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Public Interest Advocates Tally Up 2015 Victories

Donald Cohen

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In the Public Interest has made exciting progress over the past few years. Our team has worked incredibly hard, so I’d like to take a step back and share what we’ve been up to.

Even I was surprised by how much we’ve accomplished. We get calls every week from organizations around the country asking for campaign help; from state and local policymakers looking for model bills or support on legislative proposals; and from journalists needing background or quotes. Just recently, a Barcelona TV station interviewed me about private prisons in the U.S. (There are zero in Spain!)

When we added it up, we found that we’ve directly helped state and local organizations in 32 states, and our research and commentary have been cited in over 150 publications, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and local papers across the country like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Bakersfield Californian.

We’ve testified at public hearings, performed research, drafted policies, wrote op-eds and trained others on the privatization of prisons, schools, drinking water systems, Medicaid, transit systems and more.

Our allies are doing great work—passing new contracting policies, defeating privatization proposals, creating high quality public services in their communities and much more. Our goal is to help them win—and it’s working. Here are a few recent highlights:

  • In May, Maryland’s governor signed into law elements of our Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda, increasing transparency and strengthening oversight of state contracts.
  • The Chicago City Council just passed the Privatization Transparency, Accountability and Performance Ordinance (PTAPO) aimed at increasing contracting transparency and oversight.
  • Faith leaders led a successful “Jobs Not Jails” campaign that resulted in the Indianapolis City Council rejecting a plan to build a privately financed and operated criminal justice center and expanded jail.
  • In a powerful moment, we brought together faith leaders and correctional officers in Jackson, Mississippi to find common ground on criminal justice reform ideas.
  • By the end of the year, we will have published six major reports, covering contract transparency, online schools in California, correctional associations, social impact bonds, infrastructure justice, and how private contractors cut corners to increase their profits.

But we’re not done with 2015 yet. In the coming weeks we’ll be launching Programs Not Profits, a multi-year campaign to replace private profits in our criminal justice system with programs that provide job training, mental health care and substance abuse treatment.

Thank you for supporting and sharing our work. Don’t hesitate to email or call if you have questions or suggestions. Let us know how we can help!

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