Stories from our prison system on KUNM Sunday
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. About 2.3 million citizens are in prison or jail, according to the Bureau of Justice.
On Sunday, 89.9 KUNM will broadcast a special where family members and inmates from around the country—and New Mexico—call in to speak to their loved ones. The pre-taped program is part of the Thousand Kites project, which collects stories about the prison system, and connects families and inmates.
I wrote about Thousand Kites back in September, when founder Nick Szuberla visited the South Valley and worked with the Media Literacy Project and La Plazita Institute to start an Albuquerque initiative.
“Research has repeatedly shown that inmates who maintain strong connections with their families are less likely to become trapped in the revolving door of the criminal justice system,” says Media Literacy Project Executive Director Andrea Quijada in a news release.
Narratives are still being collected through New Mexico Kites. People can also call in their stories and shoutouts toll free, 24/7.
Stories from the state’s prisons
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.