On California’s Only Inmate-Produced Newspaper

From the New York Times:

Founded in 1940 and then revived as a serious journalistic enterprise six years ago, the monthly News, which bills itself as “The Pulse of San Quentin,” is the state’s only inmate-produced newspaper and one of the few in the world. The paper’s 15 staff members, all of them male felons, write from the unusual perspective of having served an estimated 297 ½ years collectively for burglary, murder, home invasion, conspiracy and, in one case, a Ponzi scheme.

In a notorious prison best known for its death row, the men are committed to what Juan Haines, the 56-year-old managing editor, who is serving 55 years to life for that 1996 bank robbery, calls “boots on the ground” journalism, accomplished without cellphones or direct Internet access. “It’s about being heard in a place that’s literally shut off from the world,” he said.

The magazine’s editors, who produce the paper on grant money, donations and subscriptions and work under other unique constraints (“This year, the news operation was suspended for 45 days after a photograph of a Shakespearean play performance was swapped without approval”), are hoping to expand their current circulation of 11,500; the April issue is sort of hard-boiled and folksy, with a Spanish-language excerpt, extensive policy coverage, a Sudoku corner, and an editor-in-chief’s column starting “Letters, letters, and more letters!”

The Times piece cites the paper’s founding in 1940, but the San Quentin News website has an archived copy of an 1930 copy of its predecessor, the Wall City News, which is almost slapstick (or maybe that’s just the ‘30s). The picture here is from that issue, and so is this:

Keep yu’re shirt on, and remember, I’m for what’s left of yu,


P.S. I asked Capt. Ackley if it would be all rite of you sent me a money order and he said sure.