MEET THE JOURNALISTS

A WORD FROM THE MEN

We, incarcerated men, film life inside these walls. FirstWatch is the first project of its kind: we are the producers, cameramen, photographers, editors, sound designers, writers, and journalists. From pre-production to post-production, the FirstWatch team creates every single piece ourselves while serving time inside San Quentin State Prison. In an effort to humanize incarceration, the series explores how accountability and rehabilitation open the potential for healing and restoration.

THE FILMS

The Path to Parole

Parenting in Prison

My Eyes ft. Lawrence

Jeff's Garden

Kell's Story

The PB&J Sandwich

Cellfie: The Big Move ft. Choy

Why You Should Be a Chef ft. Niccola

Father's Day: Phil's Story

Father's Day: Curtis's Story

Accountability: Choy

Accountability: Adnan

Accountability: Antwan

Cellfie

Upu's Story

The Bet ft. The Golden State Warriors

Travis's Prison Journey

Phoeun's Prison Journey

Lumumba's Prison Journey

Lumumba's History

Lawrence's Prison Journey

Lumumba's Atlas

RE:VISION - LETTERS FROM THE INSIDE

Racing Backwards: Part II

Racing Backwards: Part II

In a previous post, I wrote about racial politics in California state prisons and the hardened racial divisions that characterize incarcerated interactions.…

Racing Backwards

Racing Backwards

I will never forget the first time I was exposed to racial politics in California state prisons (politics is the term incarcerated people in California use to refer to our unwritten social rules.)…

Thank You

Thank You

Thanksgiving is coming up soon. This will be my 16th Thanksgiving in prison. Though I have many thoughts regarding my incarceration and world view of prison, I would like to use my Re:vision platform to express my gratitude.…

A”dap”ting to Humanity

A”dap”ting to Humanity

When I was in Corcoran (a “level 4” maximum security prison), strict racial politics existed on the prison yard.…

Facing the Wall

Facing the Wall

"When the correctional officers yell "Escort!" all incarcerated people are supposed to turn and face the wall."…

Can We Work this Out?

Can We Work this Out?

"Many incarcerated people are great workers, meaning, they work hard, are innovative and may have great work ethic, but people I encounter in or out of prison are not born designated as “workers.”"…

Classrooms, Not Cages

Classrooms, Not Cages

"When the pendulum started to swing, and rehabilitation and education began to be accepted for their ability to reduce recidivism, Tim took advantage of every opportunity."…

Members Only

Members Only

"Problems with infrastructure, school superintendents and allocation of resources, and affordable healthcare are all important to me, incarcerated or not."…

About Art and Voting

About Art and Voting

There is a link between art and voting that is fairly obvious when you think about it. Both are means of expression, and therefore deeply personal things. But before exploring the similarities between the two, one fact must be established first.…

"Cell" Phones

"Cell" Phones

"Six months prior to his parole board hearing, another unthinkable happened. Ben was caught with a cell phone."…

A Rebellious Act of Kindness

A Rebellious Act of Kindness

"On a deeper level though, these rules serve as constant reminders of the things we did to come to prison, and often undermine our ability to connect with our own humanity. So, it's easy to see why the chance to be humane towards someone, and in doing so, be humane to yourself, feels really good."…

Food or Fodder

Food or Fodder

"In the past decade and a half, I’ve been feeding my system whatever’s been fed to me."…

Sharing Privilege

Sharing Privilege

"I believe that when you see a problem, it falls to you to work on correcting it. Therefore, my goal is to help create the optimism I feel in others, and I strive to do that by using my share of privilege for the benefit of my community."…

Doing the Work

Doing the Work

"This is what doing work looks like. It is facing uncomfortable, often hidden faulty beliefs in yourself, and learning to empathize with the humanity of others."…

Paying My Debt

Paying My Debt

I want to pay back my debt to society. I want to do it with remorse, accountability, and amends. I also want to pay back my financial debt.…

Three Months, Three Cellies

Three Months, Three Cellies

A few of us sat quietly, taking it all in. All of us were pondering the same unanswered questions. How tense was the yard? Which old faces would we see? And most of all, who would we be placed in a cell with?…

Wireless Connection

Wireless Connection

"I have never experienced social media. I’ve been incarcerated for 15 and a half years. When I was last out there, there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube. The term “social media” did not exist yet. Man, there weren't even any cameras on phones yet."…

Vicarious Joy

Vicarious Joy

It's enough to make me wonder, what if, when one entered prison, the attitude was, what do we need to do to get you home? What if prisons positioned themselves as a place where people who'd committed harmful acts could learn how to relate to society in more healthy ways?…

The Check-In

The Check-In

She seemed troubled, but not overwhelmed by the event. The rest of us in the group however, were devastated. One by one, the men apologized to her.…

Me Time

Me Time

Privacy is an extreme rarity in prison, I literally shower next to other men, eat, stand in line, go to group with other men, and even use the restroom in front of other men on the yard.…

Beneath The Panoptic Gaze

Beneath The Panoptic Gaze

"He is seen, but does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication." -Michel Foucault…

Sharing Freely

Sharing Freely

It disheartens me when I am expected to tell my most traumatic experiences at the drop of a dime just because some "guests" show up. It makes me feel like an "articulate" zoo animal on display.…

Healthy Guilt?

Healthy Guilt?

Today, I am in a healthy place, which is not void of guilt.…

The Case Against Rehabilitation (A Controversial Title, I Know)

The Case Against Rehabilitation (A Controversial Title, I Know)

In a recent post about the population changes at San Quentin, I wrote the line, "rehabilitative programming works," and a friend who is familiar with my thoughts about self-help groups called me on it. So here are my thoughts on the self-help offered here.…

Humor In Prison

Humor In Prison

"I was able to rekindle my relationship with humor and rediscovered my humanity through that." - Adnan Khan…

San Quentin Has Flipped

San Quentin Has Flipped

On any given prison yard, when the powers that be transfer one segment of incarcerated people out, and bring a new group in, we say the yard flipped. And in the last six months, San Quentin has flipped in a way that none of us have ever seen before.…

Anticipation

Anticipation

James King CDCR # V-69030 2–W–10 "They're coming in the morning." No need to ask who. In prison, "they" are the guards, and since we'd been on lockdown for five days at the time, it was also obvious what they were coming to do. Search. I learned very early in my incarceration that I lack the necessary imagination to successfully hide contraband. Early efforts at…

The Gift

The Gift

James King CDCR # V-69030 2–W–10 About a week after my cellie (roommate) turned 69, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations gave him a job working in the kitchen. Kitchen jobs are among the most contentious jobs in prison. On one hand, for incarcerated people who lack financial support, these jobs are an excellent means for them to eat a little more (Each incarcerated person is fed on…

The Concrete Ceiling

The Concrete Ceiling

James King CDCR # V-69030 2–W–10 Disclosure # 1: As an incarcerated writer, I find prison writing that focuses on the "talent" of incarcerated individuals in order to motivate people to support prison reform as short-sighted and demeaning. Disclosure # 2: I am not atcually an incarcerated writer; I am a writer who is currently incarcerated. Disclosure # 3: When asked by a Board of Parole Hearings investigator what type…

Re:vision

Re:vision

CDCR # V-69030 2-W-10 I like to believe that all writing is autobiographical. No matter what the author is writing about, their biases, personality, and interests are evident on the page for all to see if one simply looks closely enough. Take me for example, for the last year, I've been writing about criminal justice, identity, and community. I've explored these topics through Op-Eds, poetry, personal essays, academic writings, and short…

Seizing Opportunities

Seizing Opportunities

By Lawrence Pela #AB-5053 I would like to say I take advantage of every opportunity I have but it’s not true. More often than I’d like, all kinds of different opportunities find themselves slipping through my fingers. Opportunities to be funny, to make more friends, to maximize my time, to tell someone about Jesus, to do something different, and even opportunities to speak out go unfulfilled. Too frequently…

The "Criminal" Justice System

The "Criminal" Justice System

"Criminal" connotes activity. In other words, it says that far after a crime was committed and years and years into their incarceration, people are still active in crime. This further strengthens public fear, a fear that subtly creeps into the safety of people's subconscience.…

US versus THEM

US versus THEM

By Lawrence Pela. How do sensationalized depictions of incarcerated people affect US incarcerated people? Find out.…

"You're So Articulate!"

"You're So Articulate!"

By Adnan Khan. Words matter. What does being articulate mean and why does the reaction come as a surprise when describing people in prison?…

THE NAME

The "first watch" in prison is the graveyard shift when we are put away in our cells for the remainder of the night until morning. Correctional officers periodically check in on us by flashing a light into our cells to make sure we’re still alive. We’ve made this “FirstWatch” our own, checking in on ourselves and flashing a light on our lives, a life kept away from society. FirstWatch is our narrative of our world, told from our perspective. First watch, then judge.

WHO WE ARE

We are not men who kill each other, secretly pass knives and contraband, plot against one another or conspire attacks on guards. We are not men who deny our crimes or who claim innocence. We are men who try hard, stay up at night doing college essays under a dim TV light, or sometimes in the dark, out of respect for our cellies, stealing slivers of light coming off the tiers.

We are men who are punctual for our self-help groups, men who share our traumas with words and tears. We empathize with deep breaths and sighs and hugs and offerings of canteen snacks for support. We are men who hold ourselves and each other accountable for the crimes we’ve committed and for the grief we’ve forced upon innocent people and their families.

We are men who are ambitious about finding ways to give back to society. With the desire to contribute to our communities, we share our stories from inside these walls.

OUR METHOD

We teach each other, read books, study commercials, documentaries, and TV shows counting how long each clip lasts, taking notes on unique camera angles, observe creative use of B-Roll, discuss and analyze the visual artistry of last night’s episode, and usually, we learn by trial and error.


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