Bio: Founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project in California, which has provided housing and support for more than 500 formerly incarcerated women.
Website: anewwayoflife.org 
1. What motivated you to start A New Way of Life in 1998?
Through the kindness of a special person, I was able to access treatment services in Santa Monica [Calif.] after the sixth and final time I was released from prison. This was a new phenomenon for me. I am originally from South Los Angeles, and I was amazed that such resources were available in this more-affluent part of the city. I began to wonder why those same resources were not available in my home community—an area so heavily impacted by the “war on drugs.” I knew the need was desperate, and I wanted to bring those resources to South L.A. My work since then has been, and continues to be, a work of faith. I step out in faith, and God shows up.
3. Many women enter into incarceration through a trauma-to-substance abuse chain. For example, you began using drugs after your son was killed. What can be done to prevent that first use of drugs?
We need to ensure that counseling and therapy are provided to all who need it. Also, we need to build a society that is less about retribution and more about rehabilitation. We need a society that understands that we all make mistakes. If mistakes are made, people should be held to a level of accountability, and they should make amends for those mistakes. However, that doesn’t mean that they must be punished for those mistakes for the rest of their lives.
For example, “Ms. R” was a resident in one of our re-entry homes for almost two years. She was in her 60s, enrolled in school, and living a sober and productive lifestyle. But because of her criminal record, her rental applications for housing were consistently denied. Through A New Way of Life’s advocacy on her behalf, she was finally able to access permanent housing in 2012.
—Interview by Dawn Araujo