Dannie Martin was a bank robber, a heroin addict, a longtime federal prisoner and, he later wrote, “a criminal by any definition I know of.” But in 1986, the self-educated convict’s life changed dramatically when he submitted a freelance article on AIDS in prison to San Francisco Chronicle editor Peter Sussman. That article began a years-long collaboration in the course of which Martin wrote more than 50 eloquent and revealing profiles of prison life. Along the way, Martin and Sussman ran afoul of federal prison authorities, who threw the author into the hole two days after he criticized his warden in print. What followed was a high-profile First Amendment lawsuit. As Martin later framed the issue: “I committed bank robbery and they put me in prison, and that was right. Then I committed journalism and they put me in the hole. And that was wrong.”
In Committing Journalism: The Prison Writings of Red Hog, Martin and Sussman reprint Martin’s riveting prison articles and tell the behind-the-scenes story of their collaboration and their long struggle to assure the First Amendment rights of prisoners and newspapers.