Twenty-six years in isolation: The story of Michael Dorrough | KALW

Twenty-six years in isolation: The story of Michael Dorrough

Jun 10, 2019

From the series Uncuffed:

Michael Dorrough was sent away for life in 1985 on a murder charge he still disputes. He spent 26 years in a cell with almost no human contact.

Michael Dorrough came into the California penal system an angry and violent young man. In prison, he allegedly became a member of the Black Guerrilla Family, which was involved in an ongoing race war.

After several brushes with prison authorities, Michael was deemed one of the “worst of the worst.” They sent him to a newly-constructed super-maximum security prison far up the coast: Pelican Bay.

Michael was kept in Security Housing Unit (the SHU) in Pelican Bay State Prison, and later Corcoran State Prison. He lived in a windowless cell away from everyone except for a few other prisoners in his cell pod. He survived that way for close to three decades.

But instead of fighting with rival gang members, Michael gave up hatred.

"Every day I'd get up knowing that I'd go out to the yard and get in a fight. People were actually dying there, actually getting killed."

Michael is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and maintains his innocence. Learn more about his claim here.

Uncuffed is produced by men at Solano State Prison. Find out about them here.

KALW’s radio training program at Solano State Prison is supported by the California Arts Council, with funding from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. All content is approved by a prison information officer.