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Susan Burton exposes her personal experiences behind bars

She presented her book, “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women.”

Activist+Susan+Burton+speaks+to+students+in+the+Anatol+Center.+Burton+has+done+extensive+work+helping+incarcerated+women+transition+back+into+society.
Activist Susan Burton speaks to students in the Anatol Center. Burton has done extensive work helping incarcerated women transition back into society.

Activist Susan Burton speaks to students in the Anatol Center. Burton has done extensive work helping incarcerated women transition back into society.

Hunter Lee

Hunter Lee

Activist Susan Burton speaks to students in the Anatol Center. Burton has done extensive work helping incarcerated women transition back into society.

Diego Gómez, Staff Writer

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Susan Burton was sitting with a friend on Oct. 4 1997 drinking cheap beer while trying to figure out where to buy crack to smoke that afternoon. Then, out of the blue, she told her friend that she could not go on with her drug addiction. It was time for a change.
Burton, an activist since 1998, has supported thousands of previously incarcerated women as they transition back into their communities. Her nonprofit organization, A New Way of Life, has given assistance to ex-convicts with housing, social and legal issues.
“There are no throwaway people,” Burton said. “The hope of repairing communities and matching promise with opportunity is what keeps me fired up. We have a hope of a much better world.”
Despite the half-hour delay, Burton spoke to a max capacity Anatol Center of students about her past addiction to drugs, her in-and-out jail experience during the ‘80s and ‘90s and her bounce back as an advocate for women who suffered behind bars.
Some students before the event felt touched by Burton’s experience.
“I feel very inspired by her story, and I am here to learn a little bit more,” said junior social work major, Nicole Duree. “I love that she went through a personal, difficult experience and now she is helping the population she was once a part of.”
Her speech began with a 17-minute video of participants of Burton’s program and how she helped them. According to Burton, 75 percent of the women in her program stay drug-free and do not return to prison. She has helped more than 1,000 women.
Burton drowned her grief of losing her son with drugs and alcohol that later led to her imprisonment.
“My road to recovery and healing was about 100 days of weekly therapy,” Burton said. “I felt a burden to other people. I was a sick, hurt women; I was not a bad person. I got stronger [in prison] and always thought of all of the women that needed a hand just like me.”
Her book, titled “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women,” emphasizes the mindset of women helping women. She was asked by students how they should act if they want to help their community in a similar way she did.
“Never let others discourage you,” said Burton. “Stay committed to what you want to accomplish, stay firm in your belief and fulfill yourself.
Burton earned continuous claps by the audience each time she spoke during her speech and a big ovation when she finished. Students afterward were glad they attended and heard a thoughtful speech.
“It was very eye-opening,” said senior criminal justice major Tyler Vercruyssen. “It was very interesting to hear how women who face incarceration are pretty much left on their own. They have to find other people and basically pull each other out.”

 

 

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