Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women
One woman remarkable journey from tragedy — to prison — to recovery — and being recognized as a leading figure in the national justice reform movement Susan life story is one our nation desperately needs to hear and understand. This is a story about personal transformation and collective power. It is about one woman journey to freedom, but it will help free us all. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
Susan Burton world changed in an instant when her five-year-old son was killed by a van on their street in the impoverished black community of South Los Angeles, California. She was consumed by grief and had no access to professional help. Susan self-medicated, becoming addicted to cocaine and then crack. Her community was under siege by the War on Drugs, and it was only a matter of time until Susan was arrested. She cycled in and out of prison for fifteen years, never being offered therapy or treatment for addiction. On her own, she eventually found a private drug rehabilitation facility. Once free of drug addiction, Susan dedicated her life to women like herself who face similar struggles. She began by greeting women as they took their first steps of freedom as they left prison, welcoming them into her home, providing a space of safety and community. Susan Burton started an organization, A New Way of Life, which now operates five safe homes in Los Angeles that supply a lifeline to hundreds of formerly incarcerated women and their children, setting them on the track to education and employment rather than returns to prison
Susan Burton is the Founder and Executive Director of A New Way of Life , a nonprofit that provides housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women. She is known nationally as an advocate for restoring basic civil and human rights to those who have served time. Susan is a Violence Prevention Fellow with the California Wellness Foundation, and has received the prestigious Citizen Activist Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Law. In 2015, on the 50th Anniversary of Selma and the Voting Rights Act, she was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of eighteen New Civil Rights Leaders in the nation. She lives in Los Angeles.