Who We Are
Founder, Executive Director
Taina founded Initiate Justice with her husband Richard Vargas-Edmond in September 2016. Prior to creating Initiate Justice, she worked 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.
Richie ‘Reseda’ Edmond-Vargas
Cofounder, 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. Also, while incarcerated, he founded Success Stories, a program that helps young men in prison challenge patriarchy to better achieve their goals. He raps and produces music under the name Richie Reseda and is launching Question Culture, a social impact media company, upon release from prison in 2018.
Director of Outside Organizing
Charles Berry is the co-founder of Success Stories, a youth lead youth-diversion program operating within Soledad State Prison. After being charged as an adult, sentenced to a life sentence, and experiencing first-hand the cruelties of California’s prison system, Charles began to recognize the symbiotic relationship between the harm and trauma in his community and the prison industrial complex operating in California. Charles was found suitable for parole on October 27th, 2016 and has served on the Initiate Justice Board of Directors since his release in February. Charles is a Math and Science major, poet, and Installation Specialist with Standard Vision LED.
Sacramento Outside Organizer
Greg 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.
Bay Area Outside Organizer
Kristine 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.
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.