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How canteen prices in prison are out of hand when incarcerated people are making pennies

Plus, our collabs with The Markup and Santa Monica College

A few housekeeping notes before we jump in…

We were out WAY too late trick-or-treating 🎃 …and we’ve been having some technical issues, so we’ve been missing you. But, we’re back…albeit with a candy hangover. 🍬

Also, some news: we’re transitioning from a weekly newsletter to a biweekly schedule. You’ll hear from us the week before Thanksgiving, and then the week after.

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(We’ll be sharing a LOT more about this with you in the coming weeks. Just gonna leave this here for now… afrolanews.org/donate)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Hey, y’all! I hope you had a spooky Halloween this year 👻 🎃 I, for sure, made the most of it. Did you make it over to the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval?? It was the first one since the pandemic, and it was the place 👏🏽 to 👏🏽 be! 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 People showed up and showed OUT with their costumes!!

I’m excited for y’all to read today’s newsletter because our featured story is an incredibly well-researched piece on what it’s like experiencing rising costs while incarcerated. Price markups in prison canteens are devastating for incarcerated people literally making pennies on the dollar for their work. The full article includes the lived experiences of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. (You can read more about how and why we reported this story on AfroLA’s Medium.)

Happy reading,


(Photo illustration by Hal Marie Saga/AfroLA; Photo credits: Unsplash)

Inadequate food and access to hygiene items in California’s prisons affect not just those who are incarcerated. It also creates an additional burden for families trying to provide for themselves and their incarcerated loved ones with limited resources. In both cases, Blacks and Latines are disproportionately impacted. Too often, news media doesn’t cover injustices against incarcerated people with the same level of urgency or push for human rights.

Current canteen markups hover around 65% but be as high as 200%, putting many essential food and hygiene items entirely out of reach.

These price increases may seem nominal to those outside prison walls or who don’t have experience with the carceral system. To bridge this gap in knowledge, AfroLA spoke to and texted with nearly a dozen men currently incarcerated at San Quentin, women incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (the largest women’s prison in the world) and several people formerly incarcerated in California prisons. They shared why the canteen is such a critical resource. For some who are incarcerated, canteen food items are not just a way to supplement nutrition they say they’re not getting from the state, but to replace food that’s nearly inedible or makes them sick.

“We made mistakes, and we have to pay for our crimes, but there’s a difference between that and basic survival. We are still human.”

Trancita Ponce, Incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility

Affording basic food and hygiene items from the canteen isn’t easy on the literal pennies prison work sometimes pays, leading to systemic poverty and racism feeding California’s carceral system.

“If you go back to the zip codes that were redlined, we see that this is where the majority of these [incarcerated] women are coming from.” Kids from homes struggling with food insecurity aren’t focused, said Alissa Moore, a policy fellow with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “Teachers stop paying attention to them [underachieving kids], and they’re forgotten. And, then they’re in the juvenile justice system, or the foster system, or both. And then sooner than you know it, I’m watching them walk onto the reception yard in [Central California Women’s Facility], the largest women’s prison in the world. It’s systemic,” she said.

Read the full story for more about how incarcerated people are facing inhumane conditions, and what is being done to address these issues.


AfroLA takes collaborations with mission-aligned community organizations and partners seriously. Providing quality community-centered local news isn’t possible without being tapped in to (duh..) the community. Here are a few groups we’ve been working with in recent months.

Santa Monica College student journalists

AfroLA joined Santa Monica College's student media company, The Corsair, in reporting on the controversy surrounding a new theater production on campus (which was ultimately canceled before opening night). We republished their work as a show of support. Their ambitious reporting—which predated The Los Angeles Times's story by more than TWO weeks—was foundational to new stories we reported with their help to further amplify the issue.

The Markup

AfroLA is a co-publishing partner with The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change our society. In October, we co-published their “Neighborhood Watch” investigation centered around LAPD’s access to residents’ Ring doorbell camera footage. (Read about the stories below.) We’re planning follow up coverage with The Markup into December. Stay tuned.

KPFK 90.7 FM

KPFK is a listener-sponsored radio station that serves based in North Hollywood which serves L.A. and SoCal. (It also streams 24 hours a day online.) A show host from the station reached out in September about airing versions of our digital stories. And, the rest, they say, is history. So far, we’ve been able to air an audio story from one of our high school contributors and have been invited on talk about racism against Black people in the pool on air. We’re excited for what’s to come. We’ll keep you posted on what’s next.


An actor portraying an enslaved person performs a dance in front of a backdrop of cotton fields during a rehearsal of "By The River Rivanna" Oct. 17, 2023. (Akemi Rico/The Corsair)

“By the River Rivanna” by Santa Monica College’s first playwright-in-residence, G. Bruce Smith, centers a Black man’s exploration of his ancestral past. It seems that Smith, a white man, was attempting to show love, valor and compassion in the peculiar institution of slavery. But, according to a local Black dramaturg contributor, his attempt drowned in a river of insensitivity and misrepresentation.


This series co-published with The Markup was made possible through support from the Pulitzer Center’s AI Accountability Network.

(Victor Bizar Gómez/The Markup)

Neighborhood informants aren’t new. But the relationship between police and residents is now being automated, often in a way that people didn’t know they consented to. Experts worry this could further prioritize affluent white residents’ needs above others.

The Markup took an unprecedented look into Neighbors—the social platform linked to Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras—and how the company is sending users’ posts to police.


A surfer strides down Huntington Beach with their surfboard in tow during A Great Day in the Stoke event. (Ural Garrett/AfroLA)

Huntington Beach, dubbed “Surf City, USA,” attracts surfers from all over, but there isn’t always much diversity among them. Last month, droves of Black surfers, onlookers and other participants gathered at Huntington Beach for a surfing competition and a day-long activities as part of the second annual A Great Day in the Stoke.


(Photo illustration by Hal Marie Haga/AfroLA; Photo credits: Dreamstime, iStock, Vecteezy, Adobe Stock, Unsplash, Freepik)

A nexus of burnout, political pressures, increased responsibilities and inadequate salaries stands out as the primary reasons driving teachers away. Notably, younger educators and those with less tenure are more likely to switch teaching positions or depart from the profession entirely.


Now through Dec. 31, every donation to AfroLA is doubled through the Institute for Nonprofit News's NewsMatch program (and our first $3,000 in donations are tripled). Donate to help us keep providing high-quality local news.

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I joined the AfroLA team because I think it’s important to support this type of journalism. Hyperlocal publications like AfroLA are vital in communities as they inform residents about local news, events and issues that directly impact our lives. AfroLA preserves Los Angeles’s unique identity and culture that I haven’t read in any other publication. AfroLA not only sheds light on important topics but also celebrates local achievements and showcases the unique characteristics that make Los Angeles and its Black community special.

So, I encourage you to donate toward this cause so that more people can learn about issues and topics that aren’t covered in the mainstream media.

—Shwetha Ganesh, newsletter producer

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