Press Release

Mothers Talk ~ Breaking Free Living Library Gives Formerly Incarcerated Women Their Voice


Featuring Susan Burton National Book Launch
L. A. Downtown Hotel, May 13, 11 ‚Äď 2 p.m.


Giving birth in shackles. Mother-daughter confidences whispered through a glass partition. Goodbye kisses to a six-year old son who, at reunification, is a 21-year-old man. Frayed safety nets. Disbanded family units. The twisted circle of foster care, child protective services and parenting without options.


For many women, this Mother’s Day will be yet another period of obstacles and absence. But for some, their trials and triumphs will be part of a celebration of voices lifted in transformative storytelling.


JustUS Voices | Storytelling for Change‚Ą† will officially launch on the eve of Mother‚Äôs Day, showcasing formerly incarcerated women who have been touched by the criminal justice system. The unveiling of the multimedia story project will also feature Susan Burton, executive director and founder of A New Way of Life (ANWOL) Reentry Project, and the debut of her new book,¬†Becoming Ms. Burton¬†From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women.


‚ÄúStorytelling is a powerful tool for healing and for change,‚ÄĚ says Burton, who will read from her new book. ‚ÄúWho better to change this system than the women who have suffered at its hands?‚ÄĚ


The number of mothers behind bars has exploded in California, home to the largest women’s prison in the world, and across the country. Over the past 25 years, the rate of incarcerated women has increased 700 percent. More than 60 percent of women in state prisons are mothers of children under the age of 18. They are disproportionately Black and Latina.


In this era of digital media, the Living Library creates an innovative engagement through low-tech, high-touch in person encounters that explore human experiences via the intimate medium of conversation.


The JustUS Voices Living Library will host five formerly incarcerated women, beginning with a panel discussion and followed by a rotating series of small group conversations. The three-hour event is cosponsored by the Empowerment Congress and will be held at the LA Downtown Hotel, 333 Figueroa Street.


The Living Library will animate the stories of five formerly incarcerated women who, like human books, can be checked out by the library audience.

  • A one-time lifer who completed her bachelor‚Äôs and master‚Äôs degree in the first five years of coming home, and now helps other formerly incarcerated students pursue their dreams through a scholarship and mentoring program.
  • A sister and aunt who sought her own salvation from drug misuse, treatment, sobriety to now guide others toward rehabilitation.
  • A self-described ‚Äúdisrupter‚ÄĚ who calls for ‚Äėeradicating the box‚Äô at the same time she brings urban gardens to Los Angeles food deserts.
  • A daughter of undocumented parents who emerged after three years in solitary confinement to build a new movement of the prison to college pipeline among ‚Äúrevolutionary scholars.‚ÄĚ
  • A grandmother who endured childhood trauma but found her creative spark in prison, and is now writing plays and leading a women‚Äôs self-help group.


JustUS Voices¬†will embrace advocacy through the power of storytelling, interviews, testimonials and commentaries, blogs, video vignettes and social media. The project, which launches its website in early May, will invite new storytellers ‚Äď formerly incarcerated women who never knew they had a voice ‚Äď to share through an online ‚ÄúTell Your Story‚ÄĚ function on the website.


A New Way of Life 
Founded in 1998 by CNN Top Ten Hero Susan Burton, A New Way of Life provides housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community re-entry, family reunification and individual healing. ANWOL also works to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people and empowering, organizing and mobilizing advocates for social change, civic engagement and personal transformation. 


McKinney & Associates 
McKinney & Associates is the first Black woman-owned firm in the nation’s capital dedicated to social justice communications. For more than 25 years, the firm has promoted, marketed and advocated on behalf of progressive public policy including criminal justice reform, voting rights, health equity and racial justice by advancing authentic leaders and initiatives that embody those values.


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