Reading the comments section of anything on the internet is usually a bad idea, but it's an especially bad idea when it comes to comments on videos or articles that explore the topic of criminal justice reform. Thoughtful and deeply personal discussions of the potential for criminals to learn from their own mistakes and endeavor to become better people if society could give them more of a chance are dismissed out of hand with glib remarks like "man enough to do the crime, man enough to do the time." There are other countries with criminal justice systems that invest more into rehabilitating their prisoners, and as it turns out, their crime rates are lower than our own. In order for people to push for reforms along those lines here, however, they need to be willing to actually treat prisoners like human beings.
It's in this context that I find Ear Hustle's straightforward focus on day-to-day life while incarcerated to be so refreshing and (hopefully) impactful. A collaboration between an artist that does volunteer work at prisons and inmates at San Quentin state prison, Ear Hustle eschews abstract discussions and allows prisoners to tell their own stories. What's it like to try to find and keep a pet in prison? How do divides between different racial groups affect how one can take a shower? What's it like to reenter "normal" prison life after being stuck in solitary confinement for years? Despite the often heavy subject matter, there are plenty of lighter moments as well - I was particularly amused by a story about one inmate who rolled "penis towels" for someone as a birthday present. Above all else, though, this podcast's value lies in sharing a perspective that is almost never taken into consideration.