Advocacy & Policy

Deadline date

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) seeks an experienced criminal justice policy advocate to advance the ACLU-PA’s efforts to dismantle mass incarceration, with a focus on reducing the number of people incarcerated in Western Pennsylvania and eliminating racial disparities in the system. This position is part of the ACLU-PA’s Campaign for Smart Justice.

The criminal justice policy advocate will be part of the advocacy and policy department and will work closely with our advocacy,  legal, and communications staff to develop and promote policy recommendations and potentially impact litigation to reform criminal justice systems in western Pennsylvania, with an emphasis on Allegheny County. Issues of focus include, but are not limited to, bail reform, ending debtors’ prisons (the practice of incarcerating individuals who cannot afford to pay fines and fees), and probation reform.  

The ideal candidate will have knowledge of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice systems, an understanding of the levers of change within these systems, and experience working with government stakeholders, diverse communities, and data. They will also have experience undertaking and managing projects involving many partners, complex issues, and extensive writing. This candidate must also have a strong commitment to working collaboratively with grassroots partners, directly impacted individuals, and colleagues. 

This position will report to the criminal justice policy counsel. This position will be based in Pittsburgh but require travel around Western Pennsylvania on a regular basis. Occasional weekends and evenings required. This is a two-year, full-time position with possible extension based on funding.  


Specific responsibilities will include but not be limited to:

  • In collaboration with colleagues, work to identify and implement strategic criminal legal reform policy goals.
  • Monitor, research, and analyze opportunities for decarceration at the county level in Western Pennsylvania, with a focus on Allegheny County.
  • Work with a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, agency heads, prosecutors and defense attorneys, local officials, individuals and family members impacted by the criminal justice system, community leaders and members, grassroots groups, and other advocates to craft policy proposals and create educational and research materials.
  • Lobby local policymakers, as appropriate.
  • Conduct court-watching and investigation to gather information regarding problems with the criminal justice system in Western Pennsylvania.
  • Work with the legal department to develop litigation, where necessary and appropriate, to reduce the prison and jail population and eliminate racial disparities.
  • Prepare and deliver presentations and testimony to support criminal justice reform advocacy efforts.
  • Represent ACLU of Pennsylvania in task forces, working groups, and coalitions. 
  • Track and report the status of activities both internally and externally to funders as needed. 
  • Promote educational opportunities to teach judges, primarily magisterial district court judges, of their obligations under the Pennsylvania and United States constitutions, especially as it relates to the obligation not to detain people for failure to pay legal financial obligations unless the failure is willful.
  • In coordination with the senior field organizer, develop relationships with allies and other organizations to further advocacy goals.


We seek applicants who have familiarity with Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system and experience working through advocacy, litigation, public policy or legislative processes. People with personal experience being incarcerated or otherwise impacted by the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply.

  • Broad understanding of the Pennsylvania criminal justice system, including but not limited to areas such as pretrial systems, alternatives to incarceration, sentencing, parole and probation, and consequences of system involvement.
  • Demonstrated commitment to criminal justice reform, ending mass incarceration, and racial justice. 
  • Experience working effectively and connecting with diverse populations and valuing differences of race, ethnicity, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and socio-economic circumstances.
  • Commitment to and experience with working in close partnership with community members, including people directly involved with and affected by the criminal justice system.
  • Critical thinking skills with an ability to identify, collect, and interpret relevant data for incorporation into educational materials, with an emphasis on fiscal and social impact of policies. 
  • Demonstrated ability to build and maintain key contacts among a diverse range of stakeholders.
  • Proven record of teamwork and collaborative engagement with colleagues across departments and functions. 
  • Ability to work independently and keep organized in a fast-paced environment, manage several projects simultaneously, and adjust strategy to frequently changing demands.
  • Demonstrated ability to synthesize complex information clearly and concisely for various audiences, including the public, the media, and policymakers.
  • Ability to travel to meetings and events throughout the state.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Strong written and oral communications skills, with a high level of comfort presenting information.
  • Experience working or participating in coalitions, including sensitivity to internal political dynamics among partner groups. 
  • J.D. degree strongly preferred. 
  • Applicants with at least three years of relevant experience preferred, but applications with a range of experience will be considered.  


Salary is $68,025.  Excellent benefits include generous vacation and sick leave; individual/family employer-provided health insurance; life insurance and long-term disability; defined contribution plan with employer match; and 10 paid holidays. This position is full-time, salaried, and exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.


To apply, send a letter stating why you are interested in the position, a resume, and a relevant writing sample or work product (such as testimony on a public policy issue or a policy paper for broad circulation) of no longer than 10 pages to advosearch@aclupa.org. Please include “criminal justice policy advocate” in the subject line of the email.  In your letter, please indicate where you learned of the posting. No calls, please.


Applications will be accepted until the position is filled, at which time the job announcement will be removed from our website, www.aclupa.org/jobs.  

The ACLU-PA is an equal opportunity employer.  We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. The ACLU-PA encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status, or record of arrest or conviction.

The ACLU-PA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization, dedicated to defending and enhancing personal freedoms protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through litigation, legislative advocacy, and community education. It is a fast-paced environment that addresses headline-making issues with powerful personal stories and dynamic, precedent-setting solutions. The ACLU-PA has three offices, ten volunteer chapters, over 40,000 members and donors, more than 35 employees, and a $5.3 million operating budget.

The ACLU-PA comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union (the “Union”) of Pennsylvania and the ACLU Foundation (the “Foundation”) of Pennsylvania. The Union is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, and ACLU membership dues fund its lobbying work. Donations to the Union are not tax-deductible. The ACLU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Foundation funds support litigation and public education efforts. Donations to the Foundation are tax-deductible. The criminal justice policy advocate is an employee of the ACLU Foundation of Pennsylvania. 

Both the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the ACLU Foundation of Pennsylvania have the same overall mission, and share office space, employees, and the same board of directors. The two entities are jointly known by the term “ACLU of Pennsylvania.” 

ACLU-PA’s hiring process will comply with Philadelphia’s Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards (“Ban the Box”) ordinance. 

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