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Stories from the state’s prisons

People gathered at La Plazita Institute in the South Valley to talk lockup in New Mexico.
People gathered at La Plazita Institute in the South Valley to talk lockup in New Mexico.
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

Wallens Ridge State Prison opened near Whitesburg, Ky., where Nick Szuberla lives. About 2,100 people populate his tiny town, and the supermax prison houses 1,200 beds.

It was April 1999, and Szuberla was hosting the only hip-hop radio show on central Appalachia’s bluegrass-heavy airwaves. Prisoners were shipped in from all corners of the United States, so the number of people listening to “Holler to the Hood” jumped. The DJ saw an unusual radio opportunity. He put together an experimental call-in day where inmates’ friends and families could offer shout-outs.

It launched a grassroots campaign called Thousand Kites that aims to get the conversation rolling about criminal justice. Szuberla came to Albuquerque to connect with folks who’ve been affected by the prison system. The Alibi was there and collected a few narratives, too.

As part of the project, a phone line went up to collect New Mexico’s stories. Inmates—or those on the outside—can call (877) 518-0606 to talk lockup. KUNM 89.9 will air a selection of those messages on “Generation Justice” on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m.

People can also tell their tales online. Public access cable station channel 27 will air an interview with Szuberla and speak with the Media Literacy Project, which brought him out here, in the near future.