Tag Archives: EPOCA

Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfasts have become the pretty faces for the liberals – the face of struggle without the struggle … or: The march to Kelley Square, the New Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Gordon Davis

There were two celebrations on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Worcester:

There was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Quinsigamond Community College on West Boylston Street. At this event an activist, Chris Horton, from the Worcester Anti Foreclosure Team, was slammed to the ground and arrested by police after he started to hand out flyers about predatory lending.

Mr. Horton was allegedly arrested when the MLK Breakfast organizers called the police to force him to stop passing out the flyer. The police charged Mr. Horton with assault and battery on a police officer.

It really did not matter whether Mr. Horton touched a police officer – once a police officer slams you to the ground, there is an automatic charge of assault and battery.

The other celebration in Worcester of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was the March Against Racism at Kelley Square:

Between 60 and 80 people marched down Green Street to Kelly Square. The location was chosen because four Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested there on MLK Day in 2015. They are still on trial.


The march to Kelly Square was organized by radical organizations, much like during the old Civil Rights Movement NAACP and SNCC.  The Progressive Labor, Socialist Alternative, Communities United Collective and Worcester Immigrants Coalition were the main organizing groups. Although diverse, the groups had a common goal of anti-racism, anti sexism, ending racist deportation and economic justice for all. It was clear that this group would not be intimidated by any retaliation by city government.

EPOCA is working to abolish the
$500 fee that is required to obtain a license by ex-prisoners.

Although not an organizer of the march, EPOCA an ex prisoner support group, joined the rally. The speaker from EPOCA talked of the racism and discrimination experienced by many ex prisoners. She also talk of its effort to abolish the $500 fee that is required to obtain a license by an ex prisoner, an almost prohibitive barrier for some.

Many people today do not remember or do not associate the urban rebellions of the 1960s with the old Civil Rights movement.

When Dr. King attempted to organize northern Black people in the cities he was rudely made aware of the militancy that created the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and the Worcester Black Coalition.

I suppose Dr. King expected the White racism he faced in Cicero, Illinois. He could not have expected that young Black people in Watts would call him Martin “Loser” King.

The old Civil Rights movement in the South was to some extent prettified with men in suits and religious people (all good and brave people). The men in dungarees and those who spoke Geechee were only seen in the background. Dr. King eventually understood the contradictions of such tactics and began to support working-class and poor people, such as the garbage men and their strike in Tennessee. He was in Tennessee supporting them when he was assassinated.

To some extent the Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfasts have become the pretty faces for the liberals – the face of struggle without the struggle.

Please do not get the wrong idea: I think that the people doing these things are good people and well intentioned. I know most of them and I consider them my friends. I am sure some of them would like to disassociate themselves from the new militancy of the BlackLives Matter. This has certainly been the case with some “liberal” people.

BlackLives Matter new Civil Rights movement has given a new face to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Worcester and in the nation.

The blockade of Kelly Square in 2015 by people protesting the killing of Michael Brown by the police added a sharpness and militancy to Dr. King’s Day that has continued through the year in Worcester and many cities and towns in America.

This militancy continued on January 18, 2016, when a coalition of groups and individuals marched against racism at Kelly Square calling out the city government and its police force. It was an action that joined Worcester to the BlackLives Matter civil rights movement.


At the WPL: Justice Reinvestment Act forum (Go, State Rep. Mary Keefe, go!!!)

By Gordon Davis

Neighbor to Neighbor, a community organization, and EPOCA, an advocacy organization for ex-prisoners, held a forum this week at the Worcester Public Library for the Justice Reinvestment Act. This Act is making its way through the Massachusetts State Legislature.

The Justice Reinvestment Act is what is called an omnibus bill which contains several related, but dissimilar bills.

It concerns itself with the reform of the present system of incarceration which many consider detrimental to society. It has been mentioned in the discussions of New Jim Crow racism and is loosely connected to the BlackLives Matter civil rights movement.  

The bills are roughly divided into two parts: sentencing reform, jobs and school.

A. Repeal of mandatory sentencing, especially for non-violent drug use
B. Reduction from felony to misdemeanor of some charges, such as shoplifting and petty theft.
C. End the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ practice of confiscating driver licenses of prisoners and the fine of $500 to have the licenses reinstated.
D. Allow prisoners who are terminally ill to leave prison for a hospice, hospital or home.
E. Savings accrued from the reforms seen above to be dedicated to the creation of jobs and support for schooling of victims, released prisoners and at-risk children.

epoca fORUM
State Rep. Keefe and an Aide from State Sen. Chang Diaz’s office at the EPOCA forum at the Worcester Public Library

The Justice Reinvestment Act is being sponsored by Representative Mary Keefe of Worcester and Senator Sonia Chang Diaz of Boston. There are also 55 other co-sponsors in the legislature. I am especially happy that Representative Keefe is sponsoring the Justice Reinvestment Bill. For a while, there was some talk of her not being able to represent some of her constituents in her majority-minority district well. This sponsorship should put that talk to rest, as she is now more vocal on the concerns of the entire district. I am also happy she has made allies with the so called minority legislators in the State House.
Representative Keefe and an aide from Senator Change-Diaz’s office spoke in support of the Justice Reinvestment Act. Also speaking was Barbara Duggan from FAMM and two former prisoners, who spoke of the difficulties they faced.

Luz Vega, a spokesperson for Neighbor to Neighbor, said the Justice Reinvestment Act was needed as a way to improve the communities in Worcester. Delia Vegas from EPOCA said the Justice Reinvention Act is needed for the mitigation of the system of mass incarceration of people, especially young men for non-violent crimes.  It is also needed to create a system in which people who have criminal records can work and support themselves and their families. 

Present impediments to work and school are hard to overcome and create a sort of self-sustaining poverty.

During the question and answer segment of the forum Cassandra Bensahih, who moderated the event, said the likelihood of the Justice Reinvestment Act passing is depended directly on the support we in the public give it.

She announced that EPOCA and Neighbor to Neighbor are organizing buses to go the State House hearings on the Act.

On October 14, there will be a rally outside the State House before going into the hearings.

The buses from Worcester will leave Worcester City Hall, October 14, at 9:30 AM.

Ms. Bensahih asked that people RSVP at 508 713 8420 to ensure space on the buses.  

Jobs, not jail! Hearing and rally in Boston!

Reinvestment Act Rally and Public Hearing!!

12:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 9

At the State House in Boston

The Justice Reinvestment Act will improve justice and safety, reduce
incarceration and invest millions of $ to create jobs for struggling families.

A key component of the Justice Reinvestment Act is to end mandatory minimum sentencing for drugs, the topic of the June 9 hearing.

Massachusetts is struggling with two diseases: drug addiction and economic exclusion.  It’s time we stand up for healing!

For more info please contact: Steve O’Neill of EPOCA
(508) 410-7676


News from EPOCA

This morning, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) and Representative Mary Keefe (D-Worcester) will file an omnibus bill backed by a large coalition of community, religious, and union organizations, to improve Massachusetts’ systems of criminal justice, end mass incarceration, and re-invest in our schools and in job-creation.

Included in the bill are:

I. Criminal Justice Reforms:

Repeal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences – This would restore judicial discretion in sentencing for drug charges, reducing the risk of longer than warranted prison terms.

Reduce Certain Low-Level Felonies to Misdemeanors – Under this scenario, certain offenses (such as shoplifting or other petty theft, or low-level drug charges) would be made misdemeanors, with different sanctions relying less on long terms of incarceration.

End Collateral Sanctions at the RMV – Under current law, the Registry of Motor Vehicles confiscates the license of a person convicted of any drug offense for up to 5 years, and charges at least $500 to reinstate.

Extraordinary Medical Placement – This would allow a judge to decide whether a person who is permanently incapacitated or terminally ill should be transferred out of prison for treatment, remaining under state custody.

II. Jobs and Schools:

The final sections of the bill establish a trust fund with the savings from these improvements in the criminal justice system, which will be used to right our unbalanced economy, investing in evidence-based practices including job development efforts for youth, veterans, victims of violence and other people with significant barriers to employment, as well as programs to support youth to stay in school.

Job Training to address the skills gap identified by Massachusetts industry leaders;

Transitional jobs and pre-apprenticeship programs to prepare people and place them in good, living-wage jobs;

Youth jobs that provide both sustenance and experience
Initiatives to create new jobs through social enterprises, coops, and other businesses.

Evidence-based programs that support young people to stay in school and get a complete education.

NOTE: Legislators are also filing many of the above sections as separate, individual bills: Mandatory Minimums: Rep. Swan and Sen. Creem;  Extraordinary Medical Placement: Rep. Toomey and Sen. Jehlen;  RMV Collateral Sanctions: Rep. Malia and Sen. Chandler.

Holiday greetings from JOBS NOT JAIL

Dear Friends of EPOCA,

We are proud to have just celebrated our 10th Anniversary.  Thank you to the many people who came out for this great event and donated to our cause.

This past year, the Jobs NOT Jails Coalition grew to 136 participating organizations, we staged a big rally on Boston Common and wrapped 46,643 Jobs NOT Jails petition signatures around the State House.

In the new year, we will engage thousands of people in mass trainings and high-profile direct actions, to build upon the unstoppable wave of support we have garnered. 

Together, we will guide the evolution of our society from one characterized by suffering and mass incarceration to one of freedom and self-sufficiency, where employment and a living wage is available for everyone.

Our allies in California have succeeded with Proposition 47, where many felonies have been dropped to misdemeanors, which will release thousands of people from prison.  The resulting savings from reduced incarceration will be tracked and funneled into three important services: truancy prevention; victims’ services; and treatment for mental illness and addiction.

Right now, we are drafting radical new legislation to enact a series of criminal justice reforms and divert millions of dollars away from prisons into job training programs, social enterprise and co-op development.

Beyond changing laws, we seek a wholesale shift in consciousness: to end the dehumanization that underlies mass incarceration and economic exclusion.  This is what the Jobs NOT Jails Movement is about.

The work ahead will be joyful, but it will require sacrifice as well.  Last year, EPOCA members and staff spent over $20,000 on in-state travel.  This year we expect to log even more miles, as we reach out to inspire action and train leaders across the state, from the Berkshires to Barnstable.  Our staff and leaders will train with the experts at Movement Mastery and will pass these vital organizing skills along to you, our allies in this movement.

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you who have donated to EPOCA and made it possible to come all this way in just ten years.

If you haven’t yet, we hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation to EPOCA this year.  Your gift will make all the difference, to keep us on the road and build further momentum across the state.

In solidarity,

Delia Vega & Steve O’Neill, Co-directors

Checks can be sent to:

4 King Street
Worcester, MA 01610

Join us at our next Jobs NOT Jails Community Meeting on January 31, 2014.  Details to be announced….

EPOCA’s office will be closed for the holidays!

We will be closed from Monday, December 22nd until Monday, January 5th.

Happy New Year!


Community Meeting – Monday, March 24
6:30 pm
YWCA Salem Sq., 2nd Floor Board Rm.
Cassandra Bensahih, Community Organizer for E.P.O.C.A will be our guest speaker for this meeting.  Cassandra will be addressing:
  • the high cost of mass incarceration and unemployment which disproportionately impact people of color and low-income communities
  • the merits of the “Jobs Not Jails” Campaign and how we all can be a part of this movement which includes the “Jobs Not Jails” Rally on the Boston Common, April 26, 2014.
Please join the NAACP as we stand together with our community to “prevent crime and end mass incarceration by investing in Massachusetts communities.”
For more information click the below link to see how you can be part of the movement.
For more info, CLICK HERE!

Wondering how to put your skills into action to end “Mass” Incarceration?

Wondering how to put your skills into action
to end Mass Incarceration? 
You’re invited!

Our friends at UU Mass Action and the Mass Incarceration Working Group of First Parish Arlington are holding this upcoming event:

Taking Action to End Mass Incarceration:  An Organizing Workshop
Saturday, February 8,  10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington
630 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA  (Arlington Center)
This workshop will help you build practical skills for bringing your congregation and community into the Jobs NOT Jails Campaign and the broader movement against mass incarceration.  Jobs NOT Jails is a statewide coalition that intends to stop the proposed spending of $2 billion of taxpayer money to build new prison cells and redirect those funds to creating good, sustainable jobs in our communities.  We are collecting petition signatures and planning a massive rally on Boston Common on April 26, 2014. 

Please pre-register by emailing: end-mass-incarceration@firstparish.info

The suggested donation for lunch will be $10, but don’t stay away if that is a difficulty.  Parking is across Massachusetts Avenue in municipal lots. 

This event is sponsored by UU Mass Action and the Mass Incarceration Working Group of First Parish Arlington.

Want to get more involved in the Jobs NOT Jails Campaign?  Have questions?

Call EPOCA at 508-410-7676 or email steve@exprisoners.org

You can download Jobs NOT Jails petitions from our website here:

In English In Spanish

Please send signed petitions to:

BWA, 411 Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02121
EPOCA, 5 Pleasant Street, 3rd Fl.,Worcester, MA 01609

Download Jobs NOT Jails flyers to distribute here

Jobs NOT Jails! A Rallying Cry!

EPOCA news …

Since we launched the Jobs Not Jails campaign last spring, nearly 100 organizations have joined the cause, led by a Steering Committee made up of groups such as Youth Against Mass Incarceration, and Mothers for Justice and Equality.  Together, we have collected 8,786 signatures on the Jobs Not Jails petition!  Petition forms in English and Spanish can be downloaded from our website, www.jobsnotjails.org, and we  have been receiving signed forms in the mail almost daily.  Our goal is to have at least 50,000 by the time of our rally next April.  Our signed petition sheets will be attached to “safety orange” fabric that we will wrap around the State House – to let legislators, the media and everyone around know that Massachusetts citizens say NO MORE MASS INCARCERATION!

We can do this together! Call us at 508-410-7676 or email steve@exprisoners.org to take part!  You can also learn more and download our petitions at www.exprisoners.org and at our new coalition site: www.jobsnotjails.org

Please attend this important forum at the Worcester Public Library – tomorrow!

Jobs NOT Jails Public Forum

Presented by
Criminal Justice Policy Coalition & EPOCA 

Wednesday, August 28,  5:30 – 7:30 P.M.

Worcester Public Library

Saxe Room – Main Library
3 Salem St
Worcester, MA 01608

We hope you can attend! Join us as we build a strong, new coalition based in Central Mass. To find out more please call EPOCA at 505-410-7676 or visit our website atwww.exprisoners.org

To learn more about our friends at the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, visit their website at: www.cjpc.org


Jobs NOT Jails Public Forum

Presented by Criminal Justice Policy Coalition & EPOCA

Wednesday, August 28 – 5:30 – 7:30 P.M.

Worcester Public Library, Saxe Room – Main Library, 3 Salem St

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration has announced that unless dramatic reforms are implemented, our Massachusetts will build 10,000 new prison units in the next ten years.  The construction costs alone will total at least $2 billion – not counting the cost of keeping 10,000 more people locked in those cells every year.  Our state has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world – on par with French Guiana and Belarus.  There are so few resources and so many barriers to re-entry that our recidivism rate is over an alarming 60%.

Join us to learn what we can do to reform Massachusetts’ criminal justice system, freeze prison construction and grow good local jobs! Take part in building our state-wide Jobs NOT Jails groundswell.  At this meeting, we will work on creating a local, Central Mass Coalition.

The time to act is now!

The movement is growing.  Just this week, Attorney General Eric Holder has called for major changes to our nation’s criminal justice system – including a mandatory minimum sentencing initiative for drug-related offenses.  Holder echoes our state campaign’s call  – to adopt policies proven to reduce prison populations, improve public safety and save taxpayers billions of dollars, siting the success of states including Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

To find out more please call EPOCA at 508-713-8420 or 505-410-7676
or visit our website at www.exprisoners.org

To learn more about our friends at the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, visit their website at: www.cjpc.org