Freedom of the Press rules - but not in San Quentin prison. The San Quentin News - the inmate-produced newspaper at the California prison - has been suspended for 45 days after "inmates circumvented the editorial process by publishing disapproved content" in their December issue.
The suspension ends on Saturday.Newspaper adviser Bill Drummond, a Berkeley journalism professor, said the inmate editors switched a photo after the page was already approved by prison staff. He said the suspension was overkill and has had a devastating effect on inmate morale.
"The picture in question has no salacious content. The picture they published was the same content of an inmate and volunteer," Drummond said. "It's an unfortunate and unhappy incident."
The inmate staff of about 15 writes, designs and edit the 20-page monthly newspaper. But prison management that has the final say on what is printed. The paper has a total press run of 11,500, also goes to 15 other state prisons.
A prison spokesman said the unapproved December issues were thrown away. The issue was reprinted with the approved photo and distributed as usual, he said.
But Managing Editor Juan Haines, 17 years into his 55-years-to-life sentence for multiple bank robberies, thinks other issues may have factored into the suspension decision.
In a blog lawyer Mary Adkins wrote about the suspension controversy that occurred during family visits to the prison the week of Christmas. The San Quentin News Facebook page 'editorialised’ about the controversy and said it factored into the shutdown decision. Haines says the inmate staff has no control over the Facebook page," Adkins wrote.
Adkins linked to an article printed in the Marin Independent Journal in December about toys that were donated by the Vietnam Veterans' Group of San Quentin for distribution to visiting children that were confiscated by correctional officers. Prison officials confirmed at the time to the Independent Journal that some toys were taken back from children by prison staff because they exceeded the two gift per visit limit.
The prison's spokesman, said the events are not related.
"There is no connection," he said.
The inmate-run newspaper was recently recognized by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for accomplishing extraordinary journalism under the scrutiny of prison authorities.
"These prison reporters, along with volunteers from the outside, raise the curtain of secrecy that shrouds those who live behind the walls," the award press release said.