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Colorado's first statewide prison radio station goes on the air

Anthony Quintana behind the microphone in the Inside Wire studio.
Courtesy Inside Wire
Inside Wire
Anthony Quintana behind the microphone in the Inside Wire studio.

Incarcerated individuals in Colorado have numerous creative opportunities, including arts education. Over the past several years, inmates have produced plays, written poems and made music together. Their newest creative project sounds a bit different.

Inside the education wing of Limon Correctional Facility there’s a buzz of activity. A group of incarcerated men are huddled in a foam-lined recording studio, preparing to go on the air. There are producers in green uniforms behind the microphones getting ready to pre-record the launch of Inside Wire, Colorado Prison Radio. It’s the first radio station in Colorado to be broadcast to every correctional facility in the state. It also streams to the public via a website.

Anthony Quintana is the engineer and operations director at Inside Wire, which airs news, music, in-depth stories and other content produced entirely by those who are incarcerated. He’s eager to be a part of a station that can be heard in cells around the state.

“The art, the different things we can do in here, the creativeness of men that are incarcerated in this community, it's so awesome to be able to do that with each other and feature them,” said Quintana.

Inside Wire is the newest venture from the Denver University Prison Arts Initiative, also known as DU PAI. The initiative brings creative programming like writing, acting and art into the state’s prisons. Through DU PAI, incarcerated people have produced a statewide newspaper and a podcast, and performed plays for the public and residents at other facilities.

Ryan Connaro, who works for DU PAI and is Inside Wire’s general manager, stresses the importance of connections like these.

“I really believe storytelling, sharing our stories, is a fundamentally human act, and that it’s a need, it’s actually an essential need,” he said.

Conarro said the station was born out of the pandemic as a way to bolster communication between incarcerated folks. Inside Wire also streams to the public because DU PAI wants their programs to go beyond educating those on the inside. Conarro says the goal is to build a more nuanced conversation about the criminal justice system, and to change how the public views people who are incarcerated.

Quintana agrees. He’s been at Limon long enough that his name tag has faded, and emphasizes that focusing on the creative part of the program isn’t his only goal. He wants to shift the narratives people may have about incarcerated men and women.

“My goal is to break down the barriers so that staff see the value in this, so that society sees the value in this,” said Quintana. “And most importantly, so that our guys incarcerated see the value in this.”

To help break down these barriers, Inside Wire produces programs like ‘Up To the Minute,’ a weekly question and answer show with Colorado Department of Corrections director Dean Williams, and ‘Behind the Mic,’ which features profiles of incarcerated folks across the state.

Herbert Alexander is the production director at Inside Wire. He said he got involved with the station to learn new skills. The work he and others are doing is part of a continuing education course offered through the University College at DU. Once they complete the syllabus, they will earn certifications in audio production and narrative storytelling.

Alexander is using his skills on the inside while he serves a 24-year sentence. But he hopes to get out soon and apply what he’s learned to a new career.

“Come to find out, if you work on yourself and make yourself successful at something, in a positive way in such a negative environment, then you begin to inspire other people,” said Alexander.

The Inside Wire team also includes producers from Sterling Correctional Facility and Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. The station streams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the Colorado Department of Corrections closed-circuit television network and for the public on coloradoprisonradio.com.

As the host of Morning Edition at KUNC, I have the privilege of delivering you the news in two ways — from behind the mic and behind the scenes. In addition to hosting Morning Edition, I’ll report on pressing news of the day and arts and culture on the Front Range.
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