Update from Insight Prison Project
Guest post by Billie Mizell - February 4, 2017
It has been an honor and an absolute privilege to serve as the Executive Director of Insight Prison Project for the last three and a half years. I am stepping away from this role remaining deeply inspired and motivated by the work and those who are served by IPP’s mission.
I stepped in as Executive Director in 2014, after two years on the Board of Directors, acting along the way as both Co-Chair and President. At that time, with the assistance of the Board, we created a 3-year strategic plan with lofty goals. Buoyed by the hard work and commitment of IPP’s expansive stakeholder base—including Board members, staff, donors, volunteers, and the men and women on the inside—we have met and exceeded those goals.
Insight Prison Project is a nationally recognized leader in the Transformational Justice movement, offering services now in more than 20 prisons nationwide, as well as innovative programs in county jails, youth institutions, and in our communities. We made the move to be closer to those we serve and now have peaceful office and training space right next door to San Quentin State Prison. Staff has grown considerably and includes the most experienced and mission-driven people. Meaningful opportunities have been created for hardworking, skilled graduates when they come home. We have nearly tripled the Budget and the services offered. Hundreds of community volunteers have been trained in restorative and transformative processes and thousands of incarcerated people and crime survivors have been served.
And I have genuinely loved my role at the helm of this nonprofit as it has grown, expanded, and achieved. This beautiful organization of dedicated people and remarkable work is in healthy financial shape with talented staff and extraordinary volunteers—the future looks as bright and stable as can possibly be predicted in the world of nonprofits and prison-based servitude. So there could be no better time to pass the baton.
And there could be no better person to pass that baton to than our own beloved Leonard Rubio.
It has been a blessing to work with so many creative and gifted people since I was first introduced to IPP in 2011 at the annual ‘Beyond the Bars’ Dinner. Leonard is the person whom I have worked with the longest and the most closely since attending that event seven years ago, where he spoke as a graduate and IPP success story. Leonard inspired me that day to begin a journey that eventually led me to my role as Executive Director of Insight Prison Project. It is with great joy and respect that I announce that we have come full circle and Leonard is now joining IPP officially as its newest Executive Director.
If you have any involvement with IPP, you likely already know and love Leonard. While at San Quentin, Leonard participated in numerous IPP programs as a participant, a facilitator, and a leader. He was a member of the second-ever VOEG group, informing and molding the work for the thousands who would follow him. He also earned an Associate’s Degree while incarcerated, an opportunity made possible by our friends at Prison University Project (PUP).
Since coming home in 2010, Leonard has earned business and finance degrees at USF, being selected for the university's highest Leadership Award upon graduation. He also joined the Board of IPP in 2010, and later became the Treasurer, Chair of Finance, and he was my Board co-Chair and my mentor in this work. Additionally, Leonard was chosen to be the Executive Assistant for PUP, a role that allowed him to gain critical nonprofit management skills to complement his finance and programs skills. The knowledge, experience, and skillset Leonard has spent a lifetime building makes him as qualified to be the ED for Insight Prison Project as anyone could possibly be. IPP is so wildly fortunate he has accepted this role and I am eternally grateful to him for taking the reins, ensuring my time and successes with the nonprofit will be carried on to the next chapter. For me, there is no greater honor than to be succeeded by not only the single most qualified person, but also someone instrumental in building the work and the organization from the very beginning.
I believe strongly that those who are most directly impacted should lead the movements of their own transformation and liberation. As a woman and a member of the LGBTQ community, my activism has always been shaped and lifted by this leadership principle. I applaud the Board’s decision to, as we say, walk the talk. In hiring Leonard, IPP represents and honors everything that it has accomplished and stood for these last 20 years.
I’ll continue to work with Leonard over the coming weeks and months and I hope to be as supportive and helpful to him as he was to me when I was on the other side of this transition. I will also be maintaining my roots in social justice, advocating for intersectional criminal justice reform and specifically returning to the work of serving those on Death Row and one day abolishing the practice of state-sanctioned killings, which is unfortunately a practice that was recently sped up in California. I will also be continuing my direct work with Acting with Compassion & Truth (ACT), the groundbreaking LGBTQ in-prison class developed over three years with a phenomenal group of men and women inside. As so many of you are also deeply rooted in social justice and reform, I am sure I’ll still be seeing you often. Engaging either directly or indirectly with you, those who center and move this work, has been an incredibly rewarding life experience. I look forward to seeing you when our paths cross again.
With Much Gratitude,
Chair Emeritus, Insight Prison Project