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- Insight Prison Project And around this time, Nigel heard about this competition called Podquest that was being run by the podcasting network Radiotopia. That’s after the break. I'm like, "Okay." That was the turning point right there. When he was 13 or 14, Earlonne started selling joints on the street for a dollar apiece. So when we were having all the interviews, we were just like, man, this is looking good, you know? Music by Bobby Lord. Let’s see how we can change it, change this story. New York is the chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists San Quentin satellite chapter, and, in 2015, he co-founded Prison Renaissance. ALEX BLUMBERG: Welcome back to Without Fail and my conversation with podcast host Earlonne Woods. Nigel was a professor of photography there. ― co-hosted by Woods and Nigel Poor, an artist and volunteer at San Quentin ― interviews men in the prison about their lives there. Jerry Brown is releasing Woods from San Quentin State Prison after two decades behind bars. Like, just -- with a life sentence, you -- you don't know, you just stuck, you just incapacitated, basically. So I was like, yeah, they ain't gonna win.". [phone ringing] But, in my heart, I knew that it was true. Antwan travels throughout the Bay Area touring high schools and colleges using music, storytelling and motivational speaking as a way to encourage the youth to take proactive and productive paths in their lives. It’s available wherever you listen to podcasts. And I was sitting there just listening to her like, "Mmm, sounds interesting." - Birds Eye View, made by women in the Darwin Correctional Centre in Australia It was called “San Quentin Film School” — a documentary on the Discovery Channel about a filmmaking program at San Quentin penitentiary, a prison with a long and notorious history but that was becoming known for its progressive programming for inmates. Well, what is a podcast? Earlonne and a prison volunteer named Nigel Poor, together with another inmate they recruited, Antwan Williams, began developing the idea for their new show. And she started basically telling us about it. Let's, uh... -- let's -- let's get rid of this gun. Just went in jail and got out, and when it -- when it boils down to it, you basically limit yourself to a skill set that you feel you know more about. Ear Hustle is supported by: Radiotopia's Julie Shapiro (Executive Producer), Amy Standen (Editor), Bruce Wallace (Senior Producer), John “Yahya” Johnson (Producer) and Erin Wade (Digital Producer). - Insight Garden Program, We're so glad you've tuned in for all of our episodes! ALEX BLUMBERG: And you remember this conversation? EARLONNE WOODS: She's like, "Put in a commutation, you know? Today is National Voter Registration Day! Learned, first, iMovies, then Final Cut Pro. It focuses on both the personal and the political, shedding light on issues of mass incarceration and the criminal justice system by telling intimate, humanizing stories, like the tale of one inmate’s obsession with keeping small critters as pets in his cell or another’s struggle to be intimate with his wife while behind bars. To have your sentence commuted and to be released from prison? - Prison University Project Nothing. So I was thinking like that. EARLONNE WOODS: And I'm like, -- I'm like, "Ah!". EARLONNE WOODS: I said something like, "When you think about San Quentin, …. So that was the -- that was the mentality at the moment. And then a long time spent cast out from society, where the person reflects on what they’ve done. The stories was easy. ALEX BLUMBERG: When Earlonne got out of prison, he had a job waiting for him on the outside - as a full-time producer, working on Ear Hustle. While inside, he discovered a love of writing and became a contributor to The Marshall Project, Wall City Magazine and the San Quentin News, among other publications. So it affected the way that I started looking at the storytelling aspect and how powerful storytelling is, and, you know what it can be used for, you know? Since the podcast’s launch in 2017, it’s been downloaded millions of times, featured in media outlets from NPR to The New York Times, and made several “best of” podcast rankings. And provide a clue to what that twist will be. Governor Brown writes, “Mr Woods has clearly shown that he is no longer the man he was when he committed this crime.” And as evidence of that, the governor goes on to say, quote: “He has set a positive example for his peers and, through his podcast, has shared meaningful stories from those inside prison. EARLONNE WOODS: No social media, no internet ... ALEX BLUMBERG: ...Twitter, Facebook. ANCHOR: Their voices now stretching far beyond this prison’s barbed-wire-covered walls... ALEX BLUMBERG: And so a friend of Earlonne’s, a volunteer at the prison, had an idea: with this spotlight on his work, and having served now two decades of his 31-to-life sentence, Earlonne should put in for a commutation -- make an official appeal to the governor, to set him free. And, and, and -- and I really -- I don't take it for granted at all, because I have -- it was another guy in that car with us that's still in prison to 2028. And that's where, um -- it was a totally different environment, you know? So the only way we knew what was going on was when, when I started getting letters from colleges, classrooms in high school, like, letters from all the students talking about this podcast and discussing certain things in it. When you living, like, the street life, you know, some people say every day could be your last, and that's true because you involved in a total different lifestyle. EARLONNE WOODS: It was like, it wasn't a bad thing growing up. You're not even really tripping like that. Not that she didn't know the dangerousness of prisons, but she kind of felt that we were pretty safe, you know? So... ALEX BLUMBERG: So you started putting that podcast together and -- but you had still at this point while you're -- while you're -- you've won the contest and now you're starting to put together the podcast ... ALEX BLUMBERG: You have still at this point -- is it still the only podcast you've actually listened to were the couple of Snap Judgments? You were able to hear, you know, different points of views in different -- and how individuals sculpted these stories together, and -- and how did they lead into this and come into that? And one day, a program came on TV that caught his eye. [phone ringing] I attempted to call my home. It was like, yeah, he get a bag of letters. So I went through this whole process, and a year ago on the day before Thanksgiving, I got the call from Governor Brown's office. Um. I heard Cellies when it came out, and I was just listening. As explained above, we are not able to directly pay the men working on Ear Hustle. It's ... EARLONNE WOODS: It's -- it's a very heavy choice, but the reality of it is, she could've been right, you know? What did it feel like inside? Woods was involved in an attempted robbery in 1997, when he was in his 20s. Like, I think it was, like, channel three or something where we used to put up content for the videos on those channels. If you like what you hear, please consider making a donation to Ear Hustle to support our production and distribution. So uh, we was like, "Well, okay. Now we gotta figure out how do you do a podcast from a prison and, you know, how do we do all this? EARLONNE WOODS: And for me, you know, I was involved in gangs, so I just went to prison and continued the gang banging, you know, trade in prison, you know? EARLONNE WOODS: Yeah, it was -- it was -- it was a few that was approved to come in, and it was mainly Snap Judgment, um, I think -- I think one of -- I think it could've been This American Life and Reply -- Reply All.

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