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 © 2019 KALW / Uncuffed

THE SHOW

We are incarcerated in California’s Solano State Prison and San Quentin State Prison.

 

We record intimate stories of our struggles and triumphs, and of the heartache and forgiveness taking place within these walls.

 

Uncuffed is vulnerable and personal. If you can see the humanity in us, you can see the humanity in everyone.

 

We’ve got the mic, and we’re telling our own stories.


Produced with KALW Public Radio, with support from the California Arts Council's Arts in Corrections program.
 

THE TEAM

 

San Quentin State Prison

Chanthon Bun was born in the killing fields of Cambodia. He immigrated to the U.S. and is a 1.5 generation immigrant. Chanthon has been incarcerated for 23 years. His passion is to help at risk kids and the immigrant community understand the traumas that their families have gone through. He is a facilitator and senior advisor in the Restoring Our Original True Selves (ROOTS) program, which aims to help the Asian Pacific Islander community heal from intersectional trauma. He is an accomplished artist specializing in pen urban art. Chanthon is also a CNC machinist and is now pursuing a career in electronics. For the past two years Chanthon has enjoyed sharing the personal stories of the incarcerated individual through the radio.

Greg Eskridge is an award-winning journalist and a founding member of San Quentin Radio, where he currently serves as a facilitator and mentor. His stories have aired on KALW's Crosscurrents, on Life of the Law, and on Crooked Media. He co-produced Life of the Law's live storytelling event "Stand Up San Quentin," which won a local Emmy with KQED. Greg is a member of the Northern California chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists. He is also pursuing a college degree and is a facilitator of many self-help groups. As a journalist, his goal is to give incarcerated people a platform to express themselves as well as give the public an accurate account of prison life. When he is not producing, Greg is living out his basketball dreams. Despite 25 years of incarceration and being 46 years old, Greg still has a little game left.

Nathan "Nate" McKinney is a by-product of Los Angeles' undercurrent. Nate was galvanized through a myriad of life experiences. The intersection of various positive elements proved instrumental in blending culture and tradition, which aided him in his quest for the creative space to simply express his thoughts, feelings and emotions. He became a free thinker. Nate embraced the space that this mental apparatus provided and encourages all around him to freely express their own individual mental resolve. He would like to share some of his thoughts with all who will bring an open mind and heart to the arena of critical listening.

Edmond Richardson is the newest addition to the Uncuffed family. He was born and raised in Oceanside, California. His mission is to empower system-impacted communities by being an example of what healing and accountability looks like. He is a computer programmer, a film-maker, and an incarcerated journalist. In his free time Edmond enjoys writing poetry and spoken word pieces that directly reflect his personal life and experiences. He is a recovering introvert with a big personality and a great sense of humor. Edmond loves to learn and pushes the boundaries of his comfort zone by challenging himself every day to do something new. Lastly, Edmond believes that before any change can happen, a person has to heal from all of their past traumas.

Tommy "Shakur" Ross has been imprisoned for 34 years. In 2012 Shakur helped launch the radio program at San Quentin, producing stories for KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco. In 2017, Shakur received an award for Excellence in Journalism by the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalism, of which he is a member. He also earned an AA degree in General Studies at Patten College, graduating as class valedictorian in 2019. Other achievements include training and experience as a Peer Health Educator, Circle Keeper, group facilitator, mentor, event planner/organizer and Restorative Justice Practitioner. Shakur declares, "I'm no longer doing time - I'm serving it."

Thanh Tran is an incarcerated journalist who was raised in South Sacramento. He is a singer/songwriter whose lyrics are a direct reflection of his life experiences. Thanh is also an activist whose aim is to empower the broken communities he was raised in and change the criminal justice system as we know it.

Solano State Prison

Dámon “L.A.” Cookë or “The Nomad” is a true force of nature; a powerhouse of creativity and ambition who never lacks vision even in the most dire of circumstances. Some have described Dámon’s ability to socialize, empathize, and genuinely connect with people across the widest spectrum of humanity as nothing less than “magical.” In the free world Dámon was a financial consultant, sports figure, and musician who had a hand in helping to cultivate one of the music industry’s biggest and most influential record labels. L.A. is a family man, and a man for the family called humanity. Always the champion for the voiceless, marginalized and disenfranchised, he believes in lovingkindness. Shalom.

Steve Drown is a man of many talents and ambitions. As of writing, he is 69 years old and has been in prison for 41+ years. Steve is an actor who has been able to continue his craft in Shakespeare. He is an accomplished writer who writes and edits for The Solano Chronicle, the prison paper, and is also a playwright. He is a photographer who would like to continue his creative nature in all genres mentioned above. Uncuffed at KALW gives Steve an additional voice.

Spoon Jackson is an award-winning poet and writer who performed on stage with Common. He has won numerous awards for poetry and writing in general. He has been in numerous documentary films, one of which (At Night I Fly) won a Swedish Oscar for best documentary film. His books are Longer Ago, and By Heart.
Spoon is a native flute player, who loves to sit down by the education building facing the hill and play music for black birds, wrens, cow birds, sparrows and rock doves, who seem relaxed when he plays. He loves reaching out and connecting with the public. He is honored when someone is touched by his work. He longs to do projects with others. He has the work ethic of a tribe of ants. Spoon believes in one planet, one love and one people. Spoon is the Knight of Realness. Realness eats raw meat and has the staying power of the sun. May Uncuffed be with you.

Joe Kirk: The one thing that keeps Joe going is the memory of his grandparents' farm on the outskirts of Peoria, Illinois. When prison is loud and overwhelming, he thinks back to the good old days, when the only sounds a person could hear where the gusts of the warm summer winds driving their way through the stalks of corn, and the red-breasted robins singing in the apple tree. A vision to keep a caged man sane. Now, as a producer for Uncuffed, he says, “I do this because, throughout history, winners of wars and politicians have written what they call truth. We are making history from the mouth of the common man.”

Bryan Mazza: For Bryan, working for KALW and Uncuffed is a fulfillment of a childhood infatuation that spans back to he and his brothers making funny recordings in their bedroom back in Bethel Island. An avid listener to all mediums of radio, Bryan understands and appreciates a good story. Bryan is especially drawn to stories that portray people overcoming the odds and eliciting change in their lives. He likes a good underdog story. Or a story of those who take their time in prison and make something good and positive from it. KALW has lent him a platform in which to present these stories to the public. To show the world that prison isn't necessarily a dead-end but rather a place for new beginnings for those who want to change their lives.

b.f. thames (Brian) has come quite a long way from his ultra-strict Pentecostal upbringing to critical agnosticism. His worldview has evolved from violence as a veneer for personal insecurities to full disclosure and even self-deprecating humor in the several nonfiction books that he writes and publishes. Brian is a polyglot (English, French, and Spanish -- in order of proficiency), and autodidactic. He understands that sometimes the truth hurts, but truth also heals — which is why he is unapologetically truthful even to his own detriment at times. Brian is married to his high school sweetheart whom he has known for 35 years. He loves birds and dogs and plans to rescue two Great Danes when he’s released.

KALW

Radio producers from KALW visit the prisons weekly to teach classes in audio production, and to help edit the stories. Audio engineers at KALW do some final polishing before it goes out to the world.

KALW has led classes in audio production inside San Quentin State Prison since 2012, and Solano Prison since 2018. Since then, KALW has aired over 60 stories produced inside the walls, and the work has been recognized with a number of journalism awards. KALW’s classes in prisons are supported by the California Arts Council's Arts in Corrections program, which is funded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

 

Inside Teachers and Editors: Ninna Gaensler-Debs, Angela Johnston, Kristin McCandless, Marissa Ortega-Welch, Jessica Placzek, Andrew Stelzer, Tiana Williams, and Eli Wirtschafter

 

KALW Studio: Shereen Adel, David Boyer, Ninna Gaensler-Debs, Tarek Fouda, Gabe Grabin, Kristin McCandless, James Rowlands, Ben Trefny, and Eli Wirtschafter

CDCR

Thanks to the staff who make it possible for us to make the show.

 

San Quentin State Prison: Mr. Brown, Lt. Robinson

 

Solano State Prison: Lt. Blackwell, Mr. McCann, Dr. Williams, and Mr. Unden

Special thanks to...

Ajuan Mance, for logo design.

David Jassy, for original music.