He was like, "What's up, man?" “After 21 years in prison, Governor Brown ― the great governor of California ― decided that I served enough time,” Woods said in the latest episode of Ear Hustle. [phone ringing] But, in my heart, I knew that it was true. Since the podcast’s launch in 2017, it’s been downloaded, announcing the commutation, the governor echoed that thought, saying Woods “has clearly shown that he is no longer the man he was when he committed this crime.”. ALEX BLUMBERG: It's very appropriate timing in one way. Emile: And he was like, "Man, you're trying to kill me! Ear Hustle ― co-hosted by Woods and Nigel Poor, an artist and volunteer at San Quentin ― interviews men in the prison about their lives there. In addition, Ear Hustle has inspired a variety of creative endeavors, including the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ “Songs from the Spirit” dance performance featuring music from the podcast. - Prison Bag, a woman tells her story of having a husband in prison Oh man. He also continues to contribute music and illustrations to the production of Ear Hustle, which he co-founded, and produces video content for like-minded organizations. And continued on that path for years. Want to know what we, collectively, can do about it? Uh, being involved in assaults on fellow prisoners or assaults on correctional officers. - The San Quentin Trust EARLONNE WOODS: [laughs] So prior to Ear Hustle, you know, I got the average mail from family members every now and again, you know, people -- you know, you write people, people write you, you know, you can call. In that first episode, Earlonne and Nigel interview a bunch of different inmates around the prison yard about their experiences with cell mates. And, you know, we like, "All right. And we took off, and in the process of taking off, we was doing maybe 80, 90 miles. They interviewed me, and for my process to start going... ALEX BLUMBERG: To be eligible for commutation? ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. - Supervision, a four-part series about life on parole, produced by NHPR It's a story. We did three stories. I kept thinking in my mind, "I hope it's not true. Earlonne Woods, Co-Host Of Ear Hustle Podcast, Has Sentence Commuted ... inmate’s obsession with keeping small critters as pets in his cell or another’s struggle to be intimate with his wife while behind bars. So we can continue to try to learn this stuff." And the ladies in the governor's office, they broke the news down to me. So I used to get pictures from family members and friends, you know, maybe -- maybe two letters a week or something like that, you know? This has been a learning process for all involved, and while our systems are improving, it’s still a ton of work to get each episode publish-ready. EARLONNE WOODS: And for me, you know, I was involved in gangs, so I just went to prison and continued the gang banging, you know, trade in prison, you know? EARLONNE WOODS: I figured it out. It's, like, going places I never even thought about, you know?". And, you know, we were sitting there and we was talking and, you know, we was just trying to figure out like, you know, what is the, you know, what is successful, you know, downloads. And, it was -- it was like -- it was almost like the whole prison system up until that point was, like, on my back, like just weighing me down. But then he made a visit to the media center at San Quentin State Prison. It was some -- it was like a few of them. And while we have expanded to include stories of re-entry starting with season four, we are not, at this time, taking pitches related to this subject. Hell nah! You know, we still at work doing other stuff. ", EARLONNE WOODS: You probably have to do a lot more than a podcast to get some major accolades from your peers. Cambridge, MA 02238 And I went to the security housing unit, which is pretty much solitary confinement a couple of times based on my activities in prison and I didn't pick up on it then, but my mother said the most deepest shit to me in a letter. Jerry Brown is releasing Woods from San Quentin State Prison after two decades behind bars. Johnny Cash? ALEX BLUMBERG: [laughs] Did you have any idea -- did you know what Radiotopia was? And, and, and -- and I really -- I don't take it for granted at all, because I have -- it was another guy in that car with us that's still in prison to 2028. So oh damn, how do we do a podcast that, you know, is gonna be, you know, heard in front of these people and what are they about? All rights reserved. And hopefully, you know, through what we do, we are able to open people's minds up to something beyond a headline or something beyond that to where, you know, it's a -- it's a -- it's a story of how people got here, good or bad. Ask anyone around here and they’ll have a lot to say about their cellies…, VOX: We always wash our hands like…[laughs]. And it sounded so good. And the car crashed on the corner. He had a one-year-old son, and his wife was pregnant with his daughter, and he -- and he also had another little son. “Once you commit your crime, people think that’s what it is, but individuals change. We don't hear podcasts, you know?" ALEX BLUMBERG: Describe that phone call. EARLONNE WOODS: So the decision came to, "Hey man, let's get up out of here." Um. EARLONNE WOODS: And out of 1,537 other teams in 53 different countries, we were in the top 10. It was -- yeah... My dude, Furman Little, that was like one of my best friends. Earlonne and Nigel have spoken about their work on Ear Hustle at a number of venues, including commencement addresses for the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and Bennington College, a keynote at Podcast Movement, at the City Arts & Lectures series in San Francisco, the National Geographic Storytellers Summit, an Essence Magazine digital event and the Internazionale a Ferrara journalism festival in Italy. EARLONNE WOODS: Hmm. Jerry Brown (D) has commuted the prison sentence of Earlonne Woods, whose hit podcast Ear Hustle explores life inside San Quentin State Prison. EARLONNE WOODS: It was like, it wasn't a bad thing growing up. And I would just kind of, I was very dismissive, like, "Man, shut the fuck up with that shit, man. Somebody's gonna really, you know, get attached. EARLONNE WOODS: Okay. ALEX BLUMBERG: That's a heavy choice, man. I'm like, "Yeah?" California Gov. ALEX BLUMBERG: When Earlonne got out of prison, he had a job waiting for him on the outside - as a full-time producer, working on Ear Hustle. And so, under California’s three-strikes law, Earlonne was sentenced to 31-years-to-life. ALEX BLUMBERG: Coming up, Earlonne’s podcast may not have bought him a lot of cred on the prison yard, but it did do one pretty special thing for him. As a pardon, as a new relationship, as a new chance at a new life. - California Reentry Program Until one day, he says, something happened that brought him face to face with how dangerous and destructive a path it was. So I used to sit in for those teachings, and I knew the software and so I used to help people. And it was like you started to -- to float. And -- and, I was like, we going to hit a million, right? So that -- that's happening. Just to be … out there with her.”. And I was like, "Okay." ALEX BLUMBERG: So you're starting to put together this -- this podcast. EARLONNE WOODS: Correct. That’s after the break. EARLONNE WOODS: You know? That's exciting. Like … [laughter]. And so, you know, you think of, you know, only people get commuted is people on death row. You know, a lot of us got our first felonies when we were like 14 years old, you know? Does your profile change in -- in -- inside the prison as a result of this? What's it like to have Michelle Obama as your mentor? We gotta figure out really how to make podcasts." I was like, "Man, you know, what's up with the -- with the film school and all that?" Woods is expected to be released on parole in the coming days, after serving 21 years of a 31-years-to-life sentence. Additionally, once Ear Hustle is earning steady revenue, we intend to donate a portion of this to the Prison University Project, the program that Nigel first worked with when she began volunteering at San Quentin in 2011. When Ear Hustle launched, it was a hit. - “Prison Diaries” from Radio Diaries, first-person stories about life in prison A scheme that required Earlonne and his crew to steal a car. Like, I think it was, like, channel three or something where we used to put up content for the videos on those channels. And that changed everything. EARLONNE WOODS: And we found out November 1st that we actually won the Podquest. And to date, episodes have been downloaded more than 6 million times. Like, what did it feel -- like, I know how -- I know what it feels like to have, like, a hit podcast on the -- on the outside. You're not seeing anything. [laughs] But it was the most beautiful feeling, because I was able to call my moms and, you know, she was very elated that like, "Ah, I'm gonna have a man home." So that was the -- that was the mentality at the moment. For the last 3 years he’s been helping inmates get their stories out in a remarkable podcast called Ear Hustle. ALEX BLUMBERG: And so Earlonne started spending as much time as he could in the San Quentin media center. Badge of honor, badge of success. ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. California Gov. And this was the day before Thanksgiving, meaning the next four days is not business days. ALEX BLUMBERG: Right, yes. Nigel Poor, the professor who was volunteering her time at San Quentin, started to notice how observant Earlonne was, and how he connected with the other inmates. ALEX BLUMBERG: When you look back on your whole experience, like, how do you -- what story do you tell yourself about that? EARLONNE WOODS: ...Johnny Cash." Like, it limits your jobs. - 70 Million, a podcast about criminal justice reform So -- so -- so -- so what happened was, you know, in the media center, there's a phone in the media center, and somebody was like, "Hey man, they got a phone call for you. EARLONNE WOODS: That's what I thought. You know, you're -- you're -- you're doing rehabilitative work and, you know, you also, you know, basically teaching the world with a podcast, you know -- and you know, giving individuals insightful information." - Unprisoned, a podcast and radio show about the human impacts of incarceration I definitely figured it out.You know and then I'm -- I'm reading it up on -- on -- on the side, reading about everything, trying to figure this stuff out. And when I seen the picture and just seeing him, I was, it -- it just -- it was hurtful. Like, our second story was a story that I heard -- I heard about growing up and it was called Misguided Loyalties. Have you tried any of the other podcasts on our network, Radiotopia? Part of HuffPost News. And I got Furman's wife on the phone. Y'all had never done a podcast. HuffPost visited Woods at San Quentin earlier this year to discuss why he created the podcast. In that moment, you know? When he was 13 or 14, Earlonne started selling joints on the street for a dollar apiece. The contest was an open call for podcast ideas, and the winning show would join Radiotopia’s podcast network, with funding and editorial support from Radiotopia’s editors and producers. I really only let y'all enter because I knew y'all wasn't gonna win. So Earlonne and his friends decided to get out of there. To, like, you know, when you in prison you want problems. EARLONNE WOODS: We're not -- we don't see nothing, no internet access. That’s the classic narrative. And so it was a Snap Judgment. We launch our first episode, which is Cellies. That was like pretty hard to take, like, six hours of taping and -- and distill it to 20 minutes. And she was basically giving us, so we were like, "Okay, cool, cool." Earlonne: Ear hustling is prison slang for eavesdropping, listening in to something that may not be your business. Earlonne Woods was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. So it was a good thing, you know? Like, just -- with a life sentence, you -- you don't know, you just stuck, you just incapacitated, basically. On November 30, 2018, Earlonne Woods was released from prison on parole. The day before Thanksgiving 2018, then-California Governor Jerry Brown commuted Earlonne's sentence, and Earlonne was released from San Quentin on Nov. 30, 2018. But with a surprising and un-classic twist. We was like, okay, we got a chance, you know?
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