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.

 

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.

Courtesty of San Quentin Radio

From San Quentin Radio:

When people are sentenced to prison time in California, they’ll either serve a finite period, like, seven years, or an indefinite period. If they can demonstrate ‘good behavior’ in prison, incarcerated people can be eligible for a parole hearing to decide whether they might be released, with certain conditions. But, being approved for parole doesn’t mean someone gets to go straight home — there’s a catch.

Navy vet uses discipline to survive prison

Oct 2, 2018
JulianGlenn Padgett

From the series Uncuffed:

Steve Drown has been doing time since 1978. In his 40-year journey through California prisons, one way Steve has stayed out of trouble is by doing paperwork. For years, he was a clerk, typing up reports every time there was a stabbing or shooting.

Steve Drown and JulianGlenn Padgett

From the series Uncuffed:

Damon Cooke says that anger used to make him feel powerful. It would also get him into trouble. After getting locked up, Damon started to think about his relationship with rage as a kind of love affair — one that he had the power to end.

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.

Steve Drown

From the series Uncuffed:

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: https://bit.ly/2Ehdqjd

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.

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