Operated by incarcerated women from inside the Latacunga Social Rehabilitation Center, Palabra Libre, meaning Free Word in Spanish, is a radio ran from behind the bars of the prison. This week, authorities from the Ministry of Justice presented the women of Palabra Libre with certificates, acknowledging their success at the 10th International Radio Biennial in Mexico, in which they won the category “programs produced by students” for their show “Jail in the Nude.”
“It is a source of pride because it is the result of all our effort that, even though we are here, sometimes we think that people don't hear us, that they don't listen to the program on Saturdays, that they do not listen to us, but they do hear us and they value what we are doing,” said Diana, a member of Palabra Libre in an interview with TeleSUR English.
The competition culminating on October 10 included 980 programs hailing from 19 countries from around the world.
An initiative by the Ministry of Justice and Provincial Government of Pichincha, training in radio communications for prisoners began in 2011 in an effort to humanize the penal system and reincorporate prisoners back into society.
On the recognition of Palabra Libre, President of the Pichincha Government Gustavo Baroja said, “I think it is important to analyze this profoundly. “Jail in the Nude” provides a critique for what is lacking in rehabilitation centers. It is this program that won the international prize. This is a very clear concept of democratizing liberty of expression, and this is the best example that can be shown for it.”
The women of Palabra Libre have complete autonomy over the program, as they produce, edit and conduct shows every week, which cover topics ranging from sexuality to environmental issues, and technological innovations.
“I feel really great, and very fulfilled, because my voice, even though it is behind bars, can be heard. It is not a muted voice,” said Diana.
“I feel really great, and very fulfilled, because my voice, even though it is behind bars, can be heard. It is not a muted voice”
Palabra Libre emits every Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. via Radio Pichincha Universal, 95.3 FM and streams online.
Alejandra, the producer of Palabra Libre spoke of interactions with the with the outside world. She said, “Through our voices the public has to imagine what we are saying. When we created a program with images of our homes, we talked about Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador and we are the principal cultures that are in the radio, we would try to do this.”
“For example we would say, “if you eat a taco and you squirt a little bit of lime with chunky salsa,” listeners are imagining what we are doing. We are inviting them to run out to eat this after the program!” she told TeleSUR English.
About 30 women have participated in Palabra Libre since it's founding in 2011, with many having since been released. To keep the radio going, members in the coming week will conduct a casting and select 20 other women whom they will train and incorporate.
On their future, Diana said, “We have a project among the girls that are about to be released. To create a microbusiness. To reinsert ourselves in the labor market by ourselves... We can have a communication channel here in Latacunga with us who are in the halfway house. Because when we leave, as many of us are foreigners, we are free but we should stay and work in the country. So that is our project, to have a communications microbusiness.”