Jailbreak is the longest running prison radio program in the world (25 years) and it’s transmitting right here in Canberra on 2XX 98.3 FM to prison inmates at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
Every Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock, the half-hour show tells stories about prisoners, presented by prisoners. In one episode, a presenter croons, “I hope your time’s going as fast as it can and remember, whatever happens, your time’s still going”.
Canberra’s correctional facility has had several shows recorded onsite by Jailbreak Health Project coordinator, Kate Pinnock, who is based at Sydney’s Community Restorative Centre.
“I coach the inmates and work with them on their story and get their music and we get them to present it,” Kate says.
“I edit it so it sounds like they are presenting it and it’s directly talking to them. It is the best experience … They’re just ordinary people who stuff up. They’re often the best people you’ll ever meet. They’ve struggled, there are unbelievable stories of trauma.”
Jailbreak is broadcast on community radio stations from Kempsey to Castlemaine and is tailor-made for an audience that is often unseen, unheard, and among the most marginalised in our community.
At the core of the radio program is the music, stories and poetry – much of it written and performed by the very people who listen in and who share their stories of struggle to inspire fellow prisoners.
“A critical element of Jailbreak is its subtle health message, it’s like a trojan horse,” Kate says. “We promote harm reduction in relation to blood-borne viruses.”
In a bit of a coup, a former Canberra prisoner managed to get American rapper Ice Cube – who incidentally has served time in prison as well – to record some promotions for Jailbreak.
Kate says that more training is needed to equip correctional officers with the knowledge of what support prisoners need.
“In Australia, correctional officers get six weeks’ education to become a correctional officer but in Norway they get a three-year degree in order to become a correctional officer. You need those skills to understand the people and provide the services that they need.”
The radio crackles: “Jailbreak’s coming straight to your cell. You’re gonna be locked up and rockin’ for the next half hour. Woohoo, I’m glad to be doing time with you”.
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