Prison newspapers are blossoming, thanks to unique insights and a captive audience.
NiemanLab’s Hanaa’ Tameez says the growth spot – “where you might not expect it” – has seen four new prison papers launched in the US in the last year.
She quotes the Prison Journalism Project’s new Prison Newspaper Directory that there are now 24 prison-based newspapers in 12 states.
The project provides training and resources to incarcerated journalists who want to tell stories from inside their correctional facilities.
“The idea for the directory came out of San Quentin News, one of the oldest and most established prison newspapers, at the San Quentin State Prison in Northern California,” she says.
Previously jailed journalist Kevin Sawyer began with his own research about prison newspapers as associate editor of the San Quentin News, and shared this with PJP, according to project editor Kate McQueen. PJP was able to build this into a directory.
McQueen says many people are unaware of prison newspapers. “Just being made aware that there are people trying to do this work in a prison near where they are is a huge step forward,” she says, adding that she looks forward to collaborations with those on the inside. “Knowing that they have potential partners on the inside that they could collaborate with, and not just use as a source of information, but could co-publish… would be an exciting thing that we’d love to see happen.”
She says how robust each operation is depends on what kind of support it gets from the correctional facility from which it is operating, and from local community members on the outside.
Among publications, the Mule Creek Post keeps state prison inmates up-to-date with a list of new laws, event coverage of the California Department of Corrections secretary’s visit to the facility, a creative writing section, a story on hate crimes against Asians, and a list of details and things to know ahead of being released.
Pictured: The state of the prison press has fluctuated since the Prison Mirror launched in Minnesota in 1887 (illustration Teresa Tauchi/PJP).