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Printed issues of the Mule Creek Post
Photo by Prison Journalism Project

This article was first published by Mule Creek Post, a newspaper at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California. Aside from the headline, it appears as it was published and has not been edited by PJP.

With the Mule Creek Post’s debut on the Global Tel*Link tablets earlier this year, distribution of the paper copies may be redirected to the Security Housing Units (SHU) in California. Prisoners serving terms in the SHU don’t have access to tablets and the Post believes there’s a need to reach out to those who might benefit most from the newspaper.

At the heart of the founding principles of Post operations is an intent to reach out to those in the darkest corners of the penal system to let them know they’re not forgotten. We want them to see for themselves that good things can be done, even behind these walls and fences. A portion of the Mule Creek Post origin story has roots in Level IV close-custody confines.

Writing is something that can be accomplished even in the most desolate and locked-down environs. “Some of the best stories come out of these isolated sports,” said Post supporter Dr. Joan Parkin. Author of Perspectives from the Cell Block: An Anthology of Prisoner Writings (LWL Publishing, 2020), Parkin has a long history with prisoner writers.

“When I was working to establish college programs in the California prisons [for Feather
River College] we would visit the SHUs. I had to sit in a chair outside the cell to talk to the students. Many of them submitted their stories over a 10-year period (which appear in Perspectives from the Cell Block).”

Despite the tablet rollout, it”s been a process getting the newspaper onto the device in a timely manner. Many readers prefer the paper edition, and a petition arrived in the newsroom recently with over 150 signatures in protest of an entirely digital version.

“People want a newspaper they can hold in their hands,” said Facility D Managing Editor Adrian Torres. The tablets aren’t always reliable and are new and strange technology to a lot of guys who have been in prison for a while. “We still want the paper version. We want to be able to mail it out to our families and loved ones. When you have a story that’s published, or something interesting to share, ifs nice to be able to
send them a paper.”

In the meantime, while Global Tel*Link develops an efficient process that allows lhe Mule Creek Post and other California newspapers and newsletters to be uploaded, paper editions are still available at Mule Creek.

Currently, David Greenwald of Davis Vanguard is covering the costs of the monthly printing, and Jack Mitchell of the Ledger-Dispatch is still printing. At the same time, Jesse Vasquez of Friends of the San Quentin News is trying to get the SHU distribution worked out. He’s also involved in establishing a cooperative of California
prison newspapers (sec the story on pg. 1). “We’ll be able to have so much more clout as a collaborative, and we’ve got Sacramennto’s backing.” Vasquez is working with Kristina Khokhobashvili of the Office of Public and Employee Communications and Lt. Sam Robinson from San Quentin to allow computer and software donations to the Post and other prison publications.

“I’ve got a closet full of NEOs (handheld word processors) I’d like to get to [the Post],” Vasquez stated recently. ” I’ve been trying to get in to see you.” Sometimes things don’t move as quickly as we’d like, but good things, and progress, seems on the horizon.

The Incarcerated Journalist Training (UT) program recently got off the ground in the Mule Creek Post newsroom The first classes are in session, with expansion to Facility D next. “I’m taking the IJT to the other yards,” said sponsor CCI Albertson. ” If they want me doing this, then they’ve got to give me what I need.” So far, so good; optimism is high that the IJT momentum will fuel other projects. To sign up for future IJT classes, send a GA Form 22 Inmate Request for Interview to CCI Albertson in building 19.

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.

David “Razor” Babb is the founding editor-in-chief of The Mule Creek Post, a newspaper published out of Mule Creek State Prison in California, where he is incarcerated. He is also a 2008-2009 winner of the PEN Prison Writing Award in the essay category and the author of numerous books including “Icicle Bill,” “Goodbye Natalie” and “Last Lockdown.”