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Prologue

Host Ira Glass with former Congressman Daniel Rostenkowski. When Rostenkowski began a term in federal prison, he met for the first time people who'd been locked up under harsh drug laws that he'd voted for himself. "The whole thing's a sham," he declares.

Act Four: A Night In Drug Court

Before this show ended we wanted to know—how typical are the horror stories? What happens in a typical drug case? To find out, reporter Nancy Updike spent nine hours in Night Narcotics Court in Chicago. What she discovers is that the system is working as fairly as one could hope or expect, with one caveat: Nearly all the defendants are African-American, even though the jurisdiction contains an equal number of white drug users.

Act One: What's Wrong With This Picture?

The story of how a person could be sentenced to 19 years for drug possession—even if police found no drugs, drug money, residue or paraphrenalia—even if it's a first offense. Dorothy Gaines was an Alabama nurse with no prior record and no physical evidence of any drugs who was sentenced to 19 years.

Act Two: Jail Sell

Writer/performer Danny Hoch performs a monologue taken from his one man show, Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop. It's a story about a guy who's been locked up for doing the most American activity possible: Selling stuff on the street (in this case Bart Simpson/O.J. Simpson t-shirts).

Prologue

Host Ira Glass with jazz musician Ed Ryder, who was in prison in Pennsylvania for twenty years for a murder it was later proven he did not commit. Ryder played jazz in the pen and out of the pen.

Act One: I Mess With Texas

Over two decades ago, not long after he got out of Texas prison for robbery, Ray Hill got a job at his local public radio station, KPFT in Houston. He started a weekly program about Texas prisons that's now the leading muckraking voice in the state when it comes to exposing graft and corruption in prison facilities there.

Act Two: Mother's Day

As the number of female prisoners climbs, visiting rooms are packed on Mother's Day. Eighty percent of female inmates have children at home.

Act Three: Who's Your Daddy?

A reading of a pamphlet written by ex-con Stephen Donaldson for heterosexual men who are about to enter prison, about how to "hook up" with a stronger man —"daddy" or "jocker"—who'll provide protection in return for sex. He explains the rules and mores that govern this part of American prison culture.

Act Four: Open Your Big Mouth

What happens when you go into a place—in this case a prison—where there are all sorts of codes about what you're never supposed to say...and you say every one of them. Rick Reynolds tells a story from his one-man show (and CD) All Grown Up and No Place to Go, about performing stand-up comedy at a maximum security prison just before Christmas a few years ago.

Act Five: Color Bar

Former South African political prisoner Breyten Breytenbach, on how prison changes all your perceptions in ways that last after you've been released. The painter and poet was interviewed by New Yorker writer Lawrence Weschler for a radio series called Territories of Art, for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1986.