Prisoners at California State Prison-Solano are developing and publishing a newspaper, the Solano Vision. The newspaper began when Cole Bienek, editor-in-chief, rounded up a team of writers to contribute stories.
The new publication’s story is reported by Krissi Khokhobashvili in a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation newsletter. Bienek explained he just went around and grabbed these guys and said, “Please write.”
The Solano Vision is published quarterly. Its first edition, January 2014, contains articles about Solano’s education programs, self-help programs and book reviews.
Advisers for the Solano Vision include Solano’s education principal, Kenya Williams, and teachers Rudolph Muldong, Tara Foster and Catherine Resurreccion.
Williams stated the importance of prisoner populations having a voice, “The Solano Vision is that voice. It is my hope that the Solano Vision provides information, becomes a resource to reference and a voice in the night. I want it to be a meaningful and thoughtful publication.”
Bienek and the writing team want to give prisoners a voice to express concerns, hopes and dreams represented in a meaningful way.
The Vision’s team of writers and editors includes Bienek and former San Quentin News Staff Writer Kris Himmelberger. The staff also includes Photo Editor Steve Drown, Managing Editor Wendell Bigelow, who offers legal expertise, and Copy Editor Greg Coglianese. A journalism guild also contributes stories of sports, entertainment, and commentary on prison life.
One notable Vision article featured former Solano prisoner James “Alex” Alexander. He paroled and later was recognized by the Dalai Lama as one of the “Unsung Heroes of Compassion.” This story was subsequently featured in a CDCR newsletter and by the Alternatives to Violence Project.
Prisoner-run newspapers are not new in California. The San Quentin News’ roots date back to the 1920s. California Men’s Colony of San Luis Obispo once had a newspaper, R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility and Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla also publish a newsletter.
Newsletters are reviewed by prison officials and are recognized by CDCR as “… positive programs that help prepare inmates for successful returns to their communities by fostering writing and communication skills.”
Like the San Quentin News, the Vision operates without state funding, so donations of equipment and time are welcome. To learn more about Solano Vision call (707) 451-0182.