'It's One of the Few Prison Publications By and For the Prisoners'

Jessica Pishko for the Columbia Journalism Review, on the publication of the San Quentin Times:

The San Quentin News is one of the very few inmate-run publications in the country. Operating within the walls of San Quentin State Penitentiary in Marin County, CA, the approximately 20-page monthly newspaper is staffed entirely by inmates. The newsroom recently moved to a new building just off of the prison’s main yard, where inmates with privileges play basketball and sit outside to chat. Inside the room, a television plays the news, and inmates sit around the few computers, working to make their deadlines. They produce the paper without internet access, depending on non-inmate reporters for research. Because I am a member of the so-called “free world,” many staffers ask me about recent changes in prison policy, such as the California district court’s recent moratorium on the death penalty. While their focus has primarily been to provide information for current inmates, SQN hopes to extend its reach beyond the 11,500 print run it currently maintains, funded solely by private donors and grants. (California stripped away funding for many prison programs in 2010.) To assist in its efforts, it has recruited the help of a team of students from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, as well as a host of volunteers from the community, some of whom run the paper’s website. Volunteers from Berkeley’s School of Journalism work with the writers to perfect their skills. In February, the SQN was awarded a prize by the Society of Professional Journalists for the paper’s “invaluable public service, not just to fellow prisoners but to the general public at large.” This is a very cool story; I love these pro-rehabilitative prison programs.