The United States incarcerates over 2 million people — more than any other country. Most are people of color, and most come from low income backgrounds. They lose freedom of movement, regular contact with their families, voting rights, and access to phones and the internet. Uncuffed gives people in prison the power to tell their own stories.
KALW began teaching audio journalism to people at San Quentin Prison in 2012 and expanded to Solano State Prison in 2018. We teach students how to record 40 to 60-minute StoryCorps-style interviews and edit them down to 6-8 minute pieces using ProTools software.
Last year, we launched a podcast version of the series. As of August 2020, we’ve aired more than 90 interviews and stories produced behind bars and our podcast had over 33,000 downloads.
Uncuffed’s mission is to create emotional, human stories to change the narrative around incarcerated people, and change the criminal justice system. An advisory board of formerly incarcerated people help us stay true to that mission. The statewide prison TV system now broadcasts many of our pieces, allowing other prisoners to see people like themselves in a positive light.
In-person classes have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we have continued mail-in journalism courses. Meanwhile, we have used our network and reputation to tell the story of how COVID has ravaged prisons, including an episode featuring people writing letters to their loved ones in prison, whom they haven’t been able to visit.
Uncuffed can be a model for any media outlet with a prison in its area. We have already helped similar projects get off the ground and are willing and able to offer our resources and experience to other groups.