Kent Mendoza was born in Mexico but migrated to the United States at the age of six. He grew up in Los Angeles County where at an early age he was exposed to gangs, drugs, and violence. He joined a gang at the age of fourteen and was incarcerated at fifteen and served time in a probation camp. At the age of seventeen, he was tried as an adult and faced a prison life sentence. Kent was instead sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for 7 years but served overall 5 years incarcerated. Kent was released from Immigrating Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold on April 9, 2014.
Kent is a community organizer and activist, artist, writer, speaker, and youth mentor. He is also the Manager of Advocacy and Community Organizing at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) where he started as the Member and Community Engagement Coordinator in 2016. Prior to working at ARC and during his own reentry journey, Kent worked at the LA Area Chamber of Commerce on smart justice issues where he held several positions from 2014 to 2016, including: Senior Administrative Assistant, Assistant, and intern. He successfully completed the 2015 Commission Training Program offered by the Wally Mark Leadership Institute from the Liberty Hill Foundation and was appointed by Gov. Brown to CA’s State Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (SACJJDP) in November 2016. Kent was also appointed to the Los Angeles Countywide Juvenile Justices Coordinated Council (JJCC) in 2018, and was re-appointed in 2020. Kent is a 2018 Aspen Institute Ricardo Salinas Scholar Alumni. Kent served as a leading consultant with the Haywood Burns Institute (BI) to LA County’s Youth Justice Reimagined (YJR) report paving the way in moving youth out of the probation department into a new one focused on youth development. Kent is now consulting with BI leading the Youth Justice Advisory Group (YJAG) in the first phase of YJR implementation.