Moved from military prison guard to criminal justice reformer

SACRAMENTO- Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber has named Chula Vista resident Mark Bartlett as her 79th Assembly District Veteran of the Year. Bartlett, a former soldier who served in Afghanistan, now serves as an advocate for reentry and criminal justice reform.

“Mark is an energetic and charismatic advocate for transitional services, alternatives to prison, dismantling mass incarceration and shedding light on the abuses of for-profit corrections,” Weber said. “He is remarkable for his passion and resourcefulness in addressing these issues at the grassroots level.”

Bartlett was honored along with other veterans Wednesday at a luncheon in Sacramento.

Bartlett served in the United States Army for six years as a military policeman, including a deployment in Afghanistan where he worked as a guard force member at the Bagram Detention  Facility in Parwan Province. He is an Army Commendation Medal recipient.

Upon returning to civilian life, he worked for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison industry in America.

“The transition from military to civilian life was difficult,” Bartlett said. “I saw both the injustice of people detained in a war zone and the injustice of people imprisoned back home. I was part of a system that didn’t recognize these prisoners as people, but as inventory.”

He segued this recognition into activism on prison reform and social justice.

While a student at the University of San Diego, Bartlett served as a mentor at the Juvenile Hall Detention facility in San Diego. He later co-founded Reentry Resources for Change, a non-profit aimed at reducing recidivism and reconnecting incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated individuals with their communities and loved ones. He is also co-founder of People over Profits, which Bartlett describes as “a group of social justice warriors fighting to end the privatization of prisons and mass incarceration.”

Bartlett currently serves as a case manager serving homeless veterans in San Diego.

 

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