Creators of a new Pelican Bay podcast look to build community and prisoner relationships—one story at a time, reported the Lost Coast Outpost. https://lostcoastoutpost.com/
“These guys just want to better themselves and create a stronger, more resilient, community,” said Paul Critz, a journalist who teaches inmate students the tools they need to record their personal stories.
Inspired by San Quentin’s Ear Hustle, https://www.earhustlesq.com/ Pelican Bay Prison’s https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/facility-locator/pbsp/ UNLOCKED became the first of its kind at a security level IV institution.
Created by Critz and about 30 incarcerated men, the podcast aims to bring together the men on the inside and to communicate with the residents of Del Norte and Crescent City.
“They’re Del Norters too, and they’re very interested in hearing from the community. They want interaction. They want to humanize themselves, “ said Critz.
Dubbed as the single most important project in his career, Critz uses a portable recorder, laptop and a hand-held microphone to show his students how to put together a narrative.
While given much room for choosing content, Pelican Bay’s Public Information officer John Silviera advised Critz not to “bash the institution.”
“There’s a lot of gray area all around that phrase,” Critz told the Outpost. “We have to figure out what that means because at what point does bashing your reality become bashing the institution that’s responsible for your reality?”
Critz credits what he calls “The Awakening” as the pivotal moment in Pelican Bay’s history that led to launching the podcast.
“The Awakening” refers to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that shut down Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Units in 2013, following a widespread series of hunger strikes that began at the prison.
Critz’ students chose “The Awakening” as the subject of their first podcast. “They wanted to talk about… the changes that have been happening at Pelican Bay and other prisons as a result.
“The real awakening is hope,” said Critz. “They’re able to think about a future, maybe getting out – certainly even with people who’ll never get out.”
Critz, experienced in freelance journalism and radio, is best known as the operator of Crescent City’s community radio station. He was tapped to head Pelican Bay’s UNLOCKED by Stephanie Wenning, former executive director of the Del Norte Association for Cultural Awareness.http://dnaca.net/
Of all the reviews Critz received, “The one that stands out the most,” he told the Outpost, was from the daughter of one of his students.
“I love listening to this podcast. It makes me happy to know my dad is doing something positive with his life. I can’t wait to hear more,” she said.