Social justice advocate Susan Burton, through her A New Way of Life organization, recently honored both California Senator Holly J. Mitchell and Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump among others, during the organization’s 19th annual Gala Awards in Los Angeles.
The two were honored for their work in restoring civil rights for formerly incarcerated people. That work, ANWOL officials said, is in line with their mission.
“Each of the 2017 recipients understands and supports our mission to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people and to empower, organize and mobilize formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation,” they said.
The theme of this year’s gala was “The Progression.”
ANWOL members said it exemplified their “vision of a world where every person can make decisions for his/her own life, is accountable for those decisions and is valued as a contributing member of the community and our mission to advance multi-dimensional solutions to the effects of incarceration…”
For her part, Mitchell’s most recent efforts in incarceration reform involved Senate Bill 180 in March, which sought justice reforms that put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.
“People are finally understanding that it is time to reform a system so that more emphasis is put on rehabilitation,” Mitchell said at the time.
Crump has been a long time advocate for legal justice in the cases of African Americans who have suffered and have died at the hands of law enforcement.
Burton founded A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project (ANWOL) in 1998, dedicated to helping women, families and communities “break the cycle and heal from the formidable experiences of incarceration.” The group provides housing, case management, pro bono legal services, advocacy and policy development on behalf of women rebuilding their lives.
“Today, we are in the midst of a critical moment in the criminal justice reform movement,” ANWOL officials said via their website.
“We have locked hands in solidarity in advancing several initiatives, measures and calls-to-action. I believe this period will be noted as the time we positively moved the needle for a wide consortium of citizens, voters, stakeholders and policy makers with monumental shifts in consciousness, steering us from punitive, outdated and counter-productive approaches to wise, compassionate and redemptive forms of fairness.”
Mitchell responded to the honor via social media saying, “Was honored with the Community Champion Award at A New Way of Life’s 19th Annual gala awards last night, where founder Susan Burton joined me in acknowledging helping formerly incarcerated people – especially women – transition back to the community. This visionary approach, unheard of two decades ago, is helping scores of souls return to mainstream life. A worthy, ‘new way of life’ indeed, Susan!” Other award recipients included Impact Justice, and members of the ANWOL legal department. The Drug Policy Alliance sponsored the event.