Part of a wider media initiative at California’s San Quentin State Prison, FirstWatch gives participants the opportunity to tell their stories – and be held accountable – through the lens of a camera.
Each weekday morning at San Quentin State Prison, a group of men reports to the media lab and spends the day working on video projects until midafternoon. The participants are self-taught, relying on a library of film classics to help them. Their work, part of a tradition of media and arts initiatives in prisons nationwide, offers an opportunity for those involved to share what their lives are like in jail, and in some cases, to come to terms with the actions that brought them there. It gives voice to those who are incarcerated, something advocates say supports individual and community healing. Most of the films focus on one element of one man’s story – what it’s like to be an incarcerated parent, for example. Participants say their videos are meant to counter popular culture narratives that suggest that accountability isn’t a priority for them. “What we’re trying to do is … show we are responsible,” says Adnan Khan, who has been a part of FirstWatch since its inception in 2017. “We’re not denying our crimes, we’re not denying our actions, we’re not blaming people. We are understanding what we did and why we did it.”
Watch “FirstWatch: The Path to Parole”:
FirstWatch, in partnership with Re:store Justice, is a media project where content is entirely shot, directed, edited, and scored by journalists serving time in prison. This is a first-of-its-kind project created inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison.
The most recent film is centered around parole, specifically the difference in the process, success rates, and recidivism rates for those currently serving a life sentence and those with a determinate (non-life) sentence. In this video, Adnan Khan, who is currently serving a 25-to-life sentence, interviews other “lifers” about their experiences with the parole process, including the steps and classes they must take in order to be considered for parole.
Watch more videos here: FirstWatch