San Quentin News strives to present a forward-thinking approach in criminal justice policies by reporting on positive changes in prisoner behavior, particularly through rehabilitative efforts.
Beginning as far back as the 1920’s, a newspaper called “Wall City News” was published by men incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. It was billed as “The Only Newspaper in the World Published Within The Walls of a Prison.” Wall City News discontinued publication in the mid-1930’s.
In December of 1940, Warden Clinton Duffy revived the newspaper in San Quentin and renamed it, “San Quentin News.” Warden Duffy was considered a progressive warden who fostered self-help programs at the prison. His purpose for bringing the paper back was to dispel rumors rampant inside and surrounding prisons (known as the “grapevine”).
Since being re-established by Warden Duffy, San Quentin News has been suspended for various reasons throughout the years. Once, in the 1970’s, San Quentin News was suspended when the United States Supreme Court ruled that prison news publications could not be censored. Rather than allowing an uncensored news publication to continue, San Quentin’s then administration decided to shut the paper down completely.
In 2008, then Warden Robert Ayers reinstated San Quentin News after a nearly 25-year suspension. Warden Ayers said that he wanted the newspaper to be a vehicle of information that would dispel prison rumors and gossip, which interfere with a safe living environment. Warden Ayers said he believed the best way to give inmates accurate information is through a peer-to-peer newspaper.
Warden Robert Ayers Jr. with former Editor-in-Chief Michael “Harry O” Harris, San Quentin State Prison, enlisted a handful of incarcerated men along with one of the paper’s former advisors with two other local journalists to guide the paper to a level of professionalism.
Incarcerated men of the reinvented San Quentin News formed the Journalism Guild. These staff members wrote, edited, designed, printed and distributed the newspaper to prisoners, staff, visitors and volunteers until 2010 when the San Quentin Print Shop was closed due to CDCR budget cuts.
Today, San Quentin News employs 12 incarcerated men at San Quentin with 7 professional advisors. Printing is done off-site at Marin Sun, transported to the prison where SQ News staff prepares and distributes them to the nearly 4,000 men incarcerated at San Quentin, prison staff, volunteers and visitors of the prison. SQ News staff also ship between 200 and 800 SQ Newspapers to 17 other prisons and to local communities. Thanks in large part to a substantial donation from the Columbia Foundation in 2013 San Quentin News was able to meet its short term goals of increasing circulation to its current levels. Support from several other foundations includes:
- Annenberg Foundation
- Marin Community Foundation
- and RESIST
The goal is to print and deliver a San Quentin newspaper to every prisoner in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (nearly 120,000). With your help, we will make this a reality. If you would like to contribute in any way please contact us. To give a donation, click: DONATE . All of us appreciate whatever donation you can offer, and all donations are used for the production (printing and office supplies) and distribution (postage) of the San Quentin Newspaper.
Due to the unique position of San Quentin Prison which hosts nearly 70 self-help programs, the state’s only on-site volunteer staffed, college program (Prison University Project), and various state programs not offered any other prison, it is one of our goals to provide prisoners and staff at all of California’s state prisons with information of our programs.
Thank you for your support.