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How music is helping prisoners in Lee Correctional Facility

After a two year hiatus, a music workshop is back changing lives behind the walls of Lee Correctional Institution.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — 'Music to your ears' is a phrase that has a different meaning for some inmates at Lee Correctional Institution. In 2014, Claire Bryant, a University of South Carolina Professor, took her talents to Lee, providing music-making workshops. She is part of a Carnegie-Hall affiliated collective called DECODA

These workshops are part of the prison's Music for Transformation program. It was actually a program that Bryant says was originally started by a group of inmates before she ever got involved. Since she joined in 2014, they have created 125 original songs written by the men at Lee.

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"Incarcerated people are forgotten about a lot in our society. And I think when we first had our own experiences working in prisons, we were just amazed by the power that music can have...It actually not just changes their perspective and gives them hope, and gives them a positive thing to do to express themselves, but it also impacts us as artists and as people."

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Ronni, an inmate of the BLIC dorm at Lee, played guitar guitar before being locked up. Now as a part of the program, he and his fellow inmates use it as an opportunity to mentor.

"I work with some of the guitarists myself. I've taught in the past some song writing classes. Yes, we try to take each other under the wing."

Bryan Stirling, the director of South Carolina's Department of Corrections says there are several benefits for prisoners, and thus, society as a whole."

"We know that programs like this can help not only safety inside the prisons but they can help reform people that are leaving."

There will be another writing workshop for inmates in March.

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