Famed musicians fight the ban on guitars in UK prisons

In the UK, steel-strung guitars are now banned from prisons. This ban is an attempt to strengthen the policy of earned privileges.

Famed musicians are outraged, and in an open letter and petition, they have made their argument clear.

Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour

Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour

The petitioners include David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Philip Selway and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead, and Johnny Marr, former member of the Smiths.

The musicians argue that “music has an important role to play in engaging prisoners in the process of rehabilitation,” and puts emphasis on the fact that the amount of self-inflicted deaths in the prison drastically increased since the ban.

“Since October 2013, when only one death was reported, there have been a total of 50 self-inflicted deaths, over double the figure for the same period last year.” the letter states.

The petition hopes to find a medium between the earned privileges rule and the guitar use. It calls for guitars to be available at certain supervised times and to be locked up at others.

Parliament is said to acknowledge the petition by Tuesday (April 29). Labour MP Kevin Brennan was surprised at the ban and is said to work toward a solution.

“The prisons minister has admitted that learning the guitar is good for rehabilitation, so why he would want to undermine rehabilitation by this arbitrary policy on guitar strings is baffling.” Brennan said.

Artist Billy Bragg who runs the Jail Guitar Doors foundation to provide guitars to prison was disturbed by the ban and said that “it makes no sense.”

Musician Billy Bragg, operator of Jail Guitar Doors

Musician Billy Bragg, operator of Jail Guitar Doors

“I’ve seen the positive impact giving prisoners these guitars can have first hand, which is why I am involved in this issue. There’s never been to my knowledge, an incident in a British prison where someone has been attacked with a steel string guitar.” Bragg said.

Though it has been signed officially just twelve times, the petition has made an impact already, gaining support by big names and government officials. A change in the ban is expected due to the uproar it has caused.