In this workshop, you will meet Robert Coleman, President & CEO of San Diego’s Second Chance and Dave Durocher, Director of The Other Side Academy along with Quanita Kirkland, who after years of a spiraling life of drug addiction, crime and jail, has found her way to a much better place and is proud of who she is today.   You too can achieve this, and in this session you will learn steps on how to adjust your thinking and your actions to learn pro-social, vocational and life skills that will allow you to achieve a healthy life outside of incarceration. 


This workshop will bring awareness to human trafficking in San Diego, and will help you avoid falling victim to a destructive relationship.  You will learn first-hand from a brave woman, Ebony Jones, who managed to escape sexual abuse and domestic violence, and can share with you how she reconstructed her life into one of healthy relationships.  She now works to help other girls and women escape similar destructive fates.  Joining Ms. Jones will be author Jazmin Steele, who will share how she overcame a rough relationship to a better life and how you can do the same.


Learn responsible budgeting, spending and saving, along with good banking and credit practices.  This workshop will tell you how to clean up your credit and correct past mistakes.  Bankruptcy Judge Margaret Mann will take you through a quick course on the most important things to know about handling money, and Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Alysson Snow will let you know how to clean up your credit and the services offered at Legal Aid to help you with this process.  Download the Presentation


If you have lost a nurturing and positive connection with your child because of being in jail, please join us in this workshop to learn the tips and tools to help you reconnect to your child.  Cuyamaca College Program Developer Veronica Castillo will lead an interactive session to address your concerns and answer your questions on the best approaches for you to use.   New to the panel this year will be attorney Marie Hommel, who is the Protective Services Supervisor for San Diego County HHSA, and who will share her insight into this sensitive and important issue.


Many of you are familiar with the wonderful work that Grossmont College is doing at Las Colinas, and the many successful students that show up to class each day eager to learn.  All of you can make this happen, both as a start while in Las Colinas, and upon release.  Hear from the professors that work with you each week, and learn about the nuts and bolts of how to apply to college and get financial help.   You can pursue a certification or a degree, and will learn about the different programs available that can lead to a career.


This workshop will feature Public Defender Chief Deputy Kate Braner and Jamie Quient, president of “Free to Thrive” in San Diego.  They will take you through the process on cleaning up your criminal record so that you can move forward with your life.  This workshop will also cover the basics on how to complete probation successfully and become eligible for relief from your criminal convictions.  Click for more information and resources.

2018 Guest Speaker - Susan Burton: A New Way of Life

At 46 years old, Susan Burton didn’t have a lot going for her. It was 1997. She was fresh out of jail, and not for the first time. On her way out the prison guard said, “I’ll see you back in a little while.”  It wasn’t unlikely. Years before, Burton’s 5-year-old son had been killed when he ran into the street and was struck by a car being driven by an off-duty police officer. Wild with grief, she took drugs, became addicted, got arrested for a nonviolent crime, went to prison, got out and then did it all over and over again for nearly 20 years. Her relationship with her daughter, who was 15 when her brother died, collapsed.

But this time a friend helped Burton find a job as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman. Wanting to further improve her life by staying off drugs, Burton went to a treatment facility. The help she got in treatment made her realize that there was “another way.”  Soon she had saved $12,000 and bought a bungalow on a flat, sun-baked street in South Los Angeles, a notoriously rough neighborhood. Finally, she was ready to start anew.

Staying sober was one thing. Finding support was another.  “I just knew that doors were shutting everywhere,” Burton says.

When she tried to sign up for a program to become a licensed home care aide, for instance, she found out that a felony conviction meant she could never earn a license in the field. Virtually all the resources an addict trying to keep clean and out of jail might need – food stamps, housing assistance, easy employment access – were out of Burton’s reach because of her record.

Steadfast about not going back, Burton came up with a new plan. “I know what I can do,” she recalls thinking. “I can help other women like myself, and nobody can stop me.”

From her years in the prison system she knew that buses bound from southern California prisons routinely deposited parolees in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row, an area infamous for rampant drugs, crime and homelessness. Three or four buses pulled up every day, dropping off inmates with about $200 (money parolees receive upon release) and often nowhere to go.  So in 1998 Burton started going to the bus depot and inviting women she recognized to stay at her place. She converted an alcove off the kitchen into her bedroom, and the women slept four to a room in bunk beds.  About a year later, Burton was paying for everything with her rapidly diminishing savings. She had lost her job when the woman she had been caring for was admitted to a full-time care facility. Burton heard that a local church was giving away bus tokens, so she tried to get some for the women living with her. It was getting harder to pay for their bus fare herself.

But the church group told her she needed to incorporate as a nonprofit organization to qualify for the tokens. Until that day she had never considered running a nonprofit. Though she had been helping others for two years already, A New Way of Life was officially born in 2000.  A friend then helped her successfully apply for a grant. Twelve years later, Burton’s shelter has grown to five transitional residences in downtown Los Angeles that have served a total of 600 people. The organization operates on a $1 million budget, with 10 employees managing services for women rebuilding their lives after prison, including lodging, food, legal aid and job training.

Now Burton is advocating for former inmates on the national level with the groups All of Us or None and the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement, both of which she helped found. With about 1.6 million people currently incarcerated, and 95 percent of state prisoners slated for release, the need is great.

“I think we all want to make an impact,” Burton says. Even though her opportunity to do so happened later in her life, it “didn’t mean it was too late. It meant if it was going to happen, I had better get busy and make it happen.”

She’s made it happen in the eyes of her once estranged daughter, now 45 with two children of her own. “She thinks I’ve succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,” she says. “It makes me feel really good.”