My Way Out Inc

Your mistakes do not define who you are--but what you do afterwards

Milwaukee, WI   |
GuideStar Charity Check

My Way Out Inc

EIN: 87-1385421


Using the voice and expertise of 'credible messengers' we empower, inspire and enrich the lives of justice-impacted individuals by bringing together customized community resources, supportive service providers, and second-chance employers. By reducing recidivism, building strong communities through peer networks, and keeping families together, we will help bring hope and prosperity to marginalized communities.

Notes from the nonprofit

As individuals of color, the founders have experienced systemic racism and poverty like all marginalized and underserved individuals in our communities. They share the historical lack of generational wealth that is a barrier to equity and access to financial investment. They believe that their justice-impacted identities and respective experience, education and training are assets worthy of investment—accessing conventional loans, credit and philanthropic investments are still challenges due to the stigma of incarceration. Addressing implicit bias and reducing the stigma by building awareness of the challenges of individuals impacted by incarceration and providing training for potential employers and community stakeholders will create new opportunities for both at-risk youth and adults. Our programs and services continue to reduce incarceration rates and revocations, keep families together, and strengthen communities by reducing barriers to employment for marginalized individuals.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Ruben Gaona

Main address

3514 W. Branting Ln.

Milwaukee, WI 53215 USA

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Subject area info

Health care access

Prison alternatives

Probation and parole

Rehabilitation of offenders

Services for offenders

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Population served info


LGBTQ people


Women and girls

Men and boys

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NTEE code info

Rehabilitation Services for Offenders (I40)

IRS subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Tax forms

Show Forms 990


What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

In 2021, over 63,000 individuals in our community were on probation, parole and extended supervision. Without employment and support services, 90% may return to prison within two years. Wisconsin imprisons Black and Brown residents at a higher rate than any other state highlighting long-standing disparities. The Latinx co-founders and leaders of My Way Out, as justice-impacted individuals, represent hope to others when little exists and a belief in a world where returning citizens can succeed, flourish and prosper. My Way Out prepares justice-impacted individuals for reentry by addressing causes of recidivism, providing conditions for healing, reducing social stigma, dismantling inequities, and eliminating barriers to employment, housing, food security and healthcare. My Way Out develops thriving communities focused on equitable economic opportunities for marginalized individuals with the voice of diversity and inclusion as a catalyst for systemic change.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Reaching In & Helping Out

If you have a family member who is currently incarcerated and within 18 months of being released, My Way Out can start to assist in their reentry process. My Way Out will assign a Reentry Support Partner, pre-board them, and start working with them on a personalized reentry plan.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

Bridging the Gap for Returning Citizens (BTGRC) and Financial Literacy. BTGRC focuses on welcoming justice-impacted individuals back into our community and helping them navigate today's technology ecosystem.

Participants will be welcomed home and introduced to the program by My Way Out, whose platform is "To empower and enrich the lives of justice-impacted individuals, by bringing together community resources, supportive service providers, and employers.". Milky Way Tech Hub will then begin its programming by helping participants understand the basic functionality of two of the most important tools of the 21st Century; a cell phone and a computer.

By the end of the program, participants will have gained basic knowledge of The Internet of Things and will be better equipped to enter today's workforce. Participants will be better prepared for primary interviews with local 2nd Chanceemployers. Ongoing support will be delivered by My Way Out and partnering reentry service providers.

Population(s) Served

Six-week workshop designed to empower and equip participants with essential skills for a successful reintegration into the community. This collaborative initiative brings together the expertise of three organizations to offer a diverse range of modules aimed at fostering personal and professional growth.
The workshop will consist of the following modules:
1.Rent Smart (6 Modules): Learn crucial insights into responsible renting practices while developing essential financial management skills for successful reintegration.
2.Financial Literacy (6 Modules): Enhance your tech skills to confidently engage with technology and navigate online platforms.
3.Bridging the Tech Gap for Returning Citizens (4 Modules): Learn to craft an effective resume and master
interview techniques to help secure meaningful employment.
4. Resume Writing and Interviewing Skills (2 Modules): Crafting an effective resume and mastering interview techniques are key components of securing meaningful employment.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups
Incarcerated people

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

• Reduce recidivism for justice-impacted individuals regardless of criminogenic need and risk up to and beyond the 3 year period due to resource deficiencies, inadequate, inconsistent, comprehensive and/or coordinated reentry services personalized to the individual for employment, housing, health, and family reintegration that have customarily been lacking throughout our communities including equitable access to ongoing established relationships with providers.

• Reduce gaps and inconsistency in preparing justice-impacted individuals for transition back into the community with the current ratios of correction staff to institution residents, limited programming related to extent of need, limited staff supervision to conduct in-house programs, and variance across institutions of available programs for adult education, career/technical education, substance abuse, and mental health services that would prepare residents for scheduled release.

• Address comprehensive criminogenic needs of residents and related risks necessitate that coordination and consistent case management services should be aligned for each resident long-term with individualized pre- and post-release plans based on current, available resources with frequent opportunities for justice-impacted individuals to communicate with their case manager and eliminate barriers to success.

• Poverty, inequality and the stigma of incarceration make reentry almost impossible without multiple interventions and consistent support from individuals they trust and share experiences with.

• Both pre- and post-release, justice-impacted individuals would be more invested in their success and in preventing recidivism if they can personally take their first steps to empowerment by reaching out to supportive service providers themselves and prioritizing their needs and action issues.

• Medium to high criminogenic needs and risks need to be prioritized and addressed individually in partnership with the resident and an assigned supportive service provider to track actions and outcomes and reinforce accomplishments. Any barriers to success and potential interventions can be identified and acted upon in a timely manner in partnership with the resident both pre- and post-release with their assigned supportive services provider.

• Structure newsletter communications for all Wisconsin correctional institutions to inform and educate residents about the services associated with My Way Out, their opportunities to prepare for scheduled release with participation in available trauma-informed treatment programs, higher education, workforce training and certification programs, and access to training in technology use upon release by indicating their interest in writing to work collaboratively with MWO.

• Rather than identifying and selecting individuals for participation based on criminogenic needs and risks, MWO leverages an individual’s own motivation and their feelings of empowerment to drive resident investment in pre- and post-release planning using personal interests and assets, skillsets, self-awareness and commitment to trauma-informed care and treatment, building on education, prior work experience, and the opportunity to have access to a MWO reentry supportive services provider 24/7 via the anti-bias mobile app platform or in-person post-release to address criminogenic needs and risks and reduce barriers to success with targeted referrals and follow-up.

• The opportunity for justice-impacted individuals to sustain communication and support from MWO reentry supportive service case managers continuously over a period of months and years through the MWO mobile app platform supports an individual’s commitment and creates a safety net to track priorities, action items, goals and accomplishments, education and training participation and completion, employer contacts and employment interviews, meetings with probation or parole officers, barriers and potential solutions, as well as provide demographic profiles, and content regarding housing, healthcare, and family and community reintegration issues.

• MWO and its reentry supportive services staff will improve correctional institutions sole reliance on correctional officers, the need for on-site access to residents for pre- and post-release planning, and provide up-to-date referrals post-release from probation and parole for wraparound safety net services by using MWO’s communication tools to establish pre- and post-release personalized reentry plans including employment opportunities in their release locations.

• With MWO’s technology platform for justice-impacted individuals, MWO will be able to communicate with and track over a period of years both short and long-term demographic data and outcome variables for preventing recidivism for all participants from low to high criminogenic need and risk on the impact of internal Earned Release programs, pre- and post-release interventions in treatment modalities, adult education enrollment, career/technical education participation, AODA programs, job-readiness training and employment sector hiring, housing and transportation issues, and access to family and community resources.

MWO has identified key variables that contribute to recidivism including the lack of consistent, pre-planned reentry case management services and options for future housing shortly after sentencing, inconsistent coordination, collaboration and communication between providers and the corrections system, and the lack of more robust strategic pre-release and reentry workforce-readiness program participation, coaching and employment opportunities.
An October 2019 pilot project evaluation study funded by BJA reiterated that ‘finding employment plays a critical role in preventing recidivism.’ The white paper offered guidance on how to design employment-focused reentry programs that incorporate risk/need-responsivity (RNR) principles into service delivery; it included a tool to help policymakers and practitioners match people to appropriate services that have the maximum impact on recidivism and employment outcomes. The framework emphasized that connecting a person to the right combination of services and appropriate level of intensity during various points in reentry planning can reduce his or her chance of recidivating. These resources refocus a person’s time and efforts on prosocial activities, making the person less likely to engage in riskier behaviors and to associate with people who do. To test this framework, the pilot project focused on people returning from prison or jail to Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and Palm Beach County, Florida, who were assessed as being at a moderate to high risk of reoffending and as having varying levels of employability. The results suggest that the challenges/successes aligned with the areas identified as fundamental to implementing a collaborative and coordinated approach to reentry planning: leadership commitment, timely use of assessments, detailed process analysis, capacity to meet the population needs, and data tracking. The pilot sites were successful in ensuring the resource-allocation and service-matching tool was used after release, but they needed to improve their efforts in assessing levels of job readiness and providing the appropriate employment-related services before release. To expand their implementation on a systems-wide scale, each site needed to refine their coordination and information-sharing agreements across the corrections and workforce development systems and engage executive leadership to increase service capacity capabilities for reentry and employment programming before and after release. To mitigate this challenge, program coordinators and community-based providers expressed that extending ownership of reentry planning to participants and incorporating the use of reentry-focused coordinators before and after release has been effective.
MWO will build on its current success in fulfilling wraparound case management needs create individual onboarding opportunities, and will connect individuals with second-chance employers maintaining case management services for 3 years.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection


My Way Out Inc
Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

My Way Out Inc

Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

My Way Out Inc

Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

Executive Director

Ruben Gaona

Ruben Gaona was born in El Paso, Texas, and moved to Milwaukee's Southside at the age of 15. In 2017 Ruben completed 7 years of a 10-year sentence, and in 2019 he founded 2nd Chance Wisconsin and began providing guidance (through motivational speaking) to formerly incarcerated people and others facing barriers. Ruben is a U. S. Navy Veteran, a former employee for the Department of Defense (NAVY), and an ex-felon. Ruben is currently a Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. Ruben's experience working in re-entry with the State of Wisconsin inspired him to co-found The Way Out. Ruben has had the privilege of speaking at several re-entry engagements throughout Wisconsin to discuss the merits of second-chance employment. Ruben is also an active advocate of the Ban the Box movement in the United States and has actively advocated on behalf of Expungement Bill SB78.

My Way Out Inc

Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.

My Way Out Inc

Board of directors
as of 04/02/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

Karen Coy Romano

Solutions Unlimited

Term: 2023 - 2024

Patrick Snyder


Barbara Cerda

Milwaukee LGBT Community Center

David Carlson

C.C. We Adapt

Decorah Gordon

IBEW Local 2150

Sarwat Sharif

Ph.D. Candidate in Social Welfare Dept. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Rodrick Cureton

Milwaukee Bucks

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/2/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person with a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/19/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.