Prison Stories | KALW

Prison Stories

KALW trains men in state prison to become reporters and audio producers. Using professional-quality equipment, the men record and edit their stories from inside prison.

Listen to San Quentin Radio

Listen to Uncuffed, from Solano State Prison in Vacaville. Find out more and meet the radio producers here.

This project is supported by Arts in Corrections, a program of the California Arts Council with funding from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.


Asian Prisoner Support Committee

From San Quentin Radio: ROOTS — or Restoring Our Original True Selves — is a restorative justice program that helps Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at San Quentin Prison address that intergenerational trauma. One incarcerated man shares his family’s story, and how the program helped him learn more about himself.

Flickr user tze69, used under CC-BY-2.0

From San Quentin Radio: Chanthon Bun is one of the incarcerated men at San Quentin who escaped the regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as a child. He shares his story with one of the reporters at San Quentin Radio.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed: I met JulianGlenn “Luke" Padgett on a prison yard in 1999, and upon getting to know one another I came to consider him a friend. But during all of our conversations about politics, religion, and philosophies, I never knew that he was a ballet dancer nor that the graceful movements that he’d learned as a child quite possibly helped to save him from being “life-flighted” -- helicoptered out of a riot in a maximum-security prison.

JulianGlenn Padgett

From the series Uncuffed: Joe Kirk is known for his quiet ways, and commitment to the arts. He’s a musician, a singer, and an actor. Before he came to prison, he used to ride the rails, going from town to town and playing music. I spoke to Joe about the life he left behind.

The bird man of San Quentin

Jun 6, 2018
"Pigeon" by CC Flickr user jans canon, resized and recropped

With San Quentin has dozens of self-help programs for inmates. But one man foregoes them all, creating his own form of therapy through feeding birds.

The barbers of San Quentin

Apr 4, 2018

Getting a haircut can make a person feel good. For the men in San Quentin, it's no different. Some of the barbers are paid to cut hair. Others volunteer to do so. It can be a complex process, but it's important in the prison environment.

Autism Behind Bars

Apr 3, 2018
Flickr user Michael LoRusso / Cropped and reused under CC license:

Autism is extremely hard to diagnose, because it can’t be tested for blood or genes. It’s a behavioral disorder. Often a parent or teacher has to notice the signs and request that a child is tested. Many people are living their lives without realizing they have autism. This includes people in prison.

Christmas in San Quentin

Dec 21, 2017
Franco Folini / Wikimedia Commons

Holidays can bring about complicated feelings for many inmates. There's no work or school at that time, so the men are given leisure time to relax, maybe watch TV, and some receive visits from family on Christmas day. But for others it's a painful reminder that they’re not able to spend time with those they love most.

Reporter Louis A. Scott talked with several members of San Quentin Media to see how they celebrated or avoided Christmas.