Ear Hustle: Prison podcast tells of lifestyles in San Quentin

A bunk mattress with mattresses. A bathroom and sink aspect through aspect. Two lockers. A television. A handful of authorized home equipment. Pictures of the circle of relatives, pals and cherished ones pinned up at the partitions. Six cubic feet of private belongings. And two men.

This is the claustrophobic scene internal most of the drab, 4-via-nine toes (1.2 meters with the aid of 2.7 meters) cells in the infamous San Quentin State Prison, a medium safety institution in northern California.

In this environment – in which San Quentin prisoner Emil says “not anything is safe” – who you come to be with as a cellmate is of massive significance.

Although people in US prisons most customarily aren’t allowed to choose their cellmates, they may be from time to time afforded the possibility to apply for an exception based totally on compatibility.

Emil, who has been in jail for 2 many years, changed into lucky enough to choose as a cellmate his brother, Eddie, in another prison some years back.

“The first few nights have been wonderful,” Emil says, but things soured fast. His brother is a religious Seven-Day Adventist who doesn’t watch television on Saturdays.

They have been at every different’s necks with the aid of the primary weekend. “I notion he was simply trying to convert me,” Emil remembers, explaining that it later got here out that the theme songs of the cleaning soap operas he watched prompted Eddie’s recollections of the domestic violence his mom persisted when they had been kids.

The brothers found themselves preventing over headphones, the odor in their antiperspirants, smoking cigarettes in the mobile and every different seemingly benign matter.

They fast implemented to change cellmates with others.

This tale and others find it irresistible is recollected and broadcast on Ear Hustle, a new podcast supported through Radiotopia and produced by way of Earle Woods and Antwan Williams, inmates at San Quentin, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area visual artist.

 

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Their anecdotes shed mild at the daily hardships prisoners deal with inside San Quentin State Prison, the oldest jail in California and home to the nation’s best demise row for male inmates.

Ear Hustle, that’s prison lingo for eavesdropping, is enlightening, unhappy and often chock-full of humor.

And most importantly, due to the fact maximum news consumers not often hear approximately the scenario behind bars unless there may be a mass starvation strike or riots, the podcast informs listeners of elements of lifestyles omitted in mainstream media insurance and popular culture.

READ MORE: Is America failing its inmates?

For Poor, a 54-12 months-old who has labored as a visible artist for 30 years and is a professor at Cal State University – Sacramento, the relationship to San Quentin started in 2011, whilst she started out operating on news-pushed radio tales with prisoners for a closed-circuit station within the prison.

A little more than a 12 months ago, Poor teamed up with Williams and Woods to begin Ear Hustle with the hope of telling first-man or woman narrative tales from inside prison for an outside target market.

Challenging stereotypes

“The intention is, to start with, to place a human face on people who are incarcerated and to get the outside global reflect on consideration on who’s in jail in a more three-dimensional, complicated way,” she tells Al Jazeera.

Explaining that “essentially everything that occurs out of doors additionally is going to internal [prisons]”, Poor says they kicked off the first episode with an exploration of choosing a cellmate because “every person can relate to that”.

Poor, Williams and Woods wish to talk an extra correct and nuanced photo of prison life that moves past the stereotypes and inaccuracies they are saying characterize famous television programs like Orange is the New Black and Prison Break.

 

And for Poor, her very own assumptions had been challenged along the way. “Before I’d long past into prison, all my ideas had been based totally on films and TV and no longer-so-appropriate journalism,” she remembers.

“The first assumption is that it’s constantly dangerous, that human beings aren’t knowledgeable, that human beings are just thinking about what they could do to get one over on the management,” she explains, “however, of the route, there are all forms of people in jail.”

READ MORE: Is this the quiet of prison for income in the US?

Other episodes explore race dynamics within the institution and others allow San Quentin prisoners to tell their personal tales in their very own words.

Some episodes are quirkier. In the third episode – “Looking Out” – a 40-12 months-vintage prisoner nicknamed Rauch talks approximately the various pets he has had at the same time as in lockup: snails, cockroaches, swallows, hamsters, and toads, among others.

“I do not name animals pets,” Rauch says. “I call them critters. I cling out with these guys or women. They’re friends. I don’t own them.”

The episode navigates between bouts of humor and memories of Rauch’s tragic upbringing oscillating between foster homes and homelessness. It goes directly to examine how humans in San Quentin nurture – “searching out” – their companions and aid each other.

Challenges

Poor says the podcast’s reception has been “overwhelmingly” high quality. On June 30, Ear Hustle turned into the ranked primary on the iTunes US podcasts chart.

Among the criticisms, she has encountered are accusations that Ear Hustle isn’t political enough, which she describes as “bizarre” due to the fact “something you do internally a prison is inherently political”.

In a country where prison reform is among the most debated subjects inside the political discourse, Poor, Williams, and Wood hope that compelling stories that humanize the incarcerated can make contributions to converting the general public notion of jail lifestyles and therefore spotlight the want for the change.

The manufacturing of Ear Hustle hasn’t been without its challenges, both. Although she says the prison management has been typically supportive of the mission, navigating the pink tape of coming and going has been difficult at times.

Once she is with Woods and Williams inner San Quentin, there may be no get entry to net. After leaving, they’re unable to speak thru telephone or electronic mail and need to wait till her subsequent visit.

And for Poor, her personal assumptions had been challenged along the way. “Before I’d gone to jail, all my thoughts had been based on films and TV and now not-so-excellent journalism,” she remembers.

“The first assumption is that it’s always risky, that humans are not knowledgeable, that people are simply considering what they can do to get one over at the administration,” she explains, “however, of the route, there are all forms of people in jail.”

READ MORE: Is this the top of jail for profit within the US?

Other episodes discover race dynamics within the organization and others permit San Quentin prisoners to inform their very own stories of their own phrases.

Some episodes are quirkier. In the 1/3 episode – “Looking Out” – a 40-12 months-old prisoner nicknamed Rauch talks about the diverse pets he has had whilst in lockup: snails, cockroaches, swallows, hamsters, and toads, among others.

“I do not call animals pets,” Rauch says. “I call them critters. I hold out with those men or girls. They’re pals. I don’t personalize them.”

The episode navigates among bouts of humor and recollections of Rauch’s tragic upbringing oscillating between foster houses and homelessness. It is going directly to have a look at how human beings in San Quentin nurture – “searching out” – their partners and support each other.

Challenges

Poor says the podcast’s reception has been “overwhelmingly” fantastic. On June 30, Ear Hustle became ranked number one in the iTunes US podcasts chart.

Among the criticisms, she has encountered are accusations that Ear Hustle isn’t political enough, which she describes as “abnormal” due to the fact “anything you do interior a prison is inherently political”.

In a country wherein prison reform is a number of the maximum debated topics in the political discourse, Poor, Williams, and Wood hope that compelling stories that humanize the incarcerated can make a contribution to changing the public belief of jail life and thus spotlight the want for exchange.

The production of Ear Hustle hasn’t been without its demanding situations, both. Although she says the prison administration has been commonly supportive of the undertaking, navigating the purple tape of coming and going has been hard at instances.

Once she is with Woods and Williams inside San Quentin, there’s no get admission to net. After leaving, they are not able to talk thru phone or electronic mail and need to wait till her subsequent go to.