TRUST Video Project During COVID-19

 

When COVID-19 hit San Quentin State Prison, the facility went on lockdown on March 13, 2020. The TRUST Volunteers did not sit quietly for the prison to reopen. We met weekly determined to find a way to let the men inside know they were not forgotten. But how to deliver this message?

In a nutshell, the TRUST Volunteers were able to:

 

  • Produce 7 videos from 15 volunteer groups

  • Have SQ’s Close Circuit TV play each video intermittently for a month

  • Videos included messages from:

    • Men who had been released

    • Athletic, spiritual & rehabilitation volunteers

    • Musicians, actors, comedians

    • A holiday Sing-Along with former TRUST Fellow, Tim Warren

 

The power of video. How better to get inside the prison than to employ SQ’s Close Circuit TV to deliver support to nearly 4000 incarcerated men? We were so grateful when Lt. Sam Robinson, the Public Information Officer, gave permission for our project.  

 

We went to work on our first video by collecting recorded messages of support from the dozens of SQ volunteers that provide wonderful programming. The first video was produced by Antwan Banks Williams, a member of the famed Ear Hustle podcast trio. Skyler Brown, SQ’s Television Specialist, provided critical help on the inside by adding subtitles and providing technical support to upload each video.  

 

Quickly, we heard from Lt. Sam Robinson that the first video was a success, and that staff and incarcerated folks were excited to see more! Gratefully, we went on to deliver six more videos, each generously produced by Brando Reece-Gomez, a TRUST supporter. With limited means to connect with the men inside, many SQ volunteers were eager to share words of compassion.

 

Dozens of sports volunteers and semi-pros wanted the men inside to know they were counting down the days until they could get back in SQ. Their inspirational messages reflected their dedication to supporting the men’s morale. A very special video included messages from men who have been released. Their heartfelt wishes for their brothers inside offered up both strength and love. Their warm words of support reflected the power of rehabilitated men.

 

The holidays are an important time in San Quentin. Because of Covid restrictions, the traditional Christmas Caroling event was cancelled. We were delighted that one of our newly released TRUST Fellows, Tim Warren, and Grace Renaud, a music teacher, collaborated to create a video of Sing-along holiday songs which played for the entire month of December!

 

We completed the video experience with two videos from groups of celebrities. These resulted from the efforts of Karys Rhea, who works for Creative Community for Peace, a non-profit in the entertainment industry. With her support, we were able to receive uploaded videos from prominent celebrities and musicians reminding those incarcerated that their plight did not occur in silence.

 

We are so thankful for the SQ volunteer community and all their messages of support and compassion throughout this project.