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This article was first published by Mule Creek Post, a newspaper at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California. The article has been edited to add clarity and conform with PJP style rules.

In the summer of 2018, I learned that the Mule Creek Post was looking for a Spanish translator. There was a process, however. I was required to send a sample of my work so Post staff could critique my English-Spanish translation skills. 

I did not see that opportunity coming, but I immediately started working on it, selecting a piece that had previously run in the paper to translate into Spanish. When I was done, I handed it over to Adrian G. Torres, a staff feature reporter, who presented it to the editors. 

Crickets. I thought my sample was not even worth getting a response back. 

“It’s okay,” I told myself. “They have high standards.” I did not feel bad or disappointed. 

A couple of months went by, and then I received a letter from the editor-in-chief, inviting me to one of the Post’s Friday meetings and giving me a quick rundown on some of the submission guidelines. 

It didn’t make sense to me: Why would they want a person who does not have the skills they need to attend one of their elite gatherings? 

Informally, I was told that they needed stringers from other facilities, and that it was probably my chance to let them know I was interested in doing translations so I could possibly be admitted to the team. 

It was late winter of 2019 when I attended the meeting alongside Adrian. As we were making our way from Facility D, we saw the production editor of the Mule Creek Post sitting on one of the concrete benches in front of Building 19. We were introduced and started talking about the Post. And this was the person who, I later learned, had disregarded my Spanish translation sample. 

As the meeting began, most of the staff took their seats in front of a large whiteboard helmed by the lead reporter and copy editor for planning upcoming editions of the Post. The meeting progressed and soon the editors asked me what I could contribute to the publication. 

They then informed me that their staff translator was no longer part of the team, and that they would like to appoint me as his replacement. “Who did what now?” I thought, surprised. Wasn’t there an application process? Had they accepted my sample without letting me know in advance? I wanted to ask them to clarify, and while I felt apprehensive about my predecessor possibly being thrown under the bus, I was also OK with the resolution.

In the middle of 2021, I became intrigued about what happened to the translation sample that I submitted almost three years earlier. So I asked some of the guys on staff. 

Most of them were unsure, but then the production editor spoke up. He said that the original article I had worked on had already been translated and published in a previous edition. He explained that at the time it was not possible to know if I could have actually translated it or simply submitted a plagiarized sample.

I guess it all worked out in the end. It’s been quite a learning experience — interacting with co-workers, free staff and visitors from different organizations and working on my assignments. Thank you, Mule Creek Post.

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.

Ángel Castillo is a writer for The Mule Creek Post, a newspaper published out of Mule Creek State Prison in California, where he is incarcerated.