several staff members are attorneys, and the Prison Policy Initiative has contributed to defending some of the major civil rights victories of the decade. Prison Policy Initiative staff are also experienced with GIS technology and mapping, effectively using spatial data to illustrate how heavy-handed criminal justice policy compromises communities.

Since our founding, some of our most prominent successes include:

1. Empowering our movement with the big picture with Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie. This groundbreaking report assembles data on everyone who is incarcerated or confined in different kinds of prisons, jails, and other correctional and detention facilities in the U.S. The main graphic has become the most widely-used visual in the field.
2. Bringing fairness to the prison and jail phone industry. Some children had to pay $1/minute for a call home from an incarcerated parent. Our research and advocacy led the Federal Communications Commission to lower the cost of calls home from prisons and jails.
3. Demonstrating that incarceration in every state even those with relatively progressive policies is out of line with the international community with the report and interactive graphic States of Incarceration: The Global Context.
4. Protecting our democracy from the undue influence of the prison system. Our campaign against prison gerrymandering has changed how legislative districts are drawn in a dozen states and 200+ municipalities. All told, about half the country now lives in a place that has taken action to address the problem.
5. Protecting family visits from the predatory video call industry that seeks to replace traditional in-person visits with expensive video chats. We've put this predatory industry on the national agenda and we've won in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Illinois, and Portland, Oregon.

Financials

Prison Policy Initiative, Inc
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Prison Policy Initiative, Inc

Board of directors
as of 01/08/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Lucius Couloute

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/8/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data