New York City Ensemble Bringing Music to SC Prison

Bishopville, SC (WLTX) -- A first-in-the-state music workshop is being held at the Lee Correctional Institution. Inside the facility, a small group of inmates came together with music in their hearts.

The program comes all the way from the big apple, and brings a group of prison inmates together to play music.

They are part of a unit known as the Better Living Incentive community at the prison.

Each of the 256 men in the BLIC have been deemed non-threatening, and have no history of disciplinary action at Lee Correctional.

They are venturing outside that life because Claire Bryant and her music ensemble from New York City known as Decoda are holding a six day music workshop.

"In our society today, we forget about people who are incarcerated," Bryant said.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections would not let us show the faces of any of the men behind the instruments, or speak to them on-camera, but the men wanted to share their stories.

James is 32 years-old, and has been behind bars since the 1970's. He said playing the guitar is like putting poetry to music. His mother and father have died, but he expressed a "burning desire" to see his grandchildren before he dies.

He has been denied parole on his life sentence over a dozen times, now music is his outlet.

Jimmy is nicknamed "The Ambassador," and raps gospel music and teaches a hip-hop workshop at the prison where he says he tries to mentor younger inmates. He's been behind bars since 2009.

He's serving a 50 year sentence. His case is currently in the appeals process.

Myron has served half of his 20 year sentence, he said. Before he was convicted on multiple charges, he says he was a high school honor student and won close to 15 talent shows.

He fought back tears as he explained that he sings because he feels like he let his family down.

Myron also cuts hair for the Warden, Dennis Bush.

"Our job in corrections is to try to better these men," Bush said. "These guys, even though they are incarcerated, and they're in here for a reason, this program boils down to men becoming men."

The workshops are being held each day through Saturday at which point the inmates will then perform together originally composed songs and music with the ensemble.


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