By Julietta Bisharyan
Orlando Smith is a talented illustrated journalist, graphic artist and comic book creator. He has
been incarcerated for 23 years under the draconian Three Strikes Law for each of the eight
counts of robbery against him. Smith’s sentence is 250 years.
Despite a hopeless sentence, Smith has spent time generating hope in his and others’ lives. He
has honed his craft as an illustrated journalist and created over 65 graphic novels and
illustrated, written and created 748 characters. As a member of the Society of Professional
Journalists, Smith’s work has been published in the Appeal.org, Davis Vanguard and
the Columbia Journalism Review.
As an Artivist, Smith has produced a Protester Poster series, which he has shared with
numerous activists and social justice organizations, including the Ella Baker Center for Human
Rights, Dr. Cornel West, Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson and Kim Kardashian, whom he
met when she toured San Quentin’s Arts-In-Corrections program where Smith works and
Many of his artwork, featured here, chronicles CDCR’s mismanagement of the COVID-19
pandemic within San Quentin, which had up to 1,633 active cases back in July
2020. Smith also focuses on the racial inequities that persist both inside and outside the prison
Smith has created hope for others by teaching art-making in prison and by serving as a
discussion leader for numerous years with the House of Yahweh group, which explores biblical
text as a source of knowledge about resolving conflicts peaceably. He donates his art to raise
funds for causes like the San Quentin Women’s Breast Cancer Cares Program, and has
participated in community arts projects with the Berkeley Art Museum, Southern Exposure Art
Gallery in San Francisco and Stanford University. Smith has a huge support system consisting of family,
friends and fellow artists, as well as professional people and organizations committed to
supporting his transition back into society.
Here are two of his recent works.