Open Doors podcast

The "Open Doors" podcast logo defines the show to be "Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration Through Technology Education."

Topeka resident Jodi Whitt is currently the host of the “Open Doors” podcast, a platform she created to raise awareness and " break the cycle of incarceration through technology education.”

Whitt is a graduate of the KU technology RETURN program. This project focuses on incarcerated women released in Kansas and Missouri and the digital media skills they learn for future employment.

Whitt says she has been in recovery from addiction for three years and has found a calling in making a difference with her newfound skills.

“I learned about [the program] right out of treatment…,” Whitt said. “It’s really saved me, really. Because I spent 20 years, you know, struggling and started to do something different, and this was it. It’s turned into so much, and I’m so grateful.”

Reentering society

Whitt got involved in the podcast world when she recorded an episode for “Reentry Reframed” – a platform that discusses the obstacles recently incarcerated people face when reentering society. She credits her time with the KU technology program for allowing her to go into her community and meet people that specialize in reentry, recovery, and rehabilitation.

“I was invited to be a council member for the Shawnee County Reentry Council,” Whitt said. “They offered me to record a podcast [episode] for their podcast Reentry Reframed, and I recorded it and just got a lot of really good feedback.”

Whitt is sharing her experience because she wants to help others.

“I told my story a little bit, you know, in hopes that somebody may hear it that may need some inspiration,” Whitt said.

Following her appearance on “Reentry Reframed,'' Whitt spoke with RETURN project founder Hyunjin Seo, a professor in KU’s School of Journalism, about getting her support in helping start a podcast.

Her “Open Doors” podcast provides insight into the importance of digital education in the modern world, as well as speaking with guests about resources and their own experiences through incarceration. Whitt also hopes to create a community for those who can relate to the same types of trauma.

Whitt has created three episodes. She has spoken with featured guests Sabrena Morgan and Tanesha, who have navigated life after incarceration. These episodes touch on overcoming adversity, finding faith, and finding success following incarceration.

Whitt says she is determined to get her podcast accessible on tablets provided to inmates in the Shawnee County Jail.

“I actually became a mentor in this last month for the Intersection to Care Grant,” Whitt said of the project. “They’ve offered me to be a volunteer to back into the jail as mentor, so I’m going to be working with them to get this podcast on the tablets.

“The Intersection to Care Project attempts to disrupt the desperate life circumstances that can lead to involvement in trafficking for those discharging from incarceration,” Whitt said. “The ITC project intends to give program participants safety and connection.”

Whitt said that her mentorship allows her to offer participants hope for the future, access to support through the transition, a realistic outlook on a different life, and share her own experience with KU Technology Program.

“I will be building connections with participants to provide ongoing emotional support,” Whitt said. “I will be working with participants and the ITC liaison to link them with needed resources in the community such as housing, medical care, legal advice, financial assistance, and employment information.”

Hope for the future

Whitt recently attended the University Economic Development Association awards ceremony where she and the KU Center for Digital Inclusion team won their national nomination for the association’s award of Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“It was so scary and so cool at the same time. And the podcast ties into the program — it’s all one beautiful thing,” Whitt said.

Whitt feels the impact she’s making through her own personal changes following 20 years of addiction.

“I never thought that I could turn around and help another person, and that is my main motivation for staying clean, just to reach back and pull somebody else in,” Whitt said. “The main thing is really to provide some hope and encouragement to women who are incarcerated and are coming out of incarceration.”