Looking ahead to the future – five years after a successful Revival, The news has many improvements yet to come
As we continue the hard work of reporting the news during the first quarter of this year, you’ll notice that San Quentin News is looking more and more like a real newspaper. We’ve added four pages of color—front, back, and center pages, and we expect to expand further with more funding.
San Quentin News is the only newspaper in California, the nation, and possibly the world, produced by prisoners.
The newspaper has a simple mission: Create a more informed prisoner and public by covering criminal justice policy from our unique and visceral perspective. It is a 16-page monthly, with a circulation of 7,500 papers. The staff is currently working to provide each of the state’s other 32 prisons with up to 200 newspapers each month.
San Quentin News was started in the 1940s; however, it has been shut down repeatedly by the administration. In June 2008, after a long suspension, then-warden Robert Ayers Jr. brought together a select group of prisoners with a volunteer a professional journalist to revive San Quentin News. Today we are proud to say there are 11 prisoners writing for the newspaper, with about nine members of the San Quentin Journalism Guild contributing. About 25 men attend the weekly guild meeting each Friday.
San Quentin News has been receiving much-appreciated support from the Columbia Foundation. With its support, we are funded to print and distribute the newspaper for the next two years. We are grateful for their support, and are seeking additional support as we plan for the future.
We’ve created a partnership with the University of California at Berkeley, where Professor William Drummond gives us further assistance by bringing in journalism students to help with story ideas, editing, and research. The students receive university units toward their degrees for their work. Their presence in this prison also exposes them to our environment, and basically we learn from each other. It is an honor to have them on board.
We also created the San Quentin News Forum. In the first forum, a group of San Francisco prosecutors met with approximately 45 prisoners discussing how they can better understand ways to help reduce the violence in our communities. The prisoners attending the forum are involved with various self-help programs. We want to thank Assistant District Attorney Marisa Rodriguez for making this meeting possible.
Independent journalist Shane Bauer, who spent two years in Tehran’s Evin Prison in Iran (four months in solidarity confinement), visited the San Quentin Journalism Guild. He later met with the newspaper staff to discuss his visit to the Pelican Bay SHU. Bauer said he was shocked to find the isolation conditions were worse than those he faced in Iran.
We also offer special thanks to attorneys Tom Nolan and Dan Barton for their contributions in arranging for the staff to receive several portable word processors for the writers from their colleagues in other law firms.
Overall, the staff greatly appreciates all of the various donations made by individuals, groups and foundations that allow us to bring you the news. We still need to raise the money to get a newspaper to every California prisoner. In the meantime, we ask all those who don’t get to the newspaper, or can’t read it at your prison library, to send $1.32 in stamps. We’ll mail you a copy each time you send us the stamps.
To fellow prisoners, we have been receiving many letters from different prisons, but we want you to keep in mind that the newspaper is not an avenue for complaints. We want news! We would like to know what programs are up and running in other institutions, who graduated from what program, who went home after serving their sentence, whether there are exceptional volunteers who need to be recognized. Give us the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We want to hear from you.