Pat Reavy of the Deseret Morning News ReportingPrison inmates and parolees go through a number of programs and therapy sessions to get ready for public life again. Some choose religion to help them through their sentences; others find strength in the power of music.
Pat Reavy of the Deseret Morning News introduces us to a halfway house where residents have their own version of jailhouse rock.
It looks like a routine band practice like many others across Utah on any given Saturday. This group however has a unique item that bonds them -- they have all been convicted of felony crimes, served prison time, and are currently on parole and in a halfway house.
At the Bonneville Community Correctional Center former supervisor Bradley Bassi received permission recently to bring a couple of his guitars from home. The results were instantaneous. Parolees, some who struggled with self-confidence, others who needed a boost to make it through their sentences, lit up with new life. The weekend jam sessions became an instant hit.
Seth Hooker, Parolee: "I think music, for me personally, has been something to help me get through the system because it’s always been a lifelong love of mine. Being able to excel at something has helped me a lot with my self-esteem."
Seth Hooker used to give piano and choir lessons to other inmates while he was incarcerated at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. He immediately saw the benefits of music therapy.
Seth Hooker: “Crime is an anti-social activity. People that pursue crime, for the most part, do it on the sly. Music is the antithesis of that because it brings people together. As you become social you learn more social skills. You learn to become more adept at those social skills. I've just seen it too many times, people really changing their lives through music and musical programs."
The availability of music programs for inmates or parolees is usually limited to whether or not a supervisor is willing to donate their own time and equipment. This group will argue that it’s a benefit to everyone if the music keeps playing.
Seth Hooker: "I've also seen what music has done with a lot of people who had a chance to do something that maybe they never saw themselves doing before, probably in a place they never imagined themselves they'd ever be in the first place. But there's a saying you can find yourself in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle of nowhere you can find yourself."
The Bonneville Center is now looking for donations of musical instruments from the community to help the program grow. If you are interested in donating an instrument, call (801) 977-5441.