Prisoners say the San Quentin News is a voice for the incarcerated telling them important information about the criminal justice system.
“The newspaper brings a platform to our voice, because we live in a sequestered environment. It keeps us from being mentally confined,” said San Quentin resident Andrew Gazzey.
He was one of about 20 men asked their opinion of the award-winning monthly newspaper.
Two questions were posed to the prison’s population: 1. How does SQNews serve you personally? 2. How does it serve this community and the public as well?
The newspaper has been promoting positive transformative success for many years. It reports on rehabilitative efforts and aims to increase public safety and achieve social justice.
“SQNews is a very powerful newspaper that brings information to the population at the prison about the self-help programs, in particular,” said Danny Ho, a graduate of the on- site Mount Tamalpais College.
The newspaper highlights many of the 90-plus educational, vocational, anti-violence and religious programs available to the incarcerated men.
Frequent highlights are success stories about men attending various classes for basic adult education, GED, self-help, parenting and college degrees.
“The recidivism rate amongst people who do not have an education is 75%, more than those who do have,” said B. “Raheem” Ballard, an academic peer education mentor.
The incarcerated can use the newspaper as a lens to look through for opportunities that may lead to a better life outside of prison. Here is a sample of residents’ reactions:
Tim Ross: “San Quentin News assisted me with getting in self-help groups. My involvement in these programs helps me make better decisions, understanding my lack of reasoning.”
Ben Tobian, a university student and journalism trainee: “San Quentin News is where I first heard about the college programs while I was in the Reception Center. I made the choice to come to San Quentin Prison and I wrote to Mount Tamalpais College. San Quentin News gave me direction.”
Daryl Beulah, an inmate day labor worker: “It gives the outside community much better information about San Quentin prison in general, sending insightful messages to the public, putting in their hearts the truth about us.”
In addition to reporting about incarcerated men, the paper reports on incarcerated women’s achievements around the state and the social justice that impact their lives.
“The paper also informs us about women’s prisons and their rehabilitation efforts,” said resident Alejandro Estrada.
Through SQN, incarcerated men can learn about women’s rehabilitation efforts, and together they can learn about each other’s efforts to change.
The paper also reports on rehabilitative efforts at other facilities, expanding the availability throughout the California prison system.
“I like reading about the programming, but what’s cool is to see people from other prisons in the paper that I may know, and it shows the diversity in programming, like the 1000 Mile Club, (but) no politics,” said Tommy Wickerd, the club’s secretary.
SQN staff live in the same environment where the paper is produced — incarcerated people informing incarcerated people in the form of professional journalism, which is a rarity.
Many of the population know the newspaper staff, and some who find an interest in reporting join the Journalism Guild classes on Friday mornings.
SQN has reported on numerous famous people throughout its history, like singer James Brown, rapper Common, Johnny Cash and numerous sports figures.