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Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) (Northampton, MA)

"Social science research has time and again come to the robust conclusion that exposure to the criminal justice system has profound and intergenerational negative effects on communities that experience disproportionate incarceration rates. It is imperative that we are able to measure the extent to which the criminal justice system disparately impacts our communities." You can find this information easily by referring to this briefing. It does an excellent job in synthesizing the information that is known about the disproportion of incarcerated minorities in the United States at the state level. In addition to incarceration rates by race/ethnicity, the following statistics (if available) are provided for each state and the U.S. federal prison system for the period 1978-2012: the degree to which Whites are underrepresented in the particular state's prisons and jails; Hispanics are overrepresented; Blacks are overrepresented; American Indians are overrepresented; Native Hawaiians are overrepresented.

Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity Cover

This is an excellent resource for getting up-to-date on this issue threatening the democratic process. “The way the Census Bureau counts people in prison creates significant problems for democracy and for our nation’s future. It leads to a dramatic distortion of representation at local and state levels, and creates an inaccurate picture of community populations for research and planning purposes. Some state legislative districts draw large portions of their political clout, not from actual residents, but from the presence of a large prison in the district. The districts with large prisons get to send a representative to the state capital to advocate for their interests without meeting the required number of residents … When districts with prisons receive enhanced representation, every other district in the state without a prison sees its votes diluted. And this vote dilution is even larger in the districts with the highest incarceration rates. Thus, the communities that bear the most direct costs of crime are therefore the communities that are the biggest victims of prison-based gerrymandering. The Census Bureau’s decision to count incarcerated people in the wrong place interferes with equal representation in virtually every state.” This website addresses this issue and offers solutions to deal with this democratic distortion. Points of entry include an explanation of the problem, the solutions, how to take action to combat this problem, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), blog, latest news, campaign pages, legislation, local governments addressing the issue, video overview, journal articles, and reports.

Prison Gerrymandering Project Cover

This report "reviews which agencies in each state provide rules, guidelines, or best practices to local jails and uncovers what, if anything, these entities say about mail that people in jail may send or receive. As expected, we find a strong correlation between the states that have strong language protecting letter writing and the states in which no jails are experimenting with banning letters" (p. 1).

Protecting Written Family Communication in Jails Cover

This is the most comprehensive website you will find about the for-profit video visitation industry. It is essential reading for anyone considering using a for-profit video visitation system in their correctional facility. "Video technology like Skype or FaceTime can be a great way to stay together for people who are far apart. It is not the same as being there in person, but it is better than a phone call or sending a letter. Given that there are 2.2 million people who are incarcerated, often many hundreds of miles from their homes, it should be no surprise that prison and jail video visitation is quietly sweeping the nation" (p. i). This website provides access to the full report, an executive summary, and a press release. Sections of the report include: introduction; reviewing the promises and drawbacks of video visitation; video visitation reaches critical mass in 2014; why families are unhappy with the for-profit industry; what this industry is doing--major themes; broken promises from the industry; how are Securus video contracts different from other companies; possible problems with correctional and policy best practices; video visitation can be a welcome step forward—HomeWAV and Telmate systems compared to Securus and other large companies; and recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), state regulators and legislatures, correctional officials and procurement officials, and for-profit companies . Also supplied is an incredible array of exhibits that include: Facilities with Video Visitation; Fee Breakdown; Counties with Bans on In-person Visits; various legal complaints; and copies of contracts for Securus (11 different contracts), Telmate (2), ICSolutions (1), Global Tel (1), HomeWAV (2), TurnKey (2), and Tele Coin (1).

Screening Out Family Time: The For-Profit Video Visitation Industry in Prisons and Jails Cover

"Almost by definition, incarceration separates individuals from their families, but for decades this country has also placed unnecessary burdens on the family members left behind. Certainly in practice and perhaps by design, prisons are lonely places. Analyzing little-used government data, we find that visits are the exception rather than the rule. Less than a third of people in state prisons receive a visit from a loved one in a typical month … Despite the breadth of research showing that visits and maintaining family ties are among the best ways to reduce recidivism, the reality of having a loved one behind bars is that visits are unnecessarily grueling and frustrating" (p. 1). This report is an excellent introduction to the challenges families face visiting their loved ones in prison and ways state policymakers can reduce these hardships. Five recommendations cover: prison time as a last resort; adoption of visitation policies that promote family visitation; reduction of prison and jail telephone costs; suggestions from inmates and their families on how to make visitation easier; and alternatives to prison expansion.

Separation by Bars and Miles: Visitation in State Prisons cover

This is required reading for those people striving to reform the correctional system in the United States, criminology students, or anyone concerned with issues related to confinement. The focal point of this website is an excellent graphic illustrating how the incarceration rates for each individual U.S. state compare to those rates belonging to a wide range of nations (having total populations of at least 500,000 individuals). It definitively shows that the use of incarceration by individual states dwarfs the utilization of imprisonment around the world. "If we compare the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states and territories with that of other nations, for example, we see that 36 states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world … The two U.S. states that incarcerate the least are Maine and Vermont, but even those two states incarcerate far more than the United States' closest allies."

States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2016 Cover

If you want an easy to understand and concise source of information about female incarceration within the U.S. and the throughout the world, then this report is for you. It is a must read for correctional professionals, policymakers, advocates, and community members. "We already know that when it comes to incarceration … the United States incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. Worldwide, and within the U.S., the vast majority of those incarcerated are men. As a result, women's incarceration rates are overshadowed and often lost in the data. As a first step in documenting how women fare in the world's carceral landscape, this report compares the incarceration rates for women of each U.S. state with the equivalent rates for countries around the world." Sections of this report including a few of the findings are: introduction; outpacing the world—while the U.S. has only 5% of the world's female population, it holds close to 30% of the world's incarcerated females, very close to the total in Thailand, twice that of China, and four times that of Russia; World Women's Incarceration Rate if Every U.S. State Were a Country" infographic—the top 44 jurisdictions are states in the U.S.; outpacing our peers—among NATO countries the U.S. incarceration rate is eight times that of the closet ally Portugal, with Rhode Island with the lowest female incarceration rate in the U.S. is still twice that of Portugal and overall 15th in the world; outpacing ourselves; and conclusion. "The statistics revealed by this report are simple and staggering. They suggest that states cannot remain complacent about how many women they incarcerate. Women should be a mainstay of any state policy discussions on the economical and effective use of incarceration if we hope to incarcerate fewer women."

States of Women's Incarceration: The Global Context cover

This is an excellent report that addresses the critical issues surrounding the building of prisons in and the transfer of inmates to areas that are demographically different than the surrounding community. It provides food for thought regarding the ability of families to visit their loved one in prison, the hiring of minority correctional staff, and the degree to which prison gerrymandering occurs in the United States. "This report fills a critical gap in understanding the mass incarceration phenomenon: it offers a way to quantify the degree to which in each state mass incarceration is about sending Blacks and Latinos to communities with very different racial/ethnic make-ups than their own. We use data from the 2010 Census to compare the race and ethnicity of incarcerated people to that of the people in the surrounding county, finding that, for many counties, the racial and ethnic make-up of these populations is very different. This analysis addresses the degree to which each state’s use of the prison is about transferring people of color to communities that are very different from the communities that people in prison come from. This data does not address the bias in policing or sentencing found in individual counties; instead it reflects each state’s political decision to build prisons in particular locations." Sections of this report include: key findings; introduction; the racial geography of mass incarceration for Blacks; the racial geography of mass incarceration for Latinos; conclusion; Appendix A-- Counties: Total, incarcerated and non-incarcerated populations by race/ethnicity and ratios of overrepresentation; Appendix B--Percentiles of County Ratios by State for Blacks; Appendix C-- Percentiles of County Ratios by State for Latinos; and Appendix D--Portion of each state's incarcerated population that is incarcerated in disproportionately White counties.

The Racial Geography of Mass Incarceration Cover

If you are looking for an excellent primer on the use of incarceration in the United States, you need to read this. "Over the last three decades of the 20th century, the United States engaged in an unprecedented prison-building boom that has given our nation the highest incarceration rate in the world. Among people with experience in criminal justice policy matters, the “hockey stick curve” of the national incarceration rate is well known; but until now more detailed data on the incarceration rates for individual states has been harder to come by. This briefing fills the gap with a series of more than 100 graphs showing prison growth (and sometimes decline) for every state in the nation to encourage states to confront how their criminal policy choices undermine our national welfare." The webpage explains with text and easily understood graphics: state policies that drive mass incarceration; what's the critical difference between incarceration rates and incarceration numbers; state prison incarceration rates for select states and overall; and state prison incarceration states by region (greater use to least)—south, west, midwest, and northeast.

This brief refers to the "50 State Incarceration Profiles" interactive map which is a great resource for seeing how the incarceration rate has grown over time and what racial disparities exist for each state.

Tracking State Prison Growth in 50 States Cover
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