We are a humanitarian non-profit sharing the lives of people inside prison with the outside world. Our mission is to collect real stories shared by incarcerated people in order to bring awareness and build connections. Our aim is to give voice to the unheard. We aspire to educate and build compassion by sharing the lives of humans living behind bars.
Our work is a reminder of our shared humanity. Through first-person narrative storytelling, we present personal stories which break down stereotypes and humanize people living behind bars. Employing presently and previously incarcerated people whenever possible, HoSQ engages everyone – both inside and outside of prison – with educational opportunities for growth, healing and creating lasting societal change.
The Power of Story
HoSQ’s first-person storytelling program provides a platform for healing and recovery. For the storyteller, writing becomes a pathway for self-reflection and a way to process painful experiences in their own words. For the reader, these stories offer countless opportunities for compassion, empathy and understanding. HoSQ inspires individual change by challenging attitudes and beliefs, and by building healthy emotional connections which carry over into our larger communities. We are empowered by including the most excluded population into the public conversation.
In 2017, Diane Kahn, a teacher working inside San Quentin, was inspired by the storytelling project Humans of New York and her passion to share the voice of the men inside. The idea began to take shape with a conversation between Diane and James King, an accomplished incarcerated writer at the time. James suggested that Diane meet with Juan Haines, Senior Editor of the San Quentin News. From the moment Juan and Diane sat down, they were determined to interview the “humans in blue” and share their stories of life inside with the outside world. We started as a small project in San Quentin and has evolved into a national conversation. In 18 months, HoSQ’s digital platform has grown to include voices from over 100 prisons in all 50 states, and collected more than 1200 handwritten stories of people presently incarcerated. In May 2022, HoSQ recorded their first collection of stories from outside of the United States at Chiconautla Women’s Prison in Ectapec, Mexico. Since then, we have shared the voices of people currently incarcerated in Guatemala, Columbia, Phillipes, and Norway. In the last few years, we have grown to more than thirty team members, interns, and volunteers with one third of the team living behind bars. Our local impact in Marin County, which houses San Quentin and our office, is especially tangible: we employ formerly incarcerated individuals who helped to establish HoSQ or who were initially featured on our platform. Our office also hosts a number of local high school and college interns who regularly transcribe, internalize, and empathize with numerous story submissions each day, motivated by the sense of perseverance and purpose imparted on paper by those behind bars.
HoSQ is building the largest platform dedicated to collecting, archiving and sharing first-person stories of people presently and formerly incarcerated.