Letters From The Inside

“Your book has changed my life. The way you lead with optimism, enthusiasm, and positive energy is amazing. Your book showed me how to focus on solutions, not complaints.”

K., Lowell Correctional Work Camp (Ocala, FL)

“Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your book confirmed for me that my fighting, my resisting, and my life’s purpose is not in vain. Systemic change, while incredibly difficult and slow, is possible.”

S., Decatur Correctional Center (Decatur, IL)

“I just finished your book and I wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed it…. When you came here to speak to us I felt like you were talking directly to me. I learned so much from reading your book…. It’s definitely going to be a re-read for me.”

R., North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (Raleigh, NC)

“Your book has shown me that no matter the choices in my past that the sky is the limit on what tomorrow holds for me.”

H., Wrightsville Unit (Wrightsville, AR)

“I’m getting close to going home and I’m scared. I tell myself every day I can do this that I’m not going to come back. I believe in myself and reading your book has gave me a little more confidence in myself.”

M., Wrightsville Unit (Wrightsville, AR)

“After reading about all the things that you have been through, and to know that you have overcome it all, and are now a better and stronger woman, gives me hope that it is not too late for me…. Because of you, I now see that my past doesn’t have to define my future.”

S., Wrightsville Unit (Wrightsville, AR)

“I received your book through a donation from a books store for prisoners. I read it and was very touched. I cried alot, some sad tears, some happy tears. Great book. Your a fantastic lady. Very strong.”

S., Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (Pearl, MS)

“Thank you for the lovely gift. I appreciate you for not giving up on your sister behind the wall. Reading the story in this book tells all women you can achieve your dream.”

G., California Institute for Women (Corona, CA)

“Your book has inspired me a great deal…. You’re a very inspiring lady and I want to say thank you for a copy of your book.”

C., Wrightsville-Hawkins Womens Unit (Little Rock, AR)

“You are an inspiration to me…. I, with all my heart, know you get it! You get me, more than people I’ve known in person my whole life. For that I am grateful and thankful to you, even if we are unable to connect, you have made an impact in my life and given me a vision and hope for a future unlike any I had previously imagined. Thank you.”

C., San Luis Obispo County Jail (San Luis Obispo, CA)

“It was an honor and privilege to read your encouraging and inspiring memoirs. Your life mission is my dreams and goals. I too heartedly desire to be an advocate for the oppressed and suppressed population of the incarcerated. I have utilized my time on this wrought iron shelf very wisely. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that I will be at a huge disadvantage once I am released.”

U., McPherson Correctional Facility (Newport, AR)

“Your book and life has been such an inspiration to me. Our jail visit has transformed me into a more empathetic and cognizant judge. As a judge imposing sentencing it is very important to understand the impacting effects of my decisions. Thank you for sharing your story and life with us. As a bench, we are stronger because of your message.”

F., Denver County judge (Denver, CO)

“I read your book and it was phenomenal and truly inspiring, and I know if you do it, not only myself, but anyone else can too, if they put their heart and mind in line with God’s plan, all things are possible. Thank you for the gift you’ve given to us.”

W., Cook County Jail (Chicago, IL)

“I am currently incarcerated at Chowchilla. One of the girls in the next room received your book and she thought I would like to read it. It felt like I was reading my diary. Now, I don’t have a long prison or jail record, but a lot of the things you went through and wrote about, I’ve been there and done that. Thank you so much for your openness.”

S., Central California Women’s Facility (Chowchilla, CA)

“I thank you for sharing your thoughts in your book and your personal experiences. It feels nice being able to read something that relates to the struggles I’ve been through…the fact that you made a better life for yourself after being in and out of prison for 15 years, it makes me think I could also do better and get my life on track.”

J., Los Angeles County juvenile detention

“I just wanted to take the time to thank you for all that you have done for many women released from prison. Now you are also giving us more hope for our futures when you thought of us still here trying to get release dates. Sending your book was like sending out a life line, a ray of hope, something to hold onto until our time comes. I thank you from the depth of my heart.”

C., Central California Women’s Facility (Chowchilla, CA)

“I really enjoyed reading the book, it gave me some relief and hope for my own future. Knowing things are changing daily to help us ‘felons’ to have normal lives takes away a little bit of my anxiety for my release. The book also helped me to see that I myself can fight for not only things I want but help others! I was full of shame and believed that I was nothing now that I came to prison, but your book told me I’m still a strong woman with a voice that counts.”

T., Wrightsville Unit (Wrightsville, AR)

“It touched me deeply, it made me feel; and a lot of the times I thought that you had been looking through my life because those things happened to me. I want to tell you thank you, thank you for being strong and thank you for being an advocate and wanting to give back and tell your story so maybe a young lady out there won’t have to go through some of the things we did or if they do, they will speak out and get help before it sends them down paths they don’t really want to go down.”

G., Wrightsville Unit (Wrightsville, AR)

“I sincerely and deeply appreciate the confidence you have given me to change my life. Before, I never thought it was possible…contrary to what many people may believe it is quite hard to get out of the system and stay out. I haven’t ever felt, read and seen the depth and power in words until I read your first page. I try so hard day in and day out to better myself but it’s hard. In the event of reading your book, I have gained/found a hunger in expressing myself in these words on this paper. Like you said power in words…? Right?”

C., Los Angeles County juvenile detention

“Thank you for writing ‘Becoming Ms. Burton.’ Your story is changing lives. It is wonderful how you remain selfless and help others break free from the penal system and drug dependency. I have never been an addict, but I’ve been abused in every way imaginable. Filled with a rage that I could not understand nor control landed me in prison. Prison doesn’t give the proper tools to deal with the root of what caused me to be here. For the past five years I’ve been reading every self-help book I could. This is the first time I’ve ever reached out to the author.”

K., Louisiana State Prison (Angola, LA)

“You might laugh at me, but I read ‘Becoming Ms. Burton’ Part 2 first. Then, I went back to read Part 1. I was amazed that you had found a mission and not only accomplished it — discovered how it led you to other issues. Reminded me of that saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ You wrote about all the necessary connections you made to help women. I felt so proud of you for all that you’ve done. Especially since you didn’t have to. You chose to. I enjoyed your book and your strength. I thank you.”

D., Central California Women’s Facility (Chowchilla, CA)

“Your life story is an inspiration and I admire your courage, conviction and hope. I’ve already lent your book to a few guys that are in recovery. I’m a book nerd-worm and have read most books you provide as suggested reading. … Ms. Burton I have hopes and much energy. I’m fortunate and have worked hard to earn parole. I will be an asset to my community and continue to work with youth and familys. I’m sorry if I took up your time. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are an inspiration.”

M., Avenal State Prison (Avenal, CA)

“The inmates have expressed how they now feel empowered and filled with hope following your visit. Inmates and staff alike have spoken in the highest regards of how you shared your life’s story to reach their minds and hearts. The inmates are still excited about their autographed books. I certainly hope they read the book and learn from your experience that, ‘Successful Reentry is Possible.’… We are thankful for your visit and hope that you will remain encouraged to continue your journey of instilling hope into the lives of incarcerated women.”

P., Warden (Alabama)

“I just LOVE the book. I am almost done and I feel like I know [Susan]. The life that she lived and the amazing things she has accomplished with her life INSPIRE me so much. I wish I could just sit down and tell her my story and how much in common we really have…. Just to know that I can still connect with people out there makes a difference because I feel like a stranger to society and even my own family. I feel like they will never just ‘GET IT’ and she does and it is just so inspiring to read about her life work and connect with her.”

R., Northeast Reintegration Center (Cleveland, OH)

“Thank you for your book you sent. It is amazing. Once I found a moment in my busy schedule to read it, I could not put it down. It’s amazing the struggles we make it through and how similar our lives are. You are truly an amazing woman. I am currently on Life Without Possibility of Parole. However, I know many women who have paroled to A New Way of Life and some who are there now. They tell us here how amazing it is to have the support and opportunities you provide. May God continue to bless you through the lives you touch out there and in here through your book.”

D., Central California Women’s Facility (Chowchilla, CA)

“I am currently incarcerated and I been here at Cook County Jail for three years now. And I am being charged with first-degree murder. But Ms. Burton, before I read your book I had lost all hope for myself, and when I read your book I gained all hope back. I gave up on life and everything else. I use to ask myself, why am I living? What’s the reason? Now I have a lot to look for in life. Like going back to school to get my GED because I would like to be a nurse. I love working with people…. Even tho I don’t know you, I truly look up to you, Ms. Burton. You is my role model. You is truly a blessing in people lives.”

N., Cook County Jail (Chicago, IL)

“The ladies reading [“Becoming Ms. Burton”] are really loving it. I have even heard one say she gets goosebumps. I have staff reading it, including my Captain and Chief (who has given her blessing and would also like to come hear Ms. Burton speak). Ever notice how the stars align and things fall into place? We are at a very exciting time here right now, with all the right people in place for some real change. I am thrilled that my Command Staff is so supportive and thrilled Ms. Burton will be here to share her very important story. I think this is all a huge step to a better future.”

P., Inmate Programs Manager, California

“I write to you this morning to tell you, I appreciate you! For your compassion and the life work you do. For becoming the human being you are today. For sharing your story. Thank you, it has allowed me to value my life much more. To heal wounds I have lived with for over two decades…. I have been working daily on my personal growth along with the healing process. Reading your story has encouraged me farther along in my journey of being kind, loving and having compassion for everyone. I feel myself moving from a place of impossible to anything is possible.”

E., California State Prison (Lancaster, CA)

“One night I picked up your book looking for something positive because I had been going threw so much. I stayed up the whole night (8 1/2 hours) reading your book. Ms. Burton, your book is so inspirational, not just your book, but your story. I never in a life time would have thought a ‘Black woman with a criminal background and that has been to prison’ would be able to accomplish so much. You’ve helped so many women turn their life around. Just being able to have someone such as yourself be a support system, and believe in us women that are and have been incarcerated, is a lot.”

E., Women’s Community Correctional Center (Kailua, HI)

“I must say, upon completion of reading your memoir and seeing the readers’ note, I felt compelled to write you directly. I have been so fully engrossed in your book I have read into the wee hours of the morning, so inspired and intrigued by each turn of the page…. When I read your book, I no longer felt alone. Your story is my story and my story is hers! I hope one day soon I’ll be afforded the opportunity of freedom and exoneration. I would like nothing more than to meet you, apprentice you, assist you and A New Way of Life outreach. You are truly the epitome of a strong black woman! Thank you so much for creating this gem of a memoir. You’re an awesome lady, a mother to all, a motivator, an activator, a mentor. God bless you Ms. Susan Burton!”

B., Cook County Jail (Chicago, IL)

“The work you do touches so many, even white men serving 25 to life for a drug related murder. I have never written to an author like this before, but I just had to write something to say, thank you! I beg you, please keep up the fight. There are still so many damaged people in here who still fight daily with their inner demons, without much help in getting by. As a lifer to find out the whys of my criminal behavior has been so difficult, but I know there is much more ahead of me, with the board process, parole, etc…. I want to give back to my community the same way you have. There are those who need our help everywhere, and you’ve given me hope that I can achieve this dream.”

D., Avenal State Prison (Avenal, CA)

“I am a 40 year old African American man who has been locked-up for 24 years straight, who like to read about change and the way it makes a impact not just in other’s life, but in the world and that is something you have just done. Reading your book and knowing all the struggles you’ve endured … you never gave up. This book will help so many woman and man and I’m one of them. I had to write to A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project to send my respect and appreciation of helping me see a vision that anything is possible. This book is truly great and I hope to read more of your inspirations. Some people would have given up a long time ago, but you have the fire that cannot be put out!”

H., Waupun Correctional Institution (Waupun, WI)

“I am writing you this letter to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sending me your book. And for sharing your story and struggles with me. I am as we speak reading it and it is such an amazing story. I want to extend my personal sympathy with you about losing your son. I can’t imagine that pain and tremendous loss you felt but it is so amazing to see you turn that around to help yourself and thousands of women like myself when we need it the most. I also want you to know that when I am done reading it I will pass it on to a couple of people who are very interested in also reading and sharing your story, hope, and dedacation to helping incarcerated women from every walk of life. Thanks for all you do your help and wisdom do not go unnoticed we are eternally grateful for all you do the big and the small things.”

G., California Institute for Women (Corona, CA)

“Ms Burton I have sat down many times trying to put my thoughts on paper. Your visit truly had a very lasting thought that just stayed with me. I fully enjoyed your visit, your words was words of real power and strength and hope. Hope for a person like myself that has lost it many times over. Hope was just a word to me, a word that had no type of power in my life as I stated to you when you was here… Your book is so what I needed at the time it was given to me. Then I got to meet you in person that was so uplifting that I can’t even put it into words. It gives me full hope that I truly have a chance at freedom if I continue to believe and do what’s right.”

C., California State Prison (Lancaster, CA)

“I was really moved and also inspired through your book. I love your story and related to it on different levels. I found some parts of your story difficult to read, especially during the first part of the book where you shared real personal things that you experienced as a young girl and growing up. It was heartbreaking to hear how you were sexually abused as a little girl, and how it became a reoccurring theme in your life for many years. That hit close to home because I know alot of women who have gone through similar experiences growing up, and have shared with me just how it has affected them through out their life. Sadly it’s something that occurs to often, and many times is ignored or overlooked. As men, I think we sometimes play a role in the mistreatment of women, by degrading them and looking at them as sexual objects, and this needs to change.”

E., California State Prison (Lancaster, CA)