I tossed and turned all night after reading my colleague Nicole Lewis’s piece about incarcerated people and the COVID-19 vaccine, “We Asked People Behind Bars How They Feel About Getting Vaccinated.” People on the inside are making life-or-death decisions that can affect us all. They need information from a trusted source to make those decisions.
It’s daunting to be responsible for delivering that information. At the same time that we’re trying to inform as many incarcerated people as we can, facilities are prioritizing day-to-day operations to curb the spread of COVID-19. The curveballs that come with managing thousands of people confined in one space take precedence over getting our publication into their hands.
Yet Rome wasn’t built in one day, and neither is the trust that comes from the access to bona fide journalism. You’ll understand what I mean after you read this issue. Along with the story mentioned above, we offer “What People in Prison Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine,” in both English and Spanish. This explainer answers many of the questions incarcerated people have asked us about how the vaccine works, potential side effects and more.
Elsewhere in this issue is “How Trump Made a Tiny Christian College the Nation’s Biggest Prison Educator.” It explores how Ashland University came to dominate federally funded tablet-based college programming. “A Question of Violence” is another head-scratcher about a stand-up dude in San Quentin who, despite his accomplishments, is haunted by the word “violence.” And “Will Drug Legalization Leave Black People Behind?” focuses on racial disparities in the legal marijuana trade.
To make things fun, we’ve added a crossword puzzle. Readers can go at it cold if they think they’re sharp enough. But they’d be wise to read the articles first, because, get this...the answers are inside! I encourage correctional officers to give it a try too. A little infotainment never hurt anyone.
Ultimately, I would like everyone to have the experience that Bruce Bryan, who is incarcerated in Sing Sing prison, had after reading a few issues of News Inside. “I feel like I don’t know shit!” said Bruce. “I mean, I think I’m a pretty smart guy who knows a thing or two about New York, but it’s amazing how much I didn’t know about prisons across the country and the criminal justice system.”
In the words of the late, great Notorious B.I.G., “If you don’t know, now you knowww...”
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