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After decades behind bars, artist embraces fresh start in Modesto

When John Sams begins to tell his story, it’s not immediately clear where things went wrong, leading the now-65-year-old Modestan to spend about a third of his life behind bars. He was born in Houston, and his family moved to South Central Los Angeles when he was 8 or 9. Third of seven brothers, he was reared by a single mom – his father was heroin-addicted, largely absent and died in 1983 – there and then in Watts and the Aliso Village housing project.

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