Ear Hustle brings you the daily realities of life inside prison, shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration.
The podcast is a partnership between Nigel Poor, a Bay Area visual artist, and Earlonne Woods, formerly incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and was co-founded with San Quentin resident Antwan Williams.
The Ear Hustle team works in the San Francisco Bay Area, both in San Quentin State Prison’s media lab and from offices on the outside, to produce stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny and always honest. Episodes offer a nuanced view of people involved with the American prison system and those reintegrating into society after serving time.
Ear Hustle won Radiotopia's Podquest contest in 2016, beating out more than 1,500 international entries. Since then, the podcast has received a number of awards, including a 2018 Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award for the episode “Dirty Water”; the 2018 and 2019 Webby Award for Podcasts and Digital Audio in the Documentary category; the 2019 Webby People's Voice Award for Documentary Podcast; the 2019 iHeartRadio Podcast Award for Best Social Impact; and the 2019 SPJ NorCal James Madison Freedom of Information Award for Audio Journalism. The show was also a Peabody Award nominee in 2017 and 2018.
Ear Hustle is a proud member of PRX’s Radiotopia, a curated network of extraordinary, cutting-edge podcasts.
The Inside Team
The Original Crew
Ear Hustle's distinct sound design is a team effort, from Pat Mesiti-Miller (Producer and Sound Design Support), inmates Antwan Williams and David Jassy, and others working in the media lab.
Ear Hustle is supported by: Radiotopia's Julie Shapiro (Executive Producer), Curtis Fox (Senior Producer), Rahsaan “New York” Thomas (Producer), Bruce Wallace (Producer), John “Yahya” Johnson (Producer) and Erin Wade (Digital Producer).
Two weeks between episodes is an eternity! Why does it take so long?
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We appreciate listeners wanting to hear more episodes more often, but please keep in mind that producing a podcast from inside a prison (without internet or phone access) takes much more time than producing one on the outside. This has been a learning process for all involved, and while our systems are improving, it’s still a ton of work to get each episode publish-ready.
Is Ear Hustle censored by San Quentin State Prison (SQSP) authorities?
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Every Ear Hustle episode is approved by prison administration as a matter of policy concerning outgoing media of any form from San Quentin. The administration has shown great support for Ear Hustle, and we see no indication that they will make it difficult for us to pursue the podcast we’ve outlined from the start, sharing stories about the day to day life in prison. We are not concerned about this need for approval compromising the content or integrity of the show.
Are the inside producers getting paid?
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Ear Hustle was created and is produced as a labor of love. All monies earned through sponsorships and donations are invested directly back into the project to cover the cost of production, including paying Nigel for her role in co-producing, co-hosting and shepherding the show from San Quentin to the public. To date, revenue does not cover the entire cost of producing the show; PRX absorbs the extra expenses.
In following institutional protocol from CDCR, Ear Hustle is not allowed to directly pay the men working on the show. Beyond monetary compensation, the men involved with Ear Hustle production are learning marketable skills that can help them job search once they leave prison.
Additionally, once Ear Hustle is earning steady revenue, we intend to donate a portion of this to the Prison University Project, the program that Nigel first worked with when she began volunteering at San Quentin in 2011.
I heard that Earlonne was released from San Quentin last year. Where can I find out more?
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It's true! The day before Thanksgiving 2018, then-California Governor Jerry Brown commuted Earlonne's sentence, and Earlonne was released from San Quentin on Nov. 30, 2018. You can hear more about it in this bonus episode.
So what is Earlonne's role on the show now?
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Earlonne is now employed by PRX as a full-time producer with Ear Hustle, and is busy reporting on re-entry stories and daily life for formerly incarcerated people, while also documenting his own experiences. He is still co-hosting these portions of the show, with Nigel.
How can I collaborate with Ear Hustle?
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Thank you so much for the interest, but to be honest, most likely, you can’t. It’s not possible to bring collaborators into San Quentin State Prison regularly, nor to connect via internet or phone with the men inside. Besides the logistical challenges of collaborating, while there are many people on the outside pursuing excellent journalism and storytelling about prison culture and reform, with Ear Hustle we are committed to producing stories from and giving voice to the men on the inside. And while we are expanding to include stories of re-entry in season four, we are not, at this time, taking pitches related to this subject.
In general, due to the unique nature of our production, we do not respond to outside requests or pitches for material.
Do you have transcripts of the episodes?
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Yes! You can find transcripts of each episode on our transcripts page.
How can I support Ear Hustle?
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Thanks for your interest in this! You can always donate to the show, to support what we’re doing, and help keep us Hustling into the future. If you’d like to send a physical check, please make it out to PRX, Inc., put “Ear Hustle” in the memo line and send it to:
P.O. Box 382234
Cambridge, MA 02238
Would you or your company like to sponsor Ear Hustle? Just contact Radiotopia and they will hook you up.
Can I get Ear Hustle merch?
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Yes you can. We have T-shirts and mugs available. Order yours today!
Does purchasing merch support the Ear Hustle team directly?
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As explained above, we are not able to directly pay the men working on Ear Hustle. But we do donate 25% of all proceeds from merch to San Quentin's Prison University Project, the program that Nigel first worked with when she began volunteering there in 2011. The rest of the proceeds from merch will go toward supporting production of the show.
How can I write a letter directly to the guys who tell their stories in Ear Hustle?
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Prison rules prohibit Nigel from passing on any letters, but you can find all the information you'll need — an inmate's CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) number and the prison address — yourself.
You can locate any inmate's CDCR number on the CDCR website, and find San Quentin’s address and instructions on their site, as well.
And you'll find the names of the men featured in our stories on each episode page, in the show notes.
Can Ear Hustle pass along my message to one of the guys featured in an episode?
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Sorry, but we’re not able to relay messages, discuss or speculate about any activity within the San Quentin facility.
How can I write a letter to an inmate at another prison?
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It's great that you want to start writing letters to prisoners! Unfortunately, we can’t provide guidance on specific pen pal programs, because we simply don’t know enough about each individual one. We encourage you to do careful research and vet pen pal programs thoroughly before giving them your information.
I love the music featured on Ear Hustle. Is there any way to listen to it outside of the podcast episodes?
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Right now, music featured on Ear Hustle is not available for download outside of podcast episodes. But, you can stream some of the songs from our episodes on the music page of our website.
I'd like to donate a book/s to San Quentin. Is that possible?
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It is, and we appreciate your generosity. All general donations are housed in the existing library for all the men at San Quentin to borrow, including those in administrative segregation, mainline, reception center, condemned row and the hospital.
But please heed these guidelines: No hardcovers, no sexually explicit content and no overtly violent content will be accepted. If you are sending used books, make sure they are free of any personal information such as notes or bookmarks stuck between the pages.
The Law Library is especially looking for books published in the last 1-3 years on criminal law and appeals, including Nolo books.
Ship your books to:
Book Donation for SQSP
1 Main St.
P.O. Box 487
San Quentin, CA 94964
Note: This only applies for general donations. If you want to send a book to a specific person, it needs to be purchased via an approved vendor, i.e. Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and sent directly to the incarcerated person. For more information about how to do this, please see our FAQ about writing to the guys who tell their stories on Ear Hustle, and the CDCR’s rules about packages.
Big thanks to Ms. Lopez for volunteering her time and effort to organize this process and for finding a way for books to get inside.
I live in the Bay Area and would like to volunteer at San Quentin. How can I get involved?
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I have a question not answered here. How can I get in touch?
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You can email us or send us a postcard — and keep your ears peeled for “Catch a Kite” episodes featuring questions sent in from listeners via postcard.
Making a podcast is hard work for anyone. It's even harder for us. If you like what you hear, please consider making a donation to Ear Hustle to support our production and distribution.