A portrait of Peter Wagner.
Peter Wagner
Executive Director
I need your help. For 14 years, the Prison Policy Initiative has been at the forefront of the movement to keep the prison system from exerting undue influence on our electoral process. Our work has changed how our democracy works in 4 states and hundreds of local governments. We’ve even won at the Supreme Court, but our long-term viability depends on people like you investing in our work.

Can you stand up for democracy by joining our small network of donors today? You can make a one-time gift, or become a monthly donor.

I thank you for investing in our work for a more just tomorrow.
—Peter Wagner
... (read more)(read less)

Buying the prisoner count in Minnesota

by Peter Wagner, September 1, 2003  

“On April Fool’s Day this year state prison wardens gave more than 5,600 inmates time off from their hourly-wage jobs to fill out their census forms. The wardens know how many inmates they have, of course, but only the prisoners know the answers to the more detailed questions posed in the national headcount. So each inmate who cooperated was paid $1…

“A dollar may not sound like much of an incentive, but prison wages are often less than 75 cents an hour….

“The census, as Minnesotans were repeatedly reminded last spring, means money for basic services. The detailed demographic information people offer up on their census forms every ten years translates into federal dollars to help their communities pay for everything from affordable housing to road repair. Prisoners, however, don’t get counted as residents of their former neighborhoods. Instead, the census adds them to the populations of the communities where they are serving time.

See: Prison Math by Meleah Maynard in City Pages, October 25, 2000.

Tweet this page Follow @PrisonPolicy on Twitter Get our newsletter Donate Contact Us


  • September 21, 2016:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner will be speaking at Claremont McKenna College in California. Details TBA.

Not near you?
Invite us to your city, college or organization.