Ninety miles east of Denver, Colorado, Inside Wire, the nation’s first and only statewide prison radio station, runs like any other radio station.
Jody Aguirre, an inmate at Limon Correctional Facility and one of the on-air hosts, has been in prison for three decades. His voice can be heard around the world thanks to Inside Wire, which is broadcast to all of Colorado’s correctional facilities and streamed online to the public.
He’s one of 14 inmates selected across four prisons to DJ and produces shows on the radio station, which launched in March.
Aguirre said that Inside Wire allows him the opportunity to better himself
Though the station broadcasts 24/7, each episode is pre-taped and screened by staff and often ends on a note of encouragement.
While the radio station is supported by the jail, some critics say it’s a luxury that inmates should not be experiencing. But Aguirre said that Inside Wire gives inmates like himself an opportunity to better themselves.
“What would you rather have us be doing in here? Beating each other up? Or creating music shows and radio and helping our fellow men in here and women in here become better people?” Aguirre told CBS News.
“It shows that, that we are humans who love and care, have compassion, regret, remorse,” he added.
Aguirre was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 for charges including murder.
Driven to despair in solitary confinement 20 years ago, he tried to take his own life until something came over the prison’s radio system.
“The song ‘Don’t Give Up’ by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush came on. All I remember is that I heard those words, ‘Don’t give up, we love you’ and I just forgot everything I was doing and here I am. You know, I didn’t die that day,” he said.
Aguirre said just like how the radio station saved his life, he hopes his work with Inside Wire will allow him to do the same for another inmate who is struggling with loneliness.
Inside Wire General Manager Ryan Conarro helped launch the station in partnership with the University of Denver’s prison arts initiative.
“The best we can do when someone, when any of us commits harm, is actually work to take responsibility for that, to repair that, and then go forward,” Conarro said.
He wanted to build a community within the prison and build a better relationship with inmates and correctional guards who work together to create the content that goes on air.
Programming on Inside Wire includes inmates interviewing correctional officers and other prison staff.
Conarro said he also takes crime victims’ families into account and their concerns very seriously.
“If someone is going to move from committing harm to repairing that harm, that includes that person taking accountability. And if the victim wants to engage or the victim’s people want to engage in that dialogue, then that’s how the person needs to show up,” Conarro said.
Inside Wire refers to the wire as a connection — a connection that has the power to travel 90 miles, reaching Aguirre’s daughter, Amber Baca.
She was just 11 years old when her father was arrested. Now, she listens to him first thing every Tuesday morning when his show airs.
“‘I’m very proud of my dad,” Baca said. “The strength that he has and the strength that he’s been able to withhold this whole time. I feel like most people would crumble under, but he just strives and gets higher and higher. That’s really important to me.”
Though he’ll likely never leave prison, Aguirre is striving to be a better man than the one who first walked in.
“I go to my cell and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Something every day. All you have to do is be better. It’s as simple as that,” said Aguirre.
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