5 Organizations Tackling The Issue Of Mass Incarceration

Since the 1970s, the prison population in the United States has increased dramatically, rising much faster than crime rates and population growth. This trend has had an especially significant impact on communities of color, since Black and Latino people are disproportionately likely to be targeted by the police. The following organizations, listed here in no particular order, work to address this crisis by advocating for better policies, supporting affected communities, and raising public awareness.

The #1 entry is Grassroots Leadership, based in Austin, Texas. This organization fights to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education. It hosts several events throughout the year, such as protests and program trainings.

Grassroots Leadership coordinates visits to The T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. Visitors serve as human rights observers of the facility’s conditions, help break the isolation of prison for women in Hutto, and create new advocates for detention reform.

Next up, at #2, we have the Prison Policy Initiative. This organization produces research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns with the goal of creating a more just society. It is based out of Northampton, Massachusetts.

PPI's report "Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie," assembles data on everyone who is incarcerated or confined in different kinds of prisons, jails, and other correctional and detention facilities in the US. The organization also fights to lower the cost of calls home from these facilities.

Coming in at #3 is the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, a national organization working to ensure that all people become and remain economically secure. Through research and advocacy, it aims to address the root causes of economic exclusion and racial inequity.

The Insight Center is one of the few national, Black-led, economic-focused organizations that centers its work on race, gender, and place. It has several main priorities, such as eliminating the criminal justice system's extractive policies of fines and fees, bail reform, and other local municipal practices.

Taking the #4 spot is States of Incarceration, a collaboration of over 800 students and others deeply affected by imprisonment. Through courses at universities, local teams share stories, search archives, and visit correctional facilities. Each team creates one piece of the collaborative's website.

Together, these stories represent a genealogy of the incarceration generation. States of Incarceration is a project of the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities led by Rutgers University-Newark working with issue organizations and public spaces to create traveling public projects on the past, present, and future of pressing social issues.

Closing out our list at #5 is New Virginia Majority, a group that works to organize and build power in working-class communities of color throughout the commonwealth. To accomplish this, it implements large-scale political education, advocacy, and strategic communication.

"New Virginia Majority was founded in 2007 in response to the failure to pass federal comprehensive immigration reform, sought to engage “new Americans” in a more deliberate and strategic way by combining targeted voter organizing with an ideological approach to community organizing that has evolved over decades."

The organization cites criminal justice as one of its main priorities and supports legislation that will end cash bail, raise the felony larceny threshold, increase community-based alternatives to youth and adult incarceration, decriminalize marijuana, and end the privatization of Virginia’s prison system.