San Quentin State Prison is home to a wide range of rehabilitation programs, one of which is the San Quentin News. Established in 1940, the newspaper was the first inmate-produced publication in California and quite possibly the world. The paper is produced monthly by a team of 15 inmate journalists with the help of four volunteer advisers who have extensive professional journalism experience. Approximately 11,500 copies are printed each month and distributed to 17 other California institutions.
By Alexandra Powell, Office of External Affairs
The newspaper helps inmate journalists develop a variety of skills such as proofreading, page layout and design, interviewing, working under a deadline and team-building. The paper also gives readers a first-hand look at life in an institution. San Quentin State Prison Warden Kevin Chappell notes, “The San Quentin News helps to broaden the awareness of those things that are important to the men who live behind the walls, and not just a slanted view of a third party.”
The inmate journalists do not have access to the internet or cell phones and must rely solely on their advisers and other news sources. Earlier this year, a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists honored the paper with the James Madison Freedom of Information Award for “accomplishing extraordinary journalism under extraordinary circumstances.”