If you’ve got a loved one locked up in Illinois – or you work with people in prison – we invite you to listen to Prisoncast!
It’s a special journalism and audio project from WBEZ, Vocalo and Illinois Public Radio made with and for people inside Illinois prisons and their loved ones on the outside. Our goal is to use the radio to create an experience families can share – even when separated by miles of road, walls and razor wire. We broadcast music and audio requests, dedications from family members, and explore topics relevant to you.
This year our Prisoncast! broadcast aired Sunday, Sept. 17, from 2 to 4 p.m. CT on public radio stations across Illinois. You can listen back to the show at the link above.
And mark your calendars: We’re also planning a Prisoncast! holiday special on Sunday, Dec. 17!
Take the survey below to submit your requests for future Prisoncast! projects. And read more about this project at the bottom of the page.
What is Prisoncast!?
Prisoncast! is an audio and engaged journalism project organized by WBEZ 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 that they tell us they need or desire.
To foster understanding and empathy, more broadly, between the nearly 30,000 people in Illinois prisons and the state’s other residents.
How do I submit requests for the show?
People outside can make requests and record a voicemail dedication at 312-893-2931. You also can email a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. People inside can fill out a paper survey and mail it back to: Alex Keefe, c/o WBEZ, 848 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL., 60611-3509. All mailed forms must be received no later than Aug. 4, 2023.
Are you playing all requests on the radio?
We will play as many requests as we can, but there is a chance we will not be able to play all the requests we receive during the two-hour 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! You can listen to old-school radio. 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.
On Sunday, Sept. 17 from 2-4 p.m. CT, we aired a selection of requested songs, sounds, dedications, interviews and stories. Your responses to our survey are what makes this show possible!
On Sunday, Dec. 17 from 2-3PM CT, we’ll air a holiday special featuring parents in prison reading stories to their children, in partnership with Companions Journeying Together and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. If you are interested in participating, write Alex Keefe at the address above or email email@example.com.
Alex Keefe is the engagement editor at WBEZ.