On March 17, 2023, at a press conference inside San Quentin State Prison, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a historic initiative designed to turn San Quentin into “the preeminent restorative justice facility in the world.” Mount Tamalpais College President Jody Lewen has been asked to serve on the advisory group that will lead the transformation over the next several years.
The advisory group will be co-chaired by former San Quentin Warden Ron Broomfield and Brie Williams, Professor of Medicine at the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. “We hope that the increased attention this announcement brings to programs inside San Quentin will shine a light on the transformative experiences and unique perspectives of Mount Tamalpais College students and alumni,” said President Lewen.
The new model–which Governor Newsom has called The California Model–will focus on reimagining the prison and repurposing space to increase education, job training, and other programs for the approximately 3,300 people incarcerated at San Quentin. The governor is allocating $20M in his 2023-2024 budget to the plan. The announcement garnered national attention, with Mt. Tam College highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, AP News, Sacramento Bee, and other news outlets nationwide.
President Lewen attended the press conference alongside state legislators, service providers, advocates, currently and formerly incarcerated people, and the press. MTC alumnus Phil Melendez, who now serves as the Director of Special Projects at Smart Justice California, took to the podium, sharing how much he benefited from the programs inside San Quentin during his years of incarceration there. “I took college courses that nourished my mind, I took personal growth and accountability classes that healed and fed my soul,” he said.
We look forward to updating our community on developments with the initiative as more information becomes available.