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Who We Are 2019-01-09T22:44:53+00:00

Who We Are

Initiate Justice was created by and for incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people, and people with incarcerated loved ones. We are:

  • 9,200 incarcerated members & 110 Inside Organizers
  • Policy & Organizing staff, Outside Organizers, & volunteers across CA
  • 100% led by people impacted by incarceration & their loved ones

The Team

Taina Vargas-Edmond
Co-Founder, Executive Director

Taina Vargas-Edmond co-founded Initiate Justice with her husband Richard Vargas-Edmond in September 2016. Prior to creating Initiate Justice, she had a demonstrated track record of successful organizing and policy advocacy as the Statewide Advocacy Coordinator with Essie Justice Group, State Campaigner with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and as a Field Representative for the California State Assembly. She has a Master of Arts Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from California State University, Northridge.

Richard ‘Reseda’ Edmond-Vargas
Co-Founder, Director of Inside Organizing

Richard Edmond Vargas co-founded Initiate Justice with his wife, Taina Vargas-Edmond, in 2016 while serving 10 years in California state prison. While incarcerated, he founded Success Stories, a program that helps young men in prison challenge patriarchy to better achieve their goals, which was the subject of CNN’s documentary “The Feminist on Cellblock Y.” He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Adams State University, and raps and produces music under the name Richie Reseda through his social impact record label, Question Culture. He was released from prison after serving 7 years in July, 2018.

Eric Henderson
Policy Director

Eric Henderson is the Policy Director at Initiate Justice. In this role, he works to advance Initiate Justice’s legislative, budget, and ballot priorities in California. In addition to his role at Initiate Justice, Eric is an appointed member of the San Francisco Sentencing Commission and a member of the Board of State and Community Corrections’ (BSCC) Executive Steering Committee for the Adult Reentry Grant. Prior to joining Initiate Justice, he worked as the Policy Associate at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Eric holds a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA, and worked at UCLA’s Graduate Division – Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Admissions.

Eric Henderson Initiate Justice Board Member

Kristine Boyd
Bay Area Outside Organizer

Kristine Boyd is a woman who is directly impacted by mass incarceration, finding self-motivation through Zora Neale Hurtson’s quote, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding spot.” She is committed to being vocal about how incarceration has impacted her life and is inspired to advocate for political change and more programs available for those who want to better themselves. Kristine is also an Essie Justice Group sister and a student at Skyline College in San Bruno.

Arvene Knox
Los Angeles Outside Organizer

Arvene Knox is a Los Angeles, CA native who holds a deep and personal commitment to decarceration and changing how the criminal justice system views and treats Black and Brown men and women. Arvene is a former Essie Sister and Organizing Fellow with Essie Justice Group, and is pursuing her B.S. in Health Care Administration.

James Doernberg
Finance and Operations Manager

James Doernberg has experience across the nonprofit sector, social finance, and the B Corp social business movement. He manages Initiate Justice’s financial reporting and budgeting, operations infrastructure, and grant writing. He was previously the Development and Communications Manager at the Renaissance Youth Center in the Bronx, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from Pomona College.

Greg Fidell
Policy Fellow

Greg Fidell joined the Initiate Justice team in January 2018 after graduating from UC Berkeley. He seeks to use the privilege of his education to help dismantle the prison industrial complex. He observed the school-to-prison pipeline growing up in Los Angeles, and credits his experience tutoring at San Quentin State Prison for demonstrating the value of public service to him. He currently lives in Los Angeles, and will be attending law school after his fellowship.

Our Board

Lisa Castellanos
Board Member

Lisa Castellanos is a social change consultant, coach, and advisor with over 25 years of experience in social justice, leadership development, policy work, and movement-building. She provides expertise to organizations like Mijente, Essie Justice Group and Groundswell Fund. Lisa graduated magna cum laude and received her B.A. in Feminist Studies with an emphasis on Social Movements and the Law from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Hugo Gonzalez
Board Member

Hugo Gonzalez currently works at Homeboy Industries, and previously was an Initiate Justice Inside Organizer and facilitator for the Success Stories program in Soledad State Prison. He is a dedicated community advocate who raises awareness of voting disenfranchisement, and has been an Initiate Justice supporter since our founding.

Rahsaan Thomas
Board Member

Rahsaan Thomas is an Initiate Justice Inside Organizer and Board Member, and the designer of our 2018 Voting Rights and Democracy Act. He is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, is a staff writer for the San Quentin News, co-author of Uncaged Stories, and has been published in the Missouri Review’s Literature on Lockdown, Life of the Law and The Beat Within. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and is co-founder of the organization Prison Renaissance.

Diana Zuñiga
Board Member

Diana Zuñiga is a community organizer, policy advocate, and consultant with almost a decade of experience in group facilitation, coalition building, campaign management, leadership development, and political strategy. Diana is currently the Associate Director of Regional Collaboration (East LA/Southeast LA) for the LA County Department of Health Services’ Whole Person Care Initiative. Previously, she led campaigns for the Latino Voters League, Southwest Voter Registration Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

What We Believe

  • Commitment to supporting evidence- and community-based practices in bringing people home from prison and investing in their re-entry and transformation.

  • Commitment to restorative, not punitive, means of addressing harm.

  • Commitment to uplifting the voices and experiences of those directly impacted by state violence.

  • Commitment to racial and gender justice–the dismantling of white supremacist, patriarchal, and heteronormative systems.