Radio Station Blesses El Salvador Inmates

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Everyday, radio announcer Ryley Serrano takes on an unusual challenge at an unusual radio station.

Radio Esperanza, or Radio Hope, is the first closed-circuit radio station in Central America operating within a prison -- and Serrano is the inmate who directs the station.

"[It] motivates us to reach a group of more than 600 inmates with positive messages, not only in the music, but also in what we say," Serrano said. "We share with all those people who need hope."

Speakers fixed throughout the prison draw a large audience of inmates who gladly listen to the 10 hours of daily programming, which includes Christian and popular music, motivational messages, helpful information, news and interviews.

The 700 Club has offered counseling and evangelism in the Santa Ana Penitentiary since 1993. The ministry played a major role in providing equipment for Radio Esperanza.

"The reaction is positive and people are waiting to see what time the preaching begins, and when they're putting on praise music, to worship the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," Oscar Fajardo of The 700 Club El Salvador said.

Many prisoners testify about how the radio has transformed their lives and the lives of their fellow prisoners.

"Many times, people can't stand the pressures of jail. Some even decide to hang themselves," inmate Vidal Hernandez said. "You see many things and the only path is to seek God and to know He's the only one who can help us."

That message was powerful enough to change the penitentiary from one of the most violent prisons in El Salvador into one of the most peaceful.

"The level of stress has fallen and we feel that the treatment programs from the technical team are strengthened by the positive subjects presented there," prison director Neftaly Portillo said.

This gives the team of radio announcers and technicians -- all prison inmates -- a great sense of satisfaction.

"It feels good to help, to see I can teach others to survive in life and not fall into the mistake of returning here," radio announcer Ricardo Funes said.

Serrano said it helps that there's no competition.

"They can't unplug you or change the dial," he said laughing. "They have to listen to you."

*Originally broadcast on May 14, 2010.

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Stan Jeter

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CBN News Senior Producer Stan Jeter specializes in Christian news and Latin American coverage.  He has lived and worked for many years in South and Central America, most recently developing the Spanish Christian news program, Mundo Cristiano.  Follow Stan on Twitter @StanJeterNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/StanJeterCBN.