What We Believe In

Our Impact Team, on the ground in San Quentin, selected the values that our organization holds in the forefront of its operations and considers to be of utmost importance as we work to create a more compassionate and just world. 


We Believe in Empowerment

Our nation’s prisons and jails are composed of historically disadvantaged people who come to prison with little opportunity and will leave it with even less. At San Quentin SkunkWorks, we’re doing something revolutionary. We are giving incarcerated people the opportunity to do good, not learn about it or talk about it, but to actually do it.

Empowerment is a critical part of rehabilitation because everyone, no matter who you are, has a story in their own head. We build our self-image out of that story, and it largely defines who we are. If suddenly you’re seen as capable, compassionate, and honorable, the version of you in the story can become capable, compassionate, honorable. 

We believe that this idea that incarcerated people will choose to do good, if given opportunity, has the power to change the world, not in some distant future but here and now.  We’ve staked our entire organization on it. Incarcerated people wrote our mission statement, designed our programs, serve on our boards, and hold key leadership positions. They are the backbone, the heart, and the soul of our organization

We Act With Compassion

This is the value that provides the groundwork for SkunkWorks as an organization. It is far easier to look at the sufferings of a minority people and turn a blind eye than it is to empathize with them. We value compassion for the link it provides one human with another and we vow to serve with compassion at our center. Without it we lose ourselves as human beings.

We Act With Justice

We believe the idea that everyone should be treated fairly and equitably to be essential to our nature as human beings. However, this is not shown in the criminal justice system where marginalized people and those of lower socioeconomic status are incarcerated at substantially higher rates than their counterparts. And it is not shown in the prison system where facilities are still segregated by race and sexual orientation. We believe and we work for justice for all in a system where there are grave injustices being done.

We Act With Transparency and Integrity

Our commitment to transparency and integrity extends beyond our legal obligations; it’s a commitment we make to all our stakeholders. We evaluate our programs and share the results. By leading with integrity and acting with transparency we’ve created a culture in which everyone in the organization is involved in making decisions and accepting responsibility for how the organization is run. We make sure our staff and volunteers have the knowledge, information and education to properly read and interpret data and we freely share the results.

We Believe Everyone Deserves Respect

Every human being, regardless of their past, deserves to be treated with respect. We show this respect in giving incarcerated persons the opportunity to create better habits and make better choices. The criminal justice system, as it exists today, does not provide the groundwork for either of those things and, instead, treats incarcerated people as monsters not deserving of the respect all human beings deserve. By showing and modeling respect for incarcerated people we can build a foundation of self-esteem and self-worth on which these better habits and choices can stand.

We Are Audacious

We believe in a radical idea that, deep down, most people are pretty decent. In the face of overwhelming skepticism, we have the audacity to believe that humanity is mostly good. It’s a disruptive belief because a positive view of humanity challenges most carceral policy, which assumes the exact opposite. It also challenges existing power structures and popular media narratives, but we’re confident in this belief because the evidence is clear; the essential goodness of humanity is substantiated by nearly every branch of science, corroborated by evolution, and verified by everyday experience. We also know this to be true because we see it in our work as we run an organization that breaks the mold around California’s prison system. We empower people every day to be their best selves.

We Promote Diversity

Valuing diversity is important not only because of the moral implications, but also because it brings a richer value to any endeavor. By embracing diversity our organization will gain the benefits of many points of view coming together towards one goal. This will give us a competitive advantage, widen our viewpoints, and by using differences as the strengthening bond that holds us together we will be modeling what we want to see in our communities and the culture of incarceration we strive to change. 

Contact Us: sqsw@sanquentinskunkworks.org; 1(415)275-2058

San Quentin SkunkWorks is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax ID number 88-3852173) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.