The Prison within: the way out is through

When: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Guests/Hosts: Katherin Hervey, Erin Kenway, Troy Williams, Michael Nelson, sujatha baliga, Sonya Shah


There is undeniable complexity to how our individual lived experiences shapes the lens in which we view our world and the tools it provides us to navigate within that world. “The Prison Within” asks the audience to set aside what they think they know about incarcerated people. Most people in prison are first a victim. Anger and violence stems from untreated trauma. When our justice system excludes the notion of rehabilitation, it necessarily perpetuates the cycle of violence by failing to address trauma. 

In this webinar, we will hear from the filmmakers behind the award-winning documentary “The Prison Within,” Also joining the discussion are cast members and renowned restorative justice advocates Troy Williams, Michael Nelson, sujatha baliga, and Sonya Shah - who provide their expertise in the film. Collectively, this will be an engaging dialogue about the importance of healing harm, that which we’ve experienced and caused, and the beautiful transformation that happen as a result.


Guest Bios

Maisha Winn

Michael Nelson serves as the Executive Director of Kid C.A.T., a non-profit aimed at bridging the gap between harm and healing, while supporting the incarcerated youth offender population - those serving (adult) life sentences for crimes they committed during their youth. As a co-founder of the original prison program, Kid C.A.T. of San Quentin, Michael is responsible for replicating the program at the California Men’s Colony of San Luis Obispo, of which he has overseen since 2018, and for continuing on with the mission of and vision of the founders. The goal is to be able to provide access to the program throughout prisons across California, and beyond, where folks can safely discover internal freedom, no matter their circumstances in life.

During his 20-years of incarceration, in addition to becoming a certified crisis counselor, completing his AA degree through Mt. Tamalpais College (formerly Prison University Project), and becoming a service dog trainer,  Michael also learned the skill of being a Circle Keeper through the Victim Offender Education Group (V.O.E.G.), and created Acting with Compassion and Truth (ACT), now known as ALIGHT Justice, a program originally aimed at creating a supportive space for incarcerated gay, bi, and transgender incarcerated persons, and their allies. As a person with lived experience of being directly impacted by the prison system, Michael believes in advocating for the integrity of prison programs created and designed by and for the incarcerated.

Since his release from prison in 2018, Michael has continued to facilitate discussions on  Restorative Justice and circle keeping with various communities of folks - including law enforcement, incarcerated individuals, college students, youth, and families. His commitment to contributing to the healing around him is rooted in his sense of obligation, as someone who is responsible for committing harm in the world.

Utilizing a restorative approach along his healing journey, as well as with being in circle, Michael has found that the clearest path to living in his truth has been through accountability, vulnerability, curiosity, and by holding space for radical acceptance. Through communal story sharing, Michael was introduced to the truth of our interconnectedness; and that in our Oneness is where we find collective wisdom. Today, he continues to spread the experience of being in circle, as was gifted to him inside prison.  He has been featured in films such as: The Mask You Live In, The Prison Within and a short, The Underdogs. When he’s not sitting in a circle with his incarcerated community, you can find him with his dog, Morgan, enjoying time at one of the many beaches on the Central Coast of California.

Maisha Winn

Williams spent 25 years of his life in juvenile and adult prison facilities. 

While incarcerated, he became a certified paralegal, wrote for San Quentin News in the early days, and founded a video and the first award-winning audio production program within a prison called the San Quentin Prison Report (SQPR). Williams also served as the executive director of San Quentin's Restorative Justice Interfaith Roundtable, initiated TEDxSan Quentin, San Quentin’s satellite chapter of NorCal Society of Professional Journalists, and spearheaded efforts to build San Quentin’s Media Lab.

Ten months after being paroled, Williams went back inside as a free man and gave a TEDtalk at TEDx San Quentin. He served on the Alameda County’s Probation Chief’s Advisory Council, San Francisco District Attorney’s Advisory Board, and Oakland’s Public Safety and Services Oversight Commission. He has served as a board member for UnCommon Law, the Northern Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Open Gate’s Men's Advisory Council, and the Life Comes From It Fund Advisory Circle. He currently maintains board membership with the Oakland Private Industry Council, the Prism Way, the Ahimsa Collective, and the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ). 

Since being home, Williams has worked as a Youth Program Development Specialist, Restorative Justice Facilitator, Motivational Speaker, Editor-In-Chief of the San Francisco Bay View, Program Coordinator for the R.I.S.E. Scholars at Chabot College, Communications Manager for Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, and Columnist for the Oakland Post.

Williams was one of 20 journalists selected from 56 countries to participate in the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School Of Journalism. He was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship where he worked to create a national multimedia platform and community engagement program initially named the Restorative Media Project (RMP). RMP helped formerly incarcerated people document their experiences and engage the public. 

Based on years of ongoing work in restorative practices and media production, Williams founded Restorative Media Inc., a non-profit social impact organization whose mission is to give voice to the wisdom of lived experience, advance intellectual ownership, and distribute narratives that inspire social transformation. Restorative Media officially launched a Formerly Incarcerated Speaker Series in partnership with Alcatraz Island (i.e. National Parks Service) on November 5th, 2022. Restorative Media is also in various phases of production on a variety of media projects.

Maisha Winn

Erin Kenway received her juris doctorate from Seattle University School of Law and was admitted to the Order of the Barristers, a national honor society for graduates who demonstrate exceptional skill in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing. After graduating, her primary focus in private practice was civil litigation and family law. She also founded a legal clinic for pro se (self-represented) litigants inside a confidential women's shelter to provide limited legal services, guidance on navigating the complexity of family court, and oral advocacy coaching. She is proud that every pro se litigant she advised prevailed in their court hearing, despite facing experienced family law attorneys who represented their abusers.

She has continued to be active and involved in the Seattle University School of Law community, volunteering as a coach for both NAAC and NMCC teams for Regional and National moot court competitions, serving as a strategic advisor and fundraising campaign leader for the DVPO Clinic, serving on the planning committee for the annual Domestic Violence Symposium, and was pivotal in establishing the Family Law Center. 

After almost a decade of practicing law, she transitioned careers to work in corporate marketing and advertising, working at Amazon as a Global Campaign Manager for broadcast, print, digital, and social advertising campaigns for their award-winning Brand and Mass Advertising team. This position was the springboard for her pivot to independent filmmaking.

Her film projects have received acclaim and press coverage in Forbes, The Guardian, Washington Post, MSNBC, Good Day LA, Deadline, Seattle Met, IndieWire, and more. As an award-winning documentary film producer, her films have accumulated over a dozen international awards and accolades. Her first film The Prison Within, received the prestigious Media for Just Society Award, the only national recognition of media whose work furthers public understanding of adult justice, juvenile justice, child welfare, and adult protection issues. Erin was instrumental in creating a Family Law Center at Seattle University School of Law, where The Prison Within has served as inspiration for an interdisciplinary course. She served as the Executive Producer for her second film Bastards' Road, which was the #1 documentary on iTunes in June 2021 - one of the only truly independent films to ever achieve this level of success. She continues to develop film and media projects, that relate to her interests in social justice and advocacy. She also serves in leadership positions for various community and professional organizations related to the legal profession, film/media, and community well-being.

Maisha Winn

Katherin is an award-winning filmmaker who is interested in what is hiding in the dark corners of the American landscape and our collective psyches, believing truth is often found in the dark before it shines in the light.

Her work as documentary filmmaker is informed by 15 years in criminal justice and prison reform, where she’s worked as a filmmaker & content creator, activist, restorative justice advocate, prison college instructor, and trial attorney for the Los Angeles Public Defender. She is also a thought leader in the field of reform, featured on The Black News Channel, Business Insider, The Guardian, Forbes, and other publications, TV and radio shows, and podcasts. 

THE PRISON WITHIN, her award-winning first feature film, sprung from her work as a Los Angeles Public Defender and volunteer prison college instructor, where she worked weekly with men who had committed serious acts of violence and had been sentenced to die in prison. THE PRISON WITHIN premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, winning best Social Justice Documentary, the first of numerous awards, including the 2021 Media for a Just Society Award. The film is also an accredited class titled “Pathways to Justice” at Seattle University School of Law, part of an educational curriculum for federal and state prisons nationwide, and available on Discovery Plus, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and numerous streaming and cable platforms. 

Katherin was the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of "Shades of Contradiction", a nationally distributed arts and culture magazine dedicated to critical thinking and creative action. She has produced, directed and written short and feature documentaries, including "The Cocktail Waitress" for KCTS/PBS broadcast. Her mixed media artworks and creative fiction have been exhibited in galleries and published in online and print literary journals.

Her current projects include “Trouble Finds Me” (Executive Producer, Producer), “The Creatrix” (Director, Producer, Creator), and the podcast Cell Block Talk (Co-Host, Producer, Creator).

Maisha Winn

Sonya Shah initiated the Ahimsa Collective in 2016. She is also an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Central to her core values are nurturing community belonging and collective care, healing, compassion, love and transforming harm. She is a Buddhist, a first-generation immigrant from the Northwestern part of India and feels most at home in nature. She has two amazing children who remind her what it means to be in love all of the time, and currently resides in Northern California.

Maisha Winn

sujatha baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to people who’ve experienced and caused harm and violence. A former victim advocate and public defender, sujatha is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences about her decades of restorative justice work. She also speaks publicly and inside prisons about her own experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse and her path to forgiveness. In her most recent position directing the Restorative Justice Project, sujatha helped communities across the U.S. implement restorative justice alternatives to youth criminalization. Today, she is exploring restorative justice approaches to ending intimate partner and sexual violence. A 2019 MacArthur Fellow, her personal and research interests include the forgiveness of seemingly unforgivable acts, survivor-led anti-carceral movements, restorative justice’s potential impact on ending racialized mass criminalization, and Buddhist approaches to conflict transformation. She’s a member of the Gyuto Foundation in Richmond, CA, where she leads meditation on Monday nights. sujatha makes her home in Northern California with her partner of 26 years and their 17-year-old child. She is writing her first book.