Free inside – thanks to local radio and TV
Source: Article by Diana Bota and her colleagues from Liberi Dentro Eduradio&TV
How a daily radio broadcast in northern Italy reaches people in confinement and reminds everyone that detained people have hobbies, interests, and can and should be active members of society.
Liberi Dentro – Eduradio&TV is a project born during the first year of the pandemic in the region of Emilia Romagna, northern Italy, when volunteering associations and educators were not allowed to access prisons. It was born with the idea of continuing to make culture with and for prisoners, and at the same time making this content available to the entire population, thus showing that the prison is a part of the city and the community.
A network of teachers, trainers, volunteers, and spiritual assistants, who have been working for years inside the Rocco D'Amato prison in Bologna, decided not to leave the inmates alone during the pandemic and set out to find new communication methods to relaunch their activities through a radio broadcast, also transmitted by a local TV station. In an emergency context, this network managed to keep up the cultural, educational, and welfare services undertaken over the years with the inmates. The idea took inspiration from Prison Radio Association, a broadcast radio channel started in 2006 that is now available in 100 prisons across England and Wales.
The impossible challenge of Liberi Dentro-Eduradio&TV was therefore to continue the educational service, in obedience to the Constitution, through the only technological tools available in the prison cell: radio and TV. Before the pandemic, each outsider had access only to specific rooms: the teachers to the pedagogical area, the chaplain, and volunteers to the chapel rooms, and so on. In rare cases, the officers on duty would allow people to reach the cell door, which remained the impassable boundary. Meanwhile, the radio and TV lie beyond that limit, and thanks to that unique position, our voices could be heard even clearer. It is also worth noting the difference between the two media: the TV is supplied to each cell, and is, therefore, a shared object, whose usage requires agreement between the "cohabitants". The radio is completely different: is not present in each cell, it is instead owned by a single person. The TV stands in front of you, the radio next to you, or rather it whispers in your ear, through the earphones, perhaps in the middle of the night, or in the inner courtyards of the air, and even in the gym. The TV is a balcony from which to look out over the chaos of the world, the radio is an invisible screen behind which one can isolate from their negative thoughts and from the chaos of a prison section.
The daily radio broadcast not only addressed people confined or limited in their freedom, but was also a daily reminder to everyone outside prisons that detained people have hobbies, interests, and can and should be active members of society. The radio broadcast recognizes a principle of equity in the fruition of education, cultural content, and, more generally, the respect of fundamental rights that, even if in detention, civil society must guarantee to every
member of the community. With this objective in mind, we also promoted talks addressing diversity: gender, sexuality, LGBTQ+ issues, mental health, and others, so to live up to our promise in connecting with everyone.
In addition to reach detainees, Liberi Dentro also aspired to speak to the city, showing the community of the so-called free people how much culture can be found behind bars and how many activities are held. In a place that seems to attract attention only for its newsworthy events such as the arrest of a notorious criminal that has shaken public opinion, Eduradio&TV was born with the idea of continuing to make culture with and for prisoners, and at the same time making this content available to the entire population, thus showing that the prison is a part of the city and the community.
Now that the pandemic emergency seems to be slightly slowing down, Eduradio&TV continues its mission, to build a bridge between the prison and the city and it is broadcasted in the whole region of Emilia Romagna.
Eduradio&TV, which today is part of Insight, an association of social promotion founded in Bologna for studies, training, and services in the territory, is working thanks to the contribution of many institutional and voluntary stakeholders. The project has gradually expanded from Bologna to the entire Emilia-Romagna region. The project is also promoted by ASP Città di Bologna and ASL Emilia Romagna.