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Prisoncast is a special radio event for people in Illinois prisons, and their friends and families on the outside. Listen on WBEZ, 91.5FM, on Sunday, Aug. 28, from 2 to 4pm.

Andjela Padjeski

Listen to Prisoncast, a two-hour special broadcast for people inside Illinois prisons

People in Illinois prisons have limited ways to connect with the outside world – but they are allowed to listen to the radio. That’s why WBEZ journalists have spent the past several months putting together an unusual project: making a special live broadcast for people in state prisons and their families.

Prisoncast, a two-hour special broadcast, airs this Sunday, Aug. 28, from 2 to 4pm on WBEZ 91.5 FM and about a dozen Illinois Public Radio stations across the state.

The idea came from the team that produced season four of the Motive podcast, in which Shannon Heffernan, WBEZ’s award-winning criminal justice reporter, guides listeners through the secretive world of the Illinois Department of Corrections and exposes wrongdoing by prison guards.

Following that years-long investigation, the Motive team wanted to produce a piece of journalism with and for people inside prison and their families on the outside.

With the help of more than a dozen organizations that work in prisons, WBEZ’s team of engagement journalists surveyed people in prison, and their family members and friends on the outside. We asked, What’s something you want people on the outside to know about your life on the inside? Is there a song you’d like to dedicate to someone? What is a sound from outside prison walls that you’d like to hear, and why?

“I would like to hear heavy rain falling on a tin or metal roof,” wrote Carlos, at Hill Correctional Center in downstate Galesburg. “My reason why I want to hear this sound is because it reminds me of my native home. ... In Puerto Rico it rained a lot so my memory brings me back to these moments of the cool and calm sound of rain falling on the roof.”

In addition to fulfilling as many requests as we could squeeze into two hours, Prisoncast features interviews with experts about how incarcerated parents can maintain relationships with their children and tips for preparing to be released. Nearly 17,000 people were released from IDOC facilities last year, returning to communities all around the state. Prisoncast, we hope, creates a small moment of connection between people inside and outside.

Comments or questions about the Prisoncast project can be sent to

Alex Keefe is WBEZ’s Engagement Editor. Follow him @akeefe.

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