Guitars Banned in UK Prisons, David Gilmour Demanding Overturn

Pink Floyd guitarist among 12 guitar masters urging minister of justice to overthrow the ban.

Ultimate Guitar

UK government has officially banned the use of guitars in prison, causing several prominent guitarists to rise up against the decision and demand its overturn.

The list of guitarists includes David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, Seasick Steve, Johnny Marr and eight more guitar masters. They make a fine point with the open letter published by the Guardian, check it out in full below.

"As musicians, we are concerned to hear that the use of steel-strung guitars is being prohibited in prisons. We believe music has an important role to play in engaging prisoners in the process of rehabilitation. However, this ability will be seriously undermined if inmates are unable to practice between group sessions.

"As most guitars owned or used by inmates in our prisons are steel-strung acoustics, this ruling will mean that these instruments are kept under lock and key until time for a supervised session, if the prison in question has provision for musical tuition.

"The stipulation that only nylon strings can be used will not alleviate this situation. There are several practical reasons why nylon strings are not suitable for a steel-strung acoustic guitar, not least the differing methods by which nylon and steel strings are attached to the instrument.

"We understand that there must be security protocols when steel-strung guitars are used in prisons, but, until this ruling, access has been at the discretion of staff.

"There has been a worrying rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in the period since this ruling was introduced. Since October 2013, when only one death was reported, there have been a total of 50 self-inflicted deaths, over double the figure for the same period last year.

"We would like to know whether the recent changes to the treatment of prisoners – which includes restrictions on books and steel-strung guitars – could be at the root of this steep increase in fatalities.

"We urge the minister for justice, Chris Grayling, to urgently look into the causes of the rise in self-inflicted deaths in prison since the introduction of the recent prison service instruction and to explain why steel-strung guitars have been singled out for exclusion.

"Billy Bragg, Johnny Marr, Speech Debelle, Dave Gilmour, Richard Hawley, Scroobius Pip, Guy Garvey, Ed O'Brien, Philip Selway, Seasick Steve, the Farm, Sam Duckwort"

84 comments sorted by best / new / date

    okay so you can take away a mans freedom. but dont you dare take away his music
    Music is a way to let your emotions go and even without freedom a guitar can make you fell kinda free. I think that without a way to let your feelings out they'll start to overwhelm you, but that's just my opinion. PS Probably the only well spelled word in this comment is "I" but I'm not English so please don't kill me
    You don't need to be English do be able to spell English words properly. You just don't have to be American.
    Pablo Mortis
    You make an astounding point, but it would have been better with "to" spelt correctly - oh, the irony xD
    I don't think you understand. I know perfectly well how to spell 'to', it's just a accidental key press. I was referring to people who can't actually spell.
    Lets take the guitar strings off and strangle everybody. Oh wait, that would never happen, prisoners are gentle people.
    I disagree, if you commit a crime and go to jail, you give up your right to play guitar, criminals are treated too fairly in my opinion
    I can understand why in particular they've banned steel strings. They could be used for a weapon etc.. But im sure there's ways to implement the safe use of steel string guitars?
    I don't think nylon strings are any less "dangerous", if we're actually considering this. The only way I could think strings could be used as a weapon is to strangle someone and I don't see the difference between steel and nylon here (I'm sorry for the ridiculousness of this sentence.). What the hell are they going to do with steel strings that they can't with nylon, a sword?
    Do you not know what a garrote is? It's a piece of metal wire (piano wire is sometimes used) between two wooden handles used to strangle people. Granted you can make them with nylon strings too, I guess, but a metal one would be less likely to break. And you can basically saw through someone's neck with them...
    That's what came to my mind, but I'm pretty sure nylon strings would work just as well. I just don't see much point in banning steel strings specifically. Sounds like a very lazy way out to seem like they're doing something for safety.
    I don't agree with this in full. Why not limit them to a certain time. 1 hour a day, supervised, or something like that. Civilians sometimes tend to forget that not all prisons are maximum security for murderers and robbers. They can be very relaxed. People go in for making a living being a middle man flying a plane full of drugs from point a to point b. Or someone who knew about something, but didn't go tell the police. That's a crime too.
    There's a difference between 'guitars banned in prisons' and 'steel string guitars banned in prisons'. While I think the passionate protests of guitar virtuosos is a good thing to see come to the forefront of media coverage, it's really a question of safety and practicality. Prisoners' right to play music hasn't been taken away; the option of nylon string guitars still exists on which they can practice until they play the steel strings during their supervised hours. I don't know, but for once I actually find myself agreeing with a change like this.
    Varg Vikernes somehow managed to do a couple of good albums in prison having only a synthesizer.
    Don't blame the tool of suicide, blame the reason. These people no longer have anything to live for because their record is so tainted they'll never find a job to support themselves, loved ones or relatives.
    maybe if they had a guitar they could let these emotions out artistically and not feel so inclined to take that particular way out
    link no1
    Whilst I'm usually on the "prisoners have too much luxury" bandwagon, I have to strongly disagree with this. Prisoners shouldn't just be left in a cell to rot for their entire sentence. As long as they are willing to do so, they should be allowed rehabilitation and being able to have a creative outlet, such as the guitar, to write songs etc. is a perfect way of helping this process. I've met a few guys who learned how to play the guitar whilst in prison and from what I could tell, they seemed like committing another crime was the last thing they wanted to do and they all said the guitar was a big help in this. There was one guy that went around to different places, playing his tunes and trying to give other people the 'good word' to 'stay in school and drink their milk'. He came to my old high school, didn't really like his songs but that's not the point, he was an obviously changed man trying to stop others making his mistakes via the instrument that helped him turn it all around. It's bad enough that they've taken books away from prison. I mean Jesus Christ, did prisoners run around giving each other paper cuts? I mean, paper cuts hurt like a bitch but don't stop them reading. Most people see reading as a punishment anyway so let 'em do it.
    They are in prison for a reason, having a guitar to play is unnecessary luxury IMO. If they don't want their guitars taken away from them, then they shouldn't have taken other people's possessions or even lives in the first place.
    You can be sentenced to prison for far less "unethical" crimes than rubbery or murder. I dont see why someone who cheated on his/her taxes shouldn't be allowed to play music.
    Cheating on taxes is a form of robbery. You are robbing the rest of the citizens who did pay their taxes.
    tell that to RBS and vodafone to name two, then tell it to to every british MP
    Paying taxes is robbery when you have no say on where the funds are spent. I don't work two jobs so weaponized drones can spy on me and I certainly don't want to pay for them to record my phone calls. I don't want to pay for parking meters, red light vameras, speeding cameras, wars where corporations make massive profits on steali oil so that gas prices can triple.
    How are you robbing the general public? Don't file your taxes, you don't get a tax return = you not receiving any money. If you were to screw around and falsify records so you do get money, and lots of it, then that would be stealing.
    I agree. Prison is a punishment. If you want a guitar, it should be a reward. Like for good behavior or something. Although I guess that still doesn't solve the problem of strings getting stolen and used for a garrote.
    The idea behind prison as punishment is the deprivation of your liberty. Making prison as unpleasant as possible isn't going to rehabilitate anyone.
    How is not having access to guitars making prison as unpleasant as possible!?
    I think he's on the other foot with that. I think he means that he is in favour of giving them guitars.
    It's also about rehabilitation and music can help. When prison becomes about punishment only then the idea of incarceration has to be redefined. But at the moment it should be equal punishment and rehabilitation, and I think it should be stacked more favourably in the latter. Punishment breeds anger which leads of to crime, the current system doesn't work.
    The point these musicians are trying to make is that music can be extremely helpful in rehabilitating a prisoner. Its not supposed to be a "luxury." It is a form of rehab.
    I completely agree with absumone's comment, and i dont understand the downvotes at all, its meant to be prison, you broke the law and somehow feel you're entitled to musical instruments, there are good law-abiding people that couldn't afford to buy a guitar and yet this is seen as some god-given right to have them freely available in prison!?
    It's probably because he's buying into the archaic narrative that prisons are solely places of punishment. The prevailing modern philosophy on prisons in the developed world is that of rehabilitating criminals rather than just making their lives miserable. Playing music may very well help some people with their rehabilitation, which is a point these musicians make in their letter.
    Stories like these make me even more ashamed of my government than I already am. They're effectively setting out to remove all forms of rehabilitation in prisons (books have already been banned in many prisons), and now they're limiting one of few creative outlets prisoners would otherwise have. Obviously there are people who are in who deserve it because they've got things wrong, but what good will it do if you remove all of the methods of self-improvement and rehabilitation?
    How will As I Lay Dying ever come back if Tim can't write music?! Evilness! Oh, wait the UK... Never mind.
    I'm all for the ban if that sicko Ian from LostPedophiles gets to have his hands on a guitar or any music related shit for that matter. I understand if it's some dude jailed for smoking pot but for ****ed up people should have no freedom.
    There are far more minimum sentence inmates in the system than long term ones.
    dont stop at the guitars... take away their tvs, internet and other amenities. While im struggling and worrying on how im going to feed my kids - they get to sit back and relax eating three hot meals a day and able to sleep soundly in a warm bed at night for free. What a load of ol' bollocks.
    "they get to sit back and relax" Words of a man who's never been to prison.
    generally meaning its a doddle, even they say so themselves. So have you been to prison? nice holiday was it? recommend anywhere? I heard HMS Belmarsh is lovely this time of year
    Jesus Christ you cannot be that stupid.
    stupidly right, afraid so mate
    Allright then mate, as it is you making the proposterous claims, then you surely also have some facts to back it up? You know, sources that show that the luxuries mentioned are not only given to prisoners who behave extraordinarily well, but to all, that none of the prisoners do any hard work at all, that the prisoners will be fine and just as rehablilitated when they come out if they didn't have enjoyable hobbies/relaxations besides the hard labor they're required to do, and that taking away beds and three meals a day won't have a negative effect on them at all, generally, just try and prove that prison is much better for our society when it's solely a punishment instead of a mixture of punishment and rehabilitation, with more focus on rehabilitation so that they can actually become usefull citizens instead releasing them with a high chance that they'll be shut in there again in a few months. Prison is not any better than ordinary life, and probably every prisoner in the UK would prefer to be in your place than locked up. Prison is not supposed to be solely a punishment but a mix, so that they also can function as normal citizens, and you rehabilitize people by making them feel like they are shut completely off to the world, and subjecting them to extreme boredom by depraving them of anything enjoyable, or recreational does nothing but result in the infamous violence, rape, and abuse that we see in prisons in America.
    They don;t have freedom though, the one's that say it's easy are the one's with shorter sentences.
    Ok, so they really don't have to worry about that prison rape at all right? Just relax and don't be Tom from Boondocks.
    I don't give a shit about murderers, rapist and pedeophiles. they can all go rot in hell.
    What about people caught for drug possession? Tax evasion? Drunk driving? Assault charges? Graffiti? Copyright infringement? Are people who have made a single or a couple of terrible mistakes beyond redemption? I'm not saying that there should not be repercussions for ones actions, but most people are not so far beyond rehabilitation. Not all convicts are hardened serial murder/ rapist thugs. Many are average people who made a couple of bad decisions. It's not fair to categorize them the same way we categorize the most criminally despicable members of society.
    I agree. I was talking about murderers rapists and pedeophiles. (awesome , I got down voted for hating murderers rapists and pedeophiles) the ug community is so hard core
    Sadly we live in a far left society were criminals are made out to be victims.
    While I understand the risk of the guitar and its strings being used as a weapon (apparently a crafty inmate can make a weapon out of anything), I believe that having a creative outlet for the prisoners is something positive and even healthy. I understand all these musicians concern.
    A crafty man can make a weapon out of anything, not just inmates.
    so wait, only the letter is new and steel guitars have been banned since october? either way its terrible and I completely agree in an overturn
    In Britain, we rehabilitate our prisoners rather than only deal out retribution and isolation. Music is perfect for rehabilitation. Guitars are perfect for music.
    I see prison as punishment, but also rehabilitation. I've always firmly believed that music is one of the best forms of rehab. Taking away someones music is taking away a basic right of self expression. A musician who can't express them self through music won't help their mental state, especially someone in prison. I really hope for their sake this ban is overturned.
    It's not like every inmate is gonna play guitar. Why take them away?
    It's not like every inmate is gonna play guitar. Why take them away?
    there is a reason why they are in prison...take a moment to think about this...take a moment to think about their victims...the pain and suffering they have tell me they need guitars....if they have the energy to play guitar we aren't working them hard enough....