The Chainz 2 Changed podcast officially launched in August but has been in the works for several years. The project was the brainchild of Antonio “Dread” Stridiron, who got Zach Schmidkunz — who has spent roughly 20 years behind bars and is estimated to be released in May 2029 — on board with the idea.
“I kind of just found some examples of a business plan,” Schmidkunz recalled, “and I just did the best I could. I wrote letters to Prairie Public, the arts council. Then they got ahold of the director here. We’re going to be everybody’s neighbors someday — all these opportunities we’re getting in here, and the stuff that we’re allowed to have, makes people be able to serve their sentences in a more humane way.”
According to federal statistics, the overwhelming majority of state prisoners will be released, and reenter society at some point in time. Stridiron is one of the few who likely will not. He’s serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole.
“It means the world to me,” Stridiron explained, “because a lot of times, people only knew us as what we did, the result of our court case. But they don’t ever get to know who we are, and what we are doing since then.”
From inside the prison walls, Stridiron and Schmidkunz are now reaching the outside world, sharing their stories, their voice, and their message with others. Currently, both men serve as mentors in the prison to younger residents, in the hopes that they can help do good while serving their sentences.
“It feels funny to have to say this,” noted Stridiron, “but I had to come to prison to have my family say they were proud of me. I know they are very proud of me, because I get it a lot now since I’ve been in prison. I wasn’t getting it when I was out, but I get it now that I’m in prison. Even after the mistakes I’ve made in life, they can still see the goodness in me. So, it makes me feel amazing. If you stay focused and put your mind and heart to it, you can actually be somebody.”
You can listen to the latest episodes of the podcast here.