CDCR’s Office of Public and Employee Communications paid a visit to the San Quentin News recently to learn more about the inmate-run publication.
The San Quentin News is one of two inmate-produced newspapers in California (the other is the Vision at CSP-Solano). San Quentin’s first paper, the Wall City News, started in the 1920s, ran until the mid-’30s, and was started again as the San Quentin News in 1940 by Warden Clinton Duffy.
A team of 15 inmate journalists works with advisers with extensive journalism backgrounds, including Steve McNamara, former owner, editor and publisher of the Pacific Sun; Joan Lisetor, former writer for the Marin Independent Journal; John C. Eagan, former Associated Press writer/editor and former publisher of the Marinscope Community Newspapers; and Linda Xiques, former managing editor of the Pacific Sun.
Students from the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership are helping the staff develop and implement a long-term business plan to increase paid subscribers, and UC Berkeley journalism students (led by former LA Times reporter William Drummond) serve as advisers, as well.
By being part of the San Quentin News, inmates learn not only about effective writing, but also skills such as proofreading, page layout and design, interviewing and producing under deadline.
The 20-page paper is produced monthly, covering events within the prison, sports, opinion and national issues. During OPEC’s visit, San Quentin News writers expressed their interest in including more information on CDCR’s many rehabilitative programs in future editions.
More than 11,000 copies of the paper are printed each month for San Quentin inmates and correctional staff, and for readers at 17 other CDCR institutions. The paper is funded by grants, donations and subscriptions.
The paper was honored earlier this year by a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for “accomplishing extraordinary journalism under extraordinary circumstances.” Inmate journalists do not have access to email or the Internet, and so rely on advisers and other news outlets for research.”