Guitars Banned in UK Prisons, David Gilmour Demanding Overturn

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

Guitars Banned in UK Prisons, David Gilmour Demanding Overturn
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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

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    Brands99
    okay so you can take away a mans freedom. but dont you dare take away his music
    Dadderdew
    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
    Jonagorn
    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
    Jonagorn
    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.
    morbidguitar
    Lets take the guitar strings off and strangle everybody. Oh wait, that would never happen, prisoners are gentle people.
    markyj666
    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
    rock_guitarhero
    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?
    TheLiberation
    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?
    Tonganation
    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...
    TheLiberation
    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.
    esky15
    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.
    Deltast0rm
    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.
    haifisch234
    Varg Vikernes somehow managed to do a couple of good albums in prison having only a synthesizer.
    edacsaC
    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.
    telephonebear
    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.
    absumone
    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.
    Tobse
    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.
    !..!_Rock_!..!
    Cheating on taxes is a form of robbery. You are robbing the rest of the citizens who did pay their taxes.
    esky15
    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.
    vocoderboy
    tell that to RBS and vodafone to name two, then tell it to to every british MP
    fromzero
    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.
    !..!_Rock_!..!
    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.
    razorback91
    The idea behind prison as punishment is the deprivation of your liberty. Making prison as unpleasant as possible isn't going to rehabilitate anyone.
    sdbrown89
    How is not having access to guitars making prison as unpleasant as possible!?
    esky15
    I think he's on the other foot with that. I think he means that he is in favour of giving them guitars.
    Mephaphil
    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.
    buddy1991
    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.
    sdbrown89
    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!?
    Tonganation
    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.