Image: Laura Copenhaver

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Off Highway 101, 20 minutes north of San Francisco, you’ll find San Quentin State Prison. And tucked under the prison’s East Gate, a gift shop.

The prisoner-crafted items are homespun takes on the usual fare. If your documents keep escaping, for example, the San Quentin Paperweight — with a watchtower, rocks and hammer, and ball and chain — goes for $10. And there’s more: jewelry, mugs, and music boxes.

Vernell Crittendon, San Quentin’s information officer, says the shop attracts mostly tourists, but that employees and their families are also customers. “People aren’t offended by the dark humor,” he says. “In fact, we’ve had many positive comments.”

Prisoners choose what to make and then reap most of the revenue — 10 percent is taken off for the General Inmate Welfare Fund, which pays for inmate entertainment (such as movies). The craftsmen spend the rest on art supplies or sundries (deodorant, shampoo), or send money to family on the outside.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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