I was recently invited by the United Nations and World Health Organisation to attend their annual international conference to discuss the use of radio in prisons as a way to engage with hard to reach prisoners. I, Morag McDonald (from CRQ at BCU), Phil Maguire (from the Prison Radio Association-one of our KTF partners) and Andrew Wilkie (from the National Prison Radio Authority) presented a one hour workshop on the benefits of using prison radio as a tool for health promotion and education within prisons.
The workshop came about initially from Morag who approached me to help formulate this into a collaborative project where we could share skills, good practice and knowledge between us and our KTF partners at the PRA. This was done with the intention of providing the conference attendees with a solid insight into how prison radio could be adopted by other national prison services and integrated into their programs for education, health and well being based on the successes already demonstrated by the Prison Radio Association in the UK.
The workshop was well attended by a mixture of international delegates who were involved in the prison service at various levels from policy makers to frontline health workers.
Morag chaired the workshop, on behalf of BCU and Phil and Andrew delivered a dynamic presentation on the history and development of prison radio within the UK and how it has been used by the prisoners, in a participatory manner, as a tool for development and well being. They played examples of radio productions by prisoners and explained the rationale and benefits of their participatory approach in addressing many issues concerning prisoners and their families but especially focussing on health ‘spots’. They also talked about how radio has met with great success in getting messages and information to hard to reach prisoners such as those with literacy issues.
After their delivery I talked about my background, experiences and involvement with radio as a tool for development drawing on previous projects I have worked on. I then focussed my part of my delivery on the potential use of radio and audio artefacts as a tool for ‘through care’. This was focussed around the production of audio information such as podcasts that could be embedded into post-release agencies websites for easy access to ex offenders, especially those that had literacy problems. I also discussed the benefits of how a participatory approach could benefit ex-offenders in their rehabilitation by them producing some of the podcasts and audio files. I also talked about the ease of skills acquisition in radio production and self esteem building and the relative cheapness of using modern digital technologies. (A video of my address is available on request).
After this the floor was opened for questions of which there were many especially based around application within prisons, cost of equipment, benefits to inmates etc. On the strength of our workshop we have had a prospective invite from the Italian Director of Prisons to address at a similar conference in Italy.
Having the opportunity to address this conference at this international level was really exciting and has provided a platform for the University and School of Media to be given international exposure and recognition for their ongoing work.
All in all this was a really positive and beneficial collaboration between the School, CRQ and our KTF partners the PRA and offers up the potential for further collaborative projects that I believe will benefit the school. I, Siobhan and Morag have already put forward a proposal for a European project dealing with violence against women and young children and looking at ways in which community radio could be employed to train trainers in radio/audio production for agencies that work with victims of domestic violence and exploitation.
Watch this space!!