Meet Susan

Susan Burton is a leader in the criminal justice reform movement, founder of A New Way of Life, and an outspoken voice to end mass incarceration. Following the tragic accidental death of her 5-year-old son, Susan’s world collapsed. Coupled with past trauma and pain, her loss snapped the final tether of resilience. She descended into darkness and despair, but living in South Los Angeles, Susan didn’t have access to the resources she needed to heal. Without support, she turned to drugs and alcohol, which led to nearly 20 years of revolving in and out of prison.

Drawing on her personal experiences, she founded A New Way of Life (ANWOL) Reentry Project in 1998, dedicating her life to helping other women break the cycle of incarceration. ANWOL provides resources such as housing, case management, employment, legal services, leadership development and community organizing on behalf of, and along with, people who struggle to rebuild their lives after incarceration.

Awards & Recognition

Susan has received numerous awards and honors for her work. In 2010, she was named a CNN Top 10 Hero and received the Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award from the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. She is a recipient of the Encore Purpose Prize (2012) and the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2014). In 2015, on the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches and the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Los Angeles Times named Susan one of 18 New Civil Rights Leaders in the nation. Released in 2017, her memoir, “Becoming Ms. Burton,” received a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the category of Biography/Autobiography. “Becoming Ms. Burton” is also the recipient of the inaugural Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. Susan holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from California State University, Northridge.