By Olga R. Rodriguez
In California, inmates typically are granted parole by doing good deeds or showing they have been rehabilitated by becoming pastors, drug counselors or youth advocates. For Walter “Earlonne” Woods, the path to freedom was podcasting.
Woods, 47, was recently released from San Quentin State Prison after California Gov. Jerry Brown commuted his 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted armed robbery. Brown cited Woods’ leadership in helping other inmates and his work at ”Ear Hustle,” a podcast he co-hosts and co-produces that documents everyday life inside the prison.
Woods has since been hired as a full-time producer for the often funny and at times heart-wrenching podcast, which has been a smashing success since its launch in 2017. The show’s roughly 30 episodes have been downloaded 20 million times by fans all over the world.
Listeners have praised “Ear Hustle” online as “eye-opening” and “incredibly humanizing.” For Woods, one of the most meaningful reviews came from the governor’s office when they called with the good news.
“The one thing that the lady said, you know, she told me, ‘We love the podcast in this office,’” Woods told The Associated Press of the commutation call from Brown’s office. “I don’t know if the governor listens, but people in his office listen. People really like what we do.”
During their podcast, Woods and fellow creator and outside co-host, prison volunteer Nigel Poor, give listeners a peek into the hardships and small joys of men incarcerated at the medium-security facility.