How Ingrid Archie is empowering formerly incarcerated women with A New Way of Life

Photo credit: Dario Griffin

Photo credit: Dario Griffin

What does it mean to be a woman of influence? That’s the question Ingrid Archie set out to answer as a civic engagement coordinator helping women and girls break the entrapment in the criminal justice system and lead healthy, satisfying lives.  

As a young child, Ingrid Archie’s exposure to extreme violence in her home paved a direct pathway to the foster care system. Coping with physical and emotional trauma, Ingrid followed the wrong crowd in search of acceptance and love. She spent most of her young life behind bars, revolving in and out of juvenile detention centers and later prison.

Eventually, after being released and under parole supervision, Ingrid faced charges that temporarily removed her children, landing them in the foster care system. That’s when she decided to change her life and came to A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project as a resident. There, she regained full custody of her children and now works full-time for A New Way of Life, advocating for other formerly incarcerated individuals.

Having benefited from a Prop 47 felony reduction herself, Ingrid is A New Way of Life’s public face for the law, teaching community members how to obtain a record change and helping them understand the benefits of doing so. Since 2016, Ingrid has also led voter registration, education and civic engagement efforts within Los Angeles’ African American and lower income communities and inside LA County jails. And she is a co-facilitator for Women Organizing for Justice and Opportunity (WOJO), A New Way of Life’s leadership training program for formerly incarcerated women. Ingrid serves on Californians for Safety and Justice’s Second Chance Executive Steering Committee to create policy that will help free other justice-impacted individuals.

We caught up with Ingrid at A New Way of Life’s annual gala, which drew guests like attorney and Time’s Up founding member, Nina Shaw, and Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman. Natalie presented Ingrid with the Flozelle Woodore Memorial Award, which honors an individual  who embraces the opportunities the organization offers and who exhibits extraordinary determination and perseverance during her reentry journey.

Photo credit: Earl E. Gibson III

Photo credit: Earl E. Gibson III

What advice would you give younger generations today in search of themselves?

If you find something positive, stay connected to it.  Growing up in inner city neighborhoods, I can speak from experience that young people are treated as throwaways. A lot of it has to do with mental health and trauma, where there isn’t a ton of funding or mental services available. Community-based organizations servicing young people need to provide resources and growth opportunities so that they don’t align themselves with social media to figure out who they want to be. These organizations should instill value and empower it them so that they have something meaningful to aspire to. I just enrolled my teenage daughter in a community-based organization myself.


What are you most proud of this year?

I’m proud to be part of an organization that has created so much advancement for women like myself. These programs impart hope in women and elevates the level of female leadership in this country. It gives women a place to land, dream and unite back with their families. Instead of being thought of as a woman who was incarcerated, it’s being regarded as a mother who made a mistake and wants a second chance.


What are you most looking forward to?

I’d like to make the civic engagement program even bigger than what it already is and build more leadership within programs so that other people can be running some of the projects. I’m also excited to do more statewide work with voter registration among formerly incarcerated people and impart as much knowledge as to why it’s so important for us to vote so that we can change the culture of voting and the landscape of who sits in city council seats.

This year’s gala was themed, “Remembering the Women,” and celebrated 20 years of social justice champions. After serving six terms in prison, Susan Burton established A New Way of Life in 1998 as a safe house where formerly incarcerated women could find hope and stability after leaving prison. It has served more than 1,000 women and their children, and its legal clinics have helped over 3,000 community members clean up their records.

Photo credit: Earl E. Gibson III

Photo credit: Earl E. Gibson III

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe we’ve come this far, but for 20 years, we’ve consistently accomplished what society says couldn’t be done. There have been so many
women whose lives have been forever changed as a result of coming to A New Way of Life, and my life has been changed forever by this work.
— Susan Burton, founder and executive director of A New Way of Life
  • Each year, the organization honors people who are making a difference in the lives of justice-involved people, as well as women who have exhibited extraordinary determination and perseverance during their reentry journeys. Other honorees included:

  • Margaret Prescod, host of Sojourner Truth, a public affairs program that airs on Pacifica Radio stations nationwide, including KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.

  • Ellen Adler, publisher of The New Press, whose books — including “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and “Becoming Ms. Burton” by ANWOL founder Susan Burton — have changed the national conversation about criminal justice reform.

  • Peter Sheehan, a California attorney who has dedicated his career to protecting and advancing the constitutional rights of those affected by mass incarceration.