Firstwatch is the first project of its kind, which started in San Quentin State Prison. From pre-production to post-production, the producers, cameramen, photographers, editors, sound designers, writers, and journalist are all currently incarcerated. In an effort to humanize the people incarcerated, the films created explore the truth about life inside.

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 “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.

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.

Current Filmmakers from San Quentin State Prison

Meet Edmond Richardson
Meet Adamu Chan
Meet Jessie Lee Rose
Meet Maurice Dupree Reed
Meet Thanh Hieu Tran

The film crew at San Quentin State Prison from 2017-2019

We are thrilled that all members of FIRSTWATCH were commuted by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018. Shadeed returned home in August 2018, Adnan while commuted in December 2018, he was the first person re-sentenced under SB1437 and returned home in January 2019 . Lawrence returned home in July 2019.

Meet Adnan Khan
Meet Shadeed Wallace-Stepter
Meet Lawrence Pela

The Films

The Firstwatch team invites incarcerated people in San Quentin State Prison to ask questions to the democratic presidential candidates.

Happy Black History Month from Firstwatch

Incarcerated People ask questions to the democratic presidential candidates

In celebration of #BlackHistoryMonth the Firstwatch team inside San Quentin highlights spoken word poet Ira Perry aka Prince’s piece called “We are more”

Happy Black History Month from Firstwatch

Happy Black History Month!

Meet Thanh Tran, a filmmaker and member of Firstwatch who is incarcerated. Growing up he was labeled as destined to go to prison when he was just in elementary school.

Meet Thanh Tran

Meet Thanh Tran

Meet Jessie Lee Rose. Another video from a filmmaker currently incarcerated. Jessie uses filmmaking to communicate with you, free people in society. Check out his video and learn more about Jessie and the Firstwatch team.

Meet Jessie Rose

Meet Jessie Rose

Meet Adamu Chan, a filmmaker, Adamu is part of a film crew currently incarcerated called FirstWatch.

Meet Adamu Chan

Meet Adamu Chan

Meet Edmond Richardson #AL-7106. A filmmaker. Edmond is part of a film crew currently incarcerated called Firstwatch. Check out their videos and support them on YouTube. Also, please write to Edmond in San Quentin and send him some love and support through letters.

Meet Edmond Richardson

Meet Edmond Richardson

For some, the focus of Valentine’s Day might be about flowers, candy and jewelry. For the men of Firstwatch, a different kind of love comes to mind. Our families might be the place where we first learn about love- the good and the bad- complicated relationships filled with love, hurt, and if you’re lucky, healing and forgiveness.

“The relationships we have are the most important thing we do in our lives.” This Valentine’s Day, FirstWatch creators ask their peers, “What relationship in your life would you like to repair?”

Happy Valentine's Day from the men of Firstwatch!

Happy Valentine’s Day from the men of Firstwatch!

FIRSTWATCH’s new team created this video to wish everyone HAPPY HOLIDAYS! We are looking forward to introducing them to you next year…STAY TUNED!

Happy Holidays from FIRSTWATCH!

Happy Holidays from FIRSTWATCH!

Typically on Valentine’s Day some people measure the value of “love” by the value of a gift. For the men currently incarcerated, gift giving is far more sentimental and creative. This short film highlights how human connectivity is a gift you can’t put a price on.

Valentine's Day in Prison

Valentine’s Day in Prison

Needless to say, incarceration is very stressful for the person that’s incarcerated as well as that person’s loved ones. Unfortunately that stress intensifies when you’re a parent seperated from your child. Some might believe incarcerated parents have a bad reputaion and wouldn’t really want to be a parent. See first hand what its like to be a father parenting while incarcerated.

Parenting in Prison

Parenting in Prison

Some may wonder “what does a prison cell REALLY look like?” Well, take a tour of the 4×9 cell (which usually houses 2 people at a time) in San Quentin State Prison.

Cellfie

Cellfie

It’s funny sometimes how something so simple can be so complex. Ride along for this comical journey as Adnan tries to find an extra jelly for his pb&j.

The PB&J Sandwich

The PB&J Sandwich

It’s far too common to see violence, ignorance, and/or many other dehumanizing depictions of people incarcerated in the media. This is a look through the eyes of Lawerence when he was still incarcerated, allowing all to see What he seen on a regular basis.

My Eyes ft. Lawrence

My Eyes ft. Lawrence

Gardening in a prison? People find many ways to find healing, growth, and restoration. Sometimes those ways are healthy, sometimes they aren’t so healthy, no matter where they are (free or incarcerated). Tending to a garden in San Quentin State Prison became a part of Jeff’s journey. Witness how impactful it can be when afforded the opportunity to healthy outlets for growth, healing, and restoration.

Jeff's Garden

Jeff’s Garden

Kells tells his story. Kells has been incarcerated since he was 15 years old. He depicts his journey which ultimately lead to a life sentence.

Kell's Story

Kell’s Story

Chef Bucci passionately explains why he believes someone should be a chef.

Why You Should Be a Chef ft. Niccola

Why You Should Be a Chef ft. Niccola

Father's Day: Phil's Story

Father’s Day: Phil’s Story

Jeff's Garden

Cellfie: The Big Move ft. Choy

Father's Day: Curtis's Story

Father’s Day: Curtis’s Story

Accountability: Choy

Accountability: Choy

Accountability: Adnan

Accountability: Adnan

Accountability: Antwan

Accountability: Antwan

Upu's Story

Upu’s Story

The Bet ft. The Golden State Warriors

The Bet ft. The Golden State Warriors

Travis's Prison Journey

Travis’s Prison Journey

Phoeun's Prison Journey

Phoeun’s Prison Journey

Lumumba's Prison Journey

Lumumba’s Prison Journey

Lawrence's Prison Journey

Lawrence’s Prison Journey

Lumumba's Atlas

Lumumba’s Atlas

Firstwatch Men in Action

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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