A New Way of Life Reentry Project provides housing and support services to formerly incarcerated women in South Central Los Angeles, facilitating a successful transition back to community life. Since our founding in 1998, we have helped transform the lives of more than 650 women and their children. As a community advocate, A New Way of Life (ANWOL) works to restore the civil rights of people with criminal records to housing, employment, public benefits, and the right to vote.
We center all of our programs around our core values: We believe all people should be treated with dignity and respect; we believe treatment better serves the individual and society than prisons and punishment; we believe that with community support, everyone can excel; we believe in the power of mentoring to help people achieve their dreams; and we believe in empowerment through critical analysis of the world around us.
We came to these beliefs because ANWOL’s Founder and Director, Susan Burton, is herself a formerly incarcerated woman who understands the challenges people face leaving prison. After more than 15 years cycling in and out of the criminal justice system, unable to find work, housing, or drug treatment, Susan finally gained freedom and sobriety in 1997 and made it her life’s work to help other women walking in her shoes. She came to understand that real change could only happen through a powerful, grassroots community organizing effort—one that could amass enough political power to bring an end to discriminatory practices, and shift public attitudes in a way that would break the cycle of mass imprisonment.
The journey towards community decay through mass incarceration begins with societal and family dysfunction, the devaluation of personal worth and the drive to find acceptance and love. All are complicated issues that cloud the lens that views instances of substance abuse and incarceration as simply “personal choice”. Part of the healing process is the primary need for formerly incarcerated individuals to have access to basic community resources such as food, shelter, educational opportunities and employment. Within this structure, they need a safe place to begin the process of personal introspection; an understanding of factors that propelled them to be caught up in a trajectory that resulted in imprisonment. To be truly effective, reentry services must “go deep” beyond simply providing community resources. It is imperative to help individuals transform through the internalized shame of their histories; to recognize their inherent value and collective power; to help them learn that they can organize to create fair and just public policies. In recognition of these realities, ANWOL has developed an original grass-roots service design.
ANWOL utilizes this grass-roots service design to provide holistic assistance to those facing the difficult process of reintegration. We provide intensive case management support, assistance with housing, legal needs, community organizing, leadership development, and lobbying efforts. We also work to create lasting social change through All of Us or None (AOUON). AOUON was created because the people most directly impacted by the criminal justice system had no organized or collective voice in the policies that affect them. AOUON’s main purpose is to build a local and national movement led by formerly incarcerated individuals; to win full restoration of the human and civil rights of people with past convictions or who have been in prison.
We strive to work with our communities, and “to engage in robust advocacy regarding policy issues identified by and affecting our constituencies, expand our leadership role in the reentry movement, and increase our influence on decision-makers and in the general society to end mass incarceration, discrimination, and address their root causes.”
Please join us in the fight for human rights and dignity for all.