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Cellblocks to Mountaintops

Cellblocks to Mountaintops

A podcast and video series that examines how America addresses violence, defines justice and seeks accountability through the journey of one man. Years after committing a horrific crime, Sterling Cunio fully faces the ripple effects of the harm he caused. Through the power of artistic expression and human connections and inspired by restorative justice principles, he forges a remarkable personal transformation while serving decades in prison.

This story is a poignant reminder that hope, healing, and redemption are never beyond reach, even in the darkest of places.

To see our companion video series and find out more about the show, go to our website at CellblockstoMountaintops.com

© Narrative Alchemy 2024 - 2026

A podcast and video series that examines how America addresses violence, defines justice and seeks accountability through the journey of one man. Years after committing a horrific crime, Sterling Cunio fully faces the ripple effects of the harm he caused. Through the power of artistic expression and human connections and inspired by restorative justice principles, he forges a remarkable personal transformation while serving decades in prison.

This story is a poignant reminder that hope, healing, and redemption are never beyond reach, even in the darkest of places.

To see our companion video series and find out more about the show, go to our website at CellblockstoMountaintops.com

© Narrative Alchemy 2024 - 2026
6hr 18min
Thumbnail for "Introducing: Cellblocks to Mountaintops ".
​​"Cellblocks to Mountaintops"  examines how America addresses violence, defines justice, and seeks accountability through the journey of one man. Years after committing a horrific crime, Sterling Cunio continues to face the ripple effects of the harm he caused. Through the power of artistic expression and human connections and inspired by restorative justice principles, he forges a remarkable personal transformation while serving decades in prison. This story is a poignant reminder that hope, healing and redemption are never beyond reach, even in the darkest of places. This show has 8 podcast episodes and 14 mini-documentary companion videos. For more information, please go to our website: www.cellblockstomountaintops.com
Thumbnail for "Throw Away the Key".
The hearing: A bid for freedom
Thumbnail for "Bonus Episode: Behind the Scenes ".
Director Lydia B. Smith and Host Phil Stockton discuss the making of the series.
Thumbnail for "Making Amends - Episode 1 "If I Die Tomorrow, What Legacy Do I Have?" ".
Making Amends - A podcast series that investigates the heavy use of incarceration as a response to the harms of crime.
Thumbnail for "Video 1A - The Hearing".
Video 1A: The Hearing: A Bid for Freedom
Thumbnail for "Video 2A - A Legal Quagmire".
Examining the complexities of juvenile justice
Thumbnail for "The Making of a "Superpredator"???".
From a happy home at 12 to life without parole at 16.
Thumbnail for "Video 3A – Anthony’s Story".
How childhood trauma led Anthony to prison
Thumbnail for "Push. The. Button. ".
A teen’s tale of life inside
Thumbnail for "Video 4B Excerpts from "The Bucket"".
The performance of his life
Thumbnail for "Video 4A - Turning Points".
Sterling turns a corner and sees the light.
Thumbnail for " Love, Loss & Art ".
Compassion, connection and creativity spark transformation
Thumbnail for "Video 5C True Accountability".
Acknowledging the harm caused
Thumbnail for "Video 5B Class Inside ".
College students get schooled in prison
Thumbnail for " Video 5A  Restorative Justice".
Owning your actions
Thumbnail for "Restorative Justice".
Changing prison culture at Oregon State Penitentiary
Thumbnail for "Video 6B – The Rehearsal".
Strategizing for the hearing
Thumbnail for "Video 6A – Fresh Hope".
A potential path to freedom?
Thumbnail for "Standards of Decency".
Life or life without parole - for juvenile offenders that is the question
Thumbnail for " Video 7B – Yellow Fire Hydrant ".
The significance of the yellow fire hydrant becomes clear
Thumbnail for "Video 7A - The Decision".
Finally, to be released?
Thumbnail for "Gasping for Air".
Wildfires, phone calls and fire hydrants
Thumbnail for "Video 8B - Antonio Sánchez Performs “The Bucket” ".
Another repeat performance of a lifetime
Thumbnail for "Video 8A – An Act of Mercy".
A phone call moves Sterling to tears
Thumbnail for "A Path Forward ".
Let’s build a movement, not an empire
Thumbnail for "Cellblocks to Mountaintops Video Trailer".
​​"Cellblocks to Mountaintops"  examines how America addresses violence, defines justice, and seeks accountability through the journey of one man. Years after committing a horrific crime, Sterling Cunio continues to face the ripple effects of the harm he caused. Through the power of artistic expression and human connections and inspired by restorative justice principles, he forges a remarkable personal transformation while serving decades in prison. This story is a poignant reminder that hope, healing and redemption are never beyond reach, even in the darkest of places. This show has 8 podcast episodes and 14 mini-documentary companion videos. For more information, please go to our website: www.cellblockstomountaintops.com

Throw Away the Key

Thumbnail for "Throw Away the Key".
February 29, 202418min 45sec

After serving more than 25 years in prison, Sterling Cunio goes before the most important audience of his life: the Oregon Board of Parole. His supporters and attorneys argue that Sterling has rehabilitated, and deserves a second chance for a life beyond prison walls. But even if that’s true, does that mean he should be set free? Locking him up for the rest of his life won’t bring his victims back, but will it send a message that demonstrates respect for the lives he took? Will it improve public safety or help his victims heal? What does justice demand?

Please note: There are many types of parole board hearings. In this episode, Karuna Thompson speaks of one kind of hearing. Rehabilitation Hearings, however, on average tend to run between 4-5 hours and it has been reported that the Oregon Board of Parole has consistently been prepared for these hearings.

Be sure to watch our mini-documentary video The Hearing where you will see live excerpts of the hearing.
To watch our companion videos, read the transcripts, and see our complete show notes with media links, sources, and references please visit our website: www.cellblockstomountaintops.com

Featured in this episode:

Sterling Cunio

Professor Melissa Buis,  Professor and Chair of Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics Department (PPLE)  and Director, Transformative Justice Initiative at Willamette University.  Since 2016 she has taught  “Restorative Justice” classes at Oregon State Penitentiary with both “inside” and “outside” students. Dr. Buis is also a founding member and Board Chair of the nonprofit, Transformative Justice Community.

Lauren Kessler teaches Storytelling for Social Change at University of Washington, former writing teacher at Oregon State Penitentiary, author of 15 books including A Grip of Time and Free, Two Years, Six Lives and the Long Journey Home, both of which feature Sterling Cunio.

Ryan O’Connor, Criminal Defense Attorney

Ryan Joslin, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Benton County, Oregon

Michael Chiu, Board Chairman, Oregon Board of Parole

Karuna Thompson, Former Prison Chaplain & Victim Liaison at the Oregon Department of Corrections

Rosemary Brewer, Former Prosecutor, Victims Advocate & Director of Oregon Crime Victims Law Center

Danielle Sered, Founder & Executive Director of Common Justice; Author: Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair

Anthony Pickens