SAN QUENTIN (KPIX) — If the walls at San Quentin prison could talk, what a tale they could tell. Now those tales are being told in a program called Ear Hustle — the first podcast produced inside a prison by inmates.
The podcast name is prison slang for eavesdropping on someone else’s private conversation and that is the sensibility the podcast producers are attempting to achieve.
Nigel Poor, a professor of photography at Sacramento State is the co-creator, co-producer and co-host of Ear Hustle. Poor has been volunteering at San Quentin’s media lab for five years.
“We are the only podcast that is being produced 100 percent inside a prison,” explained Poor. “So all of the interviewing, the recording, the sound design, the editing, the final mixing, everything is done inside the media lab, inside San Quentin.”
Poor insists Ear Hustle is a three-way collaboration, giving her co-producers Antwan Williams and Earlon Woods equal billing for their efforts.
The trio produces stories about daily prison life, stories on topics ranging from from living conditions to relationships. They have even covered the topic of keeping pets, like mice and birds, in prison.
Co-producer and inmate Antwan Williams, does sound design for Ear Hustle. He expects listeners on the outside may be skeptical.
“We have made a lot of wrongs in society,” explained Williams. “So the fears and concerns that they have is warranted and it’s OK. You know, everybody has a truth and our job here is to just take you into our truths — not to discredit or to place blame upon anything that we did. At the end of the day, we made choices.”
For inmate, co-host and co-producer Earlon Woods, developing Ear Hustle has been a way back to human connection after the life-changing sentence he received that brought him to San Quentin.
“When the judge hit that gavel and said ’31 to life’ I really couldn’t believe it — that I received all that time,” recalled Woods. “But I think that and a few other things just really brought it home to me. Like I am on the wrong path.”
That path led Woods to dedicate himself to right the wrongs he committed. He and Williams spend up to ten hours a day in San Quentin’s media lab, logging, editing, writing and voicing Ear Hustle. Woods is open and eager to share his own story, as well as those of is fellow inmates.
“I just walk up to people and be like ‘Man, tell me your story. We need a story,'” explained Woods.
“And people be like ‘I don’t have no story to tell’. Then I will be like, ‘tell me about the time you got married, tell me that.’ Then they will have a story to tell,” he said.
Now, everyone on the outside will be able to hear those stories too. Ear Hustle is going worldwide.
Radiotopia, an online podcast provider, just selected Ear Hustle the winner of its PodQuest Challenge. Ear Hustle beat out over 1500 hundred other entries to win and Radiotopia will make the program available as a paid download on its site later this year.