x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Life Revealed

This event occurred on
January 22, 2016
San Quentin, California
United States

Historically, prison has been a place of separation and punishment.

The goal of TEDxSanQuentin is to use the global TEDx platform to bridge the divide between society and prisoners to promote safer and healthier communities. We believe that when we bring together correctional staff, prisoners, victims, law enforcement, innovative thinkers, and influential people from all walks of life, we will be able to find more ways to rehabilitate offenders and reduce crime in communities.

San Quentin State Prison
Main Street
San Quentin, California, 94964
United States
Event type:
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Jacques Verduin and Fateen Jackson

Director/ Insight-Out
Jacques Verduin is currently the Director of Insight-Out. He also founded the Insight Prison Project, which under his leadership produced the gold standard restorative justice program called VOEG. His efforts have helped birth the Prison Mindfulness Initiative, the Prison Yoga Project, the Insight Garden Project, and Veterans Healing Veterans, among others. All of these organizations are being actively replicated. In addition to California, he is a consultant to the U.S. State Department and he and his staff have traveled abroad to train professionals in Guatemala, El Salvador, Bosnia, and the Netherlands. Fateen Jackson has fully accepted responsibility for all of the wrong he has done throughout his life. He has denounced all gang activity and has dedicated himself to being a peace advocate and peacemaker. He's currently working toward becoming a state certified Domestic Violence counselor/facilitator and is also a student in the Prison University Project here at San Quentin.Only recently did Fateen discover his hidden creative talent of being a spoken word expressionist. He was inspired by a fellow prisoner to write and perform his material and since, has developed a passion for the art. He now uses its platform for redemption, healing, and enlightenment.

Juan Carlos Meza and Nate Collins

Since 2003, Marin Shakespeare Company has offered weekly Shakespeare classes at San Quentin Prison, culminating in an annual performance of a Shakespeare play. The men also write and perform autobiographical theatre pieces inspired by their work with Shakespeare.

Native Hawaiian Group at San Quentin

The Native Hawaiian Religious Group uses traditional song, dance, storytelling and oral history to restore community and develop unity. Their practice stems from ancient Polynesian history and culture, but also draws from the culture of various people of the Pacific. The group emphasizes peace, hope, choice, self-awareness, inner strength, dignity, understanding, clarity, and purpose. Their mission is to build and maintain the Pacific Islander and Asian community.

Shakespeare at San Quentin

Since 2003, Marin Shakespeare Company has offered weekly Shakespeare classes at San Quentin Prison, culminating in an annual performance of a Shakespeare play. The men also write and perform autobiographical theatre pieces inspired by their work with Shakespeare.

Chung Kao

Peer educator and hospice volunteer
Chung Kao has been incarcerated for 23 years for second-degree murder. He has a BA in Economics and was a business school grad student when he committed his crime. Suddenly caught in the brutal reality of prison life, with no hope for the future, Kao quickly learned to reciprocate violence and aggression. This would lead to his getting swept up in the malevolence of prison life. Grieving for the loss of his father in 2001 would give Kao time to reflect. He realized that his preoccupation with being perceived as masculine had stunted his inner growth and caused him to regress. He then began to meditate and taught himself tai chi, which he practices along with zazen and yoga. Through meditation he is able to ground himself and find inner peace, realizing that the solutions to personal and inter personal issues are always within, not outside, himself. Today Chung is a student and proponent of mindfulness in prison.

Curtis "Wall Street" Carroll

Financial literacy advocate
Carroll grew up in Oakland, California surrounded by poverty. In 1996, at 17 years old, he committed a robbery where a man was killed. He turned himself in and ended up in prison with a 54-to-life sentence. While in prison, the stock market captured his attention, but he was illiterate. Finally motivated to learn, he taught himself how to read at 20-21 years old, and then he started studying the stock market. Carroll's role models changed from drug dealers and sports figures to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. He wanted others to learn this new way of making money. When Carroll arrived at San Quentin in 2012, he met Troy Williams, who helped him start the Financial Literacy Program. Together they created the philosophy F.E.E.L (Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy) that teaches people to recognize how their emotions affect their financial decision, and how to separate the two.

Darnell Washington

Advisor, Restorative Justice Roundtable
Once Darnell entered prison he decided to turn his life around. He chose to walk away from a destructive lifestyle that was full of hurt, pain, and loss. In order to address his internal issues, Darnell would get involved with every self-help group that he could. While at San Quentin he would be drawn to the Restorative Justice Roundtable, largely because it dealt with the healing of victims, offenders, and their respective communities. He would also become interested in the social justice program The San Quentin Alliance for C.H.A.N.G.E., which teaches participants how different forms of justice can be applied to building a healthy and self-sustaining community. Darnell has become a leader and facilitator in both groups. His goal is to use his newly acquired knowledge to become a community activist and Motivational Speaker who educates and brings healing to the community.

David Jassy

David Jassy is a Grammy-nominated artist, songwriter, and producer from Stockholm, Sweden. He began his career in music as a human beat box performer and later formed the rap band Navigators. He’s written songs for a number of artists including Ashley Tisdale, Sean Kingston, Mohombi, Iyaz, and Charice.

David B. Le

Journalist / San Quentin News
David Le was born in Vietnam and raised in Oakland, CA. He’s the youngest of 3 boys. He’s passionate about thinking, musing, pondering ideas, then writing those ideas into existence. His interest lies in business and computer programming, but his unique talents are in organizing, planning and writing. When he’s not at work in San Quentin’s Education Department, or volunteering in the prison’s literacy program, he’s pursuing his college degree and participating in a number of self-help programs.

Diana Toche

Undersecretary of Health Care Services, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Dr. Diana Toche was appointed as Undersecretary of Health Care Services for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on May 13, 2014 by California Governor Jerry Brown. She has served in multiple positions, including acting Undersecretary of Administration and Offender Services, acting director of the Division of Health Care Services and statewide dental director. She was the Dental Director at Central Valley Indian Health Inc. from 1991 to 2008 and an associate dentist 1989 to 1991. Dr. Toche earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of the Pacific. Diana cycles approximately 125 miles per week. She has competed in many century bicycle rides and most recently, she carried the torch and lit the cauldron for the Special Olympics, which were held in Davis.

Dionne Wilson

Board of Directors, Insight Prison Project
In 2005, Dionne Wilson’s police officer husband was killed in the line of duty. Even though the killer was caught, convicted, and sentenced to death, Dionne was lost in vengeance, hatred, and pain. Her healing began as she tried to change the flawed system. She now advocates for services that break the cycle of violence: trauma recovery for victims, drug treatment, mental health services, education, and job training. As the Survivor Outreach Coordinator for Californians for Safety & Justice, she speaks with crime survivors all across California. Through the Insight Prison Project, Dionne also meets with men and women convicted of violent crimes and has found that restorative justice practices are far more effective at stopping crime than vengeance has ever been. Through this work, Dionne has discovered a newfound passion for life and love of people that didn’t seem possible after her husband was murdered.

Earnest Sanford

Correctional Officer at San Quentin State Prison
Correctional Officer Earnest Sanford has worked at San Quentin for 14 years. During his career he has worked in a number of locations around the prison - from death row, to San Quentin’s reception center, and now for the past 4 years, in San Quentin’s education department. His view of offenders has shifted over the years, especially since being an education officer, and now he believes every human being is entitled to respect. With this shift, his ability to be an effective officer has greatly increased, as has his capacity to lead a full and productive life.

Ira "S.C. Prince" Perry

Ira Perry (also known as "S.C. Prince") was born in 1966 to Arlee and Ola Mae Perry in South Central, Los Angeles. He grew up in a two-parent household, went to college, and has always shown an interest in acting and performing. Ira is also a prime example of how growing up in a gang, crime, and drug infested neighborhood can eventually lead to bad decisions. He is now serving a 50 year-to-life sentence and has been incarcerated since 1994.

Jarvis Clark

Jarvis Juvan Clark (also knows an “Lady Jae”) is a Transgender performance artist and poet who has been incarcerated for 27 years. Jarvis was born in Detroit, Michigan and moved to San Diego, CA at an early age. While in college, her first role was in a production of the Wiz (1982) where she was cast as a singing and dancing crow. Soon after, she started a dance troupe called Street Jazz Productions (1983-1984). Since being incarcerated, Jarvis has participated in many programs and has received a number of high achievement certificates. In 2013, she arrived at San Quentin and hit the ground running. She’s an original member of A.C.T. (Acting with Compassion and Truth), an LGBTQ-based educational class. The curriculum teaches gender identity awareness. In May of 2015 Jarvis was cast as Lady MacBeth in the Marin Shakespeare Company at San Quentin’s production of MacBeth.

Maurice Reed

Maurice Reed is a natural-born performer who is a leader in San Quentin’s performing arts community. For the past three years Maurice has been a member of the Marin Shakespeare Company at San Quentin. He also participates in the Artistic Ensemble where members connect, share, and express life experience through body movement. In his spare time, Maurice enjoys listening to Rhythm and Blues, Pop, Country, and Hip Hop music. From acting on stage to writing poetry, each of these activities contribute to him pursuing his life’s passion of being a rapper/song writer.

Neil Barsky

Founder and Chairman, The Marshall Project
Neil Barsky is the founder and chairman of the Marshall Project, a Pulitzer prize winning news outlet, intended to shed light on the United States criminal justice system. He has been a newspaper reporter (The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News), equity research analyst (Morgan Stanley), hedge fund manager (Midtown Capital, Alson Capital) and documentary film director (“Koch”). Barsky is the chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review board of advisers and sits on the board of trustees of Oberlin College. Barsky is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He reported extensively on the business career of Donald Trump, and was awarded the 1991 Loeb Award for "coverage of the collapse of Donald Trump's financial empire." In his 1997 book, Trump: The Art of the Comeback, Trump wrote "Of all the writers who have written about me, probably none has been more vicious than Neil Barsky of the Wall Street Journal."

Pete Worden

Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation; former director, NASA Ames Research Center
Simon Peter "Pete" Worden, (Brig. Gen., USAF, Ret., PhD) was Director of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, until his retirement on March 31, 2015. On July 20, 2015 at the Royal Society in London, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking launched the Breakthrough Initiatives with Worden as Chairman. Prior to joining NASA, he held several positions in the United States Air Force and was research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is a recognized expert on space issues – both civil and military. Dr. Worden has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers in astrophysics, space sciences, and strategic studies. He served as a scientific co-investigator for two NASA space science missions, and received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine mission.He was named the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Laboratory Director of the Year.

Philip Melendez

Education clerk / Prison University Project
Born and raised in Sacramento, CA, in 1997, at age 19, Philip Melendez committed two counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years to life. Numerous years of self-help and introspection have taught him to live a more restorative and positive life. He is currently enrolled at Patten University in San Quentin, mentoring at-risk youth, and striving to teach people about the need for more empathy, compassion, and understanding in the world. A key member of the TEDx marketing team, he is also the president of Kid C.A.T.’s Communications and Outreach Department where he is actively involved in creating awareness of youth justice issues and developing ways to end the school-to-prison pipeline. When he is not studying for his classes at Patten University at San Quentin he is taking self-help and personal growth classes to better prepare for mentoring traumatized youth. He is a perpetual optimist, who believes that restorative justice will one day become global practice.

Robert Barton

Inspector General, State of California
Robert Barton currently serves as the California Inspector General responsible for oversight of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, including critical incidents, internal affairs, complaints, medical care, use of force and other legislatively requested reviews. He chairs the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board reporting and making recommendations on rehabilitative programs for inmates and parolees.  He began his public service with the Fresno Sheriff’s Department in 1984, while completing his B.S. in criminology at CSU- Fresno. He graduated from UC Davis King Hall, with his JD in 1988. He then served as a prosecutor in the Kern County District Attorney’s Office and from 2000-2005 supervised the gang, prison crime, juvenile and truancy units. He was then appointed as a Supervising Assistant Inspector General in 2005, before being appointed in 2011 as the Inspector General. He holds a lifetime Community College instructor credential in law. .

Robert E. Rubin

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary
Robert E. (Bob) Rubin began his career in finance at Goldman, Sachs & Company in New York City in 1966. Long active in public affairs, Mr. Rubin joined the Bill Clinton administration in 1993 as director of the newly created National Economic Council. In 1995, Mr. Rubin was appointed as the United States’ 70th secretary of the treasury where he was involved in balancing the federal budget; opening trade policy to further globalization; acting to stem financial crises in Asia, Mexico, and Russia; helping to resolve the impasse over the public debt limit; and guiding sensible reforms at the Internal Revenue Service.From 1999 to 2009, Mr. Rubin served as a member of the board of directors at Citigroup and as a senior advisor to the company. Mr. Rubin is one of the founders of the Hamilton Project, an economic policy project housed at the Brookings Institution that offers a strategic vision and innovative policy proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans.

Ron Self

Founder, Bootcamp Out - Veterans Healing Veterans from the Inside Out
Ron G. Self, a former combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served from 1987 to 1996, is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. While in prison, Self's personal struggles prompted him to found the self-help group Veterans Healing Veterans From The Inside Out to try to stop the alarmingly high suicide rate among veterans.

Sam W. Johnson, Sr.

Executive Chairman, Men's Advisory Council
After being incarcerated for 22 years, Sam W. Johnson, Sr., was released from San Quentin on Friday, February 24, 2017. For the past six years, Sam has been the Executive Chairman of the Men’s Advisory Council at San Quentin, meeting with the Warden and administration to represent the interests of the inmate population. He's also a facilitator for Insight Prison Project's Victim Offender Education Group, a restorative justice program. He is the Co-Leader of the Alliance for Change Mentor Department and also co-facilitates their anger management course. Through the Prison University Project, he received an A.A. degree from Patten University.

Shadeed Wallace-Stepter

Chairman, Society of Professional Journalists at San Quentin
Sha grew up in a household where the majority of adults either used or sold drugs. By the time he was in high school, Sha was a full-fledged drug-dealer who placed the value of money over everything including his family, friends, and even the well being of others. Being incarcerated would help Sha finally shatter the destructive mentality that he had subscribed to the majority of his life, While pursuing his A.A. Degree in San Quentin , he discovered entrepreneurship. He would draw parallels between his past life of street hustling and this business model. Sha would come to believe that many of the characteristics used to be a successful street hustler are the same characteristics needed to be a successful entrepreneur.Sha now spends his time showing individuals who come from similar backgrounds as his that entrepreneurship provides a positive, more productive alternative to hustling and that the streets have already equipped them with the tools to be successful in this field.

Troy Williams

After serving 18 years of a life sentence for kidnap and robbery, Troy Williams was released from San Quentin prison in October, 2014. He is the founding Chairman and CEO of the San Quentin Prison Report, a radio collaboration with KALW. While incarcerated, Troy participated in over 50 self-help, mental health and therapeutic programs. Troy specializes in creating and producing projects designed to convert negative urban experiences into transformative tools for social change. His hard work and dedication were recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, and in November 2014, in collaboration with Nigel Poor and Holly Kernan, Troy received an Excellence in Journalism Award.

Organizing team


Albany, NY, United States
  • Brian Asey
    Post production
  • Samuel Robinson
  • Shadeed Wallace-Stepter