The Localist

Jailbreak Radio – A Radio Lifeline for Inmates

Jailbreak Radio gives a voice to some of the most isolated people in Australian society – prison inmates, their families and friends. It provides information on health issues pertinent to people in prison as well as connecting them to the outside community through powerful music, poetry and stories. I’ve included below a few stories and music clips that I’ve found inspiring from some talented artists, who also happen to be very familiar with the prison system.

Radical Son – Ex Inmate

“There’s a saying ‘happy as a pig in shit’. I remember being in prison and brothers getting out and offending so they could get back in…there’s a threat inside but there’s a violence out here as well,” says Radical Son, Aboriginal Tongan musician.

In his interview with Jailbreak we hear about Radical Son’s journey from solitary confinement to singer songwriter and releasing his debut album “Cause ‘n Affect”. He grappled with his demons and his inner turmoil, thoughts, feelings and emotions, searching for answers to why he was so angry and violent, which led to jail time.

Cause ‘n Affect incorporates the sounds of soul, hip hop, reggae and RnB and features legendary Indigenous Australian musician Archie Roach and a seven piece band complete with horn section. Radical Son tells his stories honestly and courageously, and in his interview on Jailbreak he speaks of how he struggles to fit a story into a three minute song.

Radical Son’s lesson from his life journey is something we can all learn from:

“I’m not a religious man but I believe that there is a higher power within ourselves. This thing that is called love, which can do so much…You know if I want to stop drug and alcohol abuse – a part of that…would require us to then love ourselves enough where we can say, you know what, my body is the temple, this is the thing that needs respecting.”

National radio station Triple J recently featured Cause ‘n Affect as best album. Check out Radical Son’s music clip “Human Behaviour”.

Adam Blacksmith – Prison Teacher

Sydney artist Adam Blacksmith is a talented musician who also works as a teacher inside Long Bay jail. A number of his songs are shaped by the stories of people in prison and you can hear the influence of different genres and artists, like Augie March frontman Glenn Richards and Joni Mitchell in his poetic tunes.

“Musically, he combines folk, blues, Jazz and indie, then smashes them with his guitar, takes the best parts and makes a mosaic of the remains”. Triple J Unearthed.

Why would a talented poet and musician want to work in a prison, you ask?

“I think I’ve always wanted to work in the prison system, for reasons not even known to me but I feel at home working with the boys in jail…seeing people turn the corner and learn about themselves and to be inspired…gives me great inspiration musically and generally just as a person. So I’m very blessed to be in the jail every day.”

Blacksmith speaks enthusiastically of song-writing sessions with his guitar in the prison classroom, which makes learning a lot more fun, and effective, for his students.

It’s surprising to hear so many inspiring stories from inside prison and Blacksmith speaks of a recent occasion where some of the students were completing a certificate in hospitality:

They put on a luncheon…which was better than any restaurant I could speak of and gave me such inspiration to hear that inmates were wanting to go into hospitality when they left. For someone to come in with no aspirations and to leave with employment prospects makes me very proud and keeps me going.”

“The best thing [about my job and what is] most important is that people learn that they can learn…understanding that they can learn and they can apply that new understanding to anything else is inspirational for me to see every day.”

Love is another key theme from prison that has resonated with Blacksmith. “Love Songs” is a track about a time when the education team lent out radios to inmates for a week at a time, as they were scarce in supply. One of the big fellas, the “standover guy” from the yard approached Blacksmith for a radio and when asked what he liked to listen to replied “I listen to love songs“. Not an answer you’d expect, but it turned out that the inmate followed a show on the radio called “Love Song Dedications” and it struck Blacksmith that this was the inmate’s only experience of love and of hearing people speak kindly to each other and showing affection to one another. This has stayed with him and inspired him to write “Love Songs”.

Blacksmith has just released his debut album, entitled “The Anomy”. Check out his clip “Inner Child” below.

Ghassan – Inmate

Lebanese Australian singer songwriter Ghassan found hope in the unlikeliest place – the loneliest cell in the NSW system, ‘segro’ (solitary confinement), at Goulburn Correctional Centre’s ‘SuperMax’ facility. He sings just beautifully. The intro on Jailbreak Radio’s website says:

“Lyrics, sung in Arabic and English will transfix your ears and are just as moving as his story.”

Ghassan has been in jail since 2004, including a 14-month stint in “segro” after a prison riot. He started committing crimes after becoming addicted to drugs at a young age and his life spiralled into an ugly place. He recalls:

“I think because I started at such a young age…I was 100% committed to living that life …I threw away my teenage years when I could’ve done so much with my life”.

The worst part was when his family found out:

“Who wants to see the look on his mother’s face when she finds out her son’s on heroin…who wants to hear the words ‘ oh you’re so talented, why are you doing this to yourself?’”

During his time in jail, Ghassan has been able to reflect and let go of the hate and anger he wasted time on growing up. He has learnt to forgive himself, rehabilitate himself and look to the future. The key for him has been learning to take responsibility for fixing his own life.

“I just want to live a normal life. I want to get married, have kids. I want to see my mother and father happy…I want to set a better example for my younger brothers…

Everyone’s got problems, the most important thing is that you believe in yourself that you can do it…
It all starts with you.”

It’s heartening to hear that since his Jailbreak Radio interview Ghassan has been on day release and is doing well.

Stories such incredible artists as these are able to share with us via Jailbreak Radio are a crucial source of hope that inmates and their loved ones desperately need. It’s proof that they can turn their lives around and have a brighter future to look forward to.

You can listen to Ghassan’s beautiful music in his Jailbreak Radio interview:

Links and Further Info

When and where to listen to Jailbreak Radio:

And finally, Jailbreak Radio’s facebook page:




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