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Research Guide to Our Mass Incarceration Issues

The mass criminalization and incarceration of black and brown communities disenfranchises and disempowers millions of Americans and undermines the promise of a democracy that works for everyone. Here are some resources on our Mass Incarceration issues of Felony Disenfranchisement, Prison Gerrymandering, and Correctional Industry Influence.

Disclaimer: Most of these resources are not owned or authored by Common Cause. We wanted to curate a list of helpful resources around Mass Incarceration Issues.


The Paid Jailer

A report by Communities for Sheriff Accountability and Common Cause that discusses how construction, health, gun, and technology companies receive lucrative contracts from the office of the sheriff in return for campaign dollars. Our research found upwards of $6 million in campaign contributions that create potential conflicts of interest for the sheriffs of 11 different states.

Democracy Behind Bars-Common Cause

A report by Common Cause that discusses how money in politics, felony disenfranchisement and prison gerrymandering fuel mass incarceration and undermine democracy.

The Prison Paradox: More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer

A report by the Prison Policy Initiative that summarizes the weak relationship between incarceration and crime reduction, and highlights proven strategies for improving public safety that are more effective and less expensive than incarceration.

Correctional Control 2018: Incarceration and Supervision by State

This report by the Prison Policy Initiative provides another metric for understanding where your state falls within the national landscape of mass incarceration. Our state-specific breakdowns (below) suggest where state advocates and policymakers might start when developing proposals for meaningful justice reform.

State by State Criminal Justice Facts

The Sentencing Project compiles state-level criminal justice data from a variety of sources.

Felony Disenfranchisement

Full Human Beings

An argument by Peoples Policy Project and LEAP for incarcerated voter enfranchisement.

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2018

This report by the Prison Policy Initiative offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement.

6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement

This report by The Sentencing Project is intended to update and expand previous work on the scope and distribution of felony disenfranchisement in the United States. The numbers presented here represent a best assessment of the state of felony disenfranchisement as of the November 2016 election.

Felony Disenfranchisement: A Primer

This Report by The Sentencing Project examines how Felony disenfranchisement rates vary by state, as states institute a wide range of disenfranchisement policies.

Prison Gerrymandering

Breaking the Census: Redistricting in an Era of Mass Incarceration

This Law Review Article, by Prison Policy Initiative’s Peter Wagner, is a highly-readable introduction to the problem of prison-based gerrymandering and its remedies.

The Problem

This website page is the Prison Policy Initiative’s Prison Gerrymandering Project explanation of what Prison Gerrymandering is and why it is a problem.

Corrections Industry Influence

Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration

This report by the ACLU finds that mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group — the private prison industry — even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole.

Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations

This report by In the Public interest discusses the use of prison bed occupancy guarantee clauses in prison privatization contracts and explore how bed occupancy guarantees undermine criminal justice policy and democratic, accountable government.

Following the Money of Mass Incarceration

This report by the Prison Policy Initiative, in this first-of-its-kind report, finds that the system of mass incarceration costs the government and families of justice-involved people at least $182 billion every year.

State of Phone Justice: Local Jails, State Prisons and Private Phone Providers

This report by the Prison Policy Initiative explores high phone rates and fees in prisons and jails.

Commercialized (In)Justice: Consumer Abuses in the Bail and Corrections Industry

This report by the National Consumer Law Center, highlights how private companies are profiting from financial extractions taken from vulnerable individuals based on their exposure to the criminal legal system. As the report documents, the corrections industry operates largely without consumer regulation or government enforcement—even as companies often take advantage of the threat of criminal consequences and consumers’ lack of knowledge about their rights.

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