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.

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Yukari Kane

Yukari Iwatani Kane 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 and an Amazon Editor's Pick that was translated into seven languages.

She is an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University, where she has taught journalism fundamentals, investigative reporting and the Medill Justice Project. At San Quentin News, where she still serves as an advisor, she developed a curriculum and reader for prison journalism. She was previously a lecturer at University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.