Lois Ahrens has been an organizer for social justice for more than 55 years. She is the founding director of the Real Cost of Prisons Project, a national organization based in Northampton, MA which she began in 2000. In Massachusetts, Lois led campaigns to stop new jail building, ending the videotaping by guards of women being strip searched, ending money bail, and abolishing the sentence of life without parole.
Her years of work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people led her to focus on ending extreme sentences and abolishing the punitive and damaging conditions of confinement faced by every person incarcerated in the U.S. Lois believes mass incarceration and mass criminalization can only end through the leadership of formerly incarcerated and incarcerated people and their loved ones. She believes that the cruel and costly carceral system cannot be reformed.