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Who We Are 2019-11-27T12:04:42-08:00

Who We Are

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

  • 23,000 incarcerated members & 169 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 founded Initiate Justice in September 2016 with the intention of activating the political power of people directly impacted by mass incarceration. Prior to creating Initiate Justice, she worked in the organizing and policy advocacy field 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 is directly impacted by mass incarceration, with her husband having served seven years in CA state prison.

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.

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.

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.

María Casillas
Leadership Fellow
Institute of Impacted Leaders Graduate

Daisy Chavez
Policy Fellow
Institute of Impacted Leaders Graduate

Adrienne Davis
Membership Fellow
Institute of Impacted Leaders Graduate

Candace Chavez-Wilson
Operations Fellow
Institute of Impacted Leaders Graduate

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.

Gina Clayton-Johnson
Board Member

Gina Clayton-Johnson is the Founder and Executive Director of Essie Justice Group. An award winning social entrepreneur, attorney, activist, and advocate for women, Gina launched Essie in 2014 to support and empower women with incarcerated loved ones. Gina’s experiences as an organizer and civil rights activist in Los Angeles led her to pursue the law. She interned and studied under some of the country’s most respected criminal justice reform organizations and leaders during her time at Harvard. After law school, Gina dedicated herself to working directly with low-income women and families impacted by the criminal justice system. In addition to a J.D. from Harvard Law School, Gina holds a B.A. in American Studies and Ethnicity, with a minor in Education, from the University of Southern California.

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.

Richard Mireles
Board Member

Richard Mireles was one of the first Inside Organizers for Initiate Justice while he was serving a 25 years-to-life term in prison. He was found suitable for parole and released on March 20th, 2019, after serving nearly 21 years. On his 12th day out of prison, he testified before the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee in support of AB 965, which went on to pass that year, and represented Initiate Justice at a press conference in the Capitol in support of ACA 6. While incarcerated, he earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree, received Senatorial recognition for becoming a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, and co-authored the book, “Men Built for Others.” Today, he is a director at the CROP Organization, which is dedicated to transforming the culture of prison and shifting the way people think about prisons in America.

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.