Prison Radio Breaks Out!

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prisonI think this is just amazing. It is also a great demonstration of the power of radio — even when its reach is artificially limited.

The big winners of the Sony Radio Academy Awards were unable to attend the ceremony in which they received four awards, two of them gold. You see they were unfortunately detained by the sentences they are serving at the U.K’s Brixton Prison. Not bad for programming that never reaches any ears other than the incarcerated (and the award judges, obviously). I gather the total audience is about 800 people.

Electric Radio Brixton is a name I’ll bet will be in the news a good bit from here on out. Check out their entries for the Sony Awards!

This is great stuff because it touches on so many aspects of the importance of radio.

  • Learning radio production skills simultaneously provides job skills, focus, and discipline, all required traits for reintegration into society.
  • Radio production provides an outlet for interaction and creativity on the part of the prisoners. Shows run the gamut from poetry and religion to Governor’s Question Time which runs monthly.
  • Prison radio generates and strengthens community among its listeners.

Erwin James at the Guardian UK puts the biggest benefit of this sort of program into its social context very nicely. The “Nash” that he is referring to is the inmate who had a place on a radio training course and produced two programs for ERB – one on re-offending and one on religion:

Nash may not go out into the world and become a radio programme maker or producer. But he will go out with added confidence in himself and transferable skills that will help to open more doors for him than would have been possible just doing time behind his cell door or on a workshop bench earning inordinate profits for private industry contractors. Doors opening for people like Nash means fewer potential victims when they step outside and the prison gates close behind them.

Prison Radio Association chief exec Phil McGuire is such an evangelist for the power of radio to improve and rehabilitate that his stated goal is to have a radio station in every prison in the UK. With twelve already operating in various correctional facilities, he’s off to a decent start. We wish him well and will keep an ear out for further developments.

Its amazing the radio you can find on the other side of a thirty foot tall barbed wire fence….

Photo courtesy of publik15, used under its Creative Commons license

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