"He may as well spit on me. This guy's just evil. He scared the sh*t out of me, not often things or people scare me, this man actually scared me".

Ron Self met fellow inmate Doug as he was being processed for his prison stint and instantly wanted to get away from him.

It was after meeting Doug during "receive and release" - where a prisoner is given a prison card and ID number - that he realised his military past may not be enough to survive his sentence.

"The whole time I was in R&R I felt like this guy wanted to kill me, I couldn't get processed fast enough," Ron said.

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As he walked down the hallway towards his new cell, the door opened and he was greeted by his new cellmate.

"That's the cell I'm going to, the door opens all the way, it's Doug, the guy looking at me like he wants to kill me. My heart dropped, they said 'go into that cell and close the door behind you'," Ron said.

"OK, I can deal with this. But no matter what I did in the cell was wrong. He would yell, he would scream, he would threaten to kill me. I would sleep with my back to the wall and one eye open, if you call what I did sleeping.

"Sometimes he'd just get out of the bed in the middle of the night screaming, acting like he's going to kill me. That six-month period felt more like 60 years."

Ron told his story from behind bars in San Quentin prison, near San Francisco in California. San Quentin the oldest prison in California and was once home to America's largest death row population.

Two inmates, Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, have started a podcast to reveal what really goes on behind bars. The podcast is called Ear Hustle, prison slang for eavesdropping, and inmates record it with the help of prison volunteer and artist Nigel Poor.

The first episode dropped last week and prisoners revealed the reality of living in a cell where there's barely room for two.

In San Quentin, cells are only about one metre by three metres in size.

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"It matters who your cellmate is," Earlonne said.

He has served 19 years of a 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted second-degree robbery.

"If I've got my back on one wall, I could touch the other one. In that space there's two bunks, toilet and sink side-by-side, two lockers, one locker above the top bunk the other locker in the back of the cell. Each cellie has their appliances and property," he said.

"I put it like this, you can't walk by each other. One person will have to sit on their bunk while the other walks by."

Even Nigel admits she has seen closets bigger than the cells.

Earlonne has just lost his "cellie" of three years, and he needs to find somebody compatible because he doesn't want the jail to throw in just anybody.

The "sh*t" he wants to avoid is chaos and craziness in his cell.

An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison. Photo / Getty Images
An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison. Photo / Getty Images

"I have several fears but mine is someone who talks too much, always talking, every time you look around he's always talking, talking through the TV shows, talking when you walk in, talking when you get up in the morning. I hate that sh*t," he said.

Since being moved to San Quentin, Ron no longer has the cellie from hell.

In fact, he has a cell to himself and he claims it is because he is Native American and has had some recent operations. Earlonne said having a cell to yourself is a luxury in prison.

"It still feels crowded," Ron said.

"It's helped me get in touch with myself. I can go back in there, shut the door and cry. There's no time to be alone here, you're never alone, you're surrounded by 900 people all the time.

"Having a single cell for a period of time is like a brief vacation."

'IT'S A WHOLE OTHER WORLD'

Nigel told news.com.au the podcast was just talking about every day life.

"What happens in your life after you've been incarcerated, how do you negotiate, how do you deal with things like working, health, having children, finding ways to be a productive citizen. Those are the stories we want to bring out and humanise the people inside," she said.

"The ultimate goal is to have people think a bit more clearly about the criminal justice system and what kind of prison sentences are given to people."

Nigel said there were obviously horrible realities in prison and many inmates lost their sense of being somebody. But despite the atrocities that come along with being a prisoner, Nigel said there's also a lot of humour.

A California corrections officer watches over prisoners at San Quentin. Photo / Getty Images
A California corrections officer watches over prisoners at San Quentin. Photo / Getty Images

"Before I went (and volunteered) I thought it was dark, the men would be scary, but I soon realised everything that happens on the outside, happens on the inside. Why do we think people in prison don't have a single emotion?" She said.

"People on the inside and outside can work together and have mutual respect."

Nigel said she was hoping the podcast would teach society about forgiveness and compassion.

"We can rehabilitate," she said.

Nigel does not want to take away the hurt caused to any victims and didn't want to glamorise the inmates.

"I've never been the victim of a serious crime, I have no idea how it feels but I would love us to learn about that," she said.

Nigel said the prisoners felt they were giving a different perspective to life in prison.

"They love their family can hear it, it acts as a lifeline," she said.

Nigel hopes the podcast will be played in other prisons throughout America and is even in discussions to launch it in prisons in Scotland.

Not only does the podcast give the inmates something constructive to do with their time, but also gives them skills and the opportunity to be heard.

"Yes they have committed crimes, but they have also been really traumatised by their experiences," Nigel said.

"Prisons are pretty awful places."