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December 3, 2014

Dear Friend of the RCPP,

Once a year we ask for your financial support.

In the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and 12-year old Tanir Rice, we need to rededicate ourselves to ending racist policing, cruel and dehumanizing prisons and a criminal “justice” system which produces little or no justice.  At this moment of heightened awareness, please make a donation so that we can build on our many years of work.

Each of you receiving this appeal has some idea of what the Real Cost of Prisons Project does. To give you a more complete picture, here are some highlights.

Organize and agitate. The majority of the men we communicate with, some for as long as thirteen years, are now or have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time. All have extreme sentences. It is our daily connection to them that fuels our urgency to end the use of solitary confinement of 80,000 men and women, and to challenge extreme sentences such as Life Without the Possibility of Parole. In Massachusetts, we are agitating to stop “bail jails” for people who have not been convicted of anything.

In November 2013, the RCPP was a co-founder of the Pretrial Working Group, an organization advocating to end money bail and to creating statewide pretrial services .

We initiated, and are committed to, the on-going campaign to end the degrading, humiliating practice of the Department of Correction’s use of drug sniffing dogs for all visitors to prisons including little children, but not for all prison guards.

Advocate. Every day, through letters and phone calls, we advocate on behalf of incarcerated women and men, so that the powers that be know there is someone paying attention, and holding them accountable.

We send printed materials to incarcerated people - reports, articles and newsletters - so that organizing can take place within prisons; we write letters in support of parole; and campaign for prisoners release from solitary to the general prison population. 90% of prisoners do not have access to the internet. We work to ensure that people can continue to receive and send mail and books with as few restrictions as possible.

Educate. The RCPP website provides a strong, unique platform for ideas and analysis for prisoners, organizers and researchers. This year, our website received 750,000 unique visits. More than 8,000 “liked” our Facebook page; its weekly reach exceeds 50,000 people, with news and events, connecting people around the country and beyond.  Lois Ahrens speaks in college classes and public forums. She is frequently interviewed on the radio , and is known for her letters to the editor, op-eds and commentaries. In nine years, we sent 135,000 of our free comic books to prisoners in every state, every Federal prison, hundreds of jails and thousands of schools and organizing projects. The comic books remain on-line.

Communicate. The RCPP is dedicated to making known the ideas of men and women who are incarcerated.  Many people have no contact with people who are incarcerated. Their idea of who “they” are is from TV cop shows, “reality” TV, or someone being led out of the courtroom on the 6 o’clock news. Writing from Prison and Comix from Inside present another view of prisoners: as researchers, thinkers, artists...insightful commentators on the cruelty, the absurdity, friendship in prison and the “free-world.” Essays, papers and cartoons are studied by high school and college students, used by policymakers, reproduced in publications and posted on other websites. All amplify the writer’s or cartoonist’s humanity and voice.

Connect. Most people who are incarcerated have few ways to connect to the outside world, and the outside world has few ways to connect to them. We connect organizers, prisoners, and activists to one another and to the national and international media who are seeking interviews, political writing and cartoons from prisoners.

Since 2000, the Real Cost of Prisons Project has accomplished a great deal on a very small budget. Our goal this year is to raise $15,000. 

Your tax-deductible donation, of whatever amount, makes it possible for us to continue our work. Your tax-deductible donation can be made online or by check here.

Please consider making a monthly donation of $10, $20, $50 or more. Or you can make a onetime donation of any amount, from $5 to $5,000. Every dollar we receive will be put to careful and effective use.

Thank you very much for your support of the work we do.

Lois Ahrens
Founder & Director, Real Cost of Prisons Project

© 2003-2011 The Real Cost of Prisons Project