How can music reduce re-offending?

Mental Health The therapeutic effects of music are widely known; for both performer and listener. Music always draws an emotional response, quite often enabling people to express emotions that might otherwise be left buried. This catharsis can play a significant role in the mental health of an individual. It is no coincidence that self-harming greatly reduces, or even completely disappears, while people are engaged in our activities.

Relationships & Reconciliation The strength of relationships built through performing together often results in prisoners talking to us about their concerns. This can often lead to discussions about deeply personal issues such as the stress put on families by imprisonment. Artistic expressions such as song writing can play an important role in restoring broken relationships. Many of our participants have sent songs they have written to family members who they felt unable to talk to, resulting in restored communication and the potential for reconciliation.

Personal Development The nature of prison is that prisoners experience long periods of isolation, both physically through being locked away, and emotionally by not having friends and family to spend time with or talk to. As a result, many prisoners become increasingly insular, creating a self-seeking view of life; in fact this often becomes the way many survive life in prison. Prisoners who are new to our groups sometimes exhibit this negative attitude in the sessions and can show an initial disregard for others in the group. As they see how we run Changing Tunes sessions, they realise that the time will be far more enjoyable and the music of a much higher quality if they develop a respectful relationship with others in the group. Invariably they listen better, start to encourage others and generally become more rounded as musicians and socially. It is well known by music therapists that the way people play music is indicative of their personal situation and outlook. The development we see in a musical context filters through to other areas of their lives.

It is well known by music therapists that the way people play music is indicative of their personal situation and outlook. The development we see in a musical context filters through to other areas of their lives.

Willing Participants Our work combines artistic and educational work resulting in an activity prisoners want to be involved in. Unfortunately, many prisoners take part in educational programmes because they have to. In contrast, Changing Tunes is always well attended by prisoners who want to be involved. Having enthusiastic participants gives us an invaluable head start when working towards the underlying change needed to turn away from crime.

Targets and Self Esteem Our work also provides prisoners and ex-prisoners with targets to aim for such as concerts and awards that can significantly build self-esteem. In addition to the independent Koestler awards we award a range of Changing Tunes certificates for achievements in the following categories: Involvement, Ensemble/Solo Performance, Composition, Recording, Music Theory, General Instrument Skills, and Teaching.

All the above benefits are further developed in our post-release work. You can read more about this on our Post Release page.