“The mission of Friends Outside is to assist children and families, prisoners, and former prisoners with the immediate and long-term effects of incarceration, and to act as a bridge between those we serve, the community at large, and the criminal justice system, thereby enhancing the character of justice.”

Friends Outside’s services maximize returns on investment for the government, donors, and taxpayers through cost-effective re-entry services which result in strengthened families, reduced crime, and improved life trajectories for the children in these families. Its threefold budgetary and programmatic growth since 2011 reflects not only the need for its services but also the organization’s potential.

Friends Outside is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.


Because of incarceration’s high cost, negative impact upon families, and overall failure to deter crime, Friends Outside believes that society at-large is not well-served by its reliance upon incarceration as the preponderant response to criminal behavior.


  • The needs of families should be addressed whenever possible;
  • Incarceration can be an intergenerational pattern which can be broken through the delivery of appropriate services;
  • That the re-entry population is more likely to become productive members of society if they are able to maintain family ties, and receive appropriate, effective services;
  • That society as a whole benefits by our services through increased public safety, cost-savings, and better outcomes for the children and families we serve.


  • March 2013, Mary Weaver, Executive Director, was named a “Fatherhood Hero” by the White House, for “exemplifying the Goals of President Obama’s Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative.”
  • October 2012, Friends Outside in Los Angeles County’s Incarcerated Parents Project received a “Special Merit Award” from Los Angeles County, the 26th Annual Productivity and Quality Awards Program, through its partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
  • 2011, FOLA was named by City of Los Angeles, Workforce Development Department, to write an on-line training for its WorkSource Center staff in order to improve their staff’s ability to provide employment services to the re-entry population.
  • 2011, FOLA was named “Partner of the Year” by the Center for Health Justice.
  • 2011 FOLA was named the “Partner of the Year” by the Foothill Workforce Investment Board.
  • 2009 and 2010, FOLA’s Job Readiness Workshops, which were a component of the City of Los Angeles’ Re-entry Employment Options Project (REEOP) and the City of Los Angeles’ Project New Start, were recognized by an international evaluation company, Westat, as being one of the most important components of both projects.
  • 2008, The “Woman Pioneer” award from the Los Angeles City Council was given to Mrs. Ride for her work with female inmates and she also received one of ten “Women of the Year” awards from the Los Angeles County Commission for Women.
  • In 2007, Mrs. Dowds was awarded the “Public Citizen of the Year” award by the National Association of Social Workers, California, Region 1.
  • In 2004, a client in our “Parole to Payroll” program was a recipient of the Star Award from the Los Angeles County Community Action Board.
  • In 1996, Friends Outside volunteers received the “Spirit of Giving” award from the City of Pasadena. In 1997, Mrs. Dowds was a Finalist for the Golden Rule Award from the JCPenney Corporation.
  • In 1990, Friends Outside in Los Angeles received a commendation from James Rowland, Director of the California Department of Corrections, for providing “outstanding services to parolees.”


Friends Outside’s reputation as a leader in the re-entry field has resulted in the organization being asked to participate in research projects and material for professional publications.

  • Co-author, M. Weaver, Chapter 5: Your Adult Child, When the Parent is in Jail or Prison, “Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide to Raising a Second Family”
  • Co-author, M. Weaver, Part 2, Chapter 6: Imprisoning the Family, Incarceration in Black America, “Black Los Angeles, American Dreams and Racial Realities,” Edited by Darnell Hunt and Ana – Christina Ramon
  • Principal Investigator, M. Weaver (in cooperation with M. Belinda Tucker, Ph.D. and C. Petrucci, Ph.D.) “Examining the Needs of Adult Family and Close Ties of Incarcerated Persons in Los Angeles County,” UCLA Center for Community Partnerships
  • Principal Investigator, M. Weaver (in cooperation with Nancy King, L.C.S.W.), “Released Aging Prisoners Project,” in cooperation with Independence at Home, a division of SCAN Health Plan
  • Co-Author, M. Weaver, “Re-entry Employment Strategies,” an on-line Training for WorkSource Center Staff, in collaboration with City of Los Angeles, Workforce Development Division