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Raising the Civil Dead

Prisoners and Community Radio

Heather Anderson

What is prisoners’ radio? Who is involved in «creating» these types of programs and what influence do they have on discourses of law and order? Internationally, radio that operates for, or by, prisoners exists almost exclusively within the community radio context. Little has been documented about the genre so far.
Raising the Civil Dead seeks to address this lack of information. It examines prisoners’ radio as citizens’ media, connecting directly to notions of civic responsibility. It focuses on the ways in which people produce media and how these activities transform those individuals. The research is the result of four in-depth case studies conducted in two countries, complemented by an international inventory of prisoners’ radio programs and stations.


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Introduction 13


13 Introduction Prejean: Who are the good people listening on the other end of this program? Interviewer: Who’s listening? Well, it’s the prisoners’ program, for people on the inside, prisoners. Prejean: It’s all prisoners? Interviewer: And anyone else who wants to listen, usually just prisoners and their loved ones on the outside and we sort of keep a connection between them. Prejean: So they can all hear me? Interviewer: They will […] yes, they will hear you. Prejean: Well, because, oh it’s a privilege, it’s a privilege to be able to be in sound of their hearts, and their ears, and themselves, and so I’m very, very happy to be doing this (Interview with Sister Helen Prejean, Locked In, 14/3/05). The above quote was taken from an interview conducted with Sister Helen Prejean for the Australian prisoners’ radio show, Locked In, on Brisbane community radio station, 4ZzZ. Sister Prejean is a Roman Catholic nun of the Order of St. Joseph of Medaille. She is a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, and has acted as a spiritual adviser to many prisoners1 on death row, witnessing a number of their executions. Sister Prejean wrote a book about these experiences – Dead Man Walking – which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and became the basis of an Academy Award winning film of the same name, in which Susan Sarandon played her role. Sister Prejean’s surprise (and joy) at being interviewed for a prisoners’ radio program demonstrates the underground nature of the...

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