Susan Burton, author of the award-winning memoir “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women,” is traveling across the country on a book tour to various jails and correctional facilities. Her tour began this week with a visit to New York State’s Taconic Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills, on February 5 and Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, on February 6.
Burton’s non-profit, A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project (ANWOL), and her publisher,The New Press, have received major philanthropic support to make 11,000 paperback copies of “Becoming Ms. Burton” available free of charge to prisons, reentry programs, and other criminal justice reform organizations. The goal is to distribute copies of the paperback edition in all 50 states; whenever possible, Susan Burton will visit prisons in conjunction with the distribution of the books.
“I believe the book has made a significant impact on policy makers, academics, students, the general public and funders. But I believe that the real impact will come when women inside are able to read the book and understand how hard they have to fight for their lives and learn it is possible if they fight and put in the work,” Burton says.
“Becoming Ms. Burton” tells Susan Burton’s story of growing up in Los Angeles as the victim of sexual abuse and rape, and of her descent into drug and alcohol addiction as she self-medicated following the death of her five-year-old son. Burton was incarcerated off and on for almost two decades, until she finally enrolled herself in a drug treatment program and got the help she needed to heal and stay clean. Since her final release from prison, she has been a tireless advocate for the rights of former prisoners. Her program at ANWOL has helped more than one thousand women break the cycle of incarceration, access opportunities and start their lives afresh after leaving prison.
Burton, a nationally renowned advocate for incarcerated women, hopes the sharing of her book will offer hope and determination to lead in the free world. The special edition of “Becoming Ms. Burton” will feature new material by Burton, including a reader’s guide and a letter to people behind bars.
“We are so proud to have published this stunning memoir and manifesto,” says The New Press Publisher Ellen Adler. “Susan’s story not only has the power to inspire and change lives, it is also helping to inspire real policy reform. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to publish a special paperback edition so swiftly after the hardcover was released, and to get it in the hands of incarcerated people – some of the readers who will appreciate it most.”
“Becoming Ms. Burton” has garnered several prestigious awards including the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the category of Biography/Autobiography and the Goddard Riverside Stephen Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. Since founding ANWOL, Burton has also been named as an Ebony Power 100 Luminary, a Starbucks® “Upstander,” a CNN Top 10 Hero, a Soros Justice Fellow, a Policy Fellow with the Women’s Foundation of California, and a Violence Prevention Fellow with the California Wellness Foundation.
Following her New York trip, Burton will continue her national tour, hitting Illinois and North Carolina in the coming weeks. Her journey can be followed in a series of dispatches on A New Way of Life’s Facebook page.
Any institutions interested in receiving the special prison edition of “Becoming Ms. Burton” or having Susan Burton visit their facility can contact Marissa Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tamanika Ferguson at email@example.com.
This project has been made possible through generous philanthropic support from the Ford Foundation; the Race, Gender and Human Rights Fund of the Women’s Foundation of California; The California Endowment; and other organizations with the goal of furthering advocacy and reform efforts to end mass incarceration, and amplifying the voices of those with direct experience in the criminal justice system.