The Insight Prison Project (IPP) was founded in 1997 as a community based nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing recidivism, preventing re-victimization and serving public safety through rehabilitation programs inside San Quentin State Prison. Under the leadership of Founding Director, Jacques Verduin, IPP provided unique rehabilitation programs for self-selected and motivated prisoners so that they could begin to break the cycle of incarceration. Jacques resolved to build an organization that would hold a lamp up in one of the dark places in our culture, a place where we discard human beings, label them as throwaways and forget about them. He envisioned an organization built upon the belief that we can only find our human dignity in caring for each other. He stated that, “race, class, and economic difference evaporate as we spend time with each other, getting past the idea of one another and connecting with who we really are”. This work was supported by then San Quentin Warden, Jeanne Woodford, who stated that the “prison itself has a responsibility to address the need of the community to prevent further criminal behavior from released parolees and actively promote rehabilitation as an aspect of crime prevention”.
Over time, the number of prisoners interested in participating in IPP's programs grew. In order to better serve the growing need, IPP brought in Rochelle Edwards to teach parenting classes and James Fox to launch a yoga and meditation program among others. This multi-disciplinary rehabilitation program was named the Success Program and is still running today under its current name “Stand Up” Program.
In 2008, Jaimee Karroll joined the IPP staff as Administrative Director. As Program Director, James Fox has continued to expand the Mind Body Integration and Violence Prevention Work as well as the administrative coordination of programs at San Quentin. He has traveled nationally and internationally to speak about the use of Yoga as a tool of transformation for people in prison. Jaimee has taken on the role of Training, Educational and Curricula Director, and together with Rochelle, has developed the VOEG (Victim Offender Education Group) and VOD (Victim Offender Dialogues) components of IPP's overall program. Supported by an extensive curriculum and facilitator training, VOEG and VOD are evidenced-based model programs that have garnered a national reputation.
In 2009, Jennie K. Curtis joined the IPP staff as Interim Executive Director to oversee the process of identifying and hiring new a full time Executive Director. Jennifer Thompson also joined the staff as IPP's Operations Manager.
Today, IPP has grown into an active and vibrant organization whose staff members facilitators, volunteers and supporters, both inside and out of prison, work collectively to provide high quality, evidence-based transformative programs to prisoners who are committed to healing and rehabilitation. When we began in 1997, IPP was teaching one class inside of San Quentin State Prison to a small group of 14 life sentenced men. Today, IPP staff and volunteers facilitate 20 classes per week inside of San Quentin for an average of 300 men, as well as conducting two classes inside of FCI Dublin Women’s Prison, and classes in 11 other California state prisons.
We are in the process of replicating our program in three county jail systems and are expanding our work to include outreach to prisoners and former prisoners in community-based programs. We are currently working with the staff and participants of Homeboy Industries, a powerful and effective rehabilitation program in Southern California and are playing an effective role in advocating for expansion of high quality rehabilitative programs inside and out of prison. Our core curriculum revolves around three main programs: Victim Offender Education Groups (VOEG), Mind Body Integration (including a highly regarded prison yoga program and meditation) and Violence Prevention. We also offer several complimentary courses designed to support participants in the core programs with classes that include crisis intervention, violence prevention, “The Work” and pre-parole preparation.
In June of 2012, IPP hired Ellen M. Barry as its new Executive Director. We remain dedicated to bridging the gap between punishment and parole through rehabilitation, so prisoners can finally break the cycle of incarceration, stay out of prison, and become productive community members, and look forward to the expansion of our work to other prisons and programs as well as to other populations who could benefit by the transformative, restorative justice based programs that we offer.