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The statewide holiday radio special is for children and families with their loved ones who are incarcerated in prisons and jails across Illinois.

Andjela Padejski

Prisoncast!: Listen to our holiday show for people in Illinois prisons and their loved ones

The holidays can be a difficult time for people who are incarcerated — and for their kids and families waiting for them on the outside.

That’s why Prisoncast! is working to connect people with a holiday radio special on Sunday, Dec. 17th from 2pm to 3pm Central Time on WBEZ and Illinois Public Radio stations statewide. This family-friendly show is meant to connect children with their incarcerated loved ones, and will include sound-designed audio recordings of parents in Illinois prisons reading children’s stories. We’ll also feature your recorded holiday shout-outs for your family member inside, a little music, and holiday sounds from beyond prison walls requested by folks inside.

This special show is possible through a partnership with the Aunt Mary’s Storybook Project from Companions Journeying Together and the Storybook Project from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Both work to connect incarcerated parents with their children.

To learn more, you can always contact us directly at prisoncast@wbez.org, or leave a voicemail at 312-893-2931.


FAQs: What is Prisoncast!?

Prisoncast! is an audio and engaged journalism project organized by WBEZ and Vocalo in Chicago in partnership with Illinois Public Radio stations across the state. The project began in 2022 as a request show: We asked people inside and their families for music and audio requests, for dedications, and for topics for our journalists to discuss.

The mission of Prisoncast! is threefold:

  • To create spaces and experiences to be shared between people incarcerated in Illinois and their loved ones on the outside. We use audio to create moments of connection for people who can’t be together physically.

  • To use our journalism and interviews to serve this community with practical, actionable information they tell us they need or desire.

  • To foster understanding and empathy, more broadly, between the 30,000 people in Illinois prisons and the state’s other residents.

How do I submit requests for the show?

We are no longer taking requests for the Dec. 17th show. To submit to future programs, people outside can make requests and record a voicemail dedication at 312-893-2931. You also can email a voice memo to prisoncast@wbez.org. People inside can fill out a paper survey or write a letter to: Prisoncast!, c/o WBEZ, 848 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL, 60611-3509.

Will you play all requests on the radio?

We will play as many requests as we can, but we will not be able to play all the requests we receive during the broadcast.

Will I know ahead of time if my request will be aired during the broadcast?

We will make an effort to alert everyone outside of prison who is being included in the show via email or phone. For folks inside prison, we can’t guarantee that you will know if your submission is included ahead of time, due to the uncertainty of communication into prisons. But we will try to notify as many people as possible before the broadcast.

How can I listen or participate in Prisoncast! activities?

  • Listen on your local NPR public radio station! People in prison may also listen on their GTL tablet’s FM radio app. Both programs will air on Illinois Public Radio all across Illinois. Here is a list of which public radio stations serve various Illinois Department of Corrections facilities. Note that some IDOC facilities get little or no radio reception, and some tablets may not get FM radio. If that’s the case, please let us know by emailing prisoncast@wbez.org.

  • You can listen to the previous Prisoncast! episodes from August 2022 and September 2023 online. You can also find news articles, a resource guide and advice for prison families at wbez.org/prisoncast.

Alex Keefe is the engagement editor at WBEZ.

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