CA Prison Paper Lauded for ‘Extraordinary’ Journalism


The New York Times profiles The San Quentin News, a prison newspaper in California recently honored by a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for “accomplishing extraordinary journalism under extraordinary circumstances.” Founded in 1940 and then revived as a serious journalistic enterprise six years ago, the monthly 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 300 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 managing editor Juan Haines, 56, serving 55 years to life for 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. From their newsroom trailer next to the prison yard, they have covered a hunger strike, crowding in California's women's prisons and a federal court order concerning mental health care for California death row inmates.

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