our history

A New Way of Life’s Founder and Director Susan Burton is herself a formerly incarcerated woman who understands the challenges people face leaving prison. After more than 20 years cycling in and out of the criminal justice system, unable to find work, housing or addiction-recovery treatment, Susan mercifully gained freedom and sobriety in 1997 and made it her life’s work to help other women walking in her shoes. She began by meeting women released from prison as they stepped off the prison bus, welcoming them into her home, and urging them to stay as long as necessary to put their lives back together. Susan quickly recognized that her individual efforts were not enough. She saw that women coming home from prison faced tremendous institutional barriers: rules, laws, policies and attitudes that operated to deny them access to employment, student loans, permanent housing, public assistance and many other services. Challenging such obstacles in isolation would be a futile exercise. Susan 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 incarceration…
and A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project was born.

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Since our founding in 1998, more than 1,000 women and children have found safety and support in our re-entry homes.  Over 300 women have been reunited with their children.  Through our household goods distribution center, more than 3,500 formerly homeless individuals have been able to acquire items needed to establish their own homes.  Since its inception in 2007, our legal department has provided pro bono services to assist thousands seeking relief from the burden of criminal histories. Those services have helped enhance job opportunities by expunging criminal records and offering access to occupational licenses.  As a result of our leadership building activities, hundreds more have been educated and empowered to speak in advocacy around issues that directly affect their lives. 

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