The Clash song, “Jail Guitar Doors” references their friend Wayne Kramer’s (of the MC5) legal problems due to his drug addiction, as well as those of the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards. Billy Bragg formed a charity of the same name, along with a now-clean Wayne Kramer. Jail Guitar Doors started in the UK, and also operates in the US.
Their mission “provide(s) musical equipment used to rehabilitate inmates serving time.” Using a seasonal approach to the workshops, Jail Guitar Doors operates in several correctional institutions throughout the US.
Learning the act of making music together with others and collaborating to create original songs gives participants a proven means of non-confrontational, non-violent expression and self-esteem building. This process also helps to reduce institutional tensions by giving the participants agency, time and space for creativity. Skills learned are how to focus on a task, to start and complete a project, to process challenging emotions creatively, and to work with others collaboratively; all required skills that will benefit the participants upon release as they re-enter school and/or the work force. Workshops culminate in ceremonies where participants are awarded certificates of completion, accompanied by participant performances of original songs created during workshops.
JGD donates 10-12 guitars and 6 Cajons to the facility for the participants to play and practice on. During the workshop, participants break up into temporary working groups. Each group collaborates and writes one to two original songs per session, coached by the teaching artist. At the end of the session, all participants get back together in a group and perform the original songs for one another and discuss their process.