Newspaper Behind Bars
Posted: 7/7/2014  |  By: Nu Yang
The prison inmates who put out the San Quentin News may not have their freedom, but they still have their freedom of press. The San Quentin News is the only inmate-produced newspaper in California and has been printed off and on since the 1920s under different names including the Wall City News. It was revived in its current form in June 2008.            

The San Quentin News is a monthly, 20-page publication with a press run of 11,500 for inmates, correctional officers and staff, and community members. It can also be found online at sanquentinnews.com. More than 20 inmates write articles for each issue and four other inmates serve as editor in chief, supervising editor, managing editor, design editor and sports editor. A team of advisors, including former newspaper editors and reporters, volunteer their time to help create each issue. The website is also maintained by an advisor.            

According to the Los Angeles Times, the paper “has an aspirational tone, emphasizing uplifting stories about inmates improving their lives and taking advantage of education programs.” But there are also familiar aspects seen in any other newspaper: columns, Sudoku puzzles and book reviews.            

Until 2010, the paper was printed by inmates at the prison print shop, but the shop was closed due to financial constraints. Now, the paper is printed through an outside print shop. Costs to put out and print the paper are covered by donations.            

The Times reported that the paper’s editors hope to increase circulation to at least 120,000 copies in order to distribute them to all of the state’s 34 prisons.                

“We have a vision,” editor in chief Arnulfo Garcia told the Times. “Our dreams are big.”