Our Movement

Our 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 key focus is ending Life Without Parole prison sentences and restoring voting rights here in Massachusetts as well as establishing universal prisoner suffrage throughout the country.


Upcoming Events

Struggle Sessions in 2019!

Date and Time: Every other Thursday from 6:30-8 pm (January 10, January 24, February 7, February 21, March 7). Inquire for details or check our Facebook page 

Location: Families for Justice As Healing, 100R Warren Street, Roxbury, MA 02119
Struggle sessions are the Emancipation Initiative’s organizing meetings against incarceration in Massachusetts and for the strong communities we want to see. All are welcome. We especially welcome formerly incarcerated individuals, as well as any family members or people who have loved ones who are or were incarcerated. We want this space to be accessible to everyone, so please let us know in advance if there is anything we can do to help you participate, including childcare!
Questions: emancipationinitiative@gmail.com or 617-869-2773.

Past Events

Ballots Over Bars: The Fight for a Voice

Date and Time: Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 4 PM – 7 PM

Location: Jed D. Satow Room, 5th floor of Lerner Hall, Columbia University, New York, New York

This 5-minute powerpoint presentation was delivered as part of Columbia’s third annual Graduate School of Arts and Sciences SynThesis Competition.

People incarcerated in Massachusetts have a long history of fighting to make their voices heard on the outside, from staging protests, to forming political action committees. This oral history project and grassroots campaign is a collaboration with currently and formerly incarcerated people in Massachusetts to document and learn from their creative acts of resistance in order to secure and make real their right to vote. My research explores the motivations that drive people to risk years in solitary in order to have a say in government, the history of resistance including different tactics employed, and what the future holds for this national movement to re-enfranchise people convicted of crimes. Using the power of aurality, I argue that in order to create any truly transformative change, criminal justice reform organizations and advocates must incorporate structures that recognize the agency of ‘the people they are trying to help.’

Photos and video available here: https://gsas.columbia.edu/blog/2018-masters-synthesis-competition

Ballots Over Bars: An Oral History of Incarcerated People’s Fight for the Right to Vote in Massachusetts

Date and Time: Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 5 PM – 8 PM

Location: Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York

This installation was a part of HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit, showcasing multimedia projects and stories recorded by the 2017 cohort of Columbia University’s Oral History MA program. 

From staging work stoppages to forming political action committees, incarcerated people have a long history of fighting to make their voices heard. Ballots Over Bars is a grassroots campaign and oral history collaboration with currently and formerly incarcerated people in Massachusetts who are fighting for universal suffrage. Join us to learn about incarcerated people’s creative acts of resistance and explore your own relationship to voting rights and resistance.

Listen to 9 oral history clips from Bill C, Bill S and Greg here: http://oralhistory.columbia.edu/2018-ballots-over-bars

Parole Community Forum

Date and Time: Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 1 PM – 4 PM

Location: First Church in Roxbury, Roxbury, Massachusetts

This event was co-hosted by EI and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, CEPS: Coalition for Effective Public Safety, and Project Operation Change.

This will be a space for people on parole, people who have been on parole and their friends and relatives to share your experiences.

We will work to develop a plan of action to rectify the degrading and destructive consequences that government reactionary parole policies and methods continue to inflict on people on parole, our loved ones and our communities.

For more information,  check out the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/emancipation.initiative/photos/gm.201385957260433/761204914090591/?type=3&theater

Ballots Over Bars: Incarcerated People’s Fight for the Right to Voice

Date and Time: Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 10:50 AM – 11:50 AM

Location: Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York

This workshop was presented as part of Sarah Lawrence College’s first annual Our Liberation Summit, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement at Sarah Lawrence College.

People incarcerated in Massachusetts have a long history of fighting to make their voices heard through many creative means. This oral history project and grassroots campaign is a collaboration with currently and formerly incarcerated people to document and learn from their creative acts of resistance in order to secure and make real their right to vote. Join us in constructing a chronology, listen to clips of formerly incarcerated people sharing their experiences in the fight, learn about current campaigns to restore voting rights, and explore your relationship to voting rights.

Further information available here: www.ourliberationslc.com/summit-scheduledraft/2018/1/22/ballots-over-bars-incarcerated-peoples-fight-for-the-right-to-vote

Returning the Right to Vote to Incarcerated People in Massachusetts: An Oral History and Data Analysis

Date and Time: Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 3:30 PM – 4:50 PM
Location: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This presentation was delivered as part of a thematic panel within the penal abolition track of the American Society of Criminology’s 73rd Annual Meeting.

Dismantling The Legal Institution of 21st Century Slavery

Date and Time: Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 1 PM – 4 PM
Location: Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Club, 15 Winthrop St, Springfield, Massachusetts 01105

The Emancipation Initiative invites all Massachusetts residents to join us to strengthen the movement for criminal justice reform. We are particularly interested in hearing from those most impacted by crime and incarceration and those excluded from our political process here in Massachusetts via incarceration. We understand that the 13th amendment continues modern-day slavery, and we will not let that stand.

Sign the Petition

Against Life Without Parole by Restoring Citizenship

Click Here to Sign the Change.org Petition

Families of prisoners, students, and local community members are unsatisfied with the current practices of our Massachusetts criminal justice system. Our discontent ranges from issues concerning prison conditions, mandatory LWOP sentencing statues, and lastly, prisoner suffrage. As a result of our collective grievances, we are unifying around an Emancipation Initiative and reaching out to our state representatives in hopes of setting goals, exploring alternatives, and collectively developing plans to infuse a sense of humanity to incarcerated persons throughout the state.

This letter is drafted on behalf of the Emancipation Initiative and is representative of family members, local residents, students, and MA DOC prison population, and their disposition concerning LWOP prison sentences and universal prisoner suffrage for the entire Massachusetts Department of Corrections.

Slave Narratives

The idea of E.I. releasing slave narratives, real thoughts and experiences from the perspectives of Massachusetts prisoners, originates from the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s 1845 “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Douglass used his narratives to create a human connection between the American people and their slave population. His writings were very detailed and people began waking up and realizing how horrific the institution of slavery was, which worked to fuel the flames for abolition and spark dialogue around ending slavery. His strategy was an exceptional tool in removing the ideological pins that legitimized slavery in the minds of those who have yet to question its moral standing, dividing the county between the perception of right and wrong, moral and immoral.

Our Emancipation Initiative aims to unify the country by infusing a sense of humanity and restoring dignity to those men and women entangled in the webs of mass-incarceration and branded as chattel property of the state (prison numbers) with no representation within a government designed to be by the people but operated through their elected officials (representative government). Our slave narratives give Massachusetts prisoners a voice where we have not had one and allows the American people to see us for “us,” as opposed to the maligned images projected by mainstream media, while we’re also able to expose the toxic conditions in which these slave houses (prisons) create. No human being is perfect, but they are also not incorrigible. Pay close attention to our words and stories and I’m confident something will empower you to fight along with us for true freedom and liberty—thank you for your attention.

Slave Narrative #42: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

By Patricia Olsen If an inmate gets hurt or isn’t feel ingwell, you are told to put in a “sick-slip.” After a day, or two, or three, you are given an appointment with a trauma nurse who evaluates you and determines if you are “sick” enough to see a nurse practitioner. We do have a …

Slave Narrative #41: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

My Letter to America Journal #8 Damn…don’t you know America? Men and women are dying. Not all but just a select demographic who’ve been marginalized to poverty, prisons and penal structures. They put people from these places in prisons because they’ve decided to no longer suffer from the many societal pains that derive from the …

Constructive Correspondence Effort (C.C.E.)

What is C.C.E.?

Emancipation Initiative is currently looking for participants for our Constructive Correspondence Effort (C.C.E.) Project.

C.C.E. is a new program through Emancipation Initiative, in which we are connecting prisoners, who have upcoming parole hearings within the next 18 months to two years with citizen participants. Selected prisoners wil be those who have accomplished remarkable feats (G.E.D., Bachelor’s Degree, Trade etc) throughout their incarceration, but no longer have the external support to advocate on their behalf at their prospective parole hearings. The function of C.C.E. is to establish a familiarity between prisoner and participant, in which the participant will discern whether prisoners have met specific personal qualifications throughout the C.C.E. process that will inform a low-likelihood of recidivism in which case, the goal would be for the participant to author a letter of recommendation on behalf of the prisoner that reflects their shared-experiences throughout E.I.’s C.C.E. process.

Get Involved

If you are interested in participating in this project and would like to sign-up or learn more about the process, simply contact us at:
Email: contact@emancipationinitiative.org
Phone: Meia Carter (216) 225-0442  OR Rachel Corey (617) 869-2773