CHICAGO (CBS) –Mixers, musical instruments, microphones and sound panels.
You wouldn’t expect to see all this gear in a prison. But it’s part of a new program for inmates at the Stateville Correctional Center.
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A big Chicago entertainment star created the cutting-edge music studio, with inspiration from a young lawyer.
Jim Williams of CBS 2 reports that the hope is that inmates will develop new skills in a productive environment.
Lawyer Ari Williams had a dream for inmates at Stateville Correctional Center. A dream of rhymes and rhythms created and recorded behind bars.
“I know music brings us all together. I want them to be OK. I want them to do something that they love to do, ”said Williams. “And I know a lot of them are rappers. They love to rap and they love to sing.
Through a family connection, she contacted a fellow Chicagoan who could make it happen.
“This is our life’s work and we are committed to it.”
Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winner Common mobilized his resources and influence to build a music studio in Stateville. Inmates will learn music production and tap into creativity not blocked by prison walls.
“The gentlemen who are incarcerated deserve to have access to better things in life, which is why I am fighting for my city,” Common said. “And that’s why my heart is always with Chicago.”
This is Common’s latest charity initiative. Much in his hometown where he says he found inspiration and advice.
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“Being from Chicago is one of the greatest gifts and assets for me in my career and my life,” he said.
Thanks to Common’s non-profit, Imagine Justice, inmates, including Benny Rios, will complete a 12-week course.
“It’s a better way to spend a day, there’s no doubt about it. It gives us something productive to do, ”said Rios.
And for some inmates, a path to fewer days in prison.
“Each day that they participate in this program, they will get one day’s credit on their sentence, as long as the law allows,” said Alyssa Williams of the Department of Corrections.
The key words there “if the law allows.” Some inmates have said that no matter what they do in the program, their time behind bars will not be reduced. “
Julio Guerrera is accused of murder.
“I’ve been locked up since I was 21 and I’ve been locked up for 16 years now and I’m supposed to stay here until 69,” Guerrera said.
Yet Ari Williams has said that music and the means to create it will serve all inmates.
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“It gives them so much hope and inspiration. That they know people really care about them can change them too, ”said Williams.