Video by Rob Stewart, TV Specialist, OPEC
with additional footage from First Watch
Meet Shadeed “Sha” Wallace-Stepter, a media producer making waves in the creative world. Wallace-Stepter, who spent nearly 20 years in prison, is now using the skills he honed during his incarceration to inspire others to succeed.
Wallace-Stepter is known for producing numerous audio and video projects as part of San Quentin State Prison’s media center and Re:Store Justice First Watch multimedia program, but his accomplishments didn’t stop there. He served as chair of the Society of Professional Journalists San Quentin branch, was lead facilitator for First Step Curriculum, which focused on childhood trauma, and was the vice-chair of Kid CAT, a rehabilitative program focused on those who committed their crimes as juveniles. In 2016, he curated TEDx San Quentin, where he also gave a motivational talk about entrepreneurship and the power of transformative thinking.
In August 2018, Governor Jerry Brown took notice of Wallace-Stepter’s work, and granted him a commutation. As a free man, Wallace-Stepter has not forgotten those still incarcerated working toward freedom, and uses his skills to create inspiring and educational content.
In this video, Wallace-Stepter shares his thoughts on public misconceptions about people in prison, and how CDCR and the criminal justice system as a whole are shifting toward rehabilitation and second chances.
Watch the YouTube video (may not play on a CDCR computer).
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So I had been incarcerated basically since my junior year of high school.
For one, when I first got to prison, I had never seen anybody go home.
It was around like seven or eight years ago that you started seeing people with life sentences go home.
At first it was just like OK that’s an outlier, that’s an anomaly, this dude was different he was lucky.
Then it just started happening more and more often.
I think the difference is that it’s showing the work that the average incarcerated person is putting in.
Like, guys aren’t just sitting there thinking of and devising different ways to smuggle in drugs and stab each other.
That’s not what the average prisoner is in there doing.
They’re figuring out ways to better themselves so they can get back into society, and contribute.
Everybody has the right to be safe.
Everybody has the right to have a quality of life that doesn’t involve them worrying about whether or not somebody’s going to hurt them.
And so from that perspective, I look at CDCR as, you know, we’re all stakeholders.
What affects me is going to affect you is going to affect everybody else in this society.
I mean, there’s no– there shouldn’t be these separations like they are.
And for me it just makes sense to want to collaborate and help people who are sharing the same thing that I have access to.