Ear Hustle

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Ear Hustle
Ear Hustle.jpg
Hosted by
  • Earlonne Woods
  • Nigel Poor
  • Earlonne Woods
  • Antwan Williams
  • Nigel Poor
Audio formatPodcast
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes26
Original releaseMay 2017 (2017-05) – present

Ear Hustle is a non-fiction podcast about prison life produced at San Quentin State Prison by inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, along with Nigel Poor, an artist who volunteers at the prison. In 2016, it was selected by the Radiotopia network as the winner of its Podquest competition, and subsequently released its first season between June and October 2017. It is the first podcast to be created entirely inside a prison. On November 21, 2018, California governor Jerry Brown commuted Earlonne Woods' sentence, citing Ear Hustle as a significant contributor to his reformation as an American citizen.[1]


In March 2016, the Public Radio Exchange's Radiotopia network put out a call for new podcast ideas via an initiative called Podquest, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It received 1,537 entries from 53 countries.[2] After two rounds of judging, Ear Hustle was selected as the winner and added to the Radiotopia network.[3] Its first season began on June 14, 2017, and ended with its tenth episode on October 25, 2017. The second season began on March 14, 2018 and ended on June 20, 2018.[4]

The show is produced by Earlonne Woods, Antwan Williams, and Nigel Poor. Woods and Williams are inmates at San Quentin State Prison—Woods serving a 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted 2nd degree robbery due to a three-strikes law, and Williams at 15-year sentence for armed robbery with a gun enhancement.[5][6] Poor is a visual artist in the San Francisco Bay area who volunteers at the prison. Woods and Poor cohost the show while Williams does the show's sound design, working in San Quentin's media lab to record music and effects, including foley work.[5]

Prior to Ear Hustle, Poor ran a photography class at the prison during which one of her students proposed making a documentary. Due to the complex and time-consuming bureaucratic challenges associated with unusual prison activities, she decided that audio would be easier to manage than video. The show was still challenging to create, in part because none of the three producers had a background in audio production, but also because of prison administration red tape. The prison also went on lockdown during production, halting work and requiring additional administrative steps to both create and release the audio.[6]

Ear Hustle is the first podcast to be created entirely inside a prison.[7][8]

On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, producer Earlonne Woods's sentence was commuted by California governor Jerry Brown. His commutation includes reference to Earlonne's work on the podcast.[9][10]


The term "ear hustle" is prison slang for eavesdropping.[7] The show features interviews with inmates who share their stories and opinions on topics like cellmates, solitary confinement, race, morality, pets, religion, gangs, and family. Woods said that the show chose the topic of cellmates for its first episode to ensure the show was relatable, since most people can relate to having a bad roommate.[11] In an interview with Rolling Stone, Poor said the show is "about everyday life inside a prison. How do you survive? How do you deal with family, love, depression, having children, finding meaning in life? It addresses important issues about being human and how prisoners can be contributing citizens."[6] The series is not overtly political, but Poor emphasizes the way the show can have a humanizing effect, making listeners care about the men they hear on the show and wonder why one of the hosts might serve a life sentence for attempted robbery.[6]


Season 1 (2017)[edit]

# Title Length (minutes:seconds) Original release date
1"Cellies"23:33June 14, 2017 (2017-06-14)
2"Misguided Loyalty"27:36June 28, 2017 (2017-06-28)
3"Looking Out"23:47July 12, 2017 (2017-07-12)
4"The Shu"28:26July 26, 2017 (2017-07-26)
5"Catch a Kite"28:03August 9, 2017 (2017-08-09)
6"The Boom Boom Room"28:19August 30, 2017 (2017-08-30)
7"Unwritten"30:00September 13, 2017 (2017-09-13)
8"Left Behind"35:19September 27, 2017 (2017-09-27)
9"Gold Coats and OGs"24:05October 11, 2017 (2017-10-11)
10"Getting a Date"33:27October 25, 2017 (2017-10-25)
11"Bonus: Songs from S1"22:35December 20, 2017 (2017-12-20)

Season 2 (2018)[edit]

# Title Length (minutes:seconds) Original release date
12"Firsts"39:03March 14, 2018 (2018-03-14)
13"Dirty Water"36:02March 28, 2018 (2018-03-28)
14"The Workaround"32:51April 11, 2018 (2018-04-11)
15"Thick Glass"35:39April 25, 2018 (2018-04-25)
16"Catch a Kite 2"32:14May 9, 2018 (2018-05-09)
17"The Row"42:22May 23, 2018 (2018-05-23)
18"Down Low"33:22June 6, 2018 (2018-06-06)
19"So Long"41:36June 20, 2018 (2018-06-20)

Season 3 (2018)[edit]

# Title Length (minutes:seconds) Original release date
20"Birdbaths and a Lockbox"39:21September 12, 2018 (2018-09-12)
21"Future on ICE"40:02September 26, 2018 (2018-09-26)
22"This Place"38:35October 10, 2018 (2018-10-10)
23"Catch a Kite 3"30:04October 24, 2018 (2018-10-24)
24"The Big No No"36:27November 8, 2018 (2018-11-08)
25"Prime Real Estate"37:21November 21, 2018 (2018-11-21)
26"Big News: It's Time"5:00November 24, 2018 (2018-11-24)
27"Bittersweet"45:00December 12, 2018 (2018-12-12)
28"P.S. Asking and Giving"6:00December 17, 2018 (2018-12-17)


In a Rolling Stone article about the show, Tana Ganeva called it "a fascinating, harrowing and also deeply entertaining look into life on the inside that runs the full gamut of emotions."[6] She also praised its originality, "[using] prisoners' storytelling skills to show what it's like to spend decades behind bars."[6] The show's unique lens and intimate first-person storytelling is noted in most reviews. In an op/ed for the Los Angeles Times, Lexi Mainland wrote "The runaway hit “Ear Hustle” ... never takes a broad look at criminal justice policy or employs Voice of God narration. It instead offers the even more illuminating dialogue of individual prisoners."[12]

The New Yorker's Sarah Larson said the show "might be the best new podcast I’ve heard this year" and described it as being "about the creativity required to live a satisfying life—or even a sane life—in prison, and is itself a product of that creativity."[5] In particular, she praised Williams' "evocative, pitch-perfect sound design".[5]

Multiple reviewers noted how funny the show can be, despite often dealing with serious topics, and how uncommon it is to find humor in media taking place in real life prison settings.[6][5][13] Vulture's Nicholas Quah noted a particular story a prisoner told about a frog in episode three: "a moment of levity in a setting often described in the worst of terms, a productive kind of conversation between the specificities of a person and the overpowering context of his incarceration. That, in a nutshell, is the juxtaposition that defines Ear Hustle."[13] Quah contrasts standard prison narratives told entirely from an outsider's point of view with the interplay of insider and outsider perspectives provided by the hosts of Ear Hustle, with stories primarily told through Woods' and Williams' words and perspectives, and Poor in an active role adding "key narrative housekeeping".[13]

Galen Beebe's review for The Atlantic called it a "brilliant series" which "return[s] some of the humanity that the carceral system removes and provide[s] a link between inmates and outsiders."[8]


  1. ^ https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-thanksgiving-pardons-jerry-brown-20181121-story.html
  2. ^ Taylor, Maggie (June 1, 2016). "Ladies and Gentlemen: Your Podquest Semifinalists". PRX.
  3. ^ Taylor, Maggie (November 3, 2016). "Your Podquest Winner: Ear Hustle!". PRX.
  4. ^ "Ear Hustle". Ear Hustle website. Radiotopia. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Larson, Sarah (August 16, 2017). ""Ear Hustle": The Podcast Made Inside San Quentin". The New Yorker.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Ganava, Tana (July 10, 2017). "'Ear Hustle': How Two Inmates Created First Prison Podcast". Rolling Stone.
  7. ^ a b Brown, Jeffrey; Woodruff, Judy (November 28, 2017). "Prison-produced podcast 'Ear Hustle' lets you listen to real stories of incarcerated life". News Hour. PBS.
  8. ^ a b Beebe, Galen (August 27, 2017). "The Podcast Made From Inside Prison". The Atlantic.
  9. ^ Myers, John; Ulloa, Jazmine (November 21, 2018). "Immigrants facing deportation, drug offenders and a former state lawmaker receive pardons from Gov. Jerry Brown". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ @earhustlesq (November 21, 2018). "Some very big news to share" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  11. ^ "Ear Hustle, Episode 1: Cellies". Third Coast Festival. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  12. ^ Mainland, Lexi (Dec 30, 2018). "Why the podcast revolution is here to stay". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved Jan 3, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c Quah, Nicholas (July 27, 2017). "Ear Hustle Is an Utterly Fascinating Look at Prison Life". Vulture.

External links[edit]