Bustin’ In & Bustin’ Out: Books, Radio Programs, and the Phone Calls

This weekend I volunteered at the Grassroots Radio Conference‘s registration table and attended the panel Bustin’ In, Bustin’ Out: The Key to Prison Justice.

Below are the panelists with links to their affiliated organizations.

Barbara Kessel from UC Books to Prisoners and Reading Reduces Recidivism

Nick Szuberla from Thousand Kites

Steven Renderos from Center for Media Justice and Prison Phone Justice

Bustin’ In, Bustin’ Out: The Key to Prison Justice seemed like a great interest point to my studies and as a follow up to the documentary that I previously wrote about, Music From the Big HouseThis documentary showed one of the men behind bars as a DJ at Angola prison’s radio station. Apparently this is a rare occurrence in the PIC and prisoner-ran radio stations are more popular in Europe.

Since I’m am not all too knowledgeable about radio, I’m going to provide as many resources and projects I’ve learned about during this session.

The common theme in this session was on communication to the outside world whether through books, radio, or the telephone.

Prison Phone Justice is composed of three organizations: MAG-Net, Working Narratives, and Prison Legal News.

I’ll let their campaign describe their issue:

Put into simple terms, up to 60% of the costs of calls from prison has nothing to do with the cost of the phone service provided. So when Mary talks to her husband 40% percent of the cost is for the service and 60% is a kickback to the state government.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The vast majority of states receive kickbacks from phone companies, which result in higher phone rates.
  1. These excessive rates further distance prisoners from their families, who can ill afford high phone bills. While most prisoners are from urban areas, virtually all prisons built in the last 30 years have been built in rural areas far from where most prisoners have family or community ties.
  1. The nation is disadvantaged when prisoners are unable to maintain family ties that will help them succeed post-release. There is a widely-known and researched correlation between prisoners who maintain contact with their families and those who are successful in staying out of prison after they are released.
  1. Most states profit handsomely from prison phone kickbacks, to the tune of over $152 million a year nationwide.

Continue reading the brief of there campaign here.

Nick Szuberla, Thousand Kites, stated that the radio not only can bring voices in, but can also bring voices out. Their radio program created accountability to the rural Kentucky prison that severely isolates people behind bars from urban areas, for example the nearest bus station and airport is three hours away.

You can read more about this program through this article, Don’t Hate the Player: Radio Project Reaches Out to Inmates and Their Families, Breaking the Silence Around America’s Prisons.

Below is an explanation of their radio program:

Thousand Kites also features a radio program, Calls From Home that invites you to:

Join our special radio program that brings the voices of families across the nation to the airwaves as they send greetings directly to their incarcerated loved ones.

Below is an example of their program:

Below is the trailer of a documentary, Up the Ridge,  about the PIC and keeping people behind bars that were used to urban settings in a rural area:

Two additional resources suggested from participates were:

In addition to this panel that I attended, I also was able to attend the Speak Cafe which featured poets with experience ranging from being new to the stage to Hakim Bellamy –  inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM (2012-2014), co-creator of the multimedia Hip Hop theater production Urban Verbs: Hip-Hop Conservatory & Theaterand Strategic Communication Director at Media Literacy Project. Visit Hakim’s website at: http://hakimbe.com/. Oh, and what makes Hakim even more awesome? He loves libraries! 🙂

Below is one of his poems, Generation

Photo Credits: Barbara’s pictureNick’s pictureSteven’s picture


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