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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 " Love, Loss & Art ".
Compassion, connection and creativity spark transformation
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 "Throw Away the Key".
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 "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

Love, Loss & Art

Thumbnail for " Love, Loss & Art ".
March 21, 202434min 9sec

Relationships with people in the outside world are essential for maintaining hope, working towards rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism. Letters, emails, and in-person visits from friends and family bring a shred of humanity to an otherwise inhumane environment. In Sterling's case, he found a pen pal that would become very dear to his heart. And in writing, he began to express himself in a way that people would finally listen.

To see Sterling’s transformation unfold through pictures and stories watch Turning Points.   Watch Sterling perform in the award-winning play, The Bucket.

This episode includes a description of suicide ideation about 8 minutes into the program. Listener discretion is advised. If you or anyone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts, please call 988. That’s the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 988.

To watch our companion videos, read the transcripts, and to see our complete show notes with media links, sources, and references please visit our website: www.cellblockstomountaintops.com


Featured in this episode:

Cheryl Cunio

Sterling Cunio

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.

Performers in *The Bucket:* Troy Ramsey, Key Davis, Ben Pervish

Becca Stevens, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter

Antonio Sánchez, 4x Grammy Winner, Film Composer of 2014 Best Picture Winner, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Thana Alexa - Grammy-nominated vocalist, composer, arranger and producer.  She performs a portion of The Bucket in this episode.


Companion Videos for this Episode:

Video 4A - Turning Points

Video 4B - *Excerpts from The Bucket*