Community Engagement

community engagement

Prisoners’ Legal Services has a longstanding history of collaborating with community partners and participating in community efforts in order to achieve reform. It is our philosophy that the people most qualified to speak about the experience of incarceration are those directly affected by it, and to that end, we participate in as many groups as possible that center the voices of the currently and formerly incarcerated. Below are several coalitions, commissions, and organizations working to affect change:

member coalitions

Massachusetts Against Solitary Confinement (MASC)
MASC is a campaign by Massachusetts organizations and individuals to eliminate solitary confinement as we know it, by greatly reducing its use and ending harsh conditions for those who are so confined.  Member groups include Black & Pink, Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, UU Mass Action, and the ACLU of MA. In order to join MASC, please email

Coalition for Effective Public Safety (CEPS)
CEPS is a coalition of advocates, program providers, formerly incarcerated men and women, and friends and relatives of prisoners. They have joined forces to promote and safeguard the human rights of all people across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and focus on issues of parole. CEPS supports the work of many other coalitions that are working for justice in arenas such as solitary confinement, medical release and juvenile justice. In order to join CEPS, please email

Commissions & Committees

As part of the criminal justice reform legislation that passed in April 2018, a number of oversight committees and commissions were formed. PLS staff sit on two of these:

Restrictive Housing Oversight Committee
The Restrictive Housing Oversight Committee (RHOC) was created to gather information about restrictive housing in the state prisons and county jails and houses of correction in order to determine the impact of restrictive housing, otherwise known as solitary confinement or segregation, on incarcerated people, rates of violence, recidivism, incarceration costs, and self-harm within correctional facilities.

Special Commission to Study Health and Safety of LGBTQI Prisoners
The Special Commission to Study Health and Safety of LGBTQI Prisoners was created to evaluate current access to appropriate healthcare services and health outcomes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex individuals. The commission is tasked with gathering information and preparing a report with specific recommendations to improve outcomes for LGBTQI individuals, a timeline for tasks to be achieved, and recommendations for improving health and safety.

‘An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth’, which is police reform legislation that was signed into law on December 31, 2020, creates the following commissions related to prisons and jails:

Structural Racism in Corrections Commission

The Commission on Structural Racism in Corrections will study the disparate treatment of people of color incarcerated at state and county correctional facilities and determine the role of structural racism in those disparities. It will investigate prison policies and procedures, and thoroughly review access to educational, vocational, and other programming options for incarcerated people.

Family members with questions or concerns about the commission can contact LaToya Whiteside at

Special Legislative Commission on Structural Racism in the Parole Process

The commission will thoroughly investigate the disparate treatment of people of color and will determine the role that structural racism plays in those disparities. The commission will study, for example, whether racism plays a role in who is granted or denied parole, or in the conditions of release.

If you have questions or concerns about the commission, please contact Kristyn Huey at

Other Community Organizations & Coalitions

The American Friends Service Committee
AFSC is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action.

American Civil Liberties Union of MA
The ACLU is dedicated to ensuring that our prisons, jails, and detention centers comply with the Constitution, domestic law, and human rights principles.

BARCC Incarcerated Survivor Support Program
BARCC believes that all survivors deserve support in healing from the trauma of sexual violence. We also know that sexual violence affects thousands of people who are in the correctional system. That’s why BARCC started working in 2014 to provide vital support to survivors of sexual violence who are incarcerated in Massachusetts.

Black & Pink: 
Black and Pink’s mission is to abolish the criminal punishment system and to liberate LGBTQIA2S+ people/people living with HIV who are affected by that system, through advocacy, support, and organizing.

Citizens for Juvenile Justice
CfJJ advocates for a fair and effective juvenile justice system in Massachusetts, designed to promote the healthy development of children and youth so they can grow up to live as responsible and productive adults in our communities.

CourtWatch MA
Court Watch MA is a community project with the goal of shifting the power dynamics in our courtrooms by exposing the decisions judges and prosecutors make about neighbors every day.

Criminal Justice Policy Coalition 
CJPC is a member-based, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of effective, just, and humane criminal justice policy in Massachusetts.

Deeper than Water is a coalition of organizations dedicated to exposing the rampant human rights abuses that incarcerated individuals in the United States are subjected to, using the lens of water justice as an entry point.

Emancipation Initiative 
The Emancipation Initiative is about infusing our system with equitable justice and bringing about absolute inclusion for our people locked down and out of our democracy. Our focus is ending Life Without Parole prison sentences and restoring voting rights here in Massachusetts as well as establishing universal suffrage for incarcerated individuals throughout the country.

End Mass Incarceration Together
EMIT is a statewide working group of the Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network. EMIT partners with people to encourage and facilitate face-to-face meetings with state representatives and senators to let them know we are outraged about the over-incarceration of people in America who are more likely to be black, brown, poor, under-educated, mentally ill and have substance abuse problems.

Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement are formerly incarcerated and currently incarcerated individuals, along with allies, friends, and family, working together to create resources and opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums
FAMM’s mission is to create a more fair and effective justice system that respects our American values of individual accountability and dignity while keeping our communities safe.

Families for Justice as Healing 
FJAH is an organization by and for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and girls and women with loved ones who are locked up. We are working to end the incarceration of women.

GBLS CORI & Re-entry Project 
Greater Boston Legal Services assists individuals with CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) who are shut out of the economy, rejected for housing, and denied other opportunities because of their criminal records.

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.

Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project
PLAP is a volunteer organization at Harvard Law School in which law students represent inmates in Massachusetts prisons.

Jobs NOT Jails 
Jobs NOT Jails works with allies to advance economic and racial justice by ending mass incarceration, changing unfair laws, and creating access to living wage jobs for all.

Mass POWER stands for Massachusetts Prisoners and Organizers Working for Enfranchisement and Restoration. Mass POWER is a campaign and a coalition committed to restoring the right to vote to people who are incarcerated.

Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee
MHLAC works to enhance and protect the rights of persons with mental health concerns in key areas most closely related to their ability to live full and independent lives free of discrimination.

MIRA is the largest coalition in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees.

Prison Policy Initiative
The non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting-edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society.

The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School
CHHIRJ was launched in September 2005 by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law. The Institute honors and continues the unfinished work of Charles Hamilton Houston, one of the 20th century’s most important legal scholars and litigators

The Massachusetts Bail Fund 
The Massachusetts Bail Fund pays up to $500 bail so that low-income people can stay free while they work towards resolving their case, allowing individuals, families, and communities to stay productive, together, and stable. The Fund is committed to the harm reduction of freeing individuals serving pre-trial sentences, and to abolishing pre-trial detention and supervision in the long-term.

The Real Cost of Prisons Project 
The Real Cost of Prisons Project brings together justice activists, artists, researchers, and women and men directly experiencing the impact of mass criminalization who are working to end the carceral state.

Unitarian Universalist Mass Action
The Unitarian Universalist Mass Action’s mission is to organize and mobilize UUs in Massachusetts to confront oppression. We provide pathways towards justice and identify opportunities in which we can live our values.

Criminal Justice Reform Task Force of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek
CDT’s Criminal Justice Task Force participates in a statewide Campaign for Criminal and Economic Justice focusing on replacing the carceral state with programs that treat people as human beings no matter their transgressions through changing unfair and ineffective laws, such as mandatory minimums for drug offenses.


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