When Elsie Flores was just 16 years old, she was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover cop. At the time of her sentencing, she was eight months pregnant, without a family support system — and suddenly facing up to six years at a state prison.
“My mom was addicted to alcohol and cocaine, and my dad wasn’t around, so I got caught up in the streets at the age of 10,” Flores says. “The only thing that I knew was the negativity in the streets. One of the hardest things to do was go from negativity to positivity in my life.”
Today, Flores is a court advocate at Avenues for Justice, one of the first alternatives to incarceration programs in the U.S. and one that’s near and dear to Flores: when she was staring down a potential prison sentence over 20 years ago, she was offered an opportunity to instead participate in Avenues for Justice, which would provide her with counseling, tutoring, job training and mentorship. Flores finished high school, got her associate’s degree and, in 2020, received her bachelor's degree in criminal justice, all with her daughter at her side.