J267 Race, Resistance, and Incarceration

Class Meeting Time and Locations:

Tuesdays 1:45–5pm (leave at 1:45pm)
San Quentin Prison, Building B (formerly the crafts center), San Quentin, CA 94964.

To be on time, we must be at the prison not later than 2:30. That means departure from North Gate Hall not later than 1:45 p.m. Each student will be required to submit a number of documents in order to be cleared into the prison. The documents require your social security number (or similar identification number for nonresidents) and driver’s license (or similar). You will also be required to get a TB test. Visitors must adhere to guidelines on dress and behavior. https://bit.ly/2BxSO78 WE NEED TO CARPOOL. It’s a 35-minute drive from North Gate Hall to San Quentin.

Thursdays 2–3 p.m.

The Berkeley students will meet a second time weekly on campus Thursdays 2-3 p.m., Location Room 104 North Gate Hall. These meetings on Thursday will continue from the beginning of September until the end of the semester.


The subject matter is mass incarceration. Not from an academic viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of the prison yard.

This course will bring UC Berkeley students into a classroom setting inside a prison where their classmates will be graduates of Mt. Tamalpais College, an accredited and award-winning community college for San Quentin prisoners. The Cal students and the SQ students will read, discuss and write about fundamental aspects of incarceration, among them race, resistance and criminal justice.

The Cal students will visit the San Quentin Media center weekly and hold discussions with San Quentin prisoners about their experiences during incarceration and their attempts to regain their freedom. These issues are timely because California’s Racial Justice for All Act went retroactive Jan. 2, 2024. It says that any person may seek a resentencing if there is evidence that his or her imprisonment was tainted by racial bias.

(Please take note: San Quentin recently changed its name to the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center. It’s still a prison. The prison rules are strict. And many of the men in San Quentin are serving terms prescribed by law for actions that were violent. Please consider this before registering for this course.)

Over the years California’s parole and sentencing practices have changed. The result is that some people have been lost in the system. The class will hear from guest speakers representing journalism, law and government to understand how these inequities occur. Kevin Sawyer, a prison writer, was a member of the class in Fall 2023.

The course will draw upon the instructor’s long experience with the California Department of Corrections, dating back to 1970. And since 2012, he has taught a UC Berkeley J School course that uses the talents of Berkeley students to edit the award-winning San Quentin News.




Time:  Tuesdays 1:45-5pm (San Quentin Prison); Thursdays 2–3pm (North Gate)

Location:  104 North Gate

Class Number:  30437

Section:  001

Units:  3

Length:  15 weeks

Course Material Fee:  None

Enroll Limit:  12

Restrictions & Prerequisites