We present a progressive approach to criminal justice policies by reporting on positive changes in prisoner behavior, particularly through rehabilitative efforts.
Beginning in the 1920s, a newspaper called Wall City News was published by men incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. It was billed as “The only newspaper in the world published within the walls of a prison.” Wall City News discontinued publication in the mid-1930s.
In December of 1940, Warden Clinton Duffy revived the newspaper at San Quentin and renamed it: “San Quentin News.” Warden Duffy was considered a progressive warden who created and fostered self-help programs. His purpose for bringing the paper back was to dispel rumors rampant both inside and outside the prison (via the “grapevine”).
Since it was re-established by Warden Duffy, San Quentin News has been suspended for various reasons throughout the years. San Quentin News was suspended shortly after the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that inmate-created publications could not be censored by prison administrators. Rather than allow an uncensored news publication to continue, San Quentin’s administration decided to shut the paper down completely.
In 2008, after nearly 25-years, Warden Robert Ayers, Jr. reinvigorated the San Quentin News. Warden Ayers said that he wanted the newspaper to be a vehicle of information that would dispel prison rumors and gossip which interfere with a safe living environment. Warden Ayers believed the best way to give inmates accurate information is through a peer-to-peer newspaper.
To accomplish his goal Warden Ayers enlisted the help of the prison’s vocational printing department and a handful of incarcerated men and volunteers. Former Editor-in-Chief Kenny Brydon, Michael “Harry O” Harris, and Design Editor Aly Tamboura, along with one of the paper’s former advisers, Joan Lisetor and local journalists John Eagan and Steve McNamara took the reins and built the newspaper, eventually transforming it into a professional publication.
The team of journalists of the reinvigorated San Quentin News also formed the Journalism Guild of San Quentin to teach members of the general prison population how to write articles and contribute to the newspaper. These staff members wrote, edited, designed, printed and distributed the newspaper to prisoners, staff, visitors and volunteers until 2010 when the San Quentin Print Shop was closed due to CDCR budget cuts.
Today, San Quentin News employs a staff of 12-15 incarcerated men, aided by 7 professional advisers and a handful of volunteers who work to produce the newspaper. Printing is done off-site by Marin Sun Printing and transported to the prison where San Quentin News staff prepares and distributes monthly issues to approximately 4,000 incarcerated men at San Quentin as well as to prison staff, volunteers and visitors. San Quentin News staff also ships 18,000 copies of the newspaper to all 35 California prisons and to local communities. Thanks in large part to a substantial donation from the Columbia Foundation in 2013, San Quentin News was able to meet its short-term goal of increasing circulation to its current levels.
(San Quentin News Crew with comedian Kamau Bell)
(Retired Warden Robert Ayers with the SQ News Staff, 2015)
With a recent grant from the Reva and David Logan Foundation —and with your support—our long-range goal is to deliver a monthly issue of the San Quentin News to every prisoner in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (nearly 120,000 in total).
To give a donation, select the “support us” option. All donations are used to cover the expenses of producing and distributing the San Quentin News.
Thank you for your support.