by Ryan C LaLonde
Susan Burton is a leader in the criminal justice reform movement, founder of A New Way of Life, and outspoken voice to end mass incarceration. It is her strong belief that we should be part of electing responsible leadership, especially within the criminal justice system and hold them accountable when necessary.
Susan Burton knows first-hand based on personal experience with law enforcement and corrections that their approach is harmful to our communities and seeks to correct their approach. Burton’s world crumbled when her 5-year-old son was killed and she began to self-medicate and spiral into addiction with many run ins with the police. After her sixth term in prison, Burton was exhausted by the revolving door of incarceration and disappointed in the way her life had turned out. Burton entered a treatment program and began the process of turning her life around. But she wasn’t content with just helping herself, she knew that there were thousands of women just like her who needed a safe, sober place to live after leaving prison.
Burton went from meeting women at the bus station as they returned from prison and taking them into her home to creating the award winning “A New Way of Life: Reentry Project” (anewwayoflife.org). Burton built an amazing organization that promotes healing, power, and opportunity for formerly incarcerated people by taking a multifaceted approach to mitigating the effects of, and ultimately eliminating, mass incarceration.
Event organizer and local attorney, Simona Farrise Best says Burton is not only a hero – but an expert. “Susan knows that when a woman goes to prison, her kids serve time, too.” Best said. “She works every day to make sure the healing process is inclusive of the entire family.” Burton’s organization centers on the notion that state resources are better invested in opportunities for transformation than in prisons and punishment.
The event is being billed as Black Mothers for Justice because mass incarceration is a web of systematic racial and gender social control working disproportionately against Black women. Black mothers have been on the frontlines for centuries fighting for themselves, their children and their community against the bias in the legal system. As historian Kali Nicole Grossed noted, “Black womanhood in the United States is framed by the politics of protection—not simply with respect to the legal system but because of it.”
The event focusing on effective reentry strategies is a fundraiser for Alameda County Sheriff and District Attorney candidates JoAnn Walker (www.Walker4Sheriff.com) and Pamela Price
“Quite often the underlying issues that led to a person’s incarceration weren’t addressed during their incarceration,” said Price. “It becomes an unstoppable cycle unless there is intervention and better reentry services.”
Walker added, “A well thought-out and implemented reentry and education program benefits everyone—the formerly incarcerated and their families, our local communities and our law enforcement workforce.”
In fact, a Rand Corp study found that inmates who participate in correctional education programs had a 43 percent lower chance of recidivating. It also documented a 13% increase in employment post-release.
Walker and Price are running as a progressive ticket to bring reform to the criminal legal system in Alameda County and implement the sweeping reforms taking place statewide ranging from ending Alameda County Sheriff’s Office cozy partnership with ICE to holding police accountable for misconduct. Together they hope to address racial, gender, and socioeconomic bias in policing and sentencing. As their top priority, Walker and Price share a resolve to finally address the county’s serious under-investment in reentry programming.
“JoAnn Walker and Pamela Price are leading the charge for reform for Alameda County,” stated Burton. “It is my pleasure to uplift their voice in the name of ending mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color—particularly Black women and mothers.”
Walker and Price know that for a reentry program to truly work it needs to be a proactive and collaborative effort with all the stakeholders, especially community partners who administer many of the post-release programs. Wholistic reentry programming calls upon leaders to develop institutional support for family reunification, housing access, fair chance hiring, trauma-informed healthcare, and legal services. Walker and Price look forward to working with these leaders as they step forward on their campaigns for Sheriff and DA in the June 7, 2022 primary election.
To participate in the virtual event keynoted by Susan Burton, visit www.PamelaPrice4DA.com/BM4J to get tickets on a sliding scale.