"Repair the Damage From the Drug War": Susan Burton on a New Way of Life to End Mass Incarceration


A New Way of Life founder and executive director Susan Burton. (Image: Democracy Now)

The story of Susan Burton is one of tragic loss followed by pitiless punishment by the criminal legal system — but it is also, as Michelle Alexander says, “a story about personal transformation and collective power.” Read how Ms. Burton found her calling working to support and liberate women who’ve faced similar struggles to hers, in Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women. Get your copy by donating to Truthout today!

We are joined by two leading voices in the fight against mass incarceration: Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women. Burton is the author of the new memoir, Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women, in which she describes her journey from a childhood filled with abuse to drug addiction as an adult, and then to the fight to address the underlying issues that send women to prison. Alexander writes in the book’s introduction, “There once lived a woman with deep brown skin and black hair who freed people from bondage and ushered them to safety. She welcomed them to safe houses and offered food, shelter, and help reuniting with family and loved ones. She met them wherever they could be found and organized countless others to provide support and aid in various forms so they would not be recaptured and sent back to captivity. … Some people know this woman by the name Harriet Tubman. I know her as Susan.”


AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the story we will spend the rest of the hour on. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, “Most women in US prisons were, first, victims. It’s estimated that 85 percent of locked-up women were, at some or many points in their…

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