Can music stop repeat offenders?
It sounds like a strange notion for sure. With so many prisoners in the U.S. and so many prisoners getting out, only to commit more crime and end up back behind bars. You know where I stand on criminal behavior. I believe we need to keep certain criminals behind bars longer and in the interest of public safety, let's not be afraid to build more prisons. That said, other than certain offenders who have committed heinous crimes, it's important to remember that many of the current state prison residents will be getting out over time.
Too often it's easy to dismiss the men and women behind bars and forget about them. It's easy to dehumanize someone who commits a violent crime. But what about young people making mistakes? What about the young man who regrets the mistake and wants redemption? One man who has dedicated a huge amount of his time to people he calls "forgotten" is my new friend Eric Genuis (pronounced Jen-Us). He a world renowned composer and performer. For the first time last week he brought his musical talents behind the walls of Trenton State Prison. He shared with me that unbelievable emotional reaction to his music which included a cellist and violinist (Emily and Valerie from Bard College) from the otherwise hardened criminals. We discussed the impact music can have and how people react when you treat them with human decency.
In New Jersey, despite some good news over the past 10-12 years with a dropping rate, the recidivism rate is still nearly 30%. So three in ten criminals will get out of prison only to find a way back. We can do better. The recidivism rate in some of the programs that Eric is involved with is ZERO. Music can't solve everything for sure. But one more thing that contributes to humanizing men and women who will be released anyway - at no cost to the taxpayer - has to be a good place to start.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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