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Innovative Phone-in Radio Program for Prisoners Enrolled as Students at Indira Gandhi National Open University

By April 28, 2020 No Comments

Prisoners are in an isolated and secluded environment removed from society. Radio is used in a few countries to broadcast programs to prisoners from the outside and to create a community within prison premises for the prisoners, in order to reduce their seclusion and feelings of isolation. The Prison Radio Project in San Francisco, Prison Radio Association (PRA) in the UK, Radio Focus in Israel, and Community Radio in Pune, Mumbai and the Central Jails of Maharashtra, India are some such initiatives that provide programs for prisoners (Ansari, 2014). The specialty of the Nagpur Radio Experiment is that prisoners are involved in a “live” broadcast on public radio where they can ask their questions.

Gyan Vani FM Radio Station and the Nagpur Experiment

Student prisoners were advised to go through the relevant self-instruction study material provided and determine the clarifications they need. Afterwards they submitted their doubts, questions, and clarifications on a relevant topic to the Coordinator of the IGNOU Special Study Center in the jail. The average number of questions per session was three, and sometimes went up to six. Some of the questions have included: “Could you please explain the special features of the Indian Constitution?”; “What is the Citizen’s Charter?”; and “What is the difference between formal and informal letters?” The students assembled in the hall to listen to the program. Then, the coordinator came to the jail office and called the Gyan Vani Radio Station Studio while the session was going live. He Pathaneni/Journal of Prison Education and Reentry Vol6(2) 192 would call and say that there was a question from a Nagpur Central Jail Student Prisoner and read the question. The teacher in the studio answered the query and the student prisoners sitting in the jail listened to their questions being answered. The process continued until the end of the session. The teacher concluded with what would be discussed in the next session. Due to the unique nature of this experiment, both society and the media have shown a keen interest.

This being a new experiment, the author personally interacted with student prisoners at the prison premises to listen to their feedback and suggestions for improvement. They expressed their happiness that it was becoming easier to study as their study problems are solved, that the language of teaching has become localized (otherwise study material is prepared in National level Hindi), and that they are becoming increasingly motivated for their studies. They were so interested that they wanted to increase the frequency of the program to two or three sessions per week and to extend sessions for other courses. They also wanted to broadcast the program through speakers in all barracks, because at present, only those near the radio listen.

Providing educational opportunities to prisoners while in jail is a win-win situation for both prisoners and society. To create an enabling environment and multidimensional support to motivate prisoners and sustain their desire is crucial. In this direction, the present Nagpur Experiment, the innovative phone-in radio program, was undertaken. This is a simple program that can be followed anywhere in the world with minimal efforts. Radio is affordable, accessible, and simple to operate. In most cases, no external connection is needed, and even mobile phones have built-in radio. Therefore, radio can be an effective medium for communication flow from one side. It can be more effective with a two-way communication flow and the present Nagpur Experiment stands as an example for the development of this method of communication for underprivileged and underserved populations.

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