Entertainment & Arts

Government ends ban on steel-string guitars in prison cells

Billy Bragg
Image caption Billy Bragg started a project to send guitars into prisons in 2007

A ban on steel-string guitars in prison cells in England and Wales has been reversed after a campaign by rock stars including Billy Bragg and Johnny Marr.

Prisoners had been unable to play the instruments outside supervised sessions since rules were changed last November.

Bragg, Marr, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Elbow's Guy Garvey were among the guitarists who signed a letter saying the move undermined rehabilitation.

The government said the rules had been relaxed after feedback from governors.

However, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said rules preventing prisoners from receiving books would remain in place.

'Important work'

Billy Bragg founded Jail Guitar Doors, a scheme that has sent around 350 to prisons since 2007. Most were steel-stringed, he said.

"As an incentive to engage in rehabilitation individual access to steel strung guitars can really help the atmosphere on a prison wing," the musician said.

"I've had a number of projects involving guitars on hold which now will be able to go ahead, and will allow those using music in prisons to get on with this important work."

The ban was introduced in November as part of a wider tightening of the privileges that prisoners were allowed.

Good behaviour

Inmates will still need to earn the right to have the instruments through good behaviour.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Following feedback from prison governors, we have made a few minor adjustments to the property prisoners are allowed to have.

"These are still subject to individual risk assessments and can be refused by governors.

"As a result of this government's reforms, prisoners are now expected to engage with their rehabilitation and comply with the regime. Those who don't will have privileges withdrawn."

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