There are so many urban areas plagued by a continuous cycle of crime, a broken judiciary and corrections system, and recidivism. In late 2015, producer Eve Abrams began reporting on this cycle in New Orleans and Louisiana for her podcast called Unprisoned: Stories From the System. The goal of the podcast is to answer these questions: “What has Louisiana done to become the incarceration capital of the world? Is our criminal justice system making us safer? How are we all passively or actively supporting the current system? What do we want for our future?” (WWNO.org, 11/02/15) Abrams’ investigation is told through vignettes about anything related the corrections system: who is impacted by it, where is it going, who’s trying to change it, what it means for kids.
This podcast is part of an initiative called Localore: Finding America by AIR Media, which focuses on community-based storytelling told locally. I absolutely love this idea and have found some phenomenal shows in the collective. The Junction explores Ensley, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham associated with crime and poverty. Frontier of Change from Alaska begins its series with an audio-rich episode called Shaktoolik Soundwalk. In each of these shows I find myself transported to the local community and I love it: I sit back and imagine I’m anywhere but where I am that moment. My favorite community/local stories show the grit of a town, the love the residents have for their city, and how the community has transformed or is changing. I want to feel like a local when I’m listening, as I do when I listen to Neighbors (see my review here). This has generally rung true for me with Unprisoned, especially in this episode about how costly it is to be arrested in New Orleans and this one about security guards in schools.
Most episodes are under 10 minutes, which on one hand is a nice quick listen to something going on in a local community, but on the other hand, these are somewhat heavy issues and I would like to hear more fleshing out of the storylines. Maybe not to the level of detail that Reveal puts into its investigations, but a little longer than 5 or 6 minutes. In the beginning when the show first aired I barely missed an episode, but I have been less gripped by the content in recent months. It kind of seesaws between storytelling and investigation. However, I’m very hopeful about this show because I think Abrams is a great producer and the link to Finding American is sure to bring more attention to the show and could help extend episodes if Abrams can get some production help or an intern.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (4 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (3 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (4 / 5)
Flow & Production Value (4 / 5)
I just wish the episodes were a bit longer. Many of the shows I’d classify as being in the same genre (Precious Lives, Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City) have episodes between 15-30 minutes and it allows just a little more investigation into the topic at hand without getting too long-winded. I know it’s a lot of work to produce a show and family members affected by the corrections system may not be the most forthcoming subjects, but I hope Abrams is able to expand the show to longer episodes.
Humor (1 / 5)
Investigation (3 / 5)
Storytelling (3 / 5)
I’m often left wanting more when an episode ends. I like the premise of the show very much but sometimes I wish I could go deeper with the subjects.
Makes Me a Better Person (4 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (3 / 5)
You May Also Like …
Anacostia Unmapped, Neighbors, Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City, Reveal, State of the Re:Union, Dimelo: Stories of the Southwest, Frontier of Change, Rest Stop Radio, The Junction: Stories from Ensley, Alabama, Precious Lives, We Live Here
Unprisoned: Stories From the System