Director of Policy & Communications

The Illinois Prison Project (IPP) is a nonprofit organization in Chicago that seeks to reduce mass incarceration by providing legal services to individuals incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections. We focus on novel and creative approaches to prison reduction including mass commutation campaigns, sentence restructuring, public education, and advocacy.

IPP’s Director of Policy and Communications will lead policy development and promotion activities for the organization, utilizing a combination of their own experience and that of our diverse board, staff, and partners. We are looking for a Director of Policy and Communications who will be comfortable thinking through policy proposals, building coalitions with advocates and other stakeholders, communicating directly with members of the media and our constituents, working with directly impacted staff and allies, and speaking with government officials and legislators. The Director of Policy and Communications will join a mighty team of professionals doing purposeful work that brings hope to incarcerated people and their loved ones. IPP requires all team members to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Proof of vaccination will be required.

Responsibilities include:

Leadership Responsibilities (30%):

  • As a member of IPP’s Leadership Team, create organizational policies, develop strategic direction, align organizational resources and needs, problem solve emergent organizational issues, and communicate with the Executive Board. 
  • Meet regularly with other department heads to ensure collaboration and continuity across the organization.
  • Represent and advocate for the Communications and Policy Teams within the Leadership Team, bringing up any organizational issues impacting their work and/or any concerns collectively.

Policy Responsibilities (35%):

  • In collaboration with colleagues and the Leadership Team, develop and manage a policy portfolio for reducing incarceration in Illinois, including policy agendas relevant to retroactive sentencing policy, executive clemency, and other mechanisms for release.
  • Solicit and receive policy initiative ideas from IPP, board members, peer organizations, and grassroots community advocacy groups as well as incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and groups and determine—in consultation with the Leadership Team—IPP’s legislative and public policy priorities.
  • Working in collaboration with team members, devise big-picture strategy for individual policy initiatives, combining multiple approaches including but not limited to the following: educating policy and lawmakers on areas where systemic policy change is necessary; advocating for policy changes within government agencies including the Department of Corrections; and creating coalitions in partnership with other nonprofits and grassroots/community organizations to support policy agendas.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with allies, stakeholders (including victims advocates and restorative justice practitioners), and advocates.
  • Set priorities for content development, conduct secondary research, and produce policy briefs and other advocacy materials.

Communications Responsibilities (35%):

  • Develop, implement, and evaluate a cohesive communications strategy to promote IPP’s policy work that effectively reaches IPP’s key audiences and aligns with IPP’s values;
  • Create a communications plan to support organizational short- and long-term goals.
  • Refine a strategy for communicating key messages with target audiences through digital and traditional media channels, including social media, press releases and secured media coverage.
  • Touch base weekly with the Education Director to ensure consistent messaging and promotion of events across the organization.
  • Directly supervise IPP’s existing Communications Team (which currently consists of a Communications Manager and a Digital Communications Intern with the potential to grow) and their daily tasks.
  • Identify, manage, and serve as the point of contact for independent contractors for additional support as needed (for example, to manage the IPP website).
  • Support and improve existing communications systems, including an editorial calendar for promotion of key events or tactics and engagement tracking across digital platforms to make data-driven decisions.
  • Maintain brand voice and integrity across all platforms.
  • Oversee the creation and timely production of monthly social media calendar, blog posts and email newsletter.
  • Manage organizational media strategy, including relationships with journalists, crises management and preemptive planning
  • Curate high-quality content for use in stories, pitches, and media events, drafts press releases and media advisories.
  • Alongside stakeholders at IPP, identify and flag newsworthy events through press releases, media advisories, op-eds and secured media coverage.
  • Maintain press lists, identifying appropriate reporters and outlets to disseminate information.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Have a graduate or law degree, or have had an equally effective and relevant alternative educational experience (such as non-credentialed education during incarceration or significant time spent working in government affairs).
  • Have deep connections with legislators and policy makers in Springfield, Illinois, commensurate with at least five years of experience.
  • Be a confident writer with excellent personal and professional communication skills;
  • Be able to write, proofread, and edit well, quickly; and, be willing to take the time to work with colleagues on writing for our audiences.
  • Be comfortable creating and maintaining relationships with advocates, allies, legislators, legislative staff, and agency staff.
  • Have experience in the criminal legal reform movement.
  • Have a deep commitment to criminal legal change in Illinois and social, economic, and racial justice.
  • Have outstanding organizational/project management skills.
  • Be able to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Be flexible to work some evenings and weekends as required.
  • Have knowledge of and familiarity with local and national stakeholders and local legislators.

Location: IPP maintains a hybrid work environment, including working remotely and out of IPP’s office at 53 West Jackson Blvd in Chicago, Illinois. Consistent with IPP’s hiring practices, this position can be remote but hiring preference is given to local candidates or candidates who plan to relocate locally. Certain tasks or events, however, may require that the Director of Policy & Communications be physically present in Chicago and/or throughout Illinois. 

Reports To: Executive Director

Compensation: This is a full-time position with a base salary of $80,000 and planned quarterly bonuses to $92,279-$119,964. dependent on experience. Full benefits include generous vacation leave, health, dental, vision, long and short term disability, and life insurance, and 401K.

How to apply:

  • Please send a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and three references to with “Director of Policy & Communications” in the subject line.
  • Applicants will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • Due to the large volume of applicants, we cannot guarantee that we’ll be able to reply to individual emails about an applicant’s status. No phone calls, please.