In 1978, The Clash released the song, “Jail Guitar Doors,” telling the story of the imprisonment of their fellow musician Wayne Kramer. Kramer, a notable guitarist ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 greatest, battled drug addiction and served time in federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky in the 70’s. During his time there, he experienced first-hand the transformative role of music on his life and that of his fellow inmates.
Decades later in 2007, inspired by the life of Joe Strummer, founder of The Clash, Billy Bragg launched an initiative to provide musical equipment for incarcerated individuals in the UK. On the heels of the success of the UK initiative, Billy Bragg and Wayne Kramer joined together to bring Jail Guitar Doors to the States.
In addition to providing musical instruments, Jail Guitar Doors provides programming for individuals during their incarceration. The programming is rehabilitative in nature; it utilizes constructive songwriting programs to facilitate the processing of trauma experienced by justice-involved individuals. The program also creates non-confrontational connection and fosters collaboration among inmates, helping to reduce violence among incarcerated individuals and also minimizing recidivism rates. Importantly, the songwriting provides a vehicle for individuals to share their story and be heard.
In research studies about arts-based programs for the incarcerated, including specifically studying Jail Guitar Doors, researchers have noted that the rehabilitative nature of the program including increased emotional control, improved social competence, and greater achievement motivation among participants. Each of these elements diminish the likelihood of violence within the criminal justice system and also increase the likelihood one will experience the rehabilitation and return as productive community members.
Jail Guitar Doors will be hosting a Rock Out Concert on September 28th at the Ford Amphitheatre and will feature artists Moby, Benmont Tench and Jack Bower. Tickets can be purchased here. The organization also sells merchandise to help fund their programming such as wearable accessories, vinyls, and posters. Learn more about Jail Guitar Doors and follow them on facebook, twitter, and Instagram.
Sign up here to receive the highlights from the Starfish Impact blog in your inbox.