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JUNE 2020

On COVID-19 at San Quentin

Dear Ear Hustlers,

While we are now busy at work on season six and trying to stay in touch with our colleagues inside, there’s a more pressing issue on our minds.

At the time we’re writing this, there are 539 confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside San Quentin, and the number is climbing every day. We are all deeply concerned about this surge in cases of the coronavirus inside the prison, most of which appear to be connected to a transfer of prisoners from the California Institution for Men in Chino on May 30.

We talked to our inside co-host New York on Wednesday. He didn't quite sound defeated, but he seemed much less hopeful than when we last talked to him a couple of weeks ago.

New York is wearing a mask, but he said he can’t really keep himself completely safe. When you’re trapped in a petri dish with the virus, you can do the best you can, but that might not be enough.

When we asked New York what he’s doing all day, he said, “Same old program. I used to work out, but I can’t because my cellie’s in the way. Stuck in there together all day every day. Reading and writing like a motherfucker.”

We know everyone feels kind of helpless right now. We do, too. We are so, so worried about our colleagues and friends who are at San Quentin, and we know many of you listeners are worried, too. We’ve seen your emails and your comments on social media asking how you can help.

So here’s what we can tell you. Our friends at the Prison University Project are making care packages for incarcerated people. They've already pulled together over 4,000 care packages with food, stamps, writing pads and pens for San Quentin. Now they’re doing this for Avenal Prison, and Nigel will be volunteering there on Tuesday to help them pack up the care packages. If you want to learn more about the Prison University Project and support their work, you can do that here. We here at Ear Hustle are strong supporters of the Prison University Project, and we have always passed along 25% of all proceeds from our merchandise to them.

Another organization that’s doing important work right now is Bonafide. They help people right after they’re released from prison by providing a cell phone, hand sanitizer and clothes. Bonafide also takes them shopping for essentials and helps with transportation costs when needed, so they don't have to immediately spend the $200 from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which they leave prison with.

San Quentin is getting a lot of attention right now, but other prisons in California and other states are also being hit hard. So we’re thinking about those people too, and hoping they get the attention and care they need.

Thank you so much for all of your words of support for the team inside.

— Nigel, Earlonne and the entire Ear Hustle team

A sketch of two people making donuts in the kitchen of a donut shop

Listen to the season finale

Getting out of prison means freedom, but this liberation often comes with caveats. In our final episode of the season, three formerly incarcerated people describe the unwelcome surprises that were waiting for them on the other side of the gates. Plus, Ear Hustlers respond to the murder of George Floyd and recent protests. Listen to "Nobody Comes Back" now.

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Big thanks

We just wrapped up our first ever spring fundraiser, and it was a huge success! We so appreciate everyone who chipped in to make it possible for us to continue doing the work we do. We'll be back with season six in September.


Last Week Tonight

Screenshot of John Oliver talking with a small box with Earlonne's picture in it at upper left
Screenshot of Earlonne showing Ted Koppel his cell
If you watched this week's main story on Last Week Tonight, you might have noticed a familiar face... John Oliver used a clip of Earlonne showing Ted Koppel his cell back in 2018, when he was still a San Quentin resident, to demonstrate how hard it is to socially distance in prison. 
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