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Inmate-produced radio station streams beyond prison walls


LIMON, Colo. — Herbert Alexander stares at the sound waves jumping on the computer screen in front of him, his shaved head partially covered by headphones. He’s editing a short audio feature on incarcerated fathers, a subject with which he is intimately familiar. 

His two sons will soon hear his voice and his story because Alexander, 46, an inmate at Limon Correctional Facility, is preparing a segment for Inside Wire: Colorado Prison Radio, billed as the first radio station to be produced inside a prison and available to the world outside.

Other radio stations created in prisons generally air only within the walls of their lockups, but Inside Wire, which premiered March 1, reaches all 21 prisons in the state and beyond, online and by app, making the first of its kind in the country, organizers said. 

“In spaces where isolation continues, this medium can cut through that,” said Ryan Conarro, general manager and program director of Inside Wire and creative producer for the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative, which oversees the program in partnership with the Colorado Department of Corrections.

“Our listeners can feel heard and can feel like there’s a companion with them, even when they’re in great isolation in whatever space they’re in,” added Conarro, whose group offers therapeutic and educational arts programming to incarcerated individuals, from full-fledged theater productions to the “With(in)” podcast to a news publication written by inmates.

Image:
The interior yard at Limon Correctional Facility in Limon, Colo.Rachel Woolf for NBC News

Inside Wire — a collaboration among three Colorado prisons: Limon, Sterling Correctional Facility, and Denver Women’s Correctional Facility — streams 24/7 to the other prison complexes via closed-circuit television. The public can stream the station online or via the Inside Wire app and listen to its mix of music, bulletins, interviews with residents and staff members and original audio features. All the programming is recorded and reviewed by corrections staff before airing; so far, nothing has been rejected.

Limon, about 90 miles southeast of Denver, forms the nucleus of the sprawling project. Alexander and the rest of the six-man production team work out of a carpeted classroom with a small sound booth in one corner next to a long table lined with computers. Family photos and comics are taped to some screens and walls; a microwave oven and coffee maker sit by the door.



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