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love is our salvation

"Try to imagine the type of society we could be if we believed it’s possible to redeem those deemed incorrigible."

-Sterling Cunio


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?

To hear more about Sterling’s bid for freedom, listen to Podcast Episode 1, Throw Away the Key. 

Mar. 5, 2024


3A. Anthony’s Story

 Join us as Anthony shares his life story with both “inside” and “outside” classmates from Professor Melissa Buis’ “Reforming Criminal Justice” class held inside Oregon State Penitentiary.  He details step by step what led to his incarceration at age 15.  Anthony emotionally reflects on a surprising moment from his sentencing hearing which fuels his transformation on a daily basis.  

Tune into Episode 3, Push. The. Button., to hear what adult prison does to teenage boys.

Mar. 19, 2024


4B. "The Bucket"

Watch excerpts of Sterling’s performance from “The Bucket,” an ensemble play about solitary confinement that won first prize in the PEN America prison writing contest. Directed by our podcast host Phil Stockton and co-written and co-starring Sterling Cunio,  these dramatic pieces provide a glimpse into Sterling’s gritty real-life experiences.

Hear how letters, love, and creative expression propelled Sterling’s transformation in Episode 4, Love, Loss & Art

Mar. 26, 2024


5B. Class Inside - Willamette University

Join undergraduate students from Willamette University and men from Oregon State Penitentiary in the classroom. Professor Melissa Buis and Sterling Cunio co-teach “Reforming Criminal Justice,” a class about mass incarceration. Classmates discuss cycles of violence, trauma, and the effect of societal expectations.

Apr. 2, 2024


6A. Fresh Hope

Sterling shares a potentially life-altering announcement with his peers.  The news evokes emotional reactions as Sterling expresses both  hope and apprehension to the news as well as his concern for the effect it may have on his victim’s families.

Apr. 6, 2024



 Sterling finally receives his answer from the Oregon Board of Parole. His attorneys discuss the impact of this ruling and how Sterling’s juvenile  status at the time of the crime leads to shocking repercussions.

Apr. 13, 2024


8A. An Act of Mercy

Watch Sterling receive startling news as his legal battles come to a head.  Sterling delivers a passionate performance of his poem,  “Society Imagined.”

Apr. 20, 2024


2A. A Legal Quagmire

See attorneys Aliza Kaplan and Ryan O’Connor delve into juvenile sentencing complexities, centering on Sterling’s case and his bid for freedom. They discuss the infamous “super predator scare” of the 1990s and advancements in understanding adolescent brain development as it relates to the law. 

Listen to Ep 2, The Making of a “Superpredator”???,  to hear how Sterling went from a loving home at age 12 to prison by age 16. 

Mar. 12, 2024


4A. Turning Points

With acute self-awareness, Sterling recounts several of the key turning points in his life that enabled him to transform. Thanks to an unexpected letter and a surprising connection to a novel he randomly read, Sterling’s perspective on himself and his crime turns upside down.  Witness this unfolding transformation enhanced with old photographs.  

Hear how letters, love, and creative expression propelled Sterling’s transformation in Episode 4, Love, Loss & Art

Mar. 23, 2024


5A. Restorative Justice

Sterling leads a candid discussion with fellow restorative justice facilitators on what it means to live your amends.  The men discuss taking responsibility, personal growth, and the struggle for self-esteem while incarcerated.

In Episode 5, Restorative Justice, hear how Sterling and his friends manage to change prison culture inside Oregon State Penitentiary.  

Mar. 30, 2024


5C. True Accountability

Watch an intimate “inside class” discussion on shame and personal accountability, inspired by Danielle Sered’s book, “Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration and a Road to Repair.” The men comment on how the current criminal justice system does not promote accountability and in many ways even discourages it. Sterling and his classmates reflect on the difficulty of acknowledging the pain and harm, as well as the lasting impact, of their past actions.

Apr. 3, 2024


6B. The Rehearsal

Hear from Sterling’s legal team about the intricacies of his case while they prepare for his prison term hearing. The team focuses on how best to present Sterling’s story of rehabilitation to the parole board.

Apr. 9, 2024


7B. Yellow Fire Hydrant

See Anthony’s life take a sharp turn that dramatically impacts his wife and family. 

Apr. 16, 2024


8B. Antonio Sánchez Performs “The Bucket”

Watch Thana Alexa and four-time Grammy award-winning musician, Antonio Sánchez perform “The Bucket” with a surprise guest of honor at the Jack London Revue jazz club in Portland, Oregon.

Apr. 23, 2024

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