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Introducing the Uncuffed Playlist

Two student DJs pose for the camera behind a desk. On the left, a young black man with long braids and dark sunglasses leans over a microphone. On the right, a young Latino man with a shaved head smiles at the camera.
Uncuffed / KALW
Anthony Ivy (DJ Stick Talk) and Luis Gomez (DJ Wicho) record mic breaks in KALW's program at Solano State Prison

This story aired in the June 20, 2023 episode of Crosscurrents.

Click the play button above to listen to this story.

Listen to past shows from the Uncuffed Playlist on Spotify..

At Solano State Prison in Vacaville, incarcerated people are learning how to be radio DJs.

From a small room in the prison's education building, the students learn how to develop an hour-long playlist of their favorite songs and tell stories about how those songs have shaped their lives. Their shows debut this month on KALW 91.7fm in San Francisco.

"Music is a very therapeutic thing for me," says student Deandre Phillips, who took the DJ name Mo Rich and built his show around the theme of "contained emotions."

"So, me expressing these songs and this theme for you guys on this show is me expressing a part of who I am."

 Bryan Mazza, a white man with long hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing headphones and gripping a mic in the Uncuffed studio at Solano State Prison smiles at the camera and gives a thumbs up.
Uncuffed / KALW
Bryan Mazza (aka Rambo on the Radio) has worked in the Uncuffed storytelling program since 2018, and joined the first cohort of DJ students

The Uncuffed Playlist is California's first radio music program hosted by incarcerated people and broadcast to the general public. It's a new program from KALW Public Media, which has been teaching radio and podcasting in California prisons since 2012.

The Uncuffed training program leads classes at San Quentin and Solano prisons, and for formerly incarcerated people in Oakland. The Uncuffed podcast has over 200,000 downloads and has won multiple awards. Graduates have gone on to careers in media and advocacy.

The Uncuffed Playlist is an expansion of an idea that started in 2021. Because prisons were closed to visitors and teachers, Uncuffed participants used the prison phone lines to talk about the songs that got them through the pandemic. The result, The Pandemic Playlist: Songs for a Year on Lockdown, was one of the most popular episodes of Uncuffed.

"I got a great set of music ahead, and I'm gonna take you all on a trip with me. It's about what it took for me to understand how much more family means to me – now that I'm not blinded by the superficial happiness of a fast life."
Daniel Ruiz

 Students in discussion in the Uncuffed Playlist class at Solano State Prison.
KALW / Uncuffed
(Clockwise from top) Lorenzo Fosselman, Maria Yates, Lonnie Lewis, Andrew Stelzer, and Oliver Gomez during the first DJ class at Solano State Prison.

The classes are led by Maria Yates, who hosts a weekly show on KALW, and Oliver Gomez, who DJs for the San Jose Barracudas.

The theme music for the program was created by Uncuffed's sound designer, Eric "Maserati-E" Abercrombie, who learned scoring and sound design while incarcerated at San Quentin.

"It's really a joy to see the way students grow together in these classes and their drive to see each other succeed," says Yates.

"Whereas prison is designed to serve as a daily reminder of a mistake you've made, these classes become a space where students are vocal in their support of one another and in the belief that they can make something good."

Broadcast Schedule
The Uncuffed Playlist will air on Friday nights (following J Boogie) and Saturday nights (following Tangents) from midnight to 2am, from June 23 through July 22. Shows will also be available for streaming a week after airing, on the KALW Music Player.

Fri June 23 + Sat June 24 midnights - 2am
Fri June 30 + Sat July 1 midnights - 2am
Fri July 7 + Sat July 8 midnights - 2am
Fri July 14 + Sat July 15 midnights - 2am
Fri July 21 + Sat July 22 midnights - 2am

KALW also plans to broadcast the Uncuffed Playlist throughout California prisons on institutional TV, and on prison-issued tablet devices.

Daniel Ruiz and Luis Gomez record the Uncuffed Playlist at Solano State Prison
Uncuffed / KALW
Daniel Ruiz and Luis Gomez record the Uncuffed Playlist at Solano State Prison

Jairo Chavez (JC ChaseABag)
Walter "Jay" Evans (DJ Jay-Cologist)
Luis Gomez (DJ Wicho)
Anthony Ivy (DJ Stick Talk)
Brian Mazza (Rambo on the Radio)
Lonnie Lewis (Lon the Don)
Deandre Phillips (Mo Rich)
Jerry Reyes (DJ TWISM)
Nathan Rodriguez (Fifty)
Daniel Ruiz (Daniel)
bf thames (DJ Force)

Launch Event
Uncuffed: The Other Side of the Wall
Saturday, June 24, 2pm - 4pm
Community Works
986 Mission St San Francisco

Join Uncuffed for a celebration of our formerly incarcerated students and the radio launch of the Uncuffed Playlist.

Tickets are free but space is limited, so register today.

Follow @WeAreUncuffed on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

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

The Uncuffed Broadcast DJ program is supported by Innovative Programming Grants from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Unlikely Collaborators Foundation, and donations from listeners like you.

The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. Content is approved by an information officer.

Maria Yates, Oliver Gomez, Andrew Stelzer, Kathy Novak, and Sonia Paul taught in the program. Scoring and theme music by Eric "Maserati-E" Abercrombie. Eli Wirtschafter is the Program Director for Uncuffed.

Special thanks to Mr. Gen, Lt. Guerrero, Mr. McCann, Warden Matteson, Ms. Nessi, Ms. Rice, Lt. Speight, and Mr. Vandeventer at Solano State Prison.

For media inquiries, contact uncuffed@kalw.org.

From The Producers Of Uncuffed
Stories from inside California prisons