“It’s hard to change hearts and minds, but sometimes it has to happen in the reverse order. Sometimes you have to bring your people home and let the hearts and minds catch up.”
Elisabeth Epps, JD, is an abolitionist, activist, and advocate. A former deputy state public defender and a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Elisabeth serves as Founder/Convener of the Colorado Freedom Fund and Co-Lead of the Denver Justice Project. Both organizations are committed to freedom work and dedicated to ending mass incarceration.
Elisabeth was raised in America’s south by an activist mother, and upon becoming a mother herself at age 16 she raised her own son in the same activist tradition. For over two decades Elisabeth has been active in building political power and organizing around social justice, since long before she knew formal terms for the activity that would become her life’s work.
In 2018, she led a collaboration by Denver Justice Project, with Black Lives Matter 5280, and many community members, to host community-wide Bail Outs for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Juneteenth. Those actions secured freedom for dozens of Coloradans, and from those efforts a new initiative was launched to restore the presumption of innocence to people awaiting trial in Colorado.
The Colorado Freedom Fund is a constituent-led organizing project that pools community resources and posts bond for people languishing in Colorado cages because of their inability to afford bail. When their court cases are resolved, the court releases the bonds back to the Freedom Fund, which uses that recycled money to pay bond for the next neighbor in need. Since May 2018, Colorado Freedom Fund has bought freedom for over 150 folks held in Colorado jails only because they could not pay bonds as low as $10.
Elisabeth’s work is dedicated to one mission: helping our neighbors get and stay free. From both her personal and professional experience, she knows that ending wealth based detention in Colorado, in a manner that doesn’t replace money bail with equally carceral options, is a critical step in earning collective freedom.
In addition to her daily work with the Colorado Freedom Fund, Elisabeth serves on the Denver District Attorney’s Police Accountability Advisory Committee; she worked intensely with Denver police on the most recent Use of Force policy rewrite; and organizes in other criminal legal spaces, all while fighting for her own freedom.
She is a member of the Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is most proud of her 21-year-old son Adrian, a graduate of East High School and now a college senior, who is an outstanding kind brave person. Her son Adrian is her motivation and love for Elisabeth’s abolition efforts.