LIMON, Colo. - Herbert Alexander stares at sound waves on the computer screen, his head partially covered with headphones. He is editing an audio feature about incarcerated dads. This subject is very familiar to him.
Alexander, 46, a Limon Correctional Facility inmate, will soon be able to share his story with his two sons. Alexander is currently preparing a segment to Inside Wire Colorado Prison Radio. This station, which Alexander calls the "first radio station produced inside a prison" and accessible to the outside world, was launched in 2007.
Other radio stations that were created in prisons typically broadcast only inside their walls. But Inside Wire, which launched March 1, reached all 21 prisons in the state as well as beyond via app and online, organizers stated.
Ryan Conarro, general manager of Inside Wire, program director and creative producer of the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative (which oversees the program in partnership the Colorado Department of Corrections) said, "In spaces that continue to isolate, this medium can cut through that."
"Our listeners feel heard and can feel like they're a friend," Conarro said. Conarro's group offers therapeutic and educational programming for incarcerated people, including full-fledged theatre productions and the "With(in)," podcast, as well as a news magazine written entirely by inmates.
Inside Wire is a collaboration between three Colorado prisons: Limon Correctional Facility and Sterling Correctional Facility. It streams 24/7 to other prison complexes via closed circuit television. You can stream the Inside Wire station online , or download the Inside Wire application to listen to the mix of music, bulletins and interviews with residents and staff. Before airing, all programming is recorded and checked by corrections personnel.
The heart of the project is Limon, located about 90 miles southwest of Denver. Alexander and the six-man production crew work in a classroom with a sound booth in one corner, next to a large table with computers. The walls are covered with family photos and comics. A microwave oven and coffeemaker can be found by the door.
They earn at least four cents per day and work two shifts from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each week. Inside Wire is their facility job. It can earn them an audio production certificate from the University of Denver.
Jody Aguirre (58), Inside Wire's engagement director and has been in prison for nearly three decades after a murder conviction.
A well-timed radio song saved his life years ago when he was in isolation.
"There are people here who don’t have families and don’t have anyone other than our radio. He said, "If I can be that voice and give them that gift of life, then I can help them." Or bring joy to them and make them dance.
Alexander, Alexander's colleague, stated that he originally applied for the team because of its vocational opportunities, but he now realizes it's much more than a job.
Alexander, who has been in prison for 13 years for aggravated burglary, said, "What I'm doing there, the history we're making here. Pioneering this." So, when my son is talking to his friends and they say, "My dad is the manager here" or "My dad's a doctor", he can still feel proud of his dad's accomplishments.
He continued, "And that's why it means something to me." "I believe that if we do the right things, we can inspire others, once they see our actions, and inspire them to do better."
Producers said that prison staff and prisoners have been trying to get interviewed on the station since its inception.
Ashley Hamilton, cofounder and executive director of University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative, stated that "we haven't created the opportunity to listen to the narratives of what people inside are doing on themselves, in their community, and in the way they're living." It's more than a radio station. It's also a platform for healing.
Dean Williams, the executive director of Colorado Department of Corrections, was appointed in 2019. His goal is to reduce the state's recidivism rate of nearly 50 percent. He also wants to make incarceration less stressful. He said that the radio station supports this effort.
Williams stated that Williams added, "It's just one more step to change the system." It has the potential to change the narrative not only for those who live here but also for those who work here.
Williams will host Inside Wire’s weekly "Up to the Minute with Dean Williams", which features one-to-one conversations between Williams and incarcerated people.
Anthony Quintana (51), Inside Wire's operations director and engineer, and assistant music director was convicted in 1989 of murder. Quintana said that the station allows inmates to make connections with their families as well as the families of the people they have hurt.
Quintana stated, "I harmed people going in here." "Hopefully, some victims in all our lives will see that we are trying to live in a manner that honors those people.