"Radio stations could be meaningful forces for rehabilitative change in the hearts, souls, minds and spirits of prisoners. These are perilous times ... and America needs a good deal more than music and commentary on her airwaves." — Irving Elmer Bell
More than half of prison populations tend to be faithful listeners to one radio station or another. This face of prison life ought to be exploited for the good of all people — in or out of prison.
While radio program hosts and announcers cannot hear those instant monologues and dialogues that so often develop inside prison — as a direct result of what those hosts/announcers say over the nation's airwaves — I suspect that if they could, they would quickly realise the very real opportunity they have to be a serious rehabilitative force in the men, women and children in prison who are not getting any rehabilitation at all.
From time to time in the past one regional radio station, that I know of, has read one or two prisoners' poetry in the late evening — to its credit. However, what I propose would be much broader in scope and would be based upon getting the public's interaction as well as the prisoners'.
Imagine what might be accomplished for the community if each week a mere 14 minute space — paid for by various community organisations or donated by the station itself — was reserved for five brief poems written by prisoners, which the host/announcer reads to the public. We are not suggesting that the station simply read the poetic vanities of prisoners. The public could call in and, by a majority of votes, dictate the topic for each week's group of accepted poems: for example the first week's poems could be about remorse; the next redemption and so on.
The following week the station could read five brief poems, in response, to the prisoners' poems written by a pro and con (no pun intended) responsive public. Thus, meaningful dialogues would begin between prisoners and members of the public. I can see prisoners picking up pens, paper, dictionaries and such. I can see the potential for equally meaningful dialogues developing between prisoners; instead of sharing criminal ideas, prisoners could be sharing poetic thought.
When you consider that so many of us in prison have little or no formal education, the seeking out of a dictionary (especially at those prisons in which there is not even the pretence of rehabilitation) in itself is an act of rehabilitation and self-redemption. Yes, this is just a suggestion, but it could really work wonders!
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to answer letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, Jackson State Prison, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233-7800, USA. Australians Against Executions is raising funds to pay for a lawyer for Brandon's resentencing trial. If you can help, please make cheques payable to the Brandon Astor Jones Defence Account and post to 10 Palara Place, Dee Why NSW 2099. Donations to the Brandon Astor Jones Defence Account may also be made at any Commonwealth Bank, account No. 2127 1003 7638.]