Cook County Jail inmates learn guitar

October 11, 2012 2:52:20 PM PDT
Jail Guitar Doors hopes to change the lives of Cook County Jail inmates by teaching them music.

Division 11 of the Cook County Jail is not the type of place you would associate with stress relief and musical introspection. However, Wayne Kramer thinks perhaps it should be so.

"As a drug dealer and a gangster, I'm a great guitar player," Wayne Kramer said. Kramer is an accomplished guitarist, a member of Detroit's revolutionary rock group MC5, who did a drug-related stint in federal prison many years ago. He is a co-founder of a program called , Jail Guitar Doors. The main chord is simple: Music is a tool for expression, creation, maybe even correction.

Cook County Sheriff "We wanna try to help you help yourself so you don't come back here," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.

Guitar Jail Doors has donated 10 guitars -- and for the next eight weeks, ten inmates will be taught how to play. Three hundred inmates are on a waiting list.

Some of the inmates, who are here for non-violent crimes, have never held a guitar, let alone strum a tune. They have no illusions that they'll leave the county jail as rock stars -- but they're keen to learn.

"My son plays the guitar. I hope to do a duo with him someday," Manuel Perez, inmate, said.

"It's something for me to do when I have negative thoughts, I can go to the guitar create, learn. Be creative," James Lane, inmate, said.

Their teacher is Mike Vanier, the lead guitarist for the group Leadfoot.

"One of the guys just asked me, 'When I get I get out of here, I'll be able to study with you?' and I said, 'Yes, of course you will,'" Mike Vanier, teacher, said.

It's not just about learning harmonics and strumming chords, it's the intangibles that may or may not follow them out the door of Division 11.


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