Meet Earlonne Woods, the producer of “Ear Hustle,” an award-winning podcast that until recently was produced solely inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison.
The podcast, which began in 2017, was created by Woods, fellow incarcerated journalist Antwan Williams, and volunteer Nigel Poor. Their concept to tell stories of life inside exploded into an international success when the podcast won Radiotopia’s Podquest competition, winning against 1,537 entries from 53 countries.
That earned the team funding for their 10-episode first season, which told stories of friendships, romance, loss and success inside San Quentin. Now, three seasons and 22 million downloads later, there’s a big difference in terms of how Ear Hustle is produced.
Woods was released in November 2018 after 27 years of incarceration. As a free man, Woods now works full-time as a producer for Ear Hustle, continuing to tell the stories of those inside while using his freedom to share the experiences of those coming home after prison.
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Being released, going out, I’ll tell you, even breathing in the air outside the prison was different.
For me, being in prison twice and having at that time probably a 25-year prior history of prison, I was I guess the expert on all things prison.
Our first episode came out June 14, 2017.
What I didn’t know at the time is that citizens had no clues of what was going on inside of prisons, or what people’s experience was.
So I think we gave people a glimpse into what prison life is like.
And in the process, was able to humanize a marginalized population.
And if we didn’t have the volunteers coming in to assist us with these things, then people might have never heard of Ear Hustle.
Prisons did change.
And when I say change, bringing in self-help groups, bringing in a lot of self-help groups.
Allowing in a lot of volunteers to help people.
So I think from that aspect they’re starting to earn the R on rehabilitation.
They’re starting to earn that R.
Usually when you’re getting out of prison, it starts off at 3 in the morning where you have to go to Receiving and Release.
I know what it means to hear from someone that got out and to see what’s going on in their life.
If they’re being an asset, you know?
You can look at me and see hey, I didn’t serve my full sentence, you know?
And I’m out here doing everything I can to be a great reflection for them guys.