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Formerly Incarcerated Advocate to Head One of the Nation’s Leading Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Group

OAKLAND, CA, SEPTEMBER 1, 2019 — Today, top bipartisan criminal justice reform group #cut50, an initiative of The Dream Corps, announced Michael Mendoza as the organization’s new national director. 

In this role, Mendoza will continue to leverage humanization, legislation, and bipartisan partnerships to build critical mass for reforming the US criminal justice system. As a formerly incarcerated individual, Mendoza brings first-hand experience of our prison system and the power of policy change to inspire hope and transformation behind bars. 

At 15 years old, Michael made what he calls the worst decision of his life: agreeing to participate in a gang-related murder. He was prosecuted as an adult and sentenced to 15 years-to-life at a time when the chances of being released from incarceration were less than 5%. California’s Senate Bill 260, which reevaluated cases of minors tried as adults, provided him with the opportunity and incentive to continue his personal transformation and eventually earn his release. After 17 years of incarceration, Mendoza received parole in 2014 and began working on criminal justice reform, testifying and advocating for key changes to laws to positively affect those he left behind. 

In his new role as National Director, Michael will continue to prioritize policies that reduce crime and incarceration while helping to build a national narrative that recognizes the humanity of people in our prisons and those returning home from incarceration.

Prior to his new role at #cut50, Mendoza served as the policy director at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. He has been active in the issue areas of reinstating voting rights, juvenile justice reforms, and creating diversion programs for parents and caregivers, among others  Prior to this, Mendoza was a Policy Associate at #cut50 and worked as a case manager at the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice. 

Van Jones, Co-Founder of #cut50, Board Member of the Dream Corps, and Founding CEO at the REFORM Alliance, said “From Sacramento to DC, I’ve seen Michael Mendoza break down complicated policy solutions in ways that resonate with political allies and opponents alike. Michael has used his personal story and his expertise to pass critical juvenile justice and sentencing reforms, to fight for voting rights for people with felony convictions, and to create new solutions that address growing challenges in parole, probation, and community supervision. Under his leadership, #cut50 will continue its successful track record of historic policy wins.”

Jessica Jackson, Co-Founder and Senior Counsel of #cut50, said “Michael is an incredible bridge-builder with a lengthy track record of big criminal justice wins. I’ve watched him lead with authenticity, integrity, and incredible passion. Michael’s own story shows us that criminal justice policymaking is about much more than just fixing a very broken system. Changing policy also has the power to instill hope in the millions of people who are impacted by the system. #cut50’s 2,000+ Empathy Network members, 14+ Dignity Ambassadors, and our robust bipartisan coalition are in great hands under Michael’s leadership.”

“#cut50 is lucky to have Michael Mendoza as their new National Director,” said Frankie Guzman, Director of the California Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law. “He has the credentials, lived experience, professional network, and community support to lead #cut50 in these politically dynamic times. I’ve worked with Michael on numerous youth justice campaigns and have seen his impact on lawmakers and advocates alike. On a human level, Michael is an example of the need #cut50 is addressing and of the success all youth can achieve when they are invested in. Professionally, Michael has the strategic vision, interpersonal skills, and community trust and connections to navigate the challenges between community health and public safety. He’s solid.”

“Michael Mendoza is a dear friend of mine and trusted ally in the movement,” says Amika Mota, Policy Director for the Young Women’s Freedom Center. “As the National Director of #cut50, I know that Michael will guide the organization with integrity, lifting up the voices of those most impacted by mass incarceration in the US. Michael’s personal experience with the criminal justice system, and his commitment to build collaborative relationships with folks on the ground, position him to lead a National effort in reducing mass incarceration with heart and innovative strategy”.

Former National Director and Co-founder Jessica Jackson will transition into the role of Senior Counsel and continue to advise the #cut50 team on policy and key partnerships.

About #cut50: 

#cut50,­ an initiative of The Dream Corps­, is a national bipartisan effort to reduce the number of people in our prisons and jails while making our communities safer. Our campaigns are led by people who have been directly impacted by the justice system and want to create change.

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