A group of inmates at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, AL, broke into applause, when they learned their radio drama project had been accepted as a partner in the social justice sector of The Charter for Compassion (http://www.charterforcompassion.org/corrections-radio-drama.)
The Corrections radio drama was written, performed and recorded by Donaldson inmates over a nearly two year stretch of weekly meetings with faculty from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and Department of Theatre.
Corrections is an ‘entertainment education’ serial drama, that seeks to educate listeners about specific prison-related health issues, while entertaining them. According to the Center for Communications Program at Johns Hopkins University, entertainment education is aimed at “telling an engaging story that prompts the audience to reflect on their own lives and make healthy choices,” and it “combines analysis and theory with the art of storytelling. The result is [an] emotionally resonant [story] that enable audiences to identify with fictional counterparts whose behavior is modeled in real life.”
The Corrections program grew from a prison lecture series coordinated by the Office of Service Learning at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Over 20 inmates worked with faculty and students to write and perform in the series, which focuses on health issues within the prison such as tuberculosis and hepatitis C. Health messages are embedded within the drama’s intertwined storylines about inmates, corrections officers, and the conflicts that arise among them.
WJLD AM 1400 in Birmingham, AL began to broadcast Corrections in October. A former inmate hosts the program each week along with a Department of Corrections social worker. Following the episode, the hosts discuss the story and invite phone calls. The broadcast phone-in portion gives families the opportunity to say hello to their loved ones inside Donaldson.
In a recent interview (https://news.wbhm.org/feature/2016/a-prison-drama-written-and-performed-by-prisoners/) about Corrections, its producer, Connie Kohler, noted that while she initially planned for the program to be heard primarily by those in correctional facilities, the inmates had other ideas about who their target audience should be. “They felt like people had the wrong idea about them and what they do in there,” said Kohler. “This could be a way of showing them what it was like from their perspective.”