Who We Are
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. He recently completed a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Adams State University, and was the central focus of CNN’s documentary “The Feminist on Cellblock Y.” He also 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.
Patrisse Cullors is the co-Founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and co-creator of the viral Twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. A Los Angeles native, artist, organizer, educator, and public speaker, Patrisse is the Founder of the grassroots organization Dignity and Power Now, and is a senior fellow at MomsRising, working to end Maternal Mortality and Morbidity. Patrisse has received numerous awards including the Los Angeles Times’ Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century (2015) and the Sydney Peace Prize (2017), and authored the New York Times Bestselling memoir, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.” Patrisse is currently a 2019 MFA candidate at the University of Southern California.
Eric Henderson is the Policy Associate at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. In this role, he works on various local and state policies to end mass incarceration and redirect resources to programs that increase housing, healthcare, education, and jobs. Eric is an appointed member of the San Francisco Sentencing Commission, and serves as an advocate for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. He is also a member of the San Francisco Reentry Council – Legislation, Policy, and Practices subcommittee. Prior to joining the Ella Baker Center, he worked at UCLA’s Graduate Division – Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Admissions, and as a researcher at UCLA working in Public Health, Psychology, and Communication Studies.
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.
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.
Sacramento Outside Organizer
Greg Fidell joined the IJ team in January 2018. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley, Greg wants to use the privilege of his education to help dismantle the prison industrial complex. He witnessed 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 Sacramento, and blends advocacy with policy.
Finance and Operations Manager
James Doernberg has experience across the nonprofit sector and social finance, and manages Initiate Justice’s financial reporting, 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.
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.