22 years ago in Southern California, Michael Mendoza made what he calls the worst decision of his life: agreeing to participate in a gang related murder.
At 15, Michael was sentenced to adult prison, in an era during which the prospect of release was under 5%. The message was clear: the state determined he was not worth helping, and he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
He eventually rejected that perspective, turned his life around, and focused on education and becoming the person he wanted to be.
California Senate Bill 260 gave Michael the opportunity to prove he deserved release and after 17 years, he was paroled in 2014. Well acquainted with the power of policy to reform our broken prison system and provide hope to many more currently incarcerated, Michael immediately began working on criminal justice reform, testifying and advocating for key changes to law.
Michael has worked as a case manager at the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, obtained a B.A. in political science, and served as the Policy Associate at #cut50 before moving on to become Policy Director at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. Now, Michael has returned to #cut50 to lead as National Director.