Thu 05 May, 2024

What does the Prison Radio Association do?

We support people in prison and after release through the power of radio. We also encourage the development of prison radio initiatives globally, through Prison Radio International.

Supporting people in prison

In 2009 we founded the world’s first national radio station for people in prison – National Prison Radio.

National Prison Radio is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in prison cells. Our target audience is the 88,000 people behind bars across England and Wales. We can communicate with prisoners directly in their cells in a way that no other intervention can.

From our studios in HMP Styal and HMP Brixton, we broadcast audio content that’s produced and presented by serving prisoners, working alongside our team of professional radio producers. This makes National Prison Radio a by prisoner, for prisoner service.

We aim to reduce reoffending by supporting people through their sentences and preparing them for life after release.

We equip people in prison with skills and confidence, increasing people’s chances of accessing employment and education after release.

We have diverse programming which aims to promote a culture of positive change in prison, while acknowledging and addressing the challenges of life behind bars.

Our daily breakfast show Porridge, hosted by the award-winning Ali, starts the day off positively. Specialist music shows such as Free Flow encourage our listeners to get creative. We play instrumentals and our listeners write and perform ‘bars’ that we share across the airwaves. It’s hosted by the ARIAS Gold award-winning presenter, Lady Unchained.

Our daily NPR Talk strand focuses on issues that impact people in prison. News, interviews and discussions meet the needs of the prison community, raising awareness of services available, disseminating information and inspiring people to make the most of their time inside.

“I just had a shout out on National Prison Radio. It makes me feel better knowing it’s going into every cell. Thank you for playing the tracks for me and shout out to the National Prison Radio family for always showing love. You keep me going, music is my best friend.”

Our programmes target the key factors linked to reducing people’s likelihood of reoffending. They support the strategic priorities of HM Prison and Probation Service, with whom we work in close partnership.

Nearly all programmes are presented by people in prison, or those who have left. This is the key to its success.

Thank you so much, massive respect to National Prison Radio, you keep us all alive.”

Thank you to the National Prison Radio crew for this channel. I don’t know the trouble I’d be in or the mental issues I’d have without it.

Supporting people after release

We have been training people in prison to produce high-quality radio since 2006. Over this time, we have worked with hundreds of people, produced tens of thousands of hours of award-winning radio, and changed the lives of countless listeners who tune in to National Prison Radio every day.

The pandemic in 2020 changed the world for everybody. Without access to prisons due to Covid, we looked to people who had prison experience to join our staff team, to ensure we continued producing radio programmes that were credible and relevant to our audience.

Since then, Prison Radio Association staff with prison experience have won some of the radio industry’s biggest awards, including Best New Voice, Best Speech Presenter and Best Specialist Music Programme at the ARIAS.

Several have gone on to secure traineeships and jobs in the creative sectors, including at the BBC.

In 2023 we launched our trainee programme Outside In, offering paid opportunities to people leaving prison to continue their professional development.

Making radio in prison can be a life-changing experience. It unlocks new talents and passions and creates the desire to explore opportunities beyond prison.

“I’d like to say thank you because your stories and programmes have saved my life more than once.”

In its first year we worked with eight trainees. We delivered 205 days of paid employment. Together, the team recorded 117 hours of National Prison Radio and podcast content.

Today more than 20% of the Prison Radio Association’s staff team have spent time in prison and we plan to continue building on this figure. We know that radio programmes about prison life are better when they’re made by people who have lived it.

“I listen to Deja-Vu every week on National Prison Radio. It has stopped me from self-harming. Thank you to all of National Prison Radio.”

Supporting people living Life After Prison

In 2022 we launched Life After Prison; the UK’s first podcast made by ex-prisoners, for ex-prisoners, with support from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Life After Prison is hosted by Zak and Jules, who were both released from prison in 2019. Their personal experience of imprisonment and release is crucial to the podcast’s success.

The podcast has two different shows:

The Sit Down – Zak and Jules ‘sit down’ to hear incredible stories from ordinary people who have been through the prison system themselves.

Getting Out – providing information and support about the most important issues that people face when leaving prison.

People affected by the criminal justice system are at the heart of everything related to Life After Prison. The podcast is also proving to be an incredibly valuable resource for people who work in the criminal justice system.

“Shout out Life After Prison. I’ve been banged up for four months. Sometimes I feel like getting angry and losing it, but then I listen to the wise words of Zak and Jules and I think: ‘it’s not worth it man’.”

Life After Prison has received over 8 million hits since its launch.

It has won several industry awards, including a Gold, Silver and Bronze at the UK ARIAS in the last two years.

“Im in HMP Swaleside and I want to commend Jules and Zak for what they are doing on their podcast. It’s inspirational. It gives you insight into Life After Prison and how you can go about bettering your life. Their chemistry is wicked, the way they gel. Big up to you, you lot are smashing it.”

You can find all episodes on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

“Thank you for the brilliant and inspirational shows. Your amazing guests show that there is ‘Life After Prison’. Your guests have not allowed their pasts to define them. It is a real blessing to be able to see the example you are setting. There is so much potential in prison and you are great examples of that. Thank you both for the work you are doing.”

Developing prison radio globally

Prison Radio International supports the development of radio projects internationally. It is a growing global movement of people using audio in criminal justice settings for social good.

Through Prison Radio International, we are supporting the development of a mutually supportive international community; sharing how we face challenges and deliver impact.

Prison Radio International is catalysing the development of prison radio across the globe by fostering a collaborative international community network that shares best practices, resources, and expertise. This initiative aims to support improvements in operational and production standards in prison radio, positioning it as a pivotal tool for social change and rehabilitation.

Via our Global Prison Radio Survey, we are mapping prison radio activity around the world, building connections between projects regionally, discovering what support is required to drive this work forward, and working with the PRI Advisory Board on our strategic aims, which respond to the most pressing needs of the international community.

Through supporting effective prison radio development, we want to see more effective prisons; better equipped to help people cope with incarceration and life after release.

Bonus material

Alongside all this core work, we also produce radio and podcasts that raise awareness of the challenges faced by people in prison. Here are a couple of our smash-hit productions…

The Secret Life of Prisons

The Secret Life of Prisons podcast was devised to help listeners understand the reality of life behind bars. It is the voice of the criminal justice sector.

It is presented by our Chief Executive Phil Maguire OBE and Paula Harriott who is Head of Prisoner Engagement at the Prison Reform Trust.

Paula spent time in prison and now works to help those who have been to prison to contribute to the debate around crime and justice. Phil has worked in prisons for almost two decades and received an OBE for services to radio production and prison radio.

Each episode features guests who have served time in prison, focusing on the details of prison life that you may not have previously thought about. The podcast challenges listeners to learn about the world of prisons and to care about what happens inside them. 

Listen to it on Spotify here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Behind the Crime

Behind the Crime is our returning BBC Radio 4 series, hosted by Dr. Sally Tilt and Dr. Kerensa Hocken. They are both forensic psychologists with decades of experience working with people in prison.

In each episode, Sally and Kerensa interview someone who has committed a crime about the life that led up to their offence and what happened next.

You can listen to all episodes on BBC Sounds here.

The Prison Radio Association provides a platform for people who have committed crimes and experienced imprisonment to tell their stories.

By amplifying the voices of those with prison experience, we produce life-changing media that offers solutions, reshapes perspectives and reduces crime.

If you’d like to stay up to speed with what’s going on with the Prison Radio Association you can follow us on:

X – @prisonradiouk
Instagram – @prisonradiouk
TikTok – @prisonradiouk
Facebook – Prison Radio Association
LinkedIn – Prison Radio Association

The Prison Radio Association is a registered charity. Our programmes and help people to cope with life inside prison and thrive on release. If you would like to support our work, and enhance the futures of people in prison across the UK you can make a donation at