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Illustration by O. Smith

This article was first published by Reynolds Journalism Institute on Sept. 1, 2021.

Shortly after the pandemic began, the Prison Journalism Project (PJP), which I co-founded, started sharing essays and articles by incarcerated writers on COVID-19 experiences in prison. At the time, there was very little information available about the situation in prisons especially as they went on lockdown and halted visitations and programs.

With a single ad in Prison Legal News, a widely-read publication inside prisons, we were off. Submissions began pouring in from across the country, not just about coronavirus experiences but also about George Floyd’s murder, police brutality, LGBTQ experiences and other aspects of prison life. 

By mid-summer, we realized two things. First, the world of 2.3 million incarcerated people held an array of potential stories, news and talent far beyond what we had imagined. There were endless possibilities for interesting community journalism work that pushed the boundaries of what has been done before. Secondly, we were doing this during a time of racial reckoning when our industry was confronting the lack of equity and inclusivity in our ranks, and many newsrooms were making a genuine effort to incorporate underrepresented voices in their coverage. 

Read more here.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Yukari Iwatani Kane is Prison Journalism Project's co-founder and serves as chief executive officer and editor-in-chief.

She is an author, educator and veteran journalist with 20 years of experience. She was a staff writer and foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, and her book Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs (Harpers Business) was a best-seller, translated into seven languages.

Yukari has taught journalism fundamentals, investigative reporting and the Medill Justice Project at Northwestern University and was previously a lecturer at University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. At San Quentin News, where she still serves as an advisor, she developed a curriculum and reader for prison journalism. She was a member of Institute for Nonprofit News’ Emerging Leaders Council and is a 2021-2022 Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. She is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.