Prison Diaries on All Things Considered

Panoramic view of John Mills' cell
A panoramic view of John Mills' cell in Polk Youth Institution, Butner, N.C.
(See the Quick Time panoramic movie at

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January 2, 2001

Doing Time:
John's Diary

If you go to "C" unit at Polk Youth Institution and walk up two flights of stairs, you arrive at cell number 302. Behind that door is John Mills.

John Mills, a 22-year-old inmate, is serving seven to nine years. As a kid, he dreamed of becoming a police officer, but at the age of 15, he held up a store with a BB-Gun. It was his first robbery but not his last. By the time he was locked up at the age of 17, John had committed more than 75 armed robberies. Now, John is trying to make a change in prison, but sometimes it's hard for him to forget the thrill of putting a gun to someone's head.

  • Hear John's story on All Things Considered.
  • Read the transcript of the online chat with John's mother, Brenda Daniels, and the series producer, Joe Richman.
  • See John's answers to some of your questions, from the Your Turn discussion page, and from questions presented during our online chat on January 2.

  • John MillsSometimes I can still remember my first night in prison. I cried like a baby, man. That's all I did, walk around in circles and cry in my room. I felt like I was in a cage. You know, I couldn't get out. Once they turned out the lights it was pitch black. And there's so much yelling going on, it made me feel.... I was just sick, I was real sick being locked up in that cell. Now that I done got used to it, I love being in the cell by myself.

    John Mills
    I don't think I'm fully recuperated from being a robber. I look at it like this: I'll always be someone able to rob you, shoot your house up, take your car, cash a check. You know, I'll always be that person, I believe. It will always be a memory. But I don't think there'll ever be anybody that would be able to bring it out of me again.

    Prison Diaries is produced by Joe Richman, creator of the acclaimed Teenage Diaries series and founder of Radio Diaries, Inc., a non-profit production company committed to helping people document their own lives. Associate Producer is Wendy Dorr.

    American RadioWorks is the documentary project of Minnesota Public Radio and NPR News.