Back to the Start takes the form of a writing workshop series with participation from incarcerated individuals at San Quentin State Prison. Participants are given a range of prompts, six in total, exploring their childhood experiences. Topics include reflections about their home and school environment, childcare, access to support services, involvement in the foster system, trauma and loss, and first contact with the criminal justice system.
Writings are workshopped together in small groups, including a monolingual Spanish-speaking group, over the course of weekly sessions led by experienced incarcerated writing facilitators/mentors. Using a trauma-informed approach, the workshops also include ample time for processing to ensure participants have strategies and a space to process emotions that may be triggered by their reflections. After the narratives are collected, based on the themes and content of the stories, the organizers help participants edit and compile their stories into cohesive, final pieces which may take the form of a podcast, documentary, article or some other form for public dissemination.