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Insider Audio

Matthew Fargo

A telephone interface for audio blogging from prison.



The United States incarcerates criminals at a higher rate and in greater volume than any country in the world. One in 100 Americans are currently behind bars, a large number of whom are non-violent offenders. Two of the greatest factors in predicting whether an inmate will return to prison are education and literacy--and yet the penal system uses isolation as its greatest tool for punishment, essentially guaranteeing a high rate of recidivism. Meanwhile, exorbitant costs for dialing in and out of prison cut inmates off from their tenuous connection to society and the world. How can we use technology to put inmates back in contact with the world, so they will be less isolated, more socially active, and ultimately less likely to return to prison?

Background
Silverstein, Martin. "The Ties That Bind: Family Surveillance of Canadian Parolees." The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 3, (Summer, 2001), pp. 395-420

Harer, Miles D. "Prison Education Program Participation and Recidivism: A Test of the Normalization Hypothesis." Federal Bureau of Prisons
Office of Research and Evaluation, Washington, DC.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. Random House. New York, 1978.

Greenberg, David F. "The Incapacitative Effect of Imprisonment: Some Estimates" Law & Society Review, Vol. 9, No. 4, (Summer, 1975), pp. 541-580.

Williams, D. Project LEAD builds bridges. Corrections Today, Vol. 58 No. 5 (1996), 80-83, 91.

Clayson, M. David and Twain, David C. "Juvenile Recidivism" The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, Vol. 51, No. 1, (May -
Jun., 1960), pp. 77-79.

Borden, Howard G. Factors for Predicting Parole Success. Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 19, No. 3, (Nov., 1928), pp. 328-336

Hendricks, Cindy. Literacy, Criminal Activity, and Recidivism. Recidivism & Education, (2006).

Shethar, Alissa. Literacy and "Empowerment"? A Case Study of Literacy behind Bars. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 4, Alternative Literacies: In School
and Beyond, (Dec., 1993), pp. 357-372.

Silberberg, Norman and Margaret. School Achievement and Delinquency. Review of Educational Research, Vol. 41, No. 1, (Feb., 1971), pp. 17-33.

http://www.telephonejustice.org
http://pen.org
http://prisonblogs.net/drupal/
http://www.prisonersolidarity.org/legal.htm
http://www.familyjustice.org/
http://www.aleph-institute.org/
http://www.tifa.org/welcome
http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/gangster/index.html

Audience
Prisoners, their families, and people interested in engaging audio content.

Implementation
I have built a phone system which allows inmates in facilities allowing out- and inbound calling (this is usually State rather than Federal facilities) to dial in and record audio blogs, which are immediately published to the internet for consumption. Listeners can comment on these blogs, and inmates can hear their comments the next time they call. In this way, two-way communication is created between inmates and the outside world.

Audio content is automatically transcribed using a voice-to-text service, saving prisons the great deal of time and expense involved in monitoring inmate phone calls.