Initiate Justice, a prison reform and abolitionist advocacy group, is in the process of a leadership transition, according to the Inside Journal, the organization’s newsletter. Taina Vargas, the long-time executive director of the organization, will transition to head Initiate Justice Action, the group’s 501(c4) organization.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported Initiate Justice and myself as a leader. I am forever committed to this movement,” Vargas said in the newsletter, “and will continue to serve on our Board of Directors moving forward. I cannot wait to see what Initiate Justice does in the future—in this political moment in particular.”
Antoinette Ratcliffe will become Initiate Justice interim executive director. Ratcliffe joined the organization in 2019. She was a participant in the Institute of Impacted Leaders. She became an institute facilitator and the director of organizing.
“I joined the Initiate Justice’s Institute of Impacted Leaders program with the desire to learn how I could advocate for my three brothers who were each serving 20-plus years for decisions made in their youth,” said Ratcliffe. “Under the mentorship of our Co-Founder, Taina, and with the support of an entire community of impacted people, I learned not only about the necessity of advocating for my loved ones, and how to advocate for their rights and freedom—but also realized just how critical and urgent it is that all impacted people work collectively in our fight for freedom,” she added.
Vargas co-founded Initiate Justice from a prison visiting room with her then-husband. The organization has grown to 45,000 inside members and 287 outside organizers, reported the newsletter. Vargas has been instrumental in building an organization that has changed some of California’s laws.
“In the last almost six years, we have helped pass bills and ballot propositions, trained hundreds of system-impacted people in policy advocacy, and built a membership of tens of thousands of people,” said Vargas. “I am proud of the work we have done.”
Initiate Justice and both woman leaders are firmly committed to political change affecting system-impacted people.
“As a dedicated advocate, I will continue to uphold our mission, empower leaders among our community, and ensure that the experience of people currently and formerly incarcerated, and their loved ones, inform our policy campaigns,” said Ratcliffe.
For the past three years Ratcliffe developed her leadership skills and has inspired lasting change in policy reform and ultimately prison abolition.
“I have empowered others to use their political power in my role as an Initiate Justice Outside Organizer … and the Director of Organizing,” said Ratcliffe. “I have witnessed hope being restored for countless people who had given up their fight, myself and brothers included, and have experienced the transformative power of impacted people as leaders.”
The organization is finding new creative ways to expand and invest in their inside and outside staff. The group has launched the Art Gallery, which can be viewed on its website. The artwork will be used to support the movement for its newsletter, social media and fundraising efforts.
“We will continue to equip impacted people with the knowledge and tools necessary to make policy change both inside and outside of prisons,” said Ratcliffe. “We will continue to organize from an abolitionist, intersectional lens, and we will continue to be courageous in our pursuit of freedom for all people,” she added.
As these two powerful leaders settle into their new positions, Initiate Justice is continuing to strengthen their course of building a new society based on its goal of true justice.
“It is so important that people directly impacted by incarceration continue to organize and make our voices heard,” Vargas concluded.
PO Box 15836
Los Angeles, CA 90015