The Real Cost of Prisons Project brings together justice activists, artists,
researchers and people directly experiencing the impact of mass criminalization
to work to end mass incarceration.
Lois Ahrens, the founder and director of the RCPP, has been fortunate to have
built an extensive network with prisoners which has grown into working
relationships informing and transforming her work. Her correspondence and visits
with prisoners has meant a greater focus on the realities of extremely long
sentences and the harsh and damaging conditions of confinement faced by all
prisoners in the U.S. In Massachusetts, the RCPP's recent work includes stopping
the degrading Department of Corrections policy of dogs sniffing all visitors
(including young children) while they wait for hours to see family and friends,
state-wide organizing against the "three strikes" law, and working to stop new
prison and jail building. The RCPP is committed to bringing the ideas and
analysis of prisoners and formerly incarcerated men and women into our
organizing to more authentically challenge and change the destructive beliefs
and costly systems that drive mass criminalization.
The Real Cost of Prisons Project is a national organization, begun in 2000.
The RCPP created workshops, a website visited by 1,500 people a day and which
includes sections of writing and comix by prisoners and created and published
three comic books: Prison Town: Paying the Price, Prisoners of the War on Drugs
and Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women and Their Children. (Prison Town is no longer
in print.) 135,000 free comic books have been sent to organizers, schools and
prisoners throughout the country. The comic books are anthologized into the
book, The Real Cost of Prisons Comix, published by PM Press. In 2008, the book
won the PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.