By Arnulfo T. Garcia
In 2011 I was asked to step into the shoes of Editor-in-Chief; a job that I knew was going to be difficult, but former Editor-in-Chief Michael Harris had confidence that I could do the job. Until then, I had run from all my problems, afraid to face the unknown.
People always saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. Michael believed in me and told me with confidence that I was given the opportunity to be a voice for those that were not able to speak for themselves.
As the days, months and years went by, I started to build that confidence that led me to the path of compassion and understanding for others who still struggle like I did. I’m appreciative for someone who understood my struggles and helped me to overcome those obstacles that kept sending me back to prison.
I’ve been at San Quentin for almost eight years and working for the San Quentin News for over six years and Editor-in-Chief for almost five years. I have to say it’s been challenging, but very successful.
Perhaps the proudest moment during my tenure came when the Society of Professional Journalists awarded the San Quentin News the James Madison Freedom of Information Award. The citation praised the newspaper for producing a high-quality publication under extremely difficult circumstances.
|“Michael believed in me and told me with
confidence that I was given the opportunity to be
a voice for those that were not able to speak for themselves”|
We set out to get the San Quentin newspaper into every prison, and I am proud to say we have accomplished that goal. We went from printing 5,000 copies in 2008 to 15,000 in February 2016. In March we will print 20,000 copies. By August the press run will be 36,000 and by year’s end we will have printed 288,900 copies of the San Quentin News in 2016 at a cost of $55,372. It is our goal to make the paper accessible to every California prisoner who wants one.
At the same time we’ve created San Quentin News forums that allow us to bring in public officials and educators from the community to talk about incarceration, rehabilitation and re-entry. Our last forum with a group of teachers helped them understand how to stop the school-to-prison pipeline. As a result, more than 30 teachers from four different schools contacted us to learn more about our solutions to stop the school-to-prison pipeline.
The time has now come for some changes to pave the way for a new era for San Quentin News. I will be stepping aside as Editor-in-Chief. I will now be the Executive Editor for the San Quentin News editorial board. Malik Harris will be Editor-in-Chief. He is talented, and I have confidence that he is up to his new role.
There will be some more changes in the newsroom, but let me assure you that our goal continues to be your voice, and as we continue to grow we will have your interest at heart.
I want to publicly thank all our staff and advisers for stepping up and helping me be a better leader. I’ve always told our staff that it is not “me,” but “us” as a team that makes our newspaper what it is.
I have already started on a new project, which will be San Quentin’s first prisoner-produced magazine, which will be an expansion to the newspaper. We could not have done this without all our financial supporters. Thank you for the hundreds of letters that have been flowing in from all around the world.