San Quentin Podcast ‘Ear Hustle’ Tells of Prison Life

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San Quentin, Ca., Prison inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, with artist and prison volunteer Nigel Poor, have created a new podcast, Ear Hustle. In the first episode, called “Cellies,” Woods and Poor give listeners a firsthand perspective on what it’s like to live in close quarters, reports the Columbia Journalism Review. In prison, “ear hustle” is slang for eavesdropping. That’s what Ear Hustle lets listeners do. The podcast gives the audience unprecedented access to daily life at San Quentin, including stories about inmates who keep cockroaches and mice as pets, and the experience of solitary confinement. Some 2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., and each episode of Ear Hustle offers a unique glimpse into their lives, 30 minutes at a time.

“The goal of project is to show a more three-dimensional view of prison,” Poor says. “Life in prison is tough and frightening, but it’s also funny, tender, and amusing. Everything that happens on the outside happens inside prison, too. It just happens inside a deeply cloistered environment.” In pop culture and media, “the guys in prison are portrayed as callous monsters,” Woods says. They’re seen as uniformly “uneducated, negative, just hanging out in the prison yard playing games or watching TV, rioting, and not doing anything positive or productive with our time and life.” He says prisoners are “regular people trying to make amends.” For some, that means learning trades, getting their GED, or participating in self-help groups. Williams, the show’s co-producer and sound designer, has served more than 10 years of a 15-year term for armed robbery; Woods has done 19 years of his 31-to-life sentence for attempted second-degree robbery. “It is my hope that people understand that we are regular people that somewhere along our path took a wrong turn,” he says.

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