Jonathan Houston, Justice Assistance founder and CEO

A BETTER FUTURE: In 1978, Jonathan Houston founded Justice Assistance, a nonprofit that helps former convicted individuals find employment and education after being released from prison. 
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
A BETTER FUTURE: In 1978, Jonathan Houston founded Justice Assistance, a nonprofit that helps former convicted individuals find employment and education after being released from prison. 
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

PBN Leaders & Achievers 2023
Jonathan Houston
Justice Assistance

Founder and CEO


THE LATE FORMER U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno once recognized Jonathan Houston as “the foremost victims’ advocate I know.”

It is quite the high praise for Houston, founder and CEO of Justice Assistance. His Cranston-based nonprofit that provides resources to people on both sides of the justice system. Houston began Justice Assistance in 1978 when he recognized that former convicted individuals struggled to find employment that would help them get back on their feet and prevent them from returning to prison after being released.

“Our goal has always been to find ways to make the justice system more humane,” Houston said.

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Justice Assistance staff members work with individuals to prevent incarceration, help offenders reestablish themselves upon release and support victims in their interactions with the justice system. Over the years, Houston has seen major changes, which he credits to the partnerships and collaborations that Justice Assistance has established.

“It was our good fortune to work with people such as [former R.I. Department of Corrections Director] A.T. Wall and R.I. Chief Justice Paul Suttell. Plus, as a nonprofit, we can function in a way that the government can’t,” Houston said. “We’re not afraid to take a chance, even if we fail.”

According to Houston, change is slowly happening. For example, he described how clients can access several services in one place, including health, education and employment assistance.

“Now more than ever, with continuing workforce shortages, it’s an issue of economics,” he said. “We can no longer afford to lock people out of employment opportunities because of a single offense.”

Houston will retire in three years to be with his family. He also plans to be more involved with Baseball Ireland, an organization dedicated to furthering growth and development of baseball and softball throughout the country.

But work at Justice Assistance continues. The organization recently moved to a new location on Pontiac Avenue, closer to the state prisons and the R.I. attorney general’s office, an example that shows the nonprofit’s strategic future approach.

“It’s a new era for us and we’re putting all the pieces in place to continue for another 45 years,” Houston said.

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