Defy – Northern California
The Defy Northern California chapter was founded in late 2015 with the launch of its in-prison program, CEO of Your New Life in partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Defy NorCal launched its post-release program in 2017 which includes CEO of Your New Life for people in the community with criminal histories and a business and entrepreneurship incubator for program participants seeking to start their own business.
Meet the Local Team
Veronica Ensign, Executive Director
Veronica currently serves as Executive Director in Northern California. Prior to joining Defy, she was Chief Development Officer at Oakland-based Pivot Learning, the largest and most experienced nonprofit technical assistance provider to school districts in California. She also founded a nonprofit organization that partners with rural communities in Kenya and Rwanda to kick-start development projects that are identified, designed, and owned by the people they serve. Veronica received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of San Diego and a Master’s in International Development from Tulane University.
Rebeccah Lanni, Post-Release Program Manager
Rebeccah received a Bachelor’s in Psychology with minors in Social Service and Spanish from Knox College. Upon completion of her studies, Rebeccah served two years in AmeriCorps, a national service program, where she developed a passion for the social service field.
Most recently, Rebeccah served as Lead Coordinator for Community Works West, One Family Program. As Lead Coordinator, Rebeccah worked with currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, helping them obtain their GED, secure housing, and reconnect with their children through parent-child contact visits.
Amanda Wiggans, Event Manager
Amanda received a Bachelor’s in History with a minor in Economics from Middlebury College. In addition to her studies, Amanda served as Senior Fellow for Middlebury Programs on Creativity and Innovation, where she coordinated programs and competitions that focused on fostering creativity and entrepreneurship among students and co-chaired three annual TEDxMiddlebury events. Most recently, Amanda worked as Program Associate at The Aspen Institute. Focusing primarily on the planning of The Aspen Ideas Festival, Amanda’s primary role was to manage speaker logistics prior to and during the Festival, hire and supervise summer interns, assist with sponsor management, and coordinate the Festival workshops.
Where We Serve
Pleasant Valley State Prison: Opened in 1994, Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) is a 640-acre (260 ha) minimum-to-maximum security state prison in Coalinga, California and is designed to hold 2,308 individuals. At the time of writing, it houses 2,879 individuals.
Valley State Prison: Valley State Prison was constructed and dedicated in 1995. The original name for VSP was Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) with a design capacity of 1,980. In January 2013, the conversion from a female to male prison was successfully completed and the name changed to Valley State Prison or VSP. At the time of writing, VSP houses 3,516 individuals.
Solano State Prison: The California State Prison at Solano opened in August 1984 and has a design capacity of 2,610. At the time of writing, it houses 3,901 individuals.
Correctional Training Facility Soledad: CTF is a Level I and II, General Population prison consisting to three separate facilities in Soledad, California. The prison was built in 1946 and has a total design capacity of 3,312. At the time of writing, it houses 5,342 individuals.
The Post-Release Program for Defy Ventures NorCal started in 2017. Not only serving individuals who started the CEO YNL program in the state correctional facilities, NorCal’s Post-Release program looks to offer another opportunity for advancement to individuals with criminal histories who have been living in the community for a while. We’re building a community of support for our EITs where they will have a strong bond with people who genuinely care about their success and will not remember them for the worst thing they’ve ever done. Focusing on employment readiness, character development and entrepreneurship training, Defy Ventures NorCal is working with EITs to prepare them for success by connecting them with community resources, mentors and networking opportunities.
- Current Enrollment: 290
- Cumulative Enrollment: 1124
- Graduated: 320
- Cumulative Overall Retention Rate: 54%
- Currently Enrolled Retention Rate: 79%
- Current Enrollment: 36
- Recidivism rate: < 5%
- Number of Businesses Founded: 19
- Completed Post-Release Programming: 28
How to Get Involved
Contact Veronica Ensign at email@example.com
Find a list of upcoming events here.