This weekend, I had the opportunity to travel back to my alma mater, Georgetown, to do research on musical rehabilitation of prison inmates. Along with having an amazing time and seeing friends and colleagues, I went to a symposium and master class on social justice and the performing arts. The event was geared toward film and music’s application in the prison system. As a musician and student in the forensic program, this might just be the coolest subject I can think of.
Meet Wayne Kramer. Wayne was the lead guitarist for the great proto punk group the MC5. Along with being a great rock star and performer, Wayne and the MC5 were well-known for their political activism. After the dissolution of the band, Wayne found himself in prison on a drug charge. His prison sentence marked the end of the MC5, and The Clash (close friends of Wayne) wrote the song “Jail Guitar Doors” about Wayne’s imprisonment.
During his experience, Wayne found that the prison environment was not only failing in rehabilitation of its inmates, but actively compounding psychological issues which lead to recidivism. Kramer found that his greatest strength inside prison was his ability to write songs. He found that songwriting provided an expressive outlet that helped him find the issues that led to his issues with substance abuse.
Today, Wayne runs the American wing of Jail Guitar Doors, an organization focused on bringing guitars and teaching to prison inmates across the country. Wayne’s mission is to allow prisoners to utilize the expressive therapy that he experienced through songwriting. Participants have found this treatment to feel empowering and humanizing in a situation which is otherwise not. Others find relief in using music performance as a way of escaping their confines, even if for a few minutes at a time. Additionally, many participants feel that both songwriting and performance give them a sense of self-worth which is often hard to develop in a penitentiary.
I’m hoping to get involved with Wayne in the coming months and possibly help start a Boston chapter of Jail Guitar Doors. This is not only an incredibly interesting subject to me, but something that I really believe in. In times of personal struggle, I have also found that music was often the best way to express myself and work through many of my issues and in previous music instructing experience, I’ve seen just how powerful music can be as a tool of self-development.
I think MSPP could also be an excellent medium to help promote Wayne’s work, since we offer both a Forensic & Counseling Psychology as well as an Expressive Arts Therapy tracks in our counseling department (more on that later). I’m also hoping to set up a more general musician’s group at MSPP (if you’re a student and interested in the group, let me know). I am going to be in contact with Wayne in the coming weeks and months, so if any readers have interest in working with the organization or just have questions about it, comment below or email me. Also, check out JGD’s website, http://jailguitardoors.org/
Song of the week: Jail Guitar Doors – The Clash