HELP US END MASS INCARCERATION
The Prison Policy Initiative uses research, advocacy, and organizing to dismantle mass incarceration. We’ve been in this movement for 20 years, thanks to individual donors like you.
Can you help us sustain this work?
Peter Wagner, Executive Director
Articles by Wendy Sawyer
- Since you asked: How many people are released from each state’s prisons and jails every year?
The number of people going through reentry each year vastly exceeds the resources available to them in most communities.
Aug 25, 2022
- What the end of Roe v. Wade will mean for people on probation and parole
On any given day in the U.S., 666,413 women are on probation or parole.
Jun 30, 2022
- Prisons and jails will separate millions of mothers from their children in 2022
58% of all women in U.S. prisons are mothers, and other important facts to know this Mother’s Day.
May 4, 2022
- Untangling why prison & jail populations dropped early in the pandemic
Reductions in prison and jail populations were due to COVID-related slowdowns in the gears of the criminal legal system. Without intentional action, these reductions will be erased.
Mar 24, 2022
- New data: The changes in prisons, jails, probation, and parole in the first year of the pandemic
Newly released data from 2020 show the impact of early-pandemic correctional policy choices and what kind of change is possible under pressure. But the data also show how inadequate, uneven, and unsustained policy changes have been: most have already been reversed.
Jan 11, 2022
- Smoke and mirrors: A cautionary tale for counties considering a big, costly new jail
How law enforcement and jail architects almost duped taxpayers into approving a new jail far bigger than the county needs, by offering biased analysis and misleading arguments.
Jul 6, 2021
- New data: State prisons are increasingly deadly places
New data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that state prisons are seeing alarming rises in suicide, homicide, and drug and alcohol-related deaths.
Jun 8, 2021
- Prisons and jails will separate millions of mothers from their children in 2021
The most important statistics about the incarceration of mothers and pregnant women.
May 5, 2021
- With the majority of corrections officers declining the COVID-19 vaccine, incarcerated people are still at serious risk
Low rates of vaccine uptake among correctional staff make it clear that withholding the vaccine from people who are locked up -- or offering it only to a small fraction of the prison population -- is senseless.
Apr 22, 2021
- New data on jail populations: The good, the bad, and the ugly
A new BJS report shows that U.S. jails reduced their populations by 25% in the first few months of the pandemic. But even then, the U.S. was still putting more people in local jails than most countries incarcerate in total.
Mar 17, 2021
- New BJS data reveals a jail-building boom in Indian country
Across the country, local governments are building more jail space rather than working to reduce incarceration. New data shows that this trend is especially visible on tribal lands.
Oct 30, 2020
- What you should know about halfway houses
Halfway houses are a major feature of the criminal justice system, but very little data is ever published about them. We compiled a guide to understanding what they are, how they operate, and the rampant problems that characterize them.
Sep 3, 2020
- Policing resource round-up: Where to find data, advocacy materials, and more information about American policing
A list of the most valuable online resources from organizations focused on policing.
Aug 28, 2020
- Visualizing the racial disparities in mass incarceration
Racial inequality is evident in every stage of the criminal justice system - here are the key statistics compiled into a series of charts.
Jul 27, 2020
- A legislative guide for winnable, high-impact criminal justice reforms
We list some high-impact policy ideas for state legislators looking to reform their criminal justice system without making it bigger.
Jun 10, 2020
- Not just “a few bad apples”: U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other countries
Police violence is a systemic problem in the U.S., not simply incidental, and it happens on a scale far greater than other wealthy nations.
Jun 5, 2020
- Ten key facts about policing: Highlights from our work
Police disproportionately target Black and other marginalized people in stops, arrests, and use of force; and are increasingly called upon to respond to problems, such as homelessness, that are unrelated to public safety.
Jun 5, 2020
- When parole doesn’t mean release: The senseless “program requirements” keeping people behind bars during a pandemic
Parole boards are granting parole contingent on participation in programs that are often not readily available for people behind bars, especially during the pandemic.
May 21, 2020
- Our new fact sheet illustrates what’s in store if prisons and jails don’t decarcerate now
Our fact sheet for advocates shows how rapidly the coronavirus can spread through correctional facilities, and how high infection rates in prisons and jails already are.
May 8, 2020
- Federal court responses to COVID-19: From vague statements to concrete national models to reduce pretrial detention and protect rights
We review how federal courts are modifying their procedures in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
May 6, 2020
- How to find and interpret crime data during the coronavirus pandemic: 5 tips
We outline five things to keep in mind about crime data trends during the pandemic, including a few tips for where to look for information about your local area.
Apr 24, 2020
- Technical violations, immigration detainers, and other bad reasons to keep people in jail
How ICE and probation and parole detainers (or “holds”) contribute to unnecessary jailing
Mar 18, 2020
- Since you asked: Is it me, or is the government releasing less data about the criminal justice system?
The Bureau of Justice Statistics is tasked with collecting, analyzing, and publishing data about the criminal justice system. But its reports are slowing down - and its framing of criminal justice issues is becoming more punitive.
Nov 14, 2019
- Welcome Jenny Landon!
Welcome Jenny Landon, our new Development & Communications Associate!
Nov 1, 2019
- How race impacts who is detained pretrial
The government hasn’t collected national data on the race or ethnicity of people awaiting trial in jail since 2002. We review the academic literature published since then to offer a more current assessment of racial disparities in pretrial detention.
Oct 9, 2019
- Since You Asked: How did the 1994 crime bill affect prison college programs?
Without federal aid, the rate of college course participation in prisons dropped by half.
Aug 22, 2019
- Who’s helping the 1.9 million women released from prisons and jails each year?
Women make up a growing share of incarcerated populations, and they have different needs than justice-involved men. Accordingly, some prison systems have begun to implement gender-responsive policies and programs. But what happens after release?
Jul 19, 2019
- BJS fuels myths about sex offense recidivism, contradicting its own new data
A new government report reinforces harmful misconceptions about people convicted of sex offenses. Here's our take on how to parse the data.
Jun 6, 2019
- Massachusetts women do not need a new jail
The Mass. Senate is considering building a new women's jail. We offer a number of reasons why this is a bad idea.
Mar 29, 2019
- Why expensive phone calls can be life-altering for people in jail – and can derail the justice process
The cost of jail phone calls punishes people in the most desperate circumstances, most of whom have not been convicted of a crime.
Feb 5, 2019
- Our favorite data visualizations of 2018
2018 was another big year for powerful data visualizations from the Prison Policy Initiative. These are our 11 favorites.
Dec 28, 2018
- Welcome Alexi Jones!
Welcome Alexi Jones, our new Policy Analyst!
Sep 4, 2018
- Breaking open the “black box”: How risk assessments undermine judges’ perceptions of young people
It's complicated enough for judges to weigh the influence of youth in their decisions. A new paper argues that algorithmic risk assessments may further muddy the waters.
Aug 22, 2018
- How does unaffordable money bail affect families?
Using a national data set, we find that over half of the people held in jail pretrial because they can't afford bail are parents of minor children.
Aug 15, 2018
- Welcome, Jorge Renaud!
Our new Senior Policy Analyst brings a wealth of organizing, writing, and policy experience.
May 30, 2018
- Jail will separate 2.3 million mothers from their children this year
80% of the women jailed each year are mothers. We're inflicting profound damage not only on them, but their children as well.
May 13, 2018
- New reports show probation is down, but still a major driver of incarceration
New data and analysis from BJS and Columbia University this week show the number of people on probation or parole is edging in the right direction, but states continue to set people up to fail with long supervision terms, onerous restrictions, and constant scrutiny.
Apr 26, 2018
- Artist collaboration: Visualizing 10.6 million jail admissions each year
The real impact of jail is far greater than the daily population suggests: People go to jail 10.6 million times each year. We collaborated with data journalist and illustrator Mona Chalabi to visualize just how vast a number 10.6 million jail admissions is.
Mar 22, 2018
- BJS update: Women’s state prison populations rose while men’s fell, again.
Released on the heels of our recent report on women's state prison populations, a new BJS report shows that in 2016, the "gender divide" in incarceration trends widened even more.
Jan 10, 2018
- Our favorite news coverage of our work in 2017
Journalists who use our research in new, creative ways play a crucial role in engaging the public with criminal justice issues. These are some of our favorite stories of 2017 that feature our work.
Dec 28, 2017
- Criminal justice victories of 2017
In 2017, the Prison Policy Initiative's campaigns saw real progress resulting in important policy changes, and our research brought to light issues that will demand more attention in the year ahead.
Dec 28, 2017
- Our favorite investigative criminal justice reporting of 2017
Investigative reporters are illuminating little-known facets of the criminal justice system. We share our favorite work from 2017.
Dec 28, 2017
- Voices that are pushing the envelope – best commentary of 2017
A few of our favorite examples of writing that pushed the envelope and shined light on some of the most pressing issues for criminal justice reform today.
Dec 27, 2017
- Welcome, Wanda Bertram!
Please welcome our new Communications Strategist, Wanda Bertram!
Oct 25, 2017
- Victory in California: RISE Act repeals sentencing enhancements
California took an important step forward in dismantling the War on Drugs' harmful legacy of excessively punitive sentences. Extreme sentences harm individuals and communities, consume resources that should be directed to more effective programs, and fail to improve public safety.
Oct 13, 2017
- Findings from Harris County: Money bail undermines criminal justice goals
A recent study of misdemeanor pretrial detention in Harris County, Texas, offers evidence that money bail actually increases risks to public safety, affects case outcomes in ways that contribute to more incarceration, and infringes on constitutional rights.
Aug 24, 2017
- New data: The rise of the “prosecutor politician”
Jed Shugerman argues that the prosecutor's office has become a "stepping stone to higher office... with dramatic consequences in American criminal law and mass incarceration." His extensive database explores connections between prosecutors and politics in each state since the 1880s.
Jul 13, 2017
- BJS report: Drug abuse and addiction at the root of 21% of crimes
A new Bureau of Justice report released yesterday reveals that 21% of sentenced people in state prisons and local jails are incarcerated for crimes committed to obtain....
Jun 28, 2017
- New government report points to continuing mental health crisis in prisons and jails
U.S. prisons and jails are filled with people who have a current or past mental health problem, and facilities are still not meeting the demand for treatment.
Jun 22, 2017
- Letter: Incarcerated juveniles should have the right to access the internet
California's AB 811 emphasizes the humanity of incarcerated juveniles by providing more avenues for communication with family and education.
Jun 20, 2017
- Detroit Pistons owner about to squeeze fans in a new way, buying Securus
If Tom Gores and Platinum Equity are trying to improve lives, Securus is the wrong investment. As the second-largest prison and jail telecom company in the country, is arguably one of the most exploitative companies profiting from mass incarceration.
May 18, 2017
- Unpacking the connections between race, incarceration, and women’s HIV rates
Current research points to an unexpected contributor to the high rates of HIV infection among Black women: the mass incarceration of Black men.
May 8, 2017
- Bailing moms out for Mother’s Day
This Mother's Day, 120,000 incarcerated mothers will spend the day apart from their children. The good news is, this year, you can take action to help reconnect children to their mothers.
May 8, 2017
- Thanks for making Valley Gives a success!
Thank you for making Valley Gives 2017 a success!
May 3, 2017
- Join us on Valley Gives Day to double your impact
On Tuesday, May 2, we'll be participating in Valley Gives, a 24-hour online giving event for nonprofit organizations located in western Massachusetts.
Apr 25, 2017
- The steep cost of medical co-pays in prison puts health at risk
When we consider the relative cost of medical co-pays to incarcerated people who typically earn 14 to 62 cents per hour, it's clear they can be cost-prohibitive. Co-pays that take a large portion of your paycheck make seeking medical attention a costly choice.
Apr 19, 2017
- How much do incarcerated people earn in each state?
Prison wages come up again and again in the context of prison conditions and policies. So, we found the most up-to-date information for each state.
Apr 10, 2017
- Food for thought: Prison food is a public health problem
Research confirms that prison food is not just gross; it is often nutritionally inadequate. A recent report from Washington provides new evidence and our policy analyst examines the public health costs.
Mar 3, 2017
- Welcome Lucius Couloute!
Welcome Lucius Couloute, our new Policy & Communications Associate!
Jan 31, 2017
- Vera finds costs outweigh benefits in a “user-funded” criminal justice system
Money bail. Pretrial detention. Fines and fees. Race. Poverty. Vera connects the dots in a new report on user-funded justice in New Orleans.
Jan 10, 2017
- Another century of mass incarceration?
If the U.S. doesn't make reducing the correctional population a policy priority, generations will continue to be burdened by mass incarceration.
Dec 30, 2016
- Our best data visualizations in 2016
2016 was another big year for powerful data visualizations from the Prison Policy Initiative. These are our 10 favorites.
Dec 30, 2016
- Our favorite criminal justice research from 2016
2016's most useful and under-exposed research that contributed to our movement's understanding of key issues in criminal justice.
Dec 29, 2016
- Our favorite investigative criminal justice reporting of 2016
Best investigative news reporters that find new ways to shed light on the complicated problems of the criminal justice system in 2016.
Dec 29, 2016
- Data update: Incarcerated population inching down
New data reveals in 2015, the state and federal incarcerated populations declined by 2%
Dec 29, 2016
- Our favorite criminal justice data visualizations of 2016
In 2016, we saw some incredible data visualizations in criminal justice reporting. Here are our five favorites.
Dec 23, 2016
- Probation population declines: Good, but not good enough
After decades of exponential growth, any news that the population under correctional control is decreasing is good news. But this progress is too slow.
Dec 21, 2016
- Coverage of Punishing Poverty report
Our report on probation fees in Massachusetts is receiving some great press coverage.
Dec 13, 2016
- New report finds Massachusetts charges monthly probation fees to people who can’t afford them
The state brings in over $20 million in revenue from monthly probation fees each year. The problem? Probation rates are highest in the lowest-income communities.
Dec 8, 2016
- Don’t confuse respect for police with confidence in them
Americans’ respect for local police is apparently much higher than their confidence in the police in general.
Oct 26, 2016
- Making a mountain out of a molehill: murder rate analysis
More and more people are talking about an uptick in murder and crime. Is there cause for alarm? No.
Sep 8, 2016