Becoming Ms. Burton with Susan Burton
Laurel Book Store welcomes Susan Burton to read from her powerful book Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women.
Susan Burton’s world changed in an instant when her five-year-old son was killed by a van driving down their street. Consumed by grief and without access to professional help, Susan self-medicated, becoming addicted first to cocaine, then crack. As a resident of South Los Angeles, a black community under siege in the War on Drugs, it was but a matter of time before Susan was arrested. She cycled in and out of prison for over fifteen years; never was she offered therapy or treatment for addiction. On her own, she eventually found a private drug rehabilitation facility.
Once clean, Susan dedicated her life to supporting women facing similar struggles. Her organization, A New Way of Life, operates five safe homes in Los Angeles that supply a lifeline to hundreds of formerly incarcerated women and their children—setting them on the track to education and employment rather than returns to prison. Becoming Ms. Burton not only humanizes the deleterious impact of mass incarceration, it also points the way to the kind of structural and policy changes that will offer formerly incarcerated people the possibility of a life of meaning and dignity.
Susan Burton is a formerly incarcerated woman who after nearly two decades in the criminal justice system was unable to find work, housing, or adequate addiction-recovery treatment. She gained freedom and sobriety in 1997 and made it her life’s work to help other women walking in her shoes. She has been a Starbucks “Upstander,” a CNN Top 10 Hero, and a fellow of the Open Society Foundation, the Women’s Policy Institute, and the California Wellness Foundation. In 2014 she received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. She lives in Los Angeles.