A campaign led by Billy Bragg has succeeded in seeing prisoners in British jails allowed to use steel-strung guitars.
Musicians including Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway, Elbow’s Guy Garvey, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Johnny Marr also supported the campaign to overturn the ban on steel-strung guitars in British prisons. The campaign was also led by Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan, who has commented:
“This is a victory for common sense and I’m pleased after months of campaigning the UK Government has listened. The power of music to help prisoners to rehabilitate is well documented. I started the campaign after prisoners wrote to me explaining how they had saved from their small prison wages to buy guitars and how therapeutic learning to play the guitar had been for them before the ban.”
Bill Bragg, who founded the Jail Guitar Doors rehabilitation initiative added: “As an incentive to engage in rehabilitation, individual access to steel-strung guitars can really help the atmosphere on a prison wing. I’ve had a number of projects involving guitars on hold which now will be able to go ahead, and will allow those using music in prisons to get on with this important work.”
In a letter published in The Guardian earlier this year, 12 musicians, whose number also included Richard Hawley, argued that “music has an important role to play in engaging prisoners in the process of rehabilitation” and that this was being undermined if inmates were not allowed to practice.