Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

MP fretting over prison guitar ban

Prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs were among those who previously were encouraged to play guitars.

Guitar playing prisoners have been ordered to return their electric and steel-stringed guitars after the Government banned them, a Labour frontbencher has said.

Kevin Brennan, himself a guitarist, demanded to know why the coalition had ordered the return of the types of guitar on which the majority of modern rock and pop music is played.

He said the likes of Johnny Cash and Billy Bragg have shown the importance of music and guitars in particular in rehabilitating offenders.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said the specifics of why electric and steel-stringed guitars were axed were beyond his level of expertise but said he would ensure the restrictions were appropriate.

During justice questions in the Commons, Mr Brennan said : "I don't know about you but I'm quite a big fan of the late Johnny Cash who performed in prisons and Billy Bragg who started the initiative Jail Guitar Doors to provide guitars to those using musical instruments as a means of rehabilitation in prison.

"So why has the Government banned the use of most of these instruments by ordering prisoners to return steel-stringed and electric guitars?"

Mr Wright replied: "You have, perhaps predictably given your level of expertise, got to a level of detail on musical instruments I'm not currently cognisant with.

"But I will have a look into what you say. What is true and important in what you have said is that it is right that music can be a method of rehabilitation, prisoners playing an instrument either on their own or in groups is something that we want to see in appropriate circumstances.

"But you will understand there have to be some restrictions. But I'll have a look and make sure those restrictions are appropriate."

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