Rhianne Ward writes on a podcast that will *steal* plenty of your time...
Sometimes music just isn’t enough to block out the nagging inner-voice of existential anxiety. On occasion we need something to negate the mundanity of daily tasks. Something to feel like we aren’t cleaning our bedroom but that instead, we are learning niche facts from scientists or history from drunken experts. In comes: The humble podcast. Among my personal favorites: My Favourite Murder, a classic for true crime fans; Ted Talks Daily for all things inspirational; This Podcast Will Kill You, discussing the history of disease (yay), and James Acaster’s Perfect Sounds – if you like niche music genres, this one’s for you.
In all likelihood, you will have already heard of these podcasts. So I’d really like to introduce you to one that may have not yet blessed your ears: Ear Hustle. This Pulitzer prize finalist is a podcast made by those incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison, California. It explores “the daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration”. With the help of the governor, volunteer artist Nigel Poor, and formerly incarcerated prisoners such as Eerlon Woods, this eye-opening podcast by Radiotopia was the first of its kind.
There are so many reasons that this podcast is special. Among them, is the shockingly honest prisoner testimonies (particularly in the first few episodes). Despite the prerequisite that each episode must be approved by prison officials, some of them have decidedly political undertones. One man’s account of his childhood abuse and mental health battles within prison has stuck with me ever since I heard it. His story highlights the devastation that the three strikes law can have on undeserving non-violent and mentally ill offenders facing life sentences. The harsh reality is that many Americans are victims of a system that seeks to punish rather than rehabilitate.
Ear Hustle occupies a rare niche within the podcast world. Heartfelt and sincere moments are punctuated with funny and surprising anecdotes from San Quentin’s own. It touches on deep rooted social issues to do with race, incarceration and judicial reform and reveals a refreshingly vulnerable side of men who live in a system otherwise riddled with toxic masculinity.
I genuinely think anyone who listens to this podcast will learn something and challenge their existing perceptions. But if nothing else, the show’s loveable presenters will provide the perfect company for your daily commute.
Words by Rhianne Ward