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From the inside, looking out

From the inside, looking out

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San Quentin inmate Juan Moreno Haines, senior editor of the monthly CNPA-Member San Quentin News, has filed stories that have been published in external media during the coronavirus pandemic and prison lockdown.

Those on the outside who have followed recent news of the coronavirus’ spread in the prison might give a thought to the crew that had produced the San Quentin News before it ceased printing three months ago.

Steve McNamara, former owner of the Pacific Sun in Marin County, is one of the advisers to the prison paper. He reminded CNPA last week that inmates can mail things out and make phone calls, but there is no email. With the facility locked down, and inmates confined nearly 24-7, there has been no opportunity to work in the media center, which needs an administrator to supervise the journalism inmates.

Even before the lockdown, all stories were reviewed by a prison public-information officer before publication.

Inmate Haines, who McNamara dubbed a true senior editor and not a “managing editor,” has this piece, “In the middle of a pandemic, prisoners at San Quentin are punished for being sick,” in The Appeal, a criminal justice news portal that is a project of The Justice Collaborative.

Ben Trefny, a public-radio news director in San Francisco, is also president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter. He has worked with the prison inmates for close to a decade. Trefny told CNPAlast week that the journalism inmates at San Quentin and at its counterpart in Solano County were able to file audio reports for podcasts right until the prisons’ lockdown on March 13.

Trefny, on behalf of his SPJ chapter, has informed members and the public of the need for concern both locally and at the state level regarding the journalism inmates and the prison population as a whole.

“We are gravely worried about the health of our colleagues,” Trefny wrote. “We have been concerned for them since the beginning of this pandemic, but it now appears that a transfer of prisoners from another institution may have sparked a very dangerous outbreak.”

The San Quentin journalism inmates, numbering more than a dozen, have their own SPJ satellite chapter.

McNamara, the print mentor, reminded CNPA that San Quentin News is probably the only inmate-controlled newspaper in the country.

Elsewhere:“San Quentin’s Breakthrough Prison Newsroom” (Politico)