On March 30th, the UMass Alliance for Community Transformation (UACT) hosted an exciting and successful event at Holyoke City Hall Ballroom. “PLUG IN! A Gathering to Change the Things We Cannot Accept" brought together nine community organizations, including: Black and Pink, Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Great Falls Books Through Bars, Massachusetts Campaign for Jobs Not Jails, Pa'lante Restorative Justice (Holyoke High School), the Pioneer Valley Project, the Prison Birth Project, Elm Street Think Tank, and Voices from Inside.
This event involved a structured, interactive community forum to learn, discuss, and engage with community activists combating the unjust and inhumane policies of mass incarceration. Students, scholars, and community members were able to connect in meaningful ways with local organizations through participatory workshops, many of which were led by people with direct experiences of incarceration. Andrew St. Jean of Great Falls Books Through Bars commented that “the environment this creates, and hearing about all the amazing work, creates more support. Instead of taking away resources, it multiplies them.”
Over 100 university and community members participated in this demonstration of relationship-based organizing and participatory, community-led education. This was the final event in the History Department’s 2016-2017 Feinberg Series: The US in the Age of Mass Incarceration.