Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Karen holds an M.A. With Highest Distinction in Philosophy and Social Policy from the American University in Washington DC.

Karen joined IPS in 1996. Her public scholarship and activism at IPS has linked community-led organizations with social movements and policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. The focus of her work is on anti-poverty issues, juvenile justice, criminal justice reform, and transgender rights with a focus on race, gender, and gender identity. Karen currently directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty project.

Some of Karen’s publications include: Mothers at the Gate: How a powerful family movement is transforming the juvenile justice system; The Poor Get Prison: The alarming spread of the criminalization of povertyClosing the Inequality DivideBattered By The Storm: How the Safety Net is Failing Americans and How to Fix itWe’re Not BrokeOur Communities are Not for SalePaying the Price: the Mounting Costs of War in IraqForeign Policy Goes Local; and she was a contributor for Mandate for Change.

Karen blogs for Huffington Post and regularly appears in other media outlets. Karen serves on the boards of The Participatory Budgeting Project, The Liberty Tree Foundation and Jobs With Justice Worker Rights Board.

Areas of Expertise

  • Progressive movement, policymakers
  • Poverty, economic hardship
  • Criminalization of race and poverty
  • Juvenile justice; criminal justice reform
  • Gender and gender identity; transgender rights
  • Cost of war and militarism at home


Caitlyn Jenner Isn’t ‘Posing’ as a Woman—She Is a Woman

What makes us feel like and identify as a certain gender or genders is in our brain, not between our legs.

How a Broken Tail Light Can Be a Death Sentence in America

We’ve created a perfect storm of poverty, fear, social control and racially charged policing.

Guilty of Being Poor

When a community issues arrest warrants for more offenses than it has residents, something’s deeply wrong.

The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty

This report provides a new understanding of the growing ways in which those in poverty are disproportionately targeted, marginalized, and prosecuted.

Wal-Mart Does Something Right

I’ll still protest the giant retailer, but maybe a little more quietly.

Let Us Eat Cake: The New Census Data on Poverty

Poverty and deep poverty persist in this wealthy nation.

Addressing Inequality in Maryland

When assessing policies affecting our state and the well-being of all our citizens, we should be using a lens such as the Genuine Progress Indicator.

Report: Closing the Inequality Divide

A new IPS report lays out a strategy for fostering Genuine Progress in Maryland.

An IPS-Style Holiday Carol

Written by Karen Dolan, the Institute for Policy Studies deadline poet, to be sung to the tune of
“Twelve Days of Christmas.”

We’re Not Broke

This commonsense guide to avoiding the fiscal swindle would nearly eliminate the budget deficit while making the United States more equitable, green, and secure.

The Nail-Biter that Wasn’t

Voters knew just what to do.

Beyond the Jobs Report: A Call for a Transformational Economy

Those job numbers are good for Obama, but don’t say whether the economy is truly getting healthier.

Mitt Wants to be President – This President

Conservatives are going to bed very nervous tonight. They must be realizing that Mitt really is the liberal they were afraid he was. Peace, love, and… gender equality?

Rope-A-Dope Revives the Hope

Mitt was no wimp, and Obama was no progressive, but Obama had the better plans, the better attacks, and the better handle on the truth.

The Biggest Losers: Big Bird and the American People

The first presidential debate of 2012 was an exercise in ridiculousness that produced no insight, no plan, no inspiration, no leadership, and no truth.

Record Poverty Persists While Gap Between Rich and Rest of Us Increases

Sadly, those who “occupied” Wall Street and city squares across the country in 2011, were right: All of the income gains have concentrated at the top, while the rest of us saw a deterioration or stagnation in our wages and income.

Chief Justice Roberts Saves the Day

The individual mandate won’t get the axe; the Court just affirmed that the key is the tax.

Ending Poverty in America, a Discussion with Peter Edelman

Karen Dolan speaks with Georgetown Law professor Peter Edelman to discuss his decades of anti-poverty work and his new book, “So Rich So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty In America.”

A Ditty on Newt Gingrich: The Apogee of a Would-be Nominee

We’ll carry on with Barack and Mitt, but we lament that you called it quits.

If Health Care Reform Falls, Look in the Mirror

It didn’t have to be this way. We had the power to make things different. In fact, we still have the power to make things different.

Project Director

Criminalization of Race and Poverty

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Community Policing, Criminal Justice, Families of Incarcerated, Juvenile Justice, Local Democracy, Mass Incarceration LGBTQIA, Participatory Budgeting, Race and Poverty, Racial Justice