South LA Nonprofit Helps Women Just Out of Prison Rebuild Their Lives

“I have blazed a trail out, and all we have to do is walk together."

More than 200,000 women are imprisoned in the United States, and when they get out, more than half of them will be re-arrested. One woman in South Los Angeles is working to change that by helping women parolees get back on their feet once they are released from jail.

Susan Burton grew up in the housing projects. A rape left her pregnant at 14, and she suffered from drug and alcohol addiction by the time she was in her 20s.

"It seems like I was born into trouble," Burton said.

When Burton's young son was killed by a car, spiraling her already troubled life out of control.

"It was like ... the center in me had been snatched out," she said. 

Over the next 17 years, Burton was in and out of prison on drug charges. In 1997, she finally got sober, found a job and then decided to help other women parolees do the same.

"I began to go to the bus station where women were getting off the bus, and I would offer them a place to come live and a new way of life that was drug and alcohol free," Burton said.


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Burton started a nonprofit called "A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project" to support women just out of prison. More than 1,000 women have completed the program, and Burton has expanded it to five transitional homes in South LA.

One woman, Beverly Lewis, who recently came to "A New Way of Life," heard about the success stories from women who came before her.

"I was like, maybe that’s where I need to go," Lewis said.

Lewis hopes she can rebuild her life with the help of "A New Way of Life."

"I want to transition into something new," she said. "I want to be a positive force in society."

For Burton, her story is just the beginning. She uses her journey to bring together other women.

"I have blazed a trail out, and all we have to do is walk together," Burton said.

For more information on Burton's program, visit the "A New Way of Life" website.

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