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Poetic Justice Project, a program of the William James Association, began in 2009 with the vision of unlocking hearts and minds with bold original theatre.


Poetic Justice Project advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated youth and adults in arts education, mentoring and the creation of original theatre examining crime, punishment and redemption.



Deborah Tobola, founding Artistic Director of the Poetic Justice Project, worked for more than 12 years teaching writing and managing and arts program in California prisons. Deborah produced six original plays at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo before leaving to begin the Poetic Justice Project.

A widely published poet and children’s book author, her work has earned four Pushcart Prize nominations and three Academy of American Poets awards.


Jorge Manly Gil, Program Manager of Poetic Justice Project, has 20 years of experience in the social service field, for both non-profit agencies and not-for-profit communities and organizations such as Catholic Worker, and the San Diego American Indian Health Center. He’s also served as a chaplain at L.A. County Hospital and co-founded two Catholic Worker communities, one in San Diego and another one in Jalisco, Mexico. He earned a teaching credential from the University of Guadalajara. He’s bicultural and bilingual in Spanish/English.


PJP Leonard Flippen

Leonard Flippen, Poetic Justice Project's Outreach Coordinator, works as a drug and alcohol counselor, helping formerly incarcerated people. He earned a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology at Brandman University in Santa Maria. He is dedicated to helping previously incarcerated people rehabilitate, reintegrate, re-assimilate, and eventually prosper and thrive within the communities from which they were once ostracized.

Poetic Justice Project Advisory Board

John Battalino, Actor and Director
Milly Benson, Retired Juvenile Services Nurse
Bull Chaney, Executive Director, Gryphon Society and Gate Help, Inc.
Jeff Ford, Parole Officer
Marlene Robinson, Retired Development Director
Cynthia Semel, Retired Prison Educator
Phil West, Community Volunteer
Guillermo Willie, Artist