Only Men's Prison Choir to Sing Outside of Prison Walls is “Conducting Hope” (Corrected June 18, 2014)
Date:  06-16-2014

New film shows how prisoners and community volunteers work toward reintegration and healing
Editor's correction: Soon after the Reentry Central Weekly Headlines went out on Tuesday we received a call from the Georgia Commission on Family Violence to let us know that the East Hill Singers were not the only prison choir to sing outside of prison walls. We were delighted to learn about a female prison choir in Georgia that also brings their songs into the community. We will be reporting on this talented group of inmates, many who are victims of domestic violence, in the near future. Reentry Central has edited the title of the article to reflect that the East Hill Singers are the only known men’s choir to sing in the community.

In his play “The Mourning Bride,” produced in 1697, William Congreve wrote one of the most misquoted lines ever: “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.”The word “beast” is often inserted instead of the correct word “breast. Still, the line evokes the power of music as a calming force that soothes a weary or lost soul.

Perhaps nowhere is Congreve’s line more evident than at Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas where the East Hills Singers, a group of inmates, use music to heal, and to find redemption and hope.

Reentry Central learned about the East side Singers from an email from Margie Friedman, the producer of a documentary on the choir called “Conducting Hope.” We are pleased to share the following press release about Conducting Hope:

Recidivism rates for prisoners have never been higher. Now the new documentary film CONDUCTING HOPE explores an inspiring solution, in the story of the East Hills Singers, the only men’s prison choir in the country to perform outside prison walls. Highlighting the extraordinary therapeutic power of music for rehabilitation, the choir is also comprised in part by volunteer community members who serve as role models as well as former inmates who continue to sing with the choir after release. The film movingly portrays how a group of present and former prisoners, together with community volunteers, can forge a successful path back into society.

By going to the website you’ll see how this film is highly relevant to courses and conferences in music and music therapy, criminology, sociology, psychology and social justice. It’s appropriate for correctional institutions, as well as public and prison libraries.

You’ll also be able to watch clips from CONDUCTING HOPE as the inmates prepare for an upcoming concert and then travel outside prison to perform beforehundreds of people including their families. Their compelling stories and candid emotions provide surprising insight into the incarcerated and how not only inmates but society as a whole can benefit from alternative rehabilitative programs like this one that are designed to reduce the high rate of recidivism.

“Conducting Hope” promotes debate about the purpose of prison and challenges students to think about more innovative and restorative alternatives to the traditional “lock ‘em up” approach to criminal justice. The film demonstrates the power of music, acceptance, peer support and community involvement in an alternative prison program to produce hope and positive changes in inmates, thereby moving justice processes away from retribution and punishment and toward restoration, reintegration and healing.” Stacy Lee Burns, Professor of Sociology, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Conducting Hope, produced and directed by Emmy award winner Margie Friedman, was a Finalist in the Best Documentary category of the Kansas International Film Festival.

For more information or to order a DVD of CONDUCTING HOPE click here or email: