© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Incarcerated content producers challenge the myth of prison reform

LANSING, KANSAS - APRIL 18: In this aerial view, inmates exercise in the maximum security yard of the Lansing Correctional Facility on April 18, 2023 in Lansing, Kansas. Inmates at the prison competed in a U.S. Chess Federation sanctioned chess tournament being held in 9 prisons statewide in a partnership between the Kansas Department of Corrections and The Gift of Chess non-profit. The initiative is designed to foster cognitive rehabilitation through chess, where inmates learn strategic planning skills needed to be successful on release from incarceration. Four winners from each facility will advance to a state championship to be held online. All participants in the tournament, win or lose, receive free chess sets and have been awarded U.S. Chess Federation memberships. The Lancing Correctional Facility is the site where Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, convicted killers chronicled in Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood", were hanged on April 14, 1965. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore
Getty Images North America

The purpose of incarceration in America is supposed to be a balance between punishment and reform, with the scales tipping toward reforms that can lead to redemption and a second chance after release. But that’s not been the experience of many currently and formerly incarcerated people.

Incarcerated influencers are sharing a view of prison life through TikTok videos, podcasts, and journalism that shows a more nuanced look at prison life, including the network of support, friendships, and mentors the incarcerated share with one another in the absence of significant reform.

The content challenges misperceptions about incarceration that are often depicted in popular culture, and it exposes the lack of formal opportunities available to help the incarcerated prepare for life after release.


  • Emily Bazelon: Staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and the co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest; she recently started The Prison Letters Project
  • Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein:freelance writer who writes about American life for numerous publications including The New York Times, The New Republic, and The Baffler
  • John J. Lennon: An incarcerated journalist writing from Sullivan Correctional Facility; he is a contributing editor at Esquire magazine and a frequent contributor to The New York Times
  • Justin Paperny: A prison consultant, the co-founder of White Collar Advice and Prison Professors, and the author of Lessons from Prison

The Colin McEnroe Show is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

Subscribe toThe Noseletter, an email compendium of merriment, secrets, and ancient wisdom brought to you by The Colin McEnroe Show.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, Cat Pastor, and Lily Tyson contributed to this show, which originally aired September 26, 2022.

Stay Connected
Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.
Related Content