Freedom to Choose Project Celebrates 20 Years of Transformation for Individuals Impacted by Incarceration

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, The Freedom to Choose Project highlights two decades of empowering individuals and families impacted by incarceration across California as it looks ahead to extending its reach further. With over 7,000 incarcerated individuals served, over 218,700 hours of in-person education, and nearly 1,000 volunteers with over 100,000 hours of volunteer service, the Santa Barbara-based 501(c)(3) non-profit has not only provided its curriculum in the Santa Barbara County Jail but has been a pivotal force in fostering rehabilitation and reintegration in every state prison across the State of California.

The Freedom to Choose Project equips participants with essential life skills including conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, positive choice-making skills, and self-awareness. These programs have significantly reduced recidivism and supported participants in overcoming challenges like educational deficits, substance abuse, and emotional health issues.
The curriculum is delivered through three impactful program areas: 1. In-person workshops that focus on emotional competence and trauma recovery; 2. Small study groups to facilitate self-directed learning and peer mentorship; 3. A correspondence program that extends educational opportunities through written assignments.

As it marks its 20th anniversary milestone, The Freedom to Choose Project plans to enhance and expand its in-person and correspondence programs to additional facilities, aiming to broaden its impact even further across California and to other states and countries.

Forrest Leichtberg, Executive Director, states: “Our 20th anniversary is not only a reflection of past successes but also a launching point for future expansion. We are well-poised to increase our impact, helping more incarcerated individuals and their families rewrite their futures. This next phase of growth will enable us to touch even more lives, fostering personal and community transformation.”

Founded in 2004 in Santa Barbara, California by Drs. Bonnie and David Paul, The Freedom to Choose Project’s mission is to transform the lives of individuals impacted by incarceration through compassionate experiential education.The web address is and they can be contacted at or 805-323-6543.

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