Sheriff Accountability Project

In 2018, ROLC received a gift of $95,500 from the Vital Projects Fund, Inc. to support research on the roles and responsibilities of sheriffs across the 50 states.

The Sheriff Accountability Project looked at the role of sheriffs across the United States, with particular focus on their extra-judicial powers and unique funding structures. Jessica Pishko, a ROLC Visiting Fellow and journalist whose work focuses on criminal justice, especially the connection between mass incarceration and county-level politics, led the project.

The result was a website that maps sheriff electoral data with various state-wide rules and regulations governing the sheriffs’ offices. The website is available at

The data from this project has been used by groups like Communities for Sheriff Accountability, which provides assistance to grassroots groups and communities seeking to change their sheriff department.

“The Highest Law in the Land: The History and Growing Political Power of Sheriffs in America,” a book that resulted from this project, was published in 2023, with Dutton Books. Ms. Pishko also writes a substack newsletter about sheriffs alongside assisting criminal justice reform groups with de-incarcerating jails and reforming sheriffs’ offices.

For more information, see Ms. Pishko’s op-ed in the New York Times, as well as coverage of her work in the Christian Science Monitor.