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WBEZ Chicago Launches Binge-Worthy Podcast Series about Life in Prison
‘Written Inside’ tells gripping stories that reveal the realities of life behind bars
CHICAGO (March 16, 2017) – WBEZ Chicago is proud to present its new podcast series, Written Inside: Stories About Prison Cells. The series features essays by inmates at Illinois’ Stateville Correctional Center about their prison cells – shedding light on the everyday experience of incarceration. The first episode of the eight-part series, “A Silent Piano,” will be released on March 21. An audio trailer for the podcast is now available on wbez.organd on the WBEZ app.
The Written Inside series was cultivated by award-winning, Chicago-based author and journalist Alex Kotlowitz. Kotlowitz began working with the inmates through a colleague at Northwestern University, Jennifer Lackey, who invited him to speak to a class she taught at the correctional center. Kotlowitz asked Lackey’s students, 15 male inmates facing long sentences, to complete a writing exercise describing their cells, and the results captivated him. Recognizing the potential each story possessed to reveal the realities of life in prison, Kotlowitz worked with the students to develop and refine their stories.
Last fall, Kotlowitz started developing the essays for broadcast with WBEZ’s Content Development Team, which recently launched the much-acclaimed podcast series Making Oprah. The production team – led by producer Colin McNulty – was eager to collaborate with Kotlowitz and to develop audio versions of the human stories captured in the essays.
“Most of us will never go to prison – but the United States incarcerates more people than any other country on the planet,” said WBEZ Vice President of Content and Programming Ben Calhoun. “America is home to 22 percent of the world’s prison population. In that sense, incarceration, the human experience of incarceration, and how we treat people in prison are crucial questions for us as Americans. Alex, as a gifted journalist and editor, and these inmates, by sharing their personal stories, have invited us to think about those questions and learn.”
“Much of my work is driven by a simple question: How does one live their life, especially those in extraordinary circumstances? And that’s what these essays set out to do, to give us a glimpse into how one lives their life behind bars,” Kotlowitz said. “I’m so accustomed to telling people’s stories, there was something exciting about helping people tell their own.”
Three essays from the series will be featured on New Yorker Radio Hour on March 24 (and that weekend – check local listings) when Kotlowitz will join host David Remnick to discuss the project and his experience working with the Stateville inmates. Several essays were published on The New Yorker’s website late last year.
Alex Kotlowitz is the author of three books, including There Are No Children Here, which is considered one of the most important pieces of American non-fiction. A former staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and on This American Life. He is the recipient of numerous journalism honors, including two Peabody Awards, two Columbia DuPont Awards, an Emmy and a George Polk Award. He teaches nonfiction writing at Northwestern University, and is currently working on a book about gun violence in Chicago.
The first podcast episode will be released on March 21; subsequent episodes will be released biweekly until mid-April. Tolisten to the series trailer and subscribe to future episodes, visit wbez.orgor download the WBEZ app in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ 91.5 is Chicagoland’s premier media hub for high quality, fact-based journalism and engaging, entertaining audio programs and podcasts. WBEZ’s award-winning investigative journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change. WBEZ Chicago is home to two daily local programs, The Morning Shift and Worldview, and a growing portfolio of popular podcasts, including Nerdette, Sound Opinions, and Making Oprah. WBEZ Chicago also co-produces the groundbreaking and nationally acclaimed programs This American Life, Serial, and Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!