Give Today to Fight For Second Chances
While we reach tens of thousands of people each year through our programs (you can read more about our impact here), it takes just one story to express the need for our work—the story of Joel and Brenda, who came to Root & Rebound this Fall through our Reentry Legal Hotline for support.
Joel and Brenda have been married for five years. They live in rural California with their two cats. They own a small business selling antiques. In his early 50's, Joel has gone back to school at the local community college. Joel and Brenda love music and art. Joel is humble and soft-spoken. He is also an anti-violence advocate who speaks about how the domestic abuse in his childhood home led him down a dangerous path of self-destruction.
If you met Joel, you probably wouldn't know that he spent 28 years in prison - that he has achieved so much against the odds.
Yet, despite being a student on the Dean's list, a devoted husband, and an entrepreneur, and doing so much good work in the community over the two years since his release, Joel's life came crashing down this year, when a simple mistake led to his re-incarceration, as he faced a parole violation and return to prison. That's when Joel and Brenda contacted Root & Rebound. Before we existed, there would have been no one for them to turn to for support. Because we were there, they found some justice.
GIVE TODAY TO FIGHT FOR SECOND CHANCES FOR THE 1 in 3 americans impacted by incarceration.
We did not know what we had done wrong, but we got in the car and drove home immediately. It wasn’t until later talking to the Root & Rebound team that we found out it is illegal under California law for someone who has been to state prison to be on prison grounds without permission from Corrections for any reason.
A few days later, Joel was called into the parole office. I drove with him and watched him get arrested. I felt helpless and confused. We had made an innocent mistake.
Joel was taken to jail. I had no idea for how long, how to advocate to get him out, or what to tell his College program about his missing classes. He has been a wonderful student, community member, and anti-violence advocate, but none of this mattered. I was told by the parole office that technically, he had violated the law, and he had to be taken in. - Brenda
When Joel went before the judge, the District Attorney dropped the charges. We couldn’t believe it. We had been warned that the court would be unsympathetic to Joel as a former long-term prisoner. I believe Joel would be back in prison today if it weren’t for Root & Rebound. Their work helps bring to light the suffering of those who are outcast. Now they are the first people we call with questions. They made me feel empowered and supported when I was helpless. They advocated for us and told our story when no one would listen. I wish that everyone across the country had access to their attorneys. - Brenda
"Living with a criminal record and being under life parole is like wearing a scarlet letter. Any small slip-up could cost me my freedom for the rest of my life.
In October, Brenda and I were driving by the museum at Folsom State Prison, and thought we would make a quick stop. We had just parked when I got a call from my Parole Officer—who knew my location because I wear an ankle monitor. “Where are you?” he asked. I told him we were visiting the museum. “You can’t be there. It’s against the law,” he said. I had no idea what he meant. I was in shock." - Joel
I was facing prison again for anywhere from a year to the rest of my life and thousands of dollars in financial aid debt for this mistake. While I waited in a jail cell without an attorney, Brenda called everyone she knew for help. Our friends connected her with Root & Rebound. Immediately their attorneys jumped into action, calling the head of Parole and the Public Defender’s Office, and kept Brenda in the loop every step of the way, as they worked to resolve my case. I had never had lawyers believe in me like that before.
Because of Root & Rebound’s advocacy, I knew that people were hearing another story about who I am: I wasn’t just another number being shuffled back through the system. I was someone worth fighting for. Because of Root & Rebound’s team, the District Attorney and the Parole office heard about all of my efforts in the community. - Joel