Video by Rob Stewart/San Quentin footage by First Watch
Meet Adnan Khan, a multimedia storyteller who’s using his unique platform to tell true stories of incarceration, transformation, and hope.
Khan is the founder of First Watch, a program that began inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison in which powerful audiovisual stories are created entirely by incarcerated people. The series touches on every aspect of incarceration, from sports and friendship to restorative justice and the challenges of forming and maintaining relationships from prison.
In January, Khan was the first person released under Senate Bill 1437, which reformed the felony murder rule in California. In addition, Khan earned a commutation in December 2018 from Gov. Jerry Brown, who cited Khan’s commitment to rehabilitation, extensive participation in self-help programming and sincere commitment to community service.
While incarcerated, Khan co-founded Re:Store Justice, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reimagine and reform the criminal justice system through restorative justice, lasting solutions to crime and building safer communities. Now free, Khan works full-time at Re:Store Justice, and has met with lawmakers and CDCR leadership about incarceration and rehabilitation in California. He has also gone back inside to share his experience with people still incarcerated.
First Watch’s goal is to humanize incarceration, and to explore “how accountability and rehabilitation open the potential for healing and restoration.” You can watch more videos, and learn more about Re:Store Justice, at https://restorecal.org/firstwatch/. (Note: Some websites may not be available from a CDCR computer.)
Have you been enjoying the Inside CDCR videos? This project highlights the staff, volunteers, community partners, programs, and incarcerated men and women who make CDCR exceptional. If you have a story we should cover, please email Kristina.Khokhobashvili@cdcr.ca.gov.
Or, see the YouTube video:
Under the California felony murder rule at that time I was sentenced to 25 years to life. I was 18 years old at the time.
There weren’t any groups. There wasn’t college. I wanted college, I wanted programs, I wanted education.
The prison, or the culture I guess you want to say, didn’t provide that.
Finally when I got to San Quentin, I want to say almost 11 or 12 years into my incarceration, like, the floodgates of programming and education just opened up for me.
I was always fascinated with like video, video camera, learning about people, people who are incarcerated.
I always felt like these stories needed to be shared.
So in prison, first watch is a graveyard shift for correctional officers, and during that time all incarcerated people are inside their cells.
During first watch, when the officers are going around, they periodically check into your room, see if you’re there, they flash a light in your cells.
So in a play on words, First Watch for us, or the video project, it was like we don’t go around with a flashlight, we go around with a video camera flashing a camera in people’/s lives.
So when it came to the videos, the videos were to show a transformation and accountability.
And we wanted to utilize our narrative to show some of the survivors and show what the guys are doing inside.
And kind of like bring that together under one umbrella.
Then Re:Store Justice started to take our videos and put it under their platform and promote our videos under that platform.
And then they kind of became synonymous in that sense.
I’m continuing First Watch out here, and I’m going to start doing like the reentry side.
The guys who’ve got out and what are they doing now?
So the guys inside are continuing to make videos of what they’re doing in there, and I’m going to do the videos of what guys are doing out here.