Spy Hop is closed Wednesday, June 19th, in recognition of Juneteenth. We’ll be back on Thursday.

Sending Messages

“Here’s the story of a boy who at a young age was forced to grow up 
and be a man. With little knowledge of this life, straight skipped adolescence and
before long he soon felt the bitterness and sufferance of having to carry
the world in his hands.”

From the poem Faith by Alias, Age 18

Born out of Spy Hop’s mission of giving a voice to all youth, Sending Messages reaches a population that rarely has that opportunity. In the program that began in 2010, students at secure care youth corrections facilities in the Salt Lake area record, edit and produce their own radio show. Each month, they write and perform poetry, short fiction, spoken word, and interviews that are then compiled into podcasts. Full podcast episodes may be heard on iTunes and individual pieces can be heard on Soundcloud.

For so many  incarcerated youth, the experience of being locked up is a catalytic one. They are truly at a crossroads, and trying to contextualize what their experience means. Giving them the opportunity to talk about their experiences to an audience who could be different than them, or an audience that may be made up of youth who are in danger of making the same mistakes, the meaning in their storytelling changes, taking on new weight. The participants begin to think deeper about their choices.

Sending Messages was part of a research paper: Podcasts, Prisons, and Pedagogies: How media arts spark new possibilities for incarcerated youth from Mindy Faber (Convergence Design Lab, LLC) and Danielle Maude Littman (University of Utah College of Social Work). The paper’s focus is to understand “(1) how the pedagogy of teaching artists enables incarcerated youth to communicate effectively to authentic audiences using the podcast medium and (2) how, in turn, the attitudes of adult audiences change as a result of listening to the podcast made by incarcerated youth.”

You can read the full paper, for free, below:

Because each residential treatment center and the clients served are unique, Spy Hop customizes its curriculum to meet the needs of the youth being served. Therefore, aspects of the program can be altered so that the programmatic aspects are accessible to everyone being served. For example, the storytelling platform and length of programming would change for a residential treatment center that serves clients who are developmentally delayed, have behavioral issues, or have physical disabilities.

Many of the youth being served through the Sending Messages program have been out of school for a significant amount of time or come from a bilingual background. This leads to a high level of illiteracy or a struggle with literacy. Sending Messages uses software that is visual and the audio production can be completed with limited writing skills.

Contact Adam Sherlock, Director of Learning Design, to address any accessibility issues. You can also reach him by calling Spy Hop at 801.532.7500.


To learn more, email Myke Johnson, Education Director

Skip to content