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What about clemency for Massachusetts’ women?

Andrea James, executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, waves to people banging on the windows of the South Bay House of Correction during a May 2021 protest. Calling for the release of incarcerated women, members of several groups rallied at MCI-Framingham and then rode in a caravan to Boston.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Families for Justice as Healing, an organization led by formerly incarcerated, incarcerated, and directly impacted women and girls advocating to end incarceration of women and girls, has been urging the immediate release of women who are elderly, long-timers, survivors of violence, and living with a sickness and/or terminal illness. Massachusetts has one of the smallest numbers of women incarcerated in the country yet one of the higher rates of women serving life.

There is a desperate need for clemency here in Massachusetts. Many of our loved ones and friends have spent decades behind bars without having the opportunity for a second chance. Some of these women come from the most incarcerated corridor in the Commonwealth and never had a real first chance to make better choices for themselves. The criminal justice system has continued to fail our community. Governor Charlie Baker recently recommended two men for clemency; I am urging him to make similar recommendations for women.


For many women inside MCI-Framingham, clemency is the only pathway home. I’m a daughter of a currently incarcerated woman whose petition was denied because she didn’t have enough “extraordinary programming.” Over the course of 31 years, my mother has completed every program offered and even received her bachelor’s degree. Children with incarcerated mothers suffer from emotional, physical, educational, and financial inadequacies.

Baker has an opportunity to make a real difference and end the incarceration of women and girls.

Shanita Jefferson

Clemency and data coordinator

National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls