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Earlonne Woods, 'Ear Hustle' Co-Host, Celebrates First Holiday Since His Release From Prison


Earlonne Woods used to begin the prison podcast "Ear Hustle" this way.


EARLONNE WOODS: I've been incarcerated for 21 years, and I'm currently housed here at San Quentin State Prison in California.

CHANG: Woods cannot say those lines anymore.


California Governor Jerry Brown commuted Woods' sentence last month, saying he had demonstrated his commitment to turning his life around and leaving violence behind.

CHANG: Now Woods is looking forward to his first Christmas since his release.


WOODS: Holidays in prison is, like, you missing out. You know, you missing out on something. You know? For me, I used to use the holiday experience to call my family because I can catch pretty much everybody in the family that I really want to talk to at somebody's house. You only get, like, 15 minutes to make a collect call. And you just trying your best to connect. You know, they just keeping you in the loop as if you were there.


WOODS: Now, with my mother, when she get on the phone, she would spend, like, maybe five minutes praying. And you'd just be sitting there. You're listening. You ain't going to interrupt. You know, like, waiting for her - to say, Mama, this call going to end in a minute, you know? Can we talk? No, she got a conversation with the Lord, praying that I have a good day, you know, I get out and, you know, stuff like that. So I think her prayers worked.


WOODS: November 30, when I was released, the feeling I had when I walked out that gate was like when you see little 7, 8-year-old kids doing that floss dance that they be doing. And if I could do the dance, I would have did it. But that's how I felt. That's how I felt walking out that gate.

And, oh, man, it was just - it was so - I pretty much appreciated the - just the smell was different. Everything was different. I appreciated it. You know? It was a different space, you know? It wasn't confined. I was in regular clothes that felt great. I had a "Ear Hustle" T-shirt on, a black one. Nobody has a black one but me.


WOODS: The best thing about being out of prison, it has to be hands down the freedom of choice. In prison, you don't have the freedom of choice. You know, you don't have the freedom to say, oh, I'm going to take a shower five times a day if that's what I choose to do, or, I'm going to go outside and just sit on the porch and watch cars go by. Or, like the other day, I cooked my first breakfast.

Everybody been cooking for me and taking me out and all that. So I made my first egg, bacon, potatoes. I hooked this breakfast up, messed up a gang of dishes doing it. But I had the freedom of choice to just sit there and do it.


WOODS: This year, I am going to spend the holidays at my transitional house, kicking back, talking to my family on the phone. I would've flew back to Los Angeles area to hang out with my mom's. But when you're fresh out, you have to wait 60 days, really, before you can travel. And, you know, that's what my parole officer told me the other day. So when my 60 days is up, I will fly back down to the Los Angeles area. And I will meet everybody and have fun and just basically enjoy.


BUDDY: (Singing) I can't help but shine.

KELLY: That's Earlonne Woods, co-host of the podcast "Ear Hustle." He says he will keep telling stories about life inside prison, just not as an inmate anymore.


BUDDY: (Singing) I'm shining. You see it. Ay, I can't help but shine. I'm shining. You see it. Ay, ay, I still can't help but shine. I'm shining. You see it. Ay, and we can't help but shine. I'm shining. You see it. Ay, ay, I can't help it. Ever since I was a little baby, this has been amazing, thankful for the life you gave me. With every step and every breath, know that I been living by you. Lord, just tell me what should I do. And I been counting down... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.