Who We Are

Don Perry Photo (1)Don Perry

July 1983, when 28 years old Donald Perry an African-American was given the maximum penalty of 2nd Degree Life for Armed Robbery. Donald served 18 years and 7 months in the Massachusetts Department of Correction. While incarcerated Donald took advantage of almost every rehabilitative opportunity offered to him.

January 2001, Donald Perry was released from prison on parole. September 2001, Donald enrolled at UMASS Amherst and graduated May 2002 with a B.A. with a focus on the “Politics of Social Inequalities”.

Over the years, Donald Perry has continued his rehabilitative endeavors by participating in and completing an additional laundry list of programs. He has enhanced programs to help the less fortunate members of our communities.

Currently, Mr. Perry has launched “PROJECT: OPERATION CHANGE” a state-wide campaign to change the antiquated policies and abusive practices of the MA Parole System. Mr. Perry gives an insider’s view of his experience in hopes of raising awareness of the over-all “pitfalls” of the parole system. According to him, “Politics and knee-jerk reactions have derailed the criminal justice system. The consequences negatively impact all of us whether talking about human rights, public safety or the financial cost of these practices.  It is time for reform that is smarter, safer and produces positive results”.

Michaelann PhotoMichaelann Bewsee

As a co-founder and current director of Arise for Social Justice, a multi-issue, low-income led organization in Greater Springfield, she has come to recognize the truth in Audre Lorde’s statement,“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”  Without reform of the criminal justice system, there can be no real justice for poor people and people of color.

She also serves on the Board of Directors of 32 Byers, Inc., which provides 44 efficiency apartments for formerly homeless people, and the Wellspring Cooperative, which is creating worker-owned coops.  When she’s not working, she gardens and writes poetry.

Sylvia PhotoSylvia Snape

She is retired and enjoys doing various things she had no time for when she was working. Among the positions she has held are, in no particular order: secretary, administrative assistant, teachers aide, home health aide, and nursing assistant. She has held various positions on the executive board of her union and for six years was a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Teachers Association representing education support professionals. She occasionally teaches knitting classes. She is pleased to be a member of the advisory board for Project: Operation Change. Her motto is “Live in Peace and Peace will Live Within You.”

Luke Ryanluke

Luke Ryan is an attorney at the Northampton law firm of Sasson, Turnbull, Ryan & Hoose, where he specializes in criminal defense and representing plaintiffs in civil rights litigation. From 2012-2014, he had the honor of representing Donald Perry in Hampshire County Superior Court and when Donald appeared before the Massachusetts Parole Board.

Elaine Arsenault

Elaine Arsenault is a Training and Recruitment Specialist for The Recruitment, Training and Support Center at The Federation For Children With Special Needs. She recruits and trains volunteers in Western Massachusetts. Elaine is a graduate of Lesley University with a degree in Education and Human Service. She raised five children, two with special needs adopted from the Department of Children and Families. She is also a family member of a formerly incarcerated individual.

10382283_724722597570962_8449393507864308136_oHannah Elliott

Hannah Elliott currently works as a career coach for youth in the juvenile justice system throughout Western Mass. She graduated from Hampshire College in 2011, and worked closely with Donald Perry and Elaine Arsenault at the Not Bread Alone community meal program, who are now close friends of hers. She is originally from Blue Hill, Maine, and in her free time enjoys gardening, playing and performing music, dancing salsa, and cooking.

georgeGeorge Aguiar

George is a software engineer with over 30 years experience who volunteers his spare time helping out non-profits with their technology needs.  He became active in the anti-nuclear movement after Three Mile Island attending his first demonstration in Washington DC on May 6, 1979, was a member of the Progressive Student Union in college, codesigned a passive solar house in 1982 and volunteered for over 10 years with COLAP (Congress of Lakes and Ponds) monitoring the health of our fresh water ponds.  He served as a Conservation Commissioner in Lunenburg for 4 years and was at his happiest during the Occupy Movement.  He has since come to see that our democracy is an illusion of the oligarchs where all our issues meld into one; it’s time for the peoples’ revolution, the rich and powerful have no motivation to give up power until  we take back our democracy through peaceful means.   George is also a member of the Peoples’ Music Network because he believes that music is a powerful tool to build movements and community.  He plays keyboards, ukulele and sings tenor in New England Pink Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band that works with Concerts for Charities raising money for important causes with music.