Congratulations to The Real Cost of Prisons Project for receiving a Spring 2021 Grant.

Lois Ahrens about their work.

The Real Cost of Prisons Project is currently focused on two organizing projects involving statewide coalitions. The first is centered on ensuring that people who are incarcerated in jails in Western Mass and around the state who are eligible to vote are able to vote. People in jails are eligible if they are held pretrial, convicted of misdemeanors or are civilly committed under Sec. 35. There are approximately 5000 people in jails in Massachusetts who are eligible to vote. Our goal is for voter education and ballot access for everyone who is eligible. While the focus is on voting rights in Georgia and other states, this is an equity and justice issue here in Massachusetts.

The RCPP is the only Western Mass Coalition member of a statewide campaign to end the sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Almost one in 6 people incarcerated in Massachusetts has this extreme sentence. Massachusetts prides itself on not having the death penalty; however, we are tied with Louisiana as the state with the highest percentage of death by incarceration. The RCPP is amplifying the terrible experiences of people incarcerated in state prisons during COVID. We receive updates on the conditions inside and email them to legislators and to advocates and organizers as well as posting them on our website. We are the only organization in the state providing an in-depth platform for prisoners during COVID.

Through our list serve, letters to the editor and the RCPP Facebook page which reaches 1200 to 2500 people a week, we inform faith-based and advocacy organizations and concerned residents in Western Mass with news, organizing events, and analysis to further their work.

— art by Nicolas Lampert, Just Seeds Portfolio Project