As Susan Burton stood in line to board the bus that would take her back to Los Angeles after her sixth stint behind bars, a guard recognized her. “We’ll see you back here soon,” he chided. “We’ll have a bed waiting for you.”
A sense of dread settled on Burton. She had spent part of two decades in the custody of the California state prison system. While she wanted to prove that guard wrong, she knew she would be returning to her old neighborhood, where crack cocaine, the root cause of her previous convictions, was still everywhere.
“It was almost like walking into a war zone,” she recalls. “I feared I would fail one more time.”