Mission and History
Our mission is to assist people who are or have been in prison to achieve healthy, productive and meaningful lives.
Incorporated in 1976, Span has provided intensive support services for over 7,000 men and women in Massachusetts who are or have been in prison. Using a personalized combination of case management, health services, career development, and counseling support, we help clients reintegrate into their communities as assets rather than liabilities.
By assisting our clients to avoid returning to criminal behavior, we make our communities safer and provide a fiscally responsible alternative to repeated incarceration. Span's average annual cost to help one client stay on a path of self-sufficiency and out of prison is $4,000, compared to the $46,000 annual cost to incarcerate one Massachusetts state inmate.1
We believe that breaking the cycles of addiction, unemployment, crime, and imprisonment benefits everyone - victims, offenders, families, and communities. By treating our clients with dignity and respect and by encouraging them to take advantage of life-changing tools, we are fulfilling our mission to help men and women coming out of prison to rebuild their lives.
Lyn Levy began doing prison work in 1974 at MCI Concord, with the Peaceful Movement Committee, a prisoner-run program, with feet in the street. This was the beginning of what was to become Span. Lyn’s role was to help prepare prisoners for release and assist them through the process of returning to society. She believed that with the right resources and opportunities, formerly incarcerated people could achieve healthy, productive, and meaningful lives by breaking the cycle of addiction and crime.
On July 26, 1976 Span was named and incorporated but lacked funding. Therefore, Levy worked with another prisoner founded agency, the Self Development Group (SDG) for two years, with clients at the Norfolk and Walpole correctional institutions who were preparing for release to the Boston area. However, when SDG ran into difficulty and had to shut down, Levy approached the DOC officials, explained that Span had a 501 (c) (3) set up and rather than stop services, Span could continue working with clients if the DOC could transfer the funding rather than close down the work. Thus Span became a reality.
Within five years, Span expanded to include five staff working from a two-room office on Boylston Street and going into several state prisons. Most of the workweek was behind the walls, providing discharge planning, individual counseling, reintegration groups and advocacy. When the issues of mandatory sentencing, and reintegration began to receive national attention, Span gained recognition for its groundbreaking work. Since then, Span has received funding from public and private agencies, foundations, and individuals such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Social Security Administration (SSA). The agency focus is still reintegration and resettlement.
Today, the work Lyn began so many years ago continues to live on. Although Lyn has stepped down as the Executive Director, she continues to do the work that she loves on the Intergenerational Peace Project (IJP) representing Span. Kevin Davis, the new Executive Director, and Span staff continues to commit themselves to re-entry and reintegration. Now there are over 30 employees who see more than 1200 clients a year. Span has developed from a fledgling agency that once provided discharge planning to one prison community to an organization that serves people in all state and county prisons in Massachusetts. Today, Span is the longest-running Boston-based agency whose sole mission is to provide services dedicated to prisoners and ex-prisoners who want to change their lives.