#FirstWatch: SQ Media Project

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"First watch is the graveyard shift when incarcerated people are locked in their cells in the state of California and when they are checked in on periodically. Everything you see is made by us, incarcerated men. We are the cameramen, the editors, producers & directors, even sound designers. The project is done through San Quentin's media center. We are the first on the scene with stories about incarcerated people made by incarcerated filmmakers. The source of information that society gets about incarcerated people is usually sensationalized. Though some elements might be accurate, we know it's not a true portrayal of what goes on in prison. We want to highlight what rehabilitation, accountability, and transformation looks like."

Introducing the Series

In recent decades, the social norms around justice dictated draconian, “tough on crime” policies that led to the massive ballooning of our prison and jail populations. We need new social norms that re-orient our society and our policies towards compassion, empathy, and data-driven approaches to public safety.

This campaign is a concerted push to rehumanize incarcerated people, especially those who were incarcerated for violent crimes committed as young adults or juveniles. In deep partnership and collaboration with people who are currently incarcerated and personally impacted the criminal justice system, we want to help create a broad change in the national consensus on community safety, crime, and human dignity.

This is likely the first time that a long-term, social media-driven video project will be directly produced and edited by men inside a prison - sharing their journey, perspectives, and life with the outside world.

Together we will:

  • Change the narrative: Use video storytelling to generate empathy for men incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison and millions of others impacted by our broken criminal justice system.
  • Inform the public: Help build a stronger understanding of the issue with mainstream audiences.
  • Make a case for action: Mobilize a community of supporters to support transformative criminal justice policies in California and nationally.
  • Teach marketable skills: With the help of professional filmmakers and other experts, the program will give incarcerated men solid transferable skills in video production, video editing, storyboarding, camera work, lighting, editing, and storytelling.


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