Wendy Sawyer

Wendy Sawyer is the Policy Analyst at Prison Policy Initiative. Wendy earned a Master’s in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University and a Bachelor’s in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked as an investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York and as a research associate for the Institute on Race and Justice in Massachusetts. She is the author of Punishing Poverty: The high cost of probation fees in Massachusetts, a report comparing probation rates and incomes across the state, which shows that probation fees hit poor communities hardest.
.
.
.

Prison Mental Health Crisis Continues

A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report offers another grim view of mental health problems in America’s prisons and jails. Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates 2011-12 is the first government update on the mental health of incarcerated populations since 2006. BJS has made some changes to its data collection, making comparisons to earlier reports difficult, but the takeaway is the same, ten years later: U.S. prisons and jails are filled with people who … [Read more...]

Race, Incarceration, and Women’s HIV Rates

Over 7,000 women in the United States received a new HIV diagnosis in 2015, and over 60% of those women were Black, despite the fact that Black people represent just 12% of the overall U.S. population. While policymakers seem oblivious to this pressing health problem, Prof. Laurie Shrage’s 2015 New York Times op-ed drew our attention to research that unravels the complicated nature of HIV risk factors among Black women. In general, Black men and women report less risky drug use and less risky … [Read more...]

Prison Food: A Public Health Problem

This past fall, a new report from Prison Voice Washington detailed the decline in food quality served in the state's correctional facilities. While incarcerated people often voice complaints about (very real) quality-of-life issues related to food service, there is a broader public health concern here: the long-term health consequences of forcing incarcerated people to consume unhealthy food. The Prison Voice Washington report The report from Prison Voice Washington reveals how changes in food … [Read more...]

Another Century of Mass Incarceration?

It’s that time of the year again, when many of us like to take stock and commit to changes that will bring us closer to our goals. It’s not a bad time for policymakers to do the same. Here at the Prison Policy Initiative, we often find it useful to look back at how our criminal justice system has evolved over time. Year-to-year fluctuations are less distracting from that perspective, so we can also identify the pivotal political changes that have had truly dramatic impacts, like the “tough on … [Read more...]