A Podcast Made by Prison Inmates Reaches the Finalist’s List for the Pulitzer Prize

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‘Ear Hustle’ Podcast By Prison Inmates Honored As Finalist For Pulitzer Prize (Screenshot from Sunday Closer)

Ear Hustle, a podcast co-hosted by Earlonne Woods, a former inmate at San Quentin; Nigel Poor, an artist and volunteer at the prison; and Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, a current inmate, has been selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. According to the published bio in the Pulitzer announcement, Nigel Poor is a visual artist whose work explores the various ways people make a mark and leave behind evidence of their existence. He is also a professor of photography at California State University, Sacramento. In 2011, Nigel got involved with San Quentin State Prison as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project. 

In 1997, Woods, convicted of attempted second-degree robbery, was sentenced to 31-years-to-life in prison. While incarcerated, he received his GED, attended Coastline Community College, and completed many vocational trade programs. In November 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown commuted Earlonne’s sentence after 21 years of incarceration. Upon his release, Earlonne was hired by PRX as a full-time producer for Ear Hustle, and he continues to work with Nigel, contributing stories about re-entry.

Ear Hustle is prison slang for eavesdropping or being nosy. Ear Hustle’s fourth season was named one of three finalists for the first-ever Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting.

@PulitzerPrizes called Ear Hustle “a consistently surprising and beautifully crafted series on life behind bars.”

“What we did was humanize [prisoners], just by telling their stories,” Woods told HuffPost of the podcast in 2018.. “Once you commit your crime, people think that’s what it is, but individuals change. They don’t stay the same people that they were when they committed their crimes. They grow up ― literally.”

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Launched in 2017 and produced by Radiotopia,, Ear Hustle enters the scene at a critical time for the nation’s prison population. As recently as May 6 the CDC reports that COVID 19 infection in detention facilities and prison populations is rising at alarming rates. 

Poor said Monday that when they first started the podcast, the idea that it would one day be associated with a Pulitzer was “inconceivable.”Getting this news today was a shock and a joy – my only sadness is because of sheltering in place, I’m not sure when we can share the news with our ‘inside’ team,” Poor told HuffPost, referring to restrictions on visitors to the prison amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “But, we are so proud and more determined than ever to bring listeners to these stories.”

The nomination is within a new category of recognition by the Pulitzer honors.  the Pulitzer Prize Board announced the debut of the category on December 5,  2019: ‘ “The renaissance of audio journalism in recent years has given rise to an extraordinary array of non-fiction storytelling. To recognize the best of that work, the Pulitzer Board is launching an experimental category to honor it,” Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy said.

Podcasts have been around since the 1980s – their roots go back to pre-internet days when the Radio Computing Services company distributed content software to radio stations in a digital format,  To learn more about the history of podcasting as a medium visit this article on Wiki or this timeline published by International Podcast Daily.