Image: Laura Copenhaver

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


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.

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate