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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Ear Hustle: What life is really like inside prison

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts): 

The daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration.

Series or standalone:

Standalone, but...

Begin listening to:'s best to start listening from the very first episode (Cellies) to get the full effect as some aspects are sequential.


Storytelling/interviews with inmates


Nigel Poor (a visual artist/prison volunteer/the woman’s voice--which may be confusing at first, given her first name), Earlonne Woods (the original co-host/inmate at the beginning of the series), and more recently, Rahsaan “New York” Thomas (another inmate)

Sound/production quality: 

Fantastic, especially when you consider this is recorded from inside the prison!

Rating/age suitability: 

Probably best for older teens/adults because it sometimes features language/situations/themes that are more adult in nature.

Approximate length of episodes: 

30-45 minutes

Curricular ties: 

Probably not for most situations unless you’re teaching a class about crime, law, wrongful convictions, etc. You would definitely want to review any episodes before listening with a class in case some of the language is too much.

Similar recommended pods: 

There’s really nothing else like it that conveys the humanity of inmates so effectively, and San Quentin is one of the few prisons that allows this much access. If you’re in the mood for true crime that isn’t a serial or too gruesome, check out Criminal.

The Podcast Librarian’s Review:

I’ve been a fan of Ear Hustle ever since the first episode in 2017. Four seasons in, it’s just as great as ever; this is one of my favorite shows—as soon as a new episode drops, I listen immediately. The term “ear hustle” means to eavesdrop, and this podcast allows you to eavesdrop on prison life. The show is hosted by Nigel Poor (an artist/prison volunteer) and Earlonne Woods (an inmate at the prison in the beginning of the series—something major happens to him in season 3 which I won’t spoil here). Each episode focuses on a different aspect of prison life, and the inmates interviewed are funny, talented, and personable. San Quentin takes rehabilitation seriously and offers tons of opportunities for its residents—art, a recording studio (where the podcast is recorded), yoga, educational opportunities, a prison newspaper, and even a prison yard marathon. The music in the podcast is often the work of inmates! In fact, the episode Inside Music (August 1, 2019) focuses entirely on the musical talents of the inmates. This podcast will answer all the questions (and bust misconceptions) you have about prison life and inmates via episodes that are at turns funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. For the best experience, binge it from the beginning. With episodes that are usually about 30 minutes, you can get up to speed before long. If you don’t have time, definitely start with Cellies (S1E1), and don’t miss The SHU (S1E4), The Boom Boom Room (S1E8), and Firsts (S2E1).

Update 10.17.2020

Ear Hustle is still one of my favorite, can't miss podcasts, even though the format has changed a bit. Hopefully, this isn't too much of a spoiler since it's been almost two years, but Earlonne's sentence was commuted by the governor, so he is living on the outside now! He was obviously working hard on rehabilitation before the podcast ever started, so I think it's safe to say the podcast definitely helped his case. It seems like he's doing well and he's still involved with the podcast, which means this is probably one of the most significant podcasts ever made.

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