Pollen Initiative launches first women’s media center

POLLEN INITIATIVE LAUNCHES JOURNALISM PROGRAM AT CENTRAL CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S FACILITY

Rehabilitative program will offer incarcerated women journalism training to support incarcerated-led reporting

CHOWCHILLA, Calif. (March 25, 2024) – Pollen Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating media centers inside U.S. prisons, announced that it is expanding to offer its programs at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). [The endeavor will offer journalism training to incarcerated women at CCWF as well as provide professional development and mentorship support, with the goal of establishing a reporting staff that regularly contributes to San Quentin News, the only independent incarcerated-run newsroom in the country located at the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center.

 Pollen Initiative will help launch two distinct programs: a journalism guild to develop reporters and a video production program. Participants will receive access to training and resources for reporting on the news and trends inside CCWF and share their own unique stories with the broad readership of San Quentin News and on their own CCWF website. An initial group of 24 CCWF participants will go through a 16-week journalism guild training program with the goal of some becoming members of their own CCWF newsroom and media center.

“We are proud to form this ground-breaking partnership with Central California Women’s Facility, the largest women’s prison in the state of California and one of the largest in the U.S., which will add important voices to the incarcerated reporting world,” said Pollen Initiative Executive Director Jesse Vasquez. “The program will help participants contribute to a growing body of incarcerated-led reporting that is changing the way communities think about our justice system. The programs will equip participants with valuable teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills, as well as foster creativity and critical thinking through journalism– all crucial tools for success inside the facility’s walls and upon reentry into society.”

The CCWF program will be supported by Pollen Initiative’s editorial director Kate McQueen, University of California Berkeley professor Lisa Armstrong and University of California Merced professor Nigel Hatton. The effort is also made possible by the generous support of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, Legacy Collective and others. 

“We’re proud to support a critical expansion of this program to welcome an under-represented group in prison media,” said Richard Logan, President of the Reva and David Logan Foundation. “The opening of CCWF’s newsroom will finally provide the opportunity for incarcerated women to voice their own stories, to share their perspectives on incarceration, comment on issues affecting women in California’s penal system and the American justice system, and much more.”

“Smaller institutions, especially those more isolated from major cities like CCWF, tend to face greater challenges in offering rehabilitative services to their incarcerated populations, with their programs often overlooked for resources and funding,” said Pollen Initiative Board Secretary Amanda Weitman. “By offering equal access to resources already available in other select facilities, we can help narrow disparities facing incarcerated women in California and raise awareness of the importance and effectiveness of rehabilitative programs.

Stay tuned for the paper trail these women will leave behind.

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