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For immediate release
November 27, 2000
Laura Gross, NPR

NPR News Goes Behind Bars in New Documentary Series, Prison Diaries, to air on All Things Considered beginning January 2001

Washington, DC - All Things Considered® from NPR News takes an unprecedented, first-person glimpse into life inside penitentiary walls through the intense, new radio series Prison Diaries. This past year, five inmates, four correctional officers and a judge were given tape recorders. For six months, the diarists kept audio journals and recorded the sounds and scenes of everyday life behind bars: shakedowns, new inmate arrivals, roll call, monthly family visits, meals at the chow hall, and quiet moments late at night inside a cell. The series is an intimate and surprising portrait of prison life, recorded in a way that has never been done before.

The series will air every Tuesday afternoon in January 2001, and occasionally throughout the year with new stories and follow-up diaries. American RadioWorkssm will also present an hour-long special, airing on NPR member stations. Check local listings or for broadcast details.

Prison Diaries takes place inside two correctional facilities: Polk Youth Institution in Butner, NC and the Rhode Island Training School (for juveniles) in Cranston, RI. Over 200 hours of raw tape have been edited into five half-hour documentaries.

"The one thing you never hear from prison are the sounds of everyday life. Each week, as the inmates and officers grew more comfortable with the tape recorders, their stories became more intimate, revealing and amazing," said Joe Richman, Producer of Prison Diaries. Richman produced the series for NPR, and is also the creator of the Teenage Diaries series.

Throughout January Prison Diaries presents the following stories:

Tuesday, January 2, 2001 Doing Time, John's Diary: John Mills, a 21-year-old inmate, is serving seven to nine years. As a kid, John dreamed of becoming a police officer, but by the time he was locked up at the age of 17, John had committed over 75 armed robberies. John is trying to make a change in prison, but sometimes it's hard for him to forget the thrill of putting a gun to someone's head.

Tuesday, January 9, 2001 Serving 9 to 5, Correctional Officer Diary: Sergeant Furman Camel is retiring after 27 years. Officer Alicia Covington remembers the day her son walked through the gate, as an inmate. And other diaries from officers who work behind bars at Polk Youth Institution.

Tuesday, January 16, 2001 Matthew and the Judge, Juvenile Court Diary: One year ago Judge Jerimiah, a Rhode Island juvenile court judge, and Matthew, a 16 year old repeat offender, were given tape recorders. During that time, Judge Jerimiah released Matthew early, for good behavior. Two weeks later Matthew was arrested again, for selling drugs. Through their diaries, Matthew and the judge tell the same story from two different sides of the bench.

Tuesday, January 23, 2001 Going Home, Cristel's Diary: At the age of 15, Cristel viscously attacked a rival classmate with a razor blade. The crime was one of the most violent acts ever committed by a young girl in Rhode Island. Now, after 3 years of incarceration Cristel is getting ready to be released early. Many in the state consider her to be a poster child for rehabilitation.

Tuesday, January 30, 2001 A follow-up diary and interview from Cristel on life a year after her release.

January 2001 - April 2001 (date and time may vary) American RadioWorks presents a special hour-long version of Prison Diaries. Check local listings or for details.

The series will continue throughout 2001 with new stories and follow-up diaries.

Launching this January, in conjunction with Prison Diaries is Picture Projects' new Web site: The site features in-depth accounts from some of the inmates who have kept diaries, as well as interviews with family members, judges, lawyers, correctional officers, victims and victims' families. Using the technology of 360-degree QuickTime panoramas, the site allows viewers to enter the inmate's cell, the judge's chamber or family's living room while listening to the audio diaries. Media wishing to preview the site may log onto

Prison Diaries is produced by Joe Richman, creator of the acclaimed Teenage Diaries series and founder of Radio Diaries, Inc., a non-profit production company committed to producing a new kind of oral history-innovative and original first-person documentaries. Radio Diaries has been producing the Teenage Diaries series since 1996, helping to create a model for training and working with others to create audio diaries. Richman has won numerous awards for Teenage Diaries and Radio Diaries, including the Robert F. Kennedy, Sigma Delta Chi and Casey Journalism Awards.

American RadioWorks is public radio's largest documentary production unit. The group creates documentaries, series projects, and investigative reports for the public radio system and the Internet. American RadioWorks, a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio and NPR, is based in St. Paul, Minn., with staff journalists in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Renowned for its journalistic excellence and standard-setting news, information and cultural programming, NPR serves a growing audience of nearly 15 million Americans each week via more than 644 public radio stations. NPR Onlinesm at brings hourly newscasts, news features, commentaries and live events to Internet users through original online reports, audio streaming and other multimedia elements. NPR also distributes programming to listeners in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa via NPR Worldwide, to military installations overseas via American Forces Network, and throughout Japan via cable.