Five Questions for Susan Burton | Sojourners

Five Questions for Susan Burton

Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project
Susan Burton, photo by Kathleen Toner

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.

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.

2. In what way is the current criminal justice system bad for women and families?
I can’t think of a way that it’s good for anyone. The current system treats everyone inhumanely. It puts them into the category of slaves. It exploits their families. It kills their hopes and dreams. Our mission is to address the needs of people who have been negatively and cruelly treated by the criminal justice system and to restore their hopes and dreams by treating them with dignity and respect.

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