National Prison Radio

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National Prison Radio broadcast schedule.

National Prison Radio (NPR) is the world's first national radio station for prisoners.;[1] It is run by the Prison Radio Association (PRA), a charity,[2] in partnership with Her Majesty's Prison Service and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). It broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week to prisoners in over 100 establishments across England and Wales. Prisoners receive the service as an audio channel via in-cell TV systems. It is available to over 80,000 prisoners.

It aims to reduce re-offending by engaging prisoners in education and discussion, helping people in custody to develop strategies for dealing with the issues led them to prison. The station's programmes are presented and produced by serving prisoners working alongside the PRA's staff of professional radio producers. Content supports NOMS' objective to reduce re-offending by providing information vital for progressing successfully through a prison sentence. It promotes educational opportunities, discussion of issues related to crime and justice, as well as messages and requests from prisoners’ families and friends.

National Prison Radio aims to help prisoners face up to the effects their actions have had on themselves, their families, victims and society as a whole, encouraging them to see prison as a place of positive change. It offers positive peer influence directly to prisoners in their cells, in a way that no other intervention can.


The idea for a prison radio station was first mooted in 1993 by advertising executive Mark Robinson. It was in response to a spate of suicides, self-harm and violent incidents at HM Prison Feltham.

With support from prison governor Joseph Whitty and deputy governor Steve Guy-Gibbens, as well as prison officer Bob Clements and fundraiser Roma Hooper OBE, Robinson launched Radio Feltham on 1 February 1994, broadcasting into every cell in the prison.[3]

Radio Feltham's success led to interest from other prisons across England and Wales to engage with prison radio. To address the need for expertise in the development of prison radio, Roma Hooper and Mark Robinson established the Prison Radio Association (PRA) in 2006, as a charity that offers guidance and expertise to prisons interested in setting up and running their own radio projects.

The PRA launched a radio station in HMP Brixton, called Electric Radio Brixton, in November 2007. The first programme was presented by serving prisoners alongside BBC Radio 1’s Bobby Friction. Studio guests included Billy Bragg and Mick Jones. The programme was broadcast in front of a live audience, including the future Chief Executive of NOMS, Michael Spurr.[4]

Electric Radio Brixton was run by station manager Andrew Wilkie,[5] who worked with serving prisoners to produce radio programmes which were broadcast directly into the cells of 800 prisoners.

The National Prison Radio production suite inside HM Prison Brixton.

Within 18 months of its launch, Electric Radio Brixton won four Sony Radio Academy Awards.[6]

Following a visit to meet the team behind Electric Radio Brixton, Guardian columnist Zoe Williams said “This station sets a new standard not just for community radio, or charity radio, or cheap radio, but for all radio.” [7]

In 2009 Electric Radio Brixton re-launched to become National Prison Radio, the world's first national radio service for prisoners. Part of a trailblazing partnership with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), National Prison Radio began broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via in-cell television, to prisons across England and Wales.


National Prison Radio is a linear service broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, into prison cells.

The station broadcasts a mixture of speech and music content, all designed to support prisoners through their sentences, helping them to make appropriate use of the rehabilitation services available to them while they are in prison and preparing them to live crime-free lives after release.

Programming closely reflects NOMS’ Seven Pathways to Reducing Reoffending.[8] The emphasis lies on helping prisoners to take responsibility for their own lives and the lives of those around them, as well as providing information about support services available in prison.

Programmes are produced by prisoners working alongside the charity's staff team of professional radio producers. The bulk of programming is produced in Styal and Brixton prisons, but in 2015, PRA staff began running pop-up radio production workshops in other prisons across the estate. Content generated from these workshops are broadcast on ‘NPR Takeover Days’. The project more than doubled the number of prisoners contributing to on-air programmes in a year, up from 475 prisoners in 2014 to 992 in 2015.

Each hour, National Prison Radio broadcasts a news bulletin from the studios of Independent Radio News.

The station also produces its own daily Prison News bulletin – a short summary of news and information likely to be of interest to prisoners. The Prison News bulletins include information published by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, updates on changes to prison and justice policy, and reports on activities taking place in prisons across the country and beyond.

Other key programmes featured on National Prison Radio include:[9]

  • Porridge – a daily breakfast show which is designed to put listeners into a positive frame of mind in preparation for the day;
  • NPR Talk – a daily speech strand which includes in-depth features and interviews designed to inspire and inform listeners, engaging the audience in the debates that surround criminal justice and celebrating the achievements of people who have successfully turned their backs on patterns of behaviour that may have led them to prison;
  • The Request Show – a daily two-hour request show designed to build National Prison Radio's audience and keep people in prison in touch with family and loved-ones on the outside;
  • Straightline – a weekly dance music-based request show. This is the only programme on the station that's available to the general public, hosted on Mixcloud and featuring requests from prisoners to their family and loved-ones on the outside;
  • Freedom Inside – a weekly yoga programme produced in partnership with the Prison Phoenix Trust which offers structured meditation and yoga sessions via the radio;
  • Outside In – a monthly programme produced by volunteers from the BBC and presented by former prisoners, which aims to prepare prisoners for life after prison;
  • Books Unlocked – a nightly audiobook serialization produced in partnership with the National Literacy Trust[10]
  • YO Takeover – a monthly programme produced by prisoners at HM Prison Isis, aimed at young adults in prison;
  • Open Road – a monthly magazine programme targeted at Gypsy, Traveller and Roma prisoners;
  • The Love Bug – a weekly music programme which is designed to encourage people in prison to write letters to their loved-ones on the outside;
  • Dream Time – broadcasting speech and music which aims to reassure and orientate people in prison during the hours of darkness, when prisoners are at their most vulnerable to self-harm and suicide. This programme broadcasts through the night, every night.

In 2015, the PRA teamed up with BBC Drama North to produce a radio drama called ‘Bound’ for broadcast on National Prison Radio. It was recorded in the BBC's drama studios and on location at HMP Styal. It told the story of a young pregnant prisoner fighting to keep her baby with her inside prison. The cast included serving prisoners and professional actors, including Sally Carman, John Henshaw and Matthew McNulty. ‘Bound’ was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in January 2017.[11]

In 2016 National Prison Radio broadcast a live event called 'Letters From The Inside', in which performers including Olivia Colman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kate Tempest, Russell Brand, Matt Berry, Clarke Peters and Mark Strong, as well as serving and former prisoners, read out remarkable letters, including some from prisoners, before a live audience in the chapel of HMP Brixton. The event was run in partnership with Letters Live to mark the tenth anniversary of the Prison Radio Association.[12]


National Prison Radio is available in over 100 prisons across England and Wales. It broadcasts into the cells of around 80,000 prisoners.

The PRA runs regular audience surveys, developed in partnership with the BBC and RAJAR, the official radio audience measurement body in the UK. A significant proportion of NPR's audience is surveyed regularly throughout the year to gather data on the impact of individual campaigns and overall audience levels.

In 2016, surveys showed that 99% of prisoners were aware of National Prison Radio, and 76% of prisoners listen regularly. The average listener tunes in for 10.4 hours each week. When asked what they thought of the radio station:

  • 75% said they had been inspired by something they’d heard on National Prison Radio;
  • 85% said it had helped them to think about making positive changes to their lives;
  • 77% said they trust what they hear on National Prison Radio;
  • 63% said National Prison Radio provides information they can't get anywhere else;
  • 83% said NPR had made them aware of support available to them in prison;
  • 49% had taken action after hearing something on NPR.

A key measure of impact for National Prison Radio is the number of letters the station receives from its audience and their loved ones. In 2015, more than 6,400 letters were sent to National Prison Radio by prisoners and more than 3,100 song requests and messages of support were sent in by prisoners’ friends and families.[13]


2016 Third Sector Excellence Awards – Charity of the Year [14]

2016 Audio Production Awards - Grassroots Category Winner [15]

2016 Audio Production Awards - Indie of the Year (Bronze) Award Winner

2016 Rose d’Or – Audio Stories Category Winner [16]

2016 New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards – Social Issues Category Gold Winner & Biography/Profile Category Bronze Winner [17]

2015 & 2014 Radio Production Awards – Indie of the Year (Silver & Bronze) Award Winner

2014 Third Sector Excellence Awards – Enterprise Award Winner [18]

2013 The Daily Telegraph and Prison Reform Trust Longford Prize – Main Prize Winner [19]

2013 Radio Academy Nations & Regions Awards ‘Station of the Year’ winner for National Prison Radio in London & South East

2013 Radio Academy Awards ‘Best Community Programming’ nomination for ‘Make a Clean Break’

2013 IVCA Clarion Awards – Radio Station Category and Champion Award Winner

2012 Radio Academy Nations & Regions Awards ‘Station of the Year’ winner for National Prison Radio in London & South East[20]

2012 Sony Radio Academy Awards ‘Breakfast Show of the Year’ nominee for ‘Porridge’

2012 Sony Radio Academy Awards ‘Best Community Programming’ Gold Award winner for ‘Face to Face’

2012 Sony Radio Academy Awards ‘Best Community Programming’ Bronze Award winner for ‘Behind Bars’[21]

2012 Third Sector Excellence Awards – Charity Partnership Winner (with Victim Support) [22]

2011 Sony Radio Academy Awards 'Best Community Programming) silver award for 'The Brixton Hour'[23]

2011 Sandford St Martin Trust – Merit Award Winner [24]

2010 Jerusalem Awards – Good Friday Category Winner

2009 IVCA Clarion Awards – Radio Station Category Winner

2009 Sony Radio Academy Awards ‘The Listener Participation Award’ for ‘Daily Show’ by Electric Radio Brixton

2009 Sony Radio Academy Awards ‘The Community Award’ for ‘A Sound Fix' by Electric Radio Brixton[25]

2008 Charity Times Awards – Best New Charity [26]


  1. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (2017-01-28). "Inside tracks: life at the UK's prison radio station". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  2. ^ "Prison Radio Association". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  3. ^ James, Erwin (24 November 2004). "Live From Feltham". Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 March 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  4. ^ James, Erwin (2007-11-30). "Brixton prison is radio-friendly". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  5. ^ "Andrew Wilkie". YMS LDN. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  6. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2009: Full list of winners". The Guardian. 2009-05-12. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  7. ^ Williams, Zoe (2009-05-11). "'A bit like Radio Five, only much more interesting'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  8. ^ "Reducing Reoffending In London". London Councils.
  9. ^ "National Prison Radio | Prison Radio Association". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  10. ^ "Unlocking books for prisoners". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  11. ^ "Bound, Drama - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  12. ^ "LETTERS FROM THE INSIDE". Letters Live. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  13. ^ "National Prison Radio – in numbers | Prison Radio Association". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  14. ^ "Third Sector Awards 2016: Charity of the Year - Winner: The Prison Radio Association". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  15. ^ "Winners &c". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  16. ^ "Competition Entries". Retrieved 2017-03-20.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "New York Festivals - 2016 World's Best Radio Programs™ Winners". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  18. ^ "Winners of the Third Sector Awards 2014". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  19. ^ "Longford Trust - Longford Prize Winner: Prison Radio Association". Archived from the original on 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  20. ^ "Winners announced for Nations and Regions". RadioToday. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  21. ^ "Sony Radio Awards 2012: Winners in full". Digital Spy. 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  22. ^ "Third Sector Excellence Awards 2012: Charity Partnership - Winner: Prison Radio Association with Victim Support". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  23. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2011: full list of winners". The Guardian. 2011-05-09. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  24. ^ "Awards Archive | Sandford St Martin Trust". Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  25. ^ "Sony Radio Academy Awards 2009: Full list of winners". The Guardian. 2009-05-12. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  26. ^ "Charity Times Awards home". Retrieved 2017-03-20.

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