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Art Saved My Life

Jessie Milo paints in a comic he drew for Uncuffed.
Vince O'Bannon
San Quentin News
Jessie Milo paints a comic he drew for Uncuffed at San Quentin State Prison.

Jessie Milo says his father taught him two things that changed, and ultimately saved his life. When Jessie was a baby, he said his dad would bring him along to rob houses. And as he grew up, he watched his father and many other men in his community do time like it was just a normal part of life. It wasn’t long until Jessie went to prison.

But what transformed Jessie’s life, and gave him hope was the second thing his father taught him –– art. When Jessie was at his lowest, it was drawing, poetry, and getting his work published that turned his life around. On this episode of Uncuffed, the team at San Quentin reflects on Jessie’s story, generational trauma, and what creativity means to them inside prison.

I was fearful about changing my life, because I was worried about how my father would judge me. When I did change my life, I got to see my father and, like, he didn't even trip. He was just like, you know, 'you okay in here'?
Jessie Milo

Jessie Milo's comics are published in San Quentin News, and his writing is available through the Prison Journalism Project website. Check out a video of a diorama prison cell he made here.

This story was produced by Timothy Hicks and Ryan Pagan with help from Angela Johnston and Ninna Gaensler-Debs, and sound designer Eric Maserati-E Abercrombie.

This piece was brought to you by the team at Uncuffed. Our work in prisons is supported by the California Arts Council, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and donations from listeners like you. The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. Content is approved by an information officer.

Follow @WeAreUncuffed on Instagram and Facebook.

Learn more, sign up for Uncuffed news, and support the program at www.weareuncuffed.org

Timothy Hicks is a journalist and sports editor from Oakland, California. His work includes print, videography, and audio journalism. Tim aspires to use his platforms to create change in the criminal justice system. He loves chocolate ice cream and Hershey's chocolate bars.
Ryan C. Pagan is a storyteller and multimedia producer raised in Riverside, California. He is currently the Program Lead of Forward This Productions at San Quentin State Prison. Ryan believes in changing society's perceptions of incarcerated people, and works to provide opportunities to at-risk youth.
Producer for Uncuffed at San Quentin Radio
Brian Asey is the father of three children: two sons and a daughter. His passion is using his extensive multimedia experience to dispel negative images with which mainstream media frequently portray the incarcerated. He directs and edits programming for SQTV, helping to choose and shape the institution TV content. Brian is a member of the San Quentin’s Day of Peace Committee, and serves as General Manager of the San Quentin Basketball Program. He is also the proud recipient of an A.A. degree from Mount Tamalpais College. He continues to be dedicated to doing whatever he can to help transform the lives of those who have negative influence in our communities and neighborhoods into positive role models.
Stories from inside California prisons