What We Do

The Pollen Initiative is fulfilling a new mission to equip incarcerated people with multimedia skills – including written, audio, and visual journalism – to share stories that change lives, inform policy and narratives and build communities.

Formerly the Friends of San Quentin News

Our History & Journey

  • In 2013, the San Quentin News incarcerated staff had a bold vision: to provide free access to their journalistic-caliber newspaper, focused on hope and rehabilitation, to the over 150,000 incarcerated individuals in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
  • The San Quentin News staff secured help from the Center for Social Sector Leadership at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business to develop a 10-year strategic plan and with the support of a large capacity-building grant from the Reva & David Logan Foundation San Quentin News expanded distribution into all 35 CA state prisons.
  • In the years since, the Friends of San Quentin News took on a growing role by advising and supporting the San Quentin News with expansions into non-English language content, an internal news broadcast and Wall City magazine.  
  • In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and San Quentin prison lockdown forced most San Quentin News production activities outside of the prison. With funding from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, FoSQN started a Journalism Fellowship to support formerly incarcerated San Quentin News alumni in their efforts to continue production of the newspaper.
  • Today, the Pollen Initiative is now developing programs to bring the incarcerated-run media model to other states and prison institutions, and to serve formerly incarcerated individuals with professional development, mentorship and references for employment.

Overview of Projects

Wall City is a 32-page page quarterly magazine produced by SQN that allows writers the freedom to explore issues through long-form and visual storytelling. Magazine contributors participate in workshops on writing craft, data visualization and layout design. They work closely with experienced editors throughout the publication process, from story pitch to the printed product.
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Our Impact

By The Numbers:

The San Quentin News is a standard bearer for enlightening the incarcerated, policy makers and the public at large about issues affecting the incarcerated.

  • San Quentin News forums bring together key stakeholders to participate in crucial conversations regarding the criminal justice system.
  • San Quentin News has unique credibility in reaching and affecting incarcerated individuals with messages of rehabilitation, reentry and policy.

San Quentin News garners widespread top-tier coverage in the media

  • Efforts in the newsroom have led to widespread top-tier, national and local coverage, from publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
  • Several newsroom staff have also published op-eds in leading publications.

San Quentin News is a model for other prison newspapers worldwide

  • San Quentin News is the world’s only independent newspaper produced solely by the incarcerated and funded by charitable contributions and grants.
  • Other prisons in California and throughout the nation are utilizing the San Quentin News model for their own newsletters and newspapers.

Forward This Productions shares stories of hope, transformation and rehabilitation through film to increase public safety while combating mass incarceration


In the words of those we’ve worked with, see below for stories of how the Pollen Initiative has created tangible change:

“From my heart: Thank You! In six months when I parole, I’ll have skills that will give me a real future and an honest career outside of prison, doing the kind of work I love all because of San Quentin News and Wall City Magazine which only exists because of your support! Thank you!”
Andrew Hardy
San Quentin News Contributor
“Thank you for taking an interest in our Media Center. Here at San Quentin News, we strive to inspire change by injecting the value of humanity from within the walls of San Quentin. Our work has provided hope to other incarcerated around the states as well as created a positive vibration out onto the broader communities. Your generosity will allow us to push forward with our mission. Thank you!"
Dao Ong
Layout Designer

Thank you for your support

Pollen Initiative is spreading the hope and opportunities that San Quentin News and other media programs cultivate to other incarcerated communities. We are expanding to the largest women’s prison in the world, Central California Women’s Prison to train and develop the participants in multimedia skills and managing their own platforms. Upon release we are also looking to provide pathways to internships and employment.

© Pollen Initiative 2024. Made by Emery.