Do you remember that part in The Shawshank Redemption where the hero takes over the prison PA system and plays Mozart instead? All of a sudden a bunch of bad-ass convicts stop and listen to the beautiful music, with looks of wonder and serenity on their gnarled faces. I always took this to be one of the many improbabilities in this highly sentimental – though highly watchable – film. But it seems I was wrong.

I’ve blogged before about the power of music to aid the learning experience. Well, more research has come to light, this time specifically concerned with prison inmates. The University of Cambridge has discovered that music projects for prisoners helps improve their learning skills. Among those who were illiterate, it even increased their readiness to read and write. The study was called ‘Beats and Bars’ and focused on the ground-breaking work of The Irene Taylor Trust. It aims to give prisioners a more creative and positive view of their lives, thereby increasing their chances of rehabilitation. It also provides them with specific skills that they can use on the outside – especially communication and listening skills.

It seems to me that societies view of prisoners fluctuates between the ‘its not their fault’ and ‘flog the scum’ extremes. Surely learning is the key to rehabilitation – not a soft option, but not a hopeless one either.

Projects like this one should be duplicated throughout the prison system. We’re supposed to be pragmatists, so if it works, let’s do it!