A New Way of Life’s Founder and Director Susan Burton is herself a formerly incarcerated woman who understands the challenges people face leaving prison. After more than 20 years cycling in and out of the criminal justice system, unable to find work, housing or addiction-recovery treatment, Susan mercifully gained freedom and sobriety in 1997 and made it her life’s work to help other women walking in her shoes.
She began by meeting women released from prison as they stepped off the prison bus, welcoming them into her home, and urging them to stay as long as necessary to put their lives back together. Susan quickly recognized that her individual efforts were not enough. She saw that women coming home from prison faced tremendous institutional barriers: rules, laws, policies, and attitudes that operated to deny them access to employment, student loans, permanent housing, public assistance and many other services. Challenging such obstacles in isolation would be a futile exercise.
Susan came to understand that real change could only happen through a powerful, grassroots community organizing effort, one that could amass enough political power to bring an end to discriminatory practices, and shift public attitudes in a way that would break the cycle of mass incarceration… and A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project was born.
Since founding the project in 1998, A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project has …
- Provided transitional housing and support services for over 900 women
- Helped over 170 women reunite with their children
- Provided household goods for over 3,000 formerly homeless individuals
- Established a Re-Entry Legal Clinic which has:
- Trained 350 community members/law students as volunteer expungement experts
- Assisted more than 2,000 people with record reclassifications and expungements
- Represented dozens of people with accessing professional licenses, challenging background check errors/illegal reporting and challenging unfair employment discrimination
- Developed a membership base of hundreds of formerly incarcerated people and allies through the Southern California Chapter of All of Us or None (AOUON-SC). (All of Us or None is a national movement led by formerly-incarcerated people to win full restoration of the human and civil rights of people with histories of convictions and/or incarceration.)
- Founded Women Organizing for Justice, a one-of-a-kind leadership project that has trained more than 100 formerly incarcerated women in advocacy and organizing
A New Way of Life advances multi-dimensional solutions to the effects of incarceration.
- They provide housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community re-entry, family reunification, and individual healing.
- They work to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people.
- They empower, organize and mobilize formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation.
They envision a world where every person can make decisions for his/her own life, is accountable for those decisions and is valued as a contributing member of the community.
- Every person has inherent value and holds the power of possibility and transformation within them.
- Public resources are better invested in opportunities for transformation than on prisons and punishment.
- Formerly incarcerated people must be at the forefront in creating solutions to the incarceration crisis.