Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Womenby GDN Shared Post July 5, 2017
“Susan’s 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’s journey to freedom, but it will help free us all.” —Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
Susan Burton’s world changed in an instant when her five-year-old son was killed by a van driving down their street. Consumed by grief and without access to professional help, Susan self-medicated, becoming addicted first to cocaine, then crack. As a resident of South Los Angeles, a black community under siege in the War on Drugs, it was but a matter of time before Susan was arrested. She cycled in and out of prison for over fifteen years; never was she offered therapy or treatment for addiction. On her own, she eventually found a private drug rehabilitation facility.
Once clean, Susan dedicated her life to supporting women facing similar struggles. Her organization, A New Way of Life, 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. Becoming Ms. Burton not only humanizes the deleterious impact of mass incarceration, it also points the way to the kind of structural and policy changes that will offer formerly incarcerated people the possibility of a life of meaning and dignity.
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 nationally known as an advocate for restoring basic civil and human rights to those who have served time.
Not only has Susan 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, Susan Burton was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of eighteen New Civil Rights Leaders in the nation.
Susan has been a Starbucks® “Upstander,” a CNN Top 10 Hero, a Soros Justice Fellow, a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow at the California Women’s Foundation, A Violence Prevention Fellow with the California Wellness Foundation, and is the co-author, with Cari Lynn, of Becoming Ms. Burton (The New Press). She lives in Los Angeles.
Becoming Ms. Burton Videos
- “PBS – Tavis Smiley” Interviews Susan Burton, Executive Director of A New Way of Life, Reentry Project; she discusses her work helping incarcerated women and her new memoir “Becoming Ms. Burton”
- “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” Susan Burton – Fighting for Incarcerated Women in ‘Becoming Ms. Burton
- “KTLA5 Morning News” Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women
- “Encore” 2012 Purpose Prize: Susan Burton (A New Way of Life)
- “Starbucks” Upstanders—Breaking the Prison Pipeline
- “Wigs” Susan: A Documentary | WIGS Unscripted
- “CNN Heroes” CNN Heroes Tribute Susan Burton by Marisa Tomei