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Belvedere woman helps share stories from inside San Quentin

Belvedere resident Diane Kahn co-founded the online storytelling platform Humans of San Quentin in 2018. (Clara Lu photo / For The Ark)

As a teacher inside San Quentin State Prison helping inmates obtain their high school equivalency credentials, Belvedere resident Diane Kahn saw an opportunity to share the stories of the people she met on the inside.

In 2018, Kahn, 55, came up with an idea for an online storytelling platform called Humans of San Quentin, inspired by the popular photo blog “Humans of New York” started by photographer Brandon Stanton more than a decade ago.

Over the past few years, Kahn and a small team of editors and interns — many of them currently or formerly incarcerated — have gathered stories, photographs, poetry and artwork from more than 1,200 inmates in San Quentin and prisons around the world. The project’s goal: to humanize those whom society has demonized, Kahn says.

“No one has treated them well since the day they got handcuffed in that courtroom,” she says. “No one has been on their side, and definitely no one from the public.”

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