Hit podcast “Ear Hustle,” which brings listeners behind bars into California’s San Quentin prison, was named as a finalist for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize on Monday.
The podcast, which is currently in its fifth season, is co-hosted by Earlonne Woods, a former inmate at San Quentin; Nigel Poor, an artist and volunteer at the prison; and Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, a current inmate. Its episodes feature the voices and stories of men behind bars on what life is like while incarcerated, as well as stories of “reentry” into society from those, including Woods, who have been released.
“What we did was humanize [prisoners], just by telling their stories,” Woods told HuffPost of the podcast in a 2018 visit to the prison. “Once you commit your crime, people think that’s what it is, but individuals change. They don’t stay the same people that they were when they committed their crime. They grow up ― literally.”
When “Ear Hustle” launched in 2017, Woods was still incarcerated at San Quentin. He was released in late 2018 after his sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D), after serving 21 years of a 31-years-to-life sentence. Woods is now employed as co-host of the podcast, produced by Radiotopia.
This year was the first time the prestigious Pulitzer journalism prize awarded an “audio reporting” category. This year’s prize went to the staff of “This American Life” for “The Out Crowd” episode, and the other finalist in audio was NPR’s staff for its “White Lies” series.
Poor said Monday that when they first started the podcast, the idea that it would one day be associated with a Pulitzer was “inconceivable.”
“Getting this news today was a shock and a joy — my only sadness is because of sheltering in place, I’m not sure when we can share the news with our ‘inside’ team,” Poor told HuffPost, referring to restrictions on visitors to the prison amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “But, we are so proud and more determined than ever to bring listeners these stories.”