Inside the nation’s first and only prison radio station, where inmates use chat to ‘become better people’

Ninety miles east of Denver, Colorado, Inside Wire, the first and only statewide prison radio station, operates 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 Colorado correctional facilities and streamed online to the public.

He is one of 14 inmates selected in four prisons to DJ and produce shows on the radio station, which launched in March.

Aguirre said Inside Wire gives him a chance to better himself

Although the station broadcasts 24 hours a day, each episode is taped and shown by staff and often ends on a note of encouragement.

While the radio station is supported by the prison, some critics say it is a luxury that inmates should not experience. But Aguirre said Inside Wire gives inmates like him a chance to better themselves.

“What would you rather we do in here? Beat each other up? Or make music shows and radio and help our fellow men in here and the women in here become better people?” Aguirre told CBS News.

“It shows that we are people who love and care, have compassion, remorse, remorse,” he added.

Aguirre was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 on charges including murder.

Driven to despair in solitary confinement 20 years ago, he tried to kill himself until something came over the prison radio.

“The song ‘Don’t Give Up’ by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush came on. All I remember is hearing those words, ‘Don’t give up, we love you,’ and I just forgot everything I did and here I am. You know, don’t I died that day,” he said.

Aguirre said just as the radio station saved his life, he hopes his work with Inside Wire will allow him to do the same for another inmate struggling with loneliness.

Inside Wire Managing Director Ryan Conarro helped launch the station in partnership with the University of Denver Prison Initiative.

“The best thing we can do when someone, when one of us does wrong, is actually work to take responsibility for it, fix it, and then move on,” Conarro said.

He wanted to build a community within the prison and build a better relationship with inmates and prison guards who work together to create the content that airs.

Programming on Inside Wire features inmates being interviewed by corrections officers and other prison staff.

Conarro said he also takes the families of crime victims and their concerns very seriously.

“If someone is going to go from doing harm to repairing that harm, that includes taking responsibility. And if the victim wants to participate or the victim’s people want to participate in that dialogue, then that’s how the person has to come out. 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 only 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 hold on to all this time. I feel like most people would crumble, but he’s just trying and going higher and higher. That’s really important to me.”

Although he will likely never leave prison, Aguirre strives to be a better person than he was when he first entered.

“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 that simple,” Aguirre said.

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