Wearing a forest green jumpsuit and big headphones over his ears, Anthony Quintana leans into the microphone and greets listeners to Colorado’s first prison internet radio station.
He has been behind bars for 33 years, isolated from his family and the outside world, but today his voice can reach most cells in the Colorado state prison system. He is one of 15 inmates from three Colorado facilities behind Inside Wire, which was launched on Tuesday via coloradoprisonradio.com.
The station will not air live, but its incarcerated producers take inspiration from radio DJs, providing music and commentary to break up the monotony of prison life and give new perspectives to those behind bars.
And while other prisons have offered low-power prison radio programs — available to those who live near prisons — Colorado’s online station allows producers from the three participating prison studios to be heard in n’ any facility in the state, where inmates can tune in through prison televisions.
The soundproof walls of Limon Correctional Facility’s recording studio provide a stark contrast to the concrete cells of the Level 4 prison, which houses medium to high risk inmates. Inside the recording studio, housed in a wing reserved for educational programs, interview tips are posted on the wall and audio production instructions are scribbled on a whiteboard. A “Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” sits on the desk next to an audio switchboard.
For Quintana, or DJ Q-VO as he calls himself on air, the show is an opportunity to fight the stigma of prison life.
“I took the life of a man and not a day goes by and everything I do without acknowledging it,” said Quintana, engineer and director of operations for the program. “I want people to know that there really are people changing here.”
“Transforming prisons into places of humanity”
Inside Wire, a collaboration between the Colorado Department of Corrections and the University of Denver’s Prison Arts Initiative, is produced by people incarcerated at Limon Correctional Facility, Sterling Correctional Facility, and Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.
“It is one more stake in our mission to transform prisons into a place of humanity, to have a purpose, an intentionality and to bring men and women behind the walls not only in this mission, but for that they’re leading the mission to make prisons more intentional,” Dean Williams, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, told the Colorado Sun.
He called Inside Wire part of the journey to “make prisons more intentional and human.”
He hopes the program will help change the prison culture to become more goal-oriented and help share the stories of incarcerated men and women.
“So when these men and women lead, it not only changes them, it changes us and how we respond,” he said.
Inside Wire producers will produce a variety of segments, including weekly conversations with Williams on a program called “Up to the Minute with Dean Williams.”
There are no restrictions on what inmates can request, although they must be respectful and intentional in their requests, he said.
“I expect them to not just be fluff or softballs all the time,” Williams said. “The only thing I said was that whatever you ask should be done with dignity and respect.”
Inside the wire the program is varied, with music from all genres, from country to hip-hop. Instead of commercials, the producers record short public service announcements, ranging from health and fitness tips to promotional clips for Inside Wire.
Segments will include the podcast “With (in)”, another collaboration between DU and CDOC, which aims to change the conversation about who is in prison. On Friday night, “One Tune” will air, which leaves guests wondering: If you were stranded on an island or in space and could take one song with you, which one would it be and why?
A way to go beyond their past
Beyond Prison Walls, the program is intended to help provide listeners with a new perspective on what prison culture is all about and offers prisoners a new way to move beyond their past into a brighter future. positive, said Ryan Conarro, staff member of DU’s Prison Arts Initiative. and program director and general manager of Inside Wire.
“Many of the people I work with inside prison institutions are here because they have done wrong and they are separated from society because of it and they are working for healing and redemption. . If we continue to have what has traditionally been there, which is a space of great isolation and a sense of lack of connection, that redemption and healing is much less likely to occur. … I think telling stories, listening to each other and sharing those stories is fundamental,” Conarro said.
After the segments are recorded, they are reviewed by the producers at Inside Wire, then by Conarro, and finally by CDOC staff. So far, hundreds of hours of content have been created, but none have been reported.
“We agreed that the content we share, the stories and voices we share, always want to go in the direction of shared healing and mutual understanding. So, from the songs on our playlist to the personal stories we amplify inside the installations, we want them to embody that,” Conarro said.
But the contents aren’t meant to be “sugar coated,” he said.
“It’s not meant to be a little sliver of reality. We want to open the minds and eyes of listeners to what prison life is like and who is here, and amplify the stories that complicate a sort of one-dimensional view of who is incarcerated in there,” he said. declared.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the six incarcerated producers at Limon Correctional Center gathered inside the prison library to listen to the launch of the show which also aired on television to the cells of thousands of other inmates across the state.
“10, 9, 8, 7,” the producers count down the air before the sound of a rocket explodes. “Ladies and gentlemen, Inside Wire Colorado Prison Radio is about to connect to every prison in Colorado, and beyond.”
Darrius Turner, the programme’s musical director, said it was important to be part of the program which he hopes shows his personal growth since his incarceration in 2009.
“Being with this group of guys to accomplish something that’s bigger than us and passing that on to the next generation to give them positive tools, that’s what made it really surreal to be a part of this,” Turner said. .
His mother, three children and girlfriend will listen to the kickoff broadcast, along with his sister who said she would play it on the PA system of a dry cleaner in Florida, where she works.
Benny Hill was sentenced to life without parole, but he hopes the program will help other inmates before they reenter society to find validation, find value and learn to deal with the issues that brought them down. in jail, he said.
“There are a lot of good people here who are under the shadow of a lot of terrible things: addictions, violence, hate, anger,” he said. “And prison can fix that in a way, not just by putting band-aids on things, but fix it in a way that will end up changing a person for the better.”
Some people will be released, and when they do, Hill hopes prison programs, like InsideWire, will give them the tools to contribute to society in a positive way.
“Because when he comes out and becomes a father, and becomes a husband, boyfriend, son, and then finally, I’d like to see that person be the best they can be.”
Inside Wire is also available on the Inner thread application.