San Quentin, California 94964
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.