Broadcasts behind bars are good for the community

Friday, 21 August 2015

Broadcasts behind bars are good for the community

Australia’s prisons and the broader community have much to gain by introducing a prison radio system that enables inmates to become broadcasters behind bars, according to new research from the University of Adelaide.

For her PhD in Media, University of Adelaide student Dr Charlotte Bedford has conducted a world-first study examining the development of prison radio stations in the United Kingdom. She’s found many benefits that could assist in the rehabilitation of Australian prisoners.

Prison radio began to emerge in the UK in the early 2000s. In 2009 this led to the development of an internal-only National Prison Radio service, which now broadcasts to around 70,000 prisoners via in-cell television.

"Radio programs are produced and presented by prisoners, working in conjunction with staff. They represent a voice for prisoners within the system, helping to give them a sense of purpose, while also contributing to institutional and government aims of management and control,” Dr Bedford says.

"Approximately 84% of prisoners regularly tune into National Prison Radio, which helps to demonstrate the importance of such a service. The service has improved communication within individual prisons as well as across the prison system as a whole,” she says.

Dr Bedford says prisoners live with the constant threat of violence, as well as mental health issues and suicide. “Radio programs provide prisoners with information on surviving prison and making changes on release, as well as opportunities to talk about prison life. Such conversations contribute to a greater understanding of the complexities of crime and imprisonment, and bring about a wider awareness of prison issues,” Dr Bedford says.

“In a prison system where over half of the population has literacy levels below that expected of an 11-year-old, radio has been shown to be an effective and innovative method both of disseminating information and of engaging people back into education, particularly those with previously negative experiences of schooling.”

Dr Bedford says prison radio has a proven track record in helping offenders tackle the barriers they face on release. “Through their involvement with radio, they are equipped with the confidence, skills and qualifications they need to more easily access education, training and employment.

“Radio production training develops computer skills through the use of audio editing software, literacy through research and interview planning, numeracy through editing and producing audio to time. It also develops the softer skills of team-work, communication and conflict resolution through working in a production team,” she says.

Dr Bedford says that while some people are uncomfortable with such a humanitarian approach to prisons and punishment, much can be learned from this process for the benefit of Australian prison systems.

“The example from the UK shows that even when operating under great financial, political and social constraints, people can still find opportunities to work within the prison system to change the lives of others,” she says.

Dr Bedford will graduate with her PhD at the University of Adelaide next month.


Contact Details

Dr Charlotte Bedford
PhD student, Department of Media
School of Humanities
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: +61 (0)416 840 116

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762