It is with great pleasure that I greet you as the new Interim Executive Director of Insight Prison Project. I am looking very forward to working with the extraordinary staff, volunteers, donors, and stakeholders of this remarkable organization.
I have been on the Board of Directors of IPP for almost two years now, and the Board's Chair/President for most of that time. This has been among the most rewarding work of my life and I am honored to be trusted with this new role for the organization. I am following in the footsteps of Ellen Barry--a MacArthur Genius winner and a former Nobel Peace Prize nominee--so I know I have some big shoes to fill. I am very pleased Ellen will continue to be a part of the IPP family. She remains committed to the work of Insight Prison Project and ensuring a smooth transition and bright future for the organization.
We are also expanding and replicating our longtime core programming. We have recently started offering our Victim/Offender Education Group (VOEG) classes in Spanish. Additionally, we are now offering a VOEG/Mind-Body Integration program for prisoners at the county jail and people re-entering society with the San Francisco Adult Probation Department. These are just a few of the ways IPP's Justice Program Director, Sonya Shah, has adapted our highly successful programs to meet the needs of more communities. Sonya has been featured on KPFA radio and the International Media Project this month, talking about the life-changing work of IPP and Restorative Justice. Our VOEG program was also just highlighted through a story in the New York Times (By Talking, Inmates and Victims Make Things 'More Right').
The entire staff of IPP and myself recently had the joy of watching 35 men graduate from our Next Step program at San Quentin State Prison (see pictures here). Next Step is for inmates who have graduated from the initial intensive VOEG program and who wish to continue the work and implement what they have learned into their everyday lives with each other, family, and friends.
I am also happy to announce that my very first executive decision with IPP was to promote Jennifer Thompson to Associate Director. Jennifer was hired five years ago and since then she has been IPP's Operations Manager, Assistant Fundraising Director, Head of Human Resources, Event Coordinator, and our entire Tech Department, among other things. I suggested we change her title to "The Glue" because we know she holds everything together, but in the end it seemed perhaps "Associate Director" would be more appropriate for her name plate. Those of you who have worked with Jennifer know that she is a treasure and I am sure you're all as thrilled as I am that she continues to devote her incredible talents to Insight Prison Project.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our newest Board member, Ophelia Williams. Ophelia is a respected leader and accomplished advocate with more than a decade of experience addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. juvenile justice system. Additionally, for five years, Ophelia was the CFO of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, and before that she was the Development Associate for the Center for Young Women's Development. Ophelia is also a crime survivor, having lived through being shot in the head by a stray bullet at the age of 15. She has already proven herself to be an invaluable and delightful asset to the IPP team.
We can't wait to tell you more at our annual 'Beyond the Bars' dinner on November 13 in San Francisco, CA. We will also be co-hosting a screening of Unlikely Friends with California Institute of Integral Studies on October 28 at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco, CA. Please join us for one or both events, which promise to be inspiring and transformative. Stay tuned for more information about each of these in the coming weeks.
Thank you for your support of Insight Prison Project!
All the Best,
Interim Executive Director,
Insight Prison Project
Billie at Billie@InsightPrisonProject.org or Jennifer Thompson at Jennifer@InsightPrisonProject.org.