Back to the Start produces powerful narratives underscoring the need for critical investments in early childhood and family resources. Co-led by incarcerated individuals at San Quentin and a former Chief Physician and Surgeon of California’s prison health care system, the new narrative series is written by incarcerated persons reflecting on the arc of their lives from childhood to incarceration. This initiative is grounded in the power of stories and provides a historically missing viewpoint to help build empathy and a shared understanding of the legacy of our nation’s systemic and racial inequities starting at birth.
Back to the Start was established in 2022, to highlight and advance policy solutions on issues that are at the intersection of childhood poverty, trauma, and systemic racism, with narratives written by incarcerated individuals. As Children’s Defense Fund puts it, “Poor children of color are the canaries in America’s deep mines of child neglect and racial and economic injustice...These accumulated and convergent risks form a Cradle to Prison Pipeline, trapping these children in a trajectory that leads to marginalized lives, imprisonment and often premature death”. Instead of focusing on blaming individuals experiencing poverty and racism, our stories illustrate missed opportunities and unjust systems at the root of inequities. Our work and narratives are applicable to a range of issues and policies, specific examples include: violence prevention, basic income, universal access to medical and mental health care, affordable quality child care, safe housing/neighborhoods, and closing the achievement gap.