The Prison Policy Initiative (http://www.prisonpolicy.org) produces cutting edge research to expose the harm of mass incarceration, and advocates for a more just society. Our work advances immediate progressive change in criminal justice policy, and strengthens the broader movement for criminal justice reform by sparking critical public discourse and forging sustainable intersectional coalitions. We craft rigorous original research and work in diverse coalitions to seek specific, realistic reforms. Each of our projects casts light on how the political decision to incarcerate a greater portion of our population than any other country is harmful to every member of our society.
The Prison Policy Initiative was founded by students in 2001 and is known for effectively using data to explain why the need for criminal justice reform is long overdue. Over the last 15 years our team has grown to five dedicated staff members who, along with our network of volunteers, shape a variety of national reform campaigns and develop groundbreaking publications from our office in Western Massachusetts.
The Policy & Communications Associate is a key part of our team of five full-time staff members. While we work as team, we’ll expect the Policy & Communications Associate to take the lead on our communications and organizing work as well as logistical and administrative questions. Because we are a relatively small nonprofit that works on a number of criminal justice issues in a fast-pace environment, the best candidates will be self-directed, organized, and have a strong attention to detail. We seek a person who would be able to find the answer to smaller research questions from day one and over time grow to take lead responsibility for particular research areas, including as lead report author.
This position will be responsible for two main areas of our work:
- The goal of our communications work is to efficiently and effectively develop creative ways to both explain issues and broaden our audience. This includes spearheading our social media platforms, authoring blog posts, selecting articles for our three different e-newsletters (and putting those newsletters together), writing op-eds and press releases, building and maintaining ongoing relationships with key members of the media, and monitoring, archiving, and responding to relevant press coverage. The communications work also requires an interest in developing a communications strategy that best highlights our research and advocacy campaigns while taking into consideration the competing demands of a small nonprofit organization, such as fundraising. We’ll need you to play a leading role in assessing and developing how we describe and present our work and our unique role in the larger movement for criminal justice reform.
- Our organizing work aims to build and mobilize intersectional coalitions to achieve real policy change that furthers the long-term goal of ending mass incarceration. This work, which is almost exclusively done from the office by telephone, email and our best-in-class website, includes reaching out to colleagues and allies from a wide variety of backgrounds (from grassroots groups, to legislators, to other advocacy nonprofits, to individual activists, to incarcerated colleagues and/or their families), and strategically finding ways to collaborate, based on their unique priorities and skills within the context of larger advocacy campaigns.
Additionally, the Policy & Communications Associate will be responsible for providing necessary logistical support as needed and overseeing the organization’s long-term resource projects such as the Research Clearinghouse and the Legal Resource Database. Beyond those core responsibilities, the Prison Policy Initiative deeply values the skills that staff and volunteers bring to the table, and has a history of tailoring projects to those pre-existing skills or skills that can be developed on the job. (For example, video editing or graphic design.)
Candidates with more experience should see our listing for a Policy & Communications Associate II.
We are an equal opportunity employer. People from communities that are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, or people with direct experience with the criminal justice system are especially encouraged to apply.
Qualified applicants will have many of these qualities and skills:
- A long-standing passion for racial and social justice. (Helpful: At least a year of part-time work on criminal justice issues or experience working for a small nonprofit in a communications or policy capacity.)
- A college degree or equivalent experience.
- A demonstrated ability to multitask on multiple issues, and to manage and meet multiple project deadlines. (Helpful: A natural inclination to compare the benefits of a given strategy to the effort it requires.)
- Strong writing skills and demonstrated experience writing in different formats for a wide variety of audiences.
- Enthusiasm about improving writing through feedback and a desire to receive writing assignments with increasing responsibility and visibility.
- Passion for collaboratively working with a wide variety of stakeholders, and comfortable reaching out to colleagues from a wide variety of backgrounds on email, phone, and in-person. (Helpful: Experience organizing coalitions or campaigns or supervising students or volunteers.)
- A passion for learning how to effectively disseminate little known ideas into the larger discourse on a very short timetable with a limited budget. (Helpful: previous journalism, communications, or fundraising experience.)
- Basic numerical literacy. (You don’t need calculus, but you must intuitively know that 60% is the same as 3 out of 5, and that 6 is 20% greater than 5.)
- An interest in fundraising as an opportunity to hone organizing and communications skills. (Helpful: experience with nonprofit fundraising or a desire to learn more about it.)
- Ability to start as soon as possible in our Easthampton, Massachusetts office no later than June 1, 2017. (Note: The collaborative structure of our work does not allow us to consider requests to work remotely from other parts of the country. We are, however, considering opening a second office in Hartford, Connecticut.)
- Basic office software literacy. (Helpful: Experience using Excel, image editing software, audio/video software, use of mail merge or regular expressions.)
- Enthusiasm about, or experience with, learning to use technology more efficiently. (Helpful: Comfortable hand coding simple html, i.e. links, paragraphs, italics, bold, etc.)
Salary & Benefits
The expected salary for this entry-level position is $31,500, and our practice has been to recognize the advancement of skills over time with generous raises. Benefits include health insurance, all Massachusetts holidays, paid sick time, paid vacation, and an IRA match.
We will ask applicants to submit the following:
- A cover letter (preferably in PDF format)
- Your resume or c.v.
- At least three writing samples. (Helpful: at least one writing sample from an internship or volunteer experience.)
- Our Policy and Communications Associate skill assessment form at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/PolicyComms_skills.doc
- OPTIONAL: Graduating college seniors are encouraged to include an unofficial transcript.
We will be reviewing applications and scheduling interviews on a weekly basis. We anticipate doing the first round of interviews by Skype and then a final round in-person.
Please allow us to keep our daily focus on improving the criminal justice system by refraining from writing or calling the office to check on the status of your application. We’ll keep the job page at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/jobs.html up to date with the status of our candidate search.
 A lot of our work is subtle and behind the scenes — in terms of working with elected officials, fundraising, or providing journalists with context as they develop criminal justice stories — but one way to learn about what this job entails and how you can grow as a part of our team would be to look at what Bernadette Rabuy has published on our website starting with her first blog post published on May 28, 2014 and then her longer reports on video visitation, the pre-incarceration incomes of the incarcerated, visiting in state prisons, bail, and probation, all of which have changed the future of the movement against mass incarceration in the two years she was in this poisition. She started law school in the Fall of 2016 and now works with us on a part-time basis.