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Inmate-Run Prison Radio Station In Colorado Is First In The Country

LIMON, Colo. (CBS4) - Colorado is now home to the country's first-ever, statewide, prison radio station run by incarcerated people. Inside Wire: Colorado Prison Radio launched Tuesday from a studio at Limon Correctional Facility.

The station is a project of the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative, and its programming is created by incarcerated producers in production studios in three prisons: Limon Correctional Facility, Sterling Correctional Facility, and Denver Women's Correctional Facility.

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The shows are available to more than 14,000 incarcerated listeners inside all Colorado Department of Corrections facilities.

"There's so many people inside who are on a journey of positive change, and to be able to play a small part in that is really an honor," said Ryan Conarro, Inside Wire general manager and program director.

At Limon Correctional Facility life can be tough and freedoms limited, but the stories inside these walls are plentiful. For better or worse, it's a reality Anthony Quintana has known since 1991.

"I did some harm out there," Quintana said.

"I took a man's life," he added.

Three decades later, Quintana is on a much different path. On Tuesday, he and a team of incarcerated producers turned on their mics and spoke to every Colorado prison for the first time.

They call it Inside Wire, an audio broadcast by inmates, for inmates.

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"This is an opportunity to really change the stigmas of what prison is," Quintana said.

"I might not change how people feel about me, which is understandable, but I want to live my life in a way that honors those people that I harmed, and if I can do that by changing and helping other people through this platform and letting them know the paths not to go down, I'm going to do that," said Quintana.

Tuesday's launch is a year and a half in the making. The broadcasts are funded by DU's Prison Arts Initiative and aims to create community and purpose.

"It's such a fundamental human need to share a story, to feel heard, and it's been particularly potent as we move through the pandemic here," said Conarro.

From now on, inmates from the three prisons will broadcast 24 hours a day. Inside Wire's 24-hour program schedule includes a weekday morning music show, daily announcements and news, and a range of narrative features, including "Behind the Mic", "One Tune", and "Wired Up," as well as the weekly show "Up to the Minute with Dean Williams," the executive director of CDOC.

"Today is about a radio station, but it's also about a lot more," Williams said.

Williams sees the program as a small step toward transforming prisons by making them more humane and intentional.

"There's nothing good that comes from making prisons harsher than they necessarily already are," Williams said.

inmate mic
(credit: CBS)

"90-95% of the people behind the walls are going to be your neighbors, and you have to decide whether or not treating people like inhuman animals behind the walls is in your interest when they become your neighbor again. The answer is no, it doesn't. It has never worked in this country," said Williams

While many success stories could be months, if not years away, the program presents inmates with a unique opportunity in a place they're rarely found.

"I don't live my life thinking I deserve anything, but I want to live worthy that if I get an opportunity and a chance to be back out there in the world, that's what I want to live," Quintana said.

DU PAI plans to ramp up radio production in more facilities after launch.

Listen to Inside Wire which is also available to the public.

This report was originally published on March 1.

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