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Guitars in prison (UK)

12 Jan 08 - 11:06 AM (#2234709)
Subject: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,Ed

Came across an article in the newspaper today (click here) highlighting the fact that Billy Bragg is helping to change offenders lives through music.

Sounds like worth supporting if you ask me

Ed


12 Jan 08 - 11:32 AM (#2234719)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: katlaughing

That bears repeating, thanks, Ed!

Billy Bragg's jailhouse rock project cuts reoffending rate
By Amol Rajan
Published: 12 January 2008

Billy Bragg has backed the miners, campaigned against racism and promoted perestroika in the Soviet Union. Yet the folk-rock singer from Barking has embarked on his most ambitious socio-political project to date; an attempt to wean convicted criminals serving time away from a life of crime. And it's working.

In an exclusive interview in The Independent Magazine today, Bragg reveals an initiative he set up last year is producing radical results for some of the country's most damaged prisoners. Through the Jail Guitar Doors campaign named after the B-side to The Clash's 1978 single "Clash City Rockers" Bragg is raising money to provide inmates in British prisons with musical equipment. By encouraging them to express themselves in music, Bragg insists it raises morale and minimises the risk of recidivism. Among those who have engaged in sessions with Bragg, the rate of reoffending is much lower than the national average. His campaign has enlisted the support of several public figures, including the TV presenters Dermot O'Leary, Jonathan Ross, and Phil Jupitus, as well as influential musicians such as The Clash's Mick Jones. It has raised more than 10,000 to date, and this week won the support of the manufacturer Gibson Guitars.

"It seemed to me something that all musicians would be able to see the value of immediately", Bragg says in the interview. "If only because all musicians are already keenly aware of just what a contribution music can make to life, and how it can help you transcend your surroundings no matter how bleak they appear".

The 50 year-old activist, who last year published an acclaimed polemic on the condition of modern Britain, goes on to explain his campaign's early success.

Bragg visited Guy's Marsh prison in Dorset last year, working closely with many of its inmates. Of those prisoners who participated in his therapeutic sessions before parole, only 10-15 per cent have reoffended. That is significantly lower than the national average of 61 per cent. "So there's your proof", says Bragg. "It works".

His efforts have not gone unnoticed, and Bragg's initiative is developing an influential fan base. The prisons minister David Hanson wants the scheme to be introduced in more jails.

"I was delighted to accompany Billy Bragg at HMP Pentonville last year," Mr Hanson said. "I'm looking to enable the extension of his scheme to prisons in the North-west very shortly. We're looking to use Billy's charitable efforts to support people to have positive activity in prison, to help them learn life skills, and to be able to equip them better for when they leave prison, so they don't reoffend when they go out."

According to Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, "Projects like Billy Bragg's can absolutely make a difference. That's one reason prison overcrowding is so damaging: it stretches resources and makes it difficult to perform this kind of creative work with prisoners more widely".

Bragg's prison work is only the latest political project of a musical maverick with impeccable socialist pedigree. After buying his way out of a tank regiment in the British Army for 175, Bragg campaigned vociferously against the Thatcher government, coming to public attention for his support of the 1984 miners' strike.

A former member of both the Labour-supporting music collective Red Wedge and the pressure group Charter 88, which campaigned for radical electoral reform, Bragg has always worn his politics on his sleeve. He once qualified his support of proportional representation by saying: "It would shine a torch into the dirty little corner where the BNP defecate on our democracy".

Commenting on penal policy in today's interview, he says: "We just can't keep sticking people in prisons without trying to rehabilitate them in some or other way.

"I never ask prisoners I meet why they are inside. When I'm with them, I'm dealing with them strictly as individuals. And anyway, these instruments aren't presents; they're a challenge, a challenge for them to try to make something of themselves. My hope is that they will see this as an opportunity to take that first step on the path back to society."


12 Jan 08 - 11:34 AM (#2234722)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Leadbelly

Very good approach. Think of Leadbelly, although he could play before landing in jail. And afterwards, he went back for some time. But nevertheless...in the end it works to express themselves by playing music and to become a better human being.


12 Jan 08 - 11:36 AM (#2234723)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: s&r

We taught guitar and other instruments in prison for over twenty years; it provides purposeful activity pleasure and a sense of achievement. Its value (IMO) is huge, and helps in many ways both during and after the sentence. Many prisons have music as a strong part of their programmes.

Didn't Joe Pass learn in prison?

Stu


12 Jan 08 - 12:09 PM (#2234747)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Big Al Whittle

wikipaedia says he got his first guitar at nine years old - seems a little early for doing time - even by standards of the American legal system.


12 Jan 08 - 12:14 PM (#2234750)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

The idea of music lessons (on guitar) for prisoners is not new. One of the Kent guitar stalwarts (can't remember his name, plays a Gibson J-45, fingerstyle without picks, rather classical right hand finger usage, was once in a band called Two's Company (or maybe Three's Company)) used to teach guitar in Maidstone nick.

After all the students have plenty of spare time to practice...


12 Jan 08 - 12:22 PM (#2234758)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,Ed

The idea of music lessons (on guitar) for prisoners is not new

Indeed not. That doesn't make the initiative any less valid or your comment any less snide. Piss off Richard, frankly.


12 Jan 08 - 12:33 PM (#2234768)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Leadbelly

weelittledrummer,
"joepass.de" tells me that "His first guitar, a Harmony for 17$, was given to him by his father Mariano on his 9th birthday, after Mariano's wife had said: "We ought to give him something useful".

Neverteless, you're right that the age of 9 years could be a little bit too early for lessons in prison. Even in the USA. But who knows, haha??


12 Jan 08 - 01:08 PM (#2234785)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice

The campaign initiated by the English singer-songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg to provide musical instruments for prison inmates .
The website
Jail Guitar Doors


12 Jan 08 - 01:15 PM (#2234791)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

So, Ed, what makes the Billy Bragg initiative newsworthy? Is it that it's famous because he's famous? Don't you think you rather undervalue the professionals and amateurs who have been actually doing it all along?


12 Jan 08 - 01:16 PM (#2234792)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Bee

Good plan anywhere it's done. I can tell you there's a great sense of achievement in learning to play an instrument, and more especially if you have as low an opinion of yourself as many felons do. Plus, the value of playing to take your mind off other things can't be underestimated. I was going through a bit of a depression when I started learning, and that guitar could pull me out of it for hours.


12 Jan 08 - 01:22 PM (#2234797)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Anne Lister

I've spent most of 2007 running storytelling workshops in prisons in England and Wales (24 2 day workshops, to be precise) and it's been some of the most worthwhile work I've ever done. The prisoners get a sense of achievement and increased self-esteem, and although any kind of evaluation of the long-term effects would be complicated I'm sure in my own mind at least that it will contribute to reducing re-offender rates.
Well done to anyone who works in prisons, whether it's for more formal education or the various arts initiatives, and if Billy Bragg can get a few more people to take notice of the differences that can be made, more power to him.

Anne


12 Jan 08 - 01:38 PM (#2234807)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,Ed

Richard Bridge:

What makes the Billy Bragg initiative newsworthy? Is it that it's famous because he's famous?

Probably so, and if we're being cynical The Independent were probably having a 'slow news day.' That doesn't make the sentiment any less valid.

Don't you think you rather undervalue the professionals and amateurs who have been actually doing it all along?

I'm really not sure where I've undervalued anyone in this thread. I simply linked to an article where someone is trying to do something positive. I believe that should be supported.

Ed

P.S. For what it's worth I spent several years as a volunteer teaching guitar to ex offenders


12 Jan 08 - 01:48 PM (#2234816)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: bubblyrat

How about some guitar -lessons for the VICTIMS of crime ?? What about some support for THEM ?? Or don't they count for anything any more ?? You criminal-lovers make me want to VOMIT. Get real !!


12 Jan 08 - 02:37 PM (#2234840)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,Ed

bubblyrat,

Unfortunately most people aren't as perfect as you.

It would be a dreadful world if they were....

Ed


12 Jan 08 - 02:51 PM (#2234849)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: katlaughing

Can't we have one thread, in the music section no less, which does not devolve into guttersniping, etc.? Jaysus, Richard and Bubblyrat!

Richard, no one cares if it is Billy Bragg or someone else. It is the IDEA which is worth sharing (but you knew that didn't you) AND will only enhance whatever efforts anyone else has made in the same realm. No one has put down anyone else for doing the same thing. In fact, most people see it as a positive instead of a chance, as you have done, to put down a fellow Mudcatter.

bubblyrat...it needn't be a case of either/or. Why NOT rehab them while we have them as captive students, so to speak? Why not help them become good citizens in the event they may be released. No one is saying they've taken away anything from the victims in order to do this. Do you teach victims music? Do you know of someone who does? Post a story about it, if you do.

Remember, personal attacks will be deleted.

kat


12 Jan 08 - 06:48 PM (#2235027)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Anne Lister

I don't love criminals. I do, however, want them to change and become citizens who don't offend once they're released. Their punishment is to be deprived of their freedom, not to be cast out from the rest of humanity and ignored. And in the case of the work I was doing, although the criminal may well deserve punishment, the partner and children of the prisoner concerned do not - and the results would benefit them quite as much as the prisoner.

Music, art, theatre, stories, literature - all of these art forms enable the inmates to see a little beyond their cell walls and see themselves as a better person. Being treated as a fellow human being instead of a caged beast also gives them a sense of our shared humanity.

I've also become aware since working with such a variety of prisoners in a wide variety of prisons that there's a very thin dividing line between "them" and "us". And that I've had a very lucky life compared with some. The term "victims of crime" is really not a clear statement - an awful lot of the inmates are every bit as much victims of crime as the people whose lives they've affected.

Anne


12 Jan 08 - 07:22 PM (#2235054)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,Ed

Hear, hear, Anne


12 Jan 08 - 09:28 PM (#2235107)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: BanjoRay

I wonder if the reduced re-offending rates are because of the musical happenings, or because the sort of people who'd take up the Billy Bragg idea are the sort who probably wouldn't re-offend anyway?
Ray


13 Jan 08 - 12:18 AM (#2235180)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Barry Finn

It's a pity that most criminal justice systems work on the idea of penal/punishment/payback instead of rehabilate even though many claim that that is their purpose. The rate of return is serverly high & it's the public & the victims that pays dearly for those costly & gross misconceptions of how we all treat convicts.

Incendently, Leadbelly served time in a system that was only one step removed from the prior slave/plantation system that profited from the labor combination of mule & man. That system, at least afforded convicts, if they survived, more diginity during those "Red Hefer" days than the supposedly more human systems of today.

Give a con a CD & he'll probably cut someone's throat, give him a guitar & his cell mate will probably commit suicide if the guy never gets beyond beginner.

Wait that wasn't right. Give a con a guitar & he'll eat for the day, teach him how to fish & he'll become game warden.

No, that wasn't quite right either

Give him an instrument & he'll learn to sing the blues.

Oh the hell with it, giving anyone an instrument can't be a bad thing, no matter what the situation.

You go Billy boy

Barry


13 Jan 08 - 06:22 AM (#2235259)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,acorn4

I have an acquaintance who recently spent some time as a guest of Her Majesty - apparently he had a few problems as guitar strings were regarded as a security risk - potential for suicide, so potential tutors may run across this problem.

Dave T


13 Jan 08 - 06:44 AM (#2235267)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull

i think its a good idea.


13 Jan 08 - 07:03 AM (#2235276)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST

I agree jOhn but then Alvin Karpis did give a young Charles Manson slide guitar lessons during one of his pre-family stretches and, well...


13 Jan 08 - 07:04 AM (#2235278)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,van lingle

That's me at 7:03 AM


13 Jan 08 - 08:11 AM (#2235296)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Jim Lad

Beat me to it, BubblyRat although you kind of miss making your point when you go overboard like that.
Billy Bragg can do whatever he wants with his time. That's up to him but as others have tried to point out... maybe the victims are the ones who could use a little kindness.


13 Jan 08 - 04:42 PM (#2235642)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: growler

I retire from the Prison Service in 2005, after 27 years. Starting in the Borstals, I, with others, have given up our own time, to introduce prisoners to music. Why the big thing about Billy Brag


13 Jan 08 - 05:05 PM (#2235661)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

Thank you Growler. My point precisely. And of course the students do have time to practise!


13 Jan 08 - 05:36 PM (#2235684)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Big Al Whittle

One can't help feeling the people who could really help are the people who import guitars.

Last year i picked up a load of of solid wood acoustic guitars because, this company decided to skip all their series one models and bring out a series two . I passed them on to my friends at cost.

I bet its happening all the time. I bet every comapny is chucking loads of stuff on the scrapheap.


13 Jan 08 - 05:39 PM (#2235686)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice

Least Billy Bragg is doing something.....


13 Jan 08 - 05:53 PM (#2235695)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Leadbelly

...and this is a most positive aspect apart from what other people did in the past. Go on, Billy.


13 Jan 08 - 08:44 PM (#2235797)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

Nothing wrong with what he's doing. But can't you see this is teh somewhat loathsome cult of celebrity at it again - the belief nothing is of interest unless a celebrity is doing it? His support for the practice of teaching guitar in prison is fine, but he doesn't own it, and I would not expect him, in view of his political beliefs to claim ownership. By giving him the credit you disempower the people.


13 Jan 08 - 09:39 PM (#2235825)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: katlaughing

Oh, for fuck's sake. By bringing it to the forefront, can you not see through your own jealousy that it's a good thing? The more press it gets the more others might be encouraged to do the same OR even get recognition for what they are already doing...imagine that. If someone wants to apply for a grant to do so, they can refer to the article and the name recognition of Bragg to show up their own case as worthy. I think some of you are too disgruntled to see any good in most anything.


13 Jan 08 - 10:12 PM (#2235834)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Jim Lad

You know, I've endured many up and coming folk singers at the "Open Stage" part of coffee houses over the years. Not all of them of course but once in a while you just have to escape, don't you?
I've always taken comfort in the fact that I could sneak out for half a fag if it gets really bad.
Nice to have that option.
On the bright side... they could have been learning the bodhran.


14 Jan 08 - 01:54 AM (#2235887)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Big Al Whittle

Is that true about Alvin Karpis? I never heard that story, from whence does it hale?


14 Jan 08 - 12:46 PM (#2236227)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: McGrath of Harlow

"You only get out when you can play that thing..."


14 Jan 08 - 01:21 PM (#2236254)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST

Richard, 'disempower the people'? What the fuck are you on about?
Your posts are always negative, why is that? If BB can get useful publicity for his project then what on earth is the problem with that?
Many people involved with charitable works actively seek out 'personalities' with high public profiles to aid their fund-raising efforts. How this 'disempowers' anyone is beyond me; care to explain?

Andrew


14 Jan 08 - 02:34 PM (#2236313)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

Probably because anger is teh most powerful human emotion.

But in any event, the credit for music in prisons does not belong to Billy Brag. It belongs to the many who do it and were doing it before he joined them.


14 Jan 08 - 02:57 PM (#2236325)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's non celebrity Apprentice

"But in any event, the credit for music in prisons does not belong to Billy Bragg"

I've never read anywhere that Billy is claiming credit for anything nor is he saying Jail Guitar Doors is the only programme of its kind...the publicity from Jail Guitar Doors, one can hope, will aid bringing to the forefront the already existing programmes. I agree with kat...if a celebrity is involved in programmes like Jail Guitar Doors it's automatcally becomes suspect in the eyes of many...well as I said in my original post...at least Billy Bragg is doing something


14 Jan 08 - 04:31 PM (#2236382)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

So are many others. Glad to have him. But it's the song not the singer.


14 Jan 08 - 09:37 PM (#2236623)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST

WLD, Re Karpis and Manson, I read that long ago in a book about Manson called Helter Skelter which, I believe, was written by the prosecutor in Manson's trial. The Wikipedia entry for Karpis has a quote by Alvin in which he claims to have given music lessons to a young jailbound Manson.vl


14 Jan 08 - 11:19 PM (#2236669)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: katlaughing

Yes, I read it in the same book, years ago. There's more HERE.


15 Jan 08 - 02:14 AM (#2236720)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Big Al Whittle

Thanks very much. I have always been fascinated by the Dillinger era, and that's something I have never seen before.


15 Jan 08 - 02:21 PM (#2237120)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's Apprentice

"quote by Alvin in which he claims to have given music lessons to a young jailbound Manson"

sounds like one of ol'"Creepy" Karpis' stories *LOL*


15 Jan 08 - 03:02 PM (#2237158)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: open mike

Here is a project that has been going on for almost 10 years now. The
Second Strings Project
collects and re-cycles strings for use in prison and jail. Often the
collecting will be done at music festivals and music stores where
strings are purchased or changed. We always gather strings from the
luthier's booth as well as a music shop booth at the Strawberry Music
Festival to send to the project.


15 Jan 08 - 04:50 PM (#2237248)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,van lingle

Thanks for that link, Open Mike. I've drawer full of old sets I'll send off.


09 Apr 08 - 03:43 PM (#2311381)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull

Billy is on radio 2 talking about this now.


09 Apr 08 - 05:34 PM (#2311470)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: growler

I found that the main problem with trying to get something creative of the ground, were the Governor Grades. In HMP Maidstone, in 2005, the biggest source of income, was having long termers, putting the absorbant pads in the plastic containers that you buy your Sunday joint from Asda. This, unfortunately, was regarded as meaningful work, under Government targets. For this the Prison recieved income and points towards their unreachable targets. I tried for three years to set up a band, but could not them released from their workshop duties, even though I was doing it in my own time. Perhaps if Billy Bragg were to join the Prison Service, in 27 years time, he may have more success than me


09 Apr 08 - 06:30 PM (#2311525)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Slag

Please, yer Honner! Don't send me back to prison. I'll be good from here on out. I can't take that constant "Twang, twang, twang" o' them gitars no more! Yup, a great program!

All kidding aside, a commendable project. Mr. Merle Haggard discovered his talents in San Quentin Prison.


09 Apr 08 - 08:25 PM (#2311640)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: open mike

let the midnightspecila shine a light on me!


09 Apr 08 - 10:06 PM (#2311705)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,leeneia

The Lansing Correctional Facility of Kansas has an incredible chorus, the East Hill Singers. Their conductor is a woman in her 70's.

Here's a link to a recording of their singing. (It's soft.) Chances are it is the most beautiful music you will hear today.

prisoners sing


10 Apr 08 - 06:21 PM (#2312464)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

Hmm. Practise hard and you will be as melodious as Growler.

No, must be shome mishtake shurely...


11 Apr 08 - 05:29 PM (#2313286)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: GUEST,Rich

Now if only we could lock up a few accordions

Rich


11 Apr 08 - 05:44 PM (#2313293)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Dave the Gnome

I suppose because someone famous is doing it then they can't be genuine and it devalues all the little people who have done it before? Get real. He has brought it to the public attention. What on earth is wrong with that?

As to why he is not helping the victims. What makes you think he isn't? If someone who is taught guitar in prison doesn't re-offend how many people has that helped? The crime has already happened to the victim. They need help and attention to get over it but nothing will alter that fact that it has already happened. This WILL help change what is going to happen in the future. Why castigate someone for that?

Cheers

Dave


11 Apr 08 - 08:48 PM (#2313393)
Subject: RE: Guitars in prison (UK)
From: Richard Bridge

YesDave - or maybe NoDave. We know from elsewhere that you only like it if its big slick and celebrity. Good for Billy Bragg. By and large he's a good bloke. Bad for the celebrity hunters who took no interest in the good work until someone famous did it.

Where were the celebrityhounds when Growler was trying to do something similar?