To learn about the lives of inmates, the podcast Ear Hustle is an excellent place to start. In the podcast, incarcerated individuals describe different aspects of prisons in America. The hosts are Nigel Poor, Earloone Woods, and Rahsaan “New York” Thomas. Woods was incarcerated for 21 years and Thomas has been serving time in San Quentin State Prison since 2000. With their intimate knowledge of prisons, they provide valuable background to the topics being discussed. Inmates talk about subjects such as cellmates, prison history, and prison food. This is an educational podcast presented in an informal way that is enjoyable to listen to.
Episode One, which is titled “Cellies“, is about cellmate relationships in prison. Stories range from cellmates having good relationships to very bad ones. Two brothers (Eddie and Emile DeWeaver) talk about their experience with each other. They wanted to live with one another for the security of living with a sibling but their different habits in their cell irritated each other so much they switched cellmates. Other “cellies”, such as Joshua Burton and David Jassy, are compatible and you can hear them telling jokes and laughing with each other during the episode. There are other stories told that are equally interesting that will inform you what is like living in close proximity to another person in a jail cell.
The episode “August 21, 1971” is about the deadliest day in San Quentin State Prison history. On this day, three correctional officers and three inmates were killed. The hosts give background to this event and interview people who were in the prison when the violence occurred. They talk a lot about George Jackson who was involved with the black power movement and one of the inmates killed during that day. There is also an interview with a prison guard who was there. It is interesting to hear the perspectives of both correctional officers and prisoners that were present when the violence occurred. From this episode, you not only learn about the history of San Quentin Prison but racial issues occurring in the United States during that time period.
The latest episode, which is titled “Tray, Tumbler, Spork“, is about the 30 Day Challenge. The challenge is to only eat the types of food provided in prisons and to eat meals at the same time as inmates. There are recipes for meals that staff members from the food services department in prisons give out to anyone participating in this challenge. Nigel Poor, one of the hosts who participated in the 30 Day Challenge, describes counting down the minutes for the next meal because of how hungry she was. Fans of the podcast also talk about their experience participating in the challenge. Many only lasted a few days due to how hungry they became. This was a revealing episode about the food services departments in prisons and provides insight into challenges inmates face.
The makers of Ear Hustle do an excellent job incorporating the testimonies of incarcerated individuals into each episode. With prison staff permission, they are able to interview many inmates who describe the raw reality of being in prison. Earlone Woods and Rahsaan Thomas additionally talk about their own experiences in prison that have many similarities to what is described in the interviews. The hosts present these interviews with background information that educates you about prison life. Poor, Wood, and Thomas are enjoyable to listen to and frequently joke around with each other. Ear Hustle is an insightful about prisons in America that I highly recommend.
Ear Hustle can be listened to on podcast apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or many others. It is also available of the Ear Hustle website.
To learn more prison life and the prison system, take a look about the books below. These can be placed on hold and picked up at any branch of the Yonkers Public Library.
Adult Services-Will Branch