Gov. Gavin Newsom has granted pardons to seven people, including Susan H. Burton, a former inmate from East L.A. who now helps other women transition from prison to society.
“By granting these pardons to people who are transforming their lives, the governor is seeking to remove barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction,” Newsom’s office said in a statement Wednesday night.
Burton was raised in housing projects in East Los Angeles and was sexually assaulted several times, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 1982, her 5-year-old son was accidentally hit and killed by an off-duty LAPD officer. She turned to crack cocaine and was in and out of prison until she finally found sobriety in a program in Santa Monica, according to The Times.
After getting off drugs, she worked to help other former female inmates adjust to life without bars and avoid crime.
Burton founded a Watts-based nonprofit, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, which provides housing for women when they leave prison and helps them find work and recover from drug addiction.
She also has advocated against long prison sentences and for the restoration of ex-felons’ civil rights, including the right to vote. She has received several awards for her work and in 2017 wrote a book, “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women.”
The governor is authorized to grant clemency under the California Constitution. A pardon does not minimize past conduct, nor does it expunge or erase the conviction, Newsom’s office said in a statement.
The announcement came after a majority of the seven-justice California Supreme Court decided in a closed session Tuesday that Burton was eligible for a pardon. A majority of the court must review all clemency applications for people who have more than one felony.