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The First Step Curriculum


Brief History

In 2010, a group of men at San Quentin State Prison decided to get together to discuss forming a new group at the prison, one that would specifically cater to the needs of the “Juvenile Lifer” community. What began as an initiative to present in the form of a senate bill, the direction quickly shifted to one of accountability, community service, and the responsibility to make amends for the crimes that the founders had created by their commitment offenses. They decided since they committed crimes in their youth, they would give back to the youth of today. They formed Kid Creating Awareness Together (C.A.T.), whose mission is to inspire humanity through education, mentorship, and restorative practices. In addition to a number of Kid C.A.T. projects, the founders were challenged to provide the San Quentin population with something that would benefit their quality of life. They decided to design a self-help curriculum that would focus on the development of the self. That curriculum is now know as The First Step. The First Step has been made available to all California prison with the intention to one day reach every prison, and beyond.

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Program Description

The purpose of Kid C.A.T.’s The First Step program is to help participants understand their life development, beginning with their childhood. By understanding the origins of who and how they have come to be today, this program helps participants gain a deeper awareness of their present day thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The First Step offers participants the opportunity to connect their life dots; to heal the relationship between childhood and present day; and prepare for a more conscious, accountable, empowered, and integrated life.

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  • Identify and explore the origins of past pain in order to create opportunities for healing.   

  • Develop and cultivate emotional intelligence as a way to become more aware and take ownership of self. 

  • Provide a space that acknowledges and celebrates the fulness of each individual.  

  • Integrate new concepts and skills into their lives and relationships. 

  • Expand as human beings. 

About The First Step Program

The First Step program offers participants a place to gain a deeper understanding of their self through the work of writing and sharing; listening to the stories of others, interactive activities, circle process and being in community. Together, participants will work towards a common goal of gaining insight into themselves, addressing harm, deepen in relationships and create space for healing and transformation. 

This program is designed to follow the same format through the nine modules: pre-incarceration (past), incarceration (present), and post-incarceration (future). The program is divided into nine, three-week modules, each class two hours.


Participants experience large group dialogues, guest lectures, small (breakout) groups, and activities. The First Step is a twenty-eight (28) week program, including three weeks for participant/program introductions, and program completion/closing. The following are the program’s modules: 

  1. Identifying Emotions & Sensations 

  2. Self Identities 

  3. Masculinity 

  4. Communication 

  5. Environmental Influences 

  6. Consequences 

  7. Empathy/Compassion 

  8. Forgiveness 

  9. Trauma 


The First Step uses a harm reductive model through a trauma informed lens; we do not aim to create harm, but to unravel past pains in order to foster an environment of learning, personal growth, and healing. 

The first step to preparing for and living a more connected and meaningful life is to begin by understanding the Self.

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