Prison Stories | KALW

Prison Stories

KALW trains incarcerated people to become reporters and audio producers. Using professional-quality equipment, they 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.

 

What happens during a lockdown at San Quentin?

May 13, 2019
Nigel Poor

A lockdown happens when correctional officers decide there is a threat to the safety and security of a prison. That might be a fight, an assault, or a race riot. So what's it like in a lockdown? 

Damon L. Cooke

From the series Uncuffed:

A lot of people want to get out of prison. This is the story of one bird that tried to get in.

The prisoner who died twice, and lived

May 6, 2019
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Wilbert Stoneham has been incarcerated since the 70s – a time when prisons were especially dangerous, guards were particularly unpleasant, and Stoneham was one of their targets. He had a terrible relationship with the “watchers” which continued for over 40 years ... until the day he died.  

Steve Drown / KALW

From the series Uncuffed:

Carlos Muñoz had been incarcerated for more than 20 years when he finally found his calling—crochet. He started out in hiding, embarrassed to crochet in front of other men. But over time, he brought his art into the light. Carlos shared the wisdom he’s learned from his crochet hooks.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

A lot of people are in prison for crimes related to marijuana. But some believe that cannabis could have kept them away from crime, and out of prison.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

 

When undocumented immigrants are released from prison they can face deportation. Charles Joseph, who was born in Fiji, says that is what will happen to him.

A chef turns chow hall meals into magic

Apr 2, 2019
FRANCO FOLINI / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

  


Some inmates say food in a prison's chow hall is tasteless and bland. But that's not the case when John Parratt — also known as Yah-Yah — is in the kitchen.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Life without the possibility of parole — LWOP — is a sentence in some ways equal to the death penalty. It means you will spend the rest of your life in prison. The only reprieve is by a governor's commutation or pardon, which is as rare as snow in Barstow, California.

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:

As a child, Ivan Kilgore believed in God because that’s what he was told to do. But doubts were always with him. I wondered if those doubt surged or faded when Ivan found himself faced with a lethal injection in Oklahoma.

Uncuffed poetry: Spoon Jackson

Mar 19, 2019

“At Night I Fly” by Spoon Jackson

Inside nerd culture at Solano State Prison

Mar 18, 2019
Brian McCann

From the series Uncuffed:

In prison, segregation is usually a way of life. But that’s not the case for the nerds.

Yoga is an equalizer at Solano Prison

Mar 11, 2019
Spoon Jackson

From the series Uncuffed:

Gordon Melvin, a Canadian imprisoned in California, learned how to do yoga by watching TV. Soon, he was leading classes on the yard.

A song of remorse after a murder conviction

Mar 4, 2019
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Remus Sam Langi is serving 38 years to life on a second-degree murder conviction. In prison, he’s become a guitarist and songwriter. And recently, he wrote a song about the people he harmed.

Growing up Tongan and landing in prison

Mar 4, 2019
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Growing up in a Tongan households, mothers will often ask: what good did you do today? That’s the question I thought of while interviewing Tevita Taumoeanga. Both of us have done things we regret.

Coping with depression in prison

Feb 19, 2019
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Raymond Jones is often debilitated by depression. Sometimes he doesn’t want to shower, eat, or even think. He also doesn’t like to take the drugs prescribed by the prison’s medical department, because of the way they make him feel.

How it feels to go up for parole for the 13th time

Feb 11, 2019
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Damon L. Cooke recently attended his thirteenth parole suitability hearing. He’s been incarcerated for 28 years. His fellow Uncuffed reporters, Spoon Jackson, Steve Drown, and me, Brian Thames, anxiously awaited his return to ask him about the process and results.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

When I first heard of Thomas “Truck” Evans, I was instantly interested. I wanted to know how a man without a truck teaches a truck driving class in a prison. It turns out he did have a truck. This man had built a simulated dash out of random scraps of cardboard and plastic containers.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Gary “Midnight” Pedersen is a skinhead. He’ll tell you that himself. But he’s also a man who values family and friendships. I sat down to chat with Midnight about some of his lingering supremacist views, and what it means to have one black friend in the world: me.

JulianGlenn Padgett

From the series Uncuffed:

Lorenzo Fosselman, Jr. and Sr., are both serving life terms. They haven’t been housed together, but have still created and a close relationship via letters. As a result of their mutual understanding of the law, each is now working in the law libraries of their respective prisons, helping other inmates, as well as themselves.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Ten years ago, 22-year-old Oscar Grant III was shot and killed by a BART police officer. His father, Oscar Grant Jr., has been incarcerated since before his son was born. Grant Jr. is housed at Solano State Prison, where he was interviewed by JulianGlenn Padgett, a fellow prisoner. This is Grant Jr.’s first recorded interview.

Raiders fan sews gear in prison

Dec 17, 2018
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Roy Walker is a diehard Raiders fan. He also loves to sew. In prison, he’s woven his two passions together by sewing handmade Raiders gear. He was interviewed by Spoon Jackson, a fellow prisoner.

A prisoner dreams of becoming a rancher

Nov 28, 2018
JulianGlenn Padgett

From the series Uncuffed:

Doing time in prison a person can often lose hope. But that’s not the case for Aaron Daria. He has elaborate plans to start a ranch once he is paroled. Uncuffed producer Joe Kirk, who is also incarcerated, sat down with Aaron to ask him about his dream.

The secrets of making great sushi in prison

Nov 1, 2018
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

I’ve been entering and winning sushi competitions in prison for 25 years. So when Keith Kitagawa showed up and beat me on his first try, I knew I had to find out his secrets.

CC Flickr user Matt Straton, resized and recropped

From San Quentin Radio:

Cleo Cloman has spent over two decades behind bars for murder. He grew up in a two parent household and had dreams of playing professional baseball.  After a rocky relationship with his father, he lost his passion for the sport and found a new pursuit: the streets.

From San Quentin Radio:

Close to 4,000 inmates are incarcerated at San Quentin. They live in cells that are 48 square feet, and a little less than eight feet tall — most of them with a cellmate. From San Quentin Radio, here’s the story of a pair of cellmates who made the choice to live together, despite a mountain of obstacles.

From San Quentin Radio:

Back in the 90s, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or CDCR was trying to manage escalating violence behind prison walls. One way they decided to address that issue was by establishing something called Sensitive Needs Yards, or SNY, in order to separate out people who might need protective custody from the general prison population.

Bart Heird, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / cropped

From San Quentin Radio:

In prisons across the United States, incarcerated people often separate themselves by race or ethnicity. Blacks hang with blacks, whites with whites, and so forth. But at San Quentin, people of all races participate in playing in a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons. They defy prison politics to share in a fun activity and also escape from the stress of the prison system.

Black, Jewish, and incarcerated

Oct 4, 2018
Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

Damon Cooke and JulianGlenn “Luke” Padgett are old friends. They did time together at San Quentin before being transferred to Solano Prison. They also share a common identity: Both of them are Jewish men of color.

Spoon Jackson keeps writing poetry after 41 years in prison

Oct 3, 2018
Steve Drown and JulianGlenn Padgett

From the series Uncuffed:

Poet Spoon Jackson has won awards from PEN America, provided lyrics for Ani DiFranco, and collaborated with Swedish composer Stefan Säfsten — all while serving time. Now, Spoon is a producer for Uncuffed, KALW’s new series created by men at Solano State Prison.

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