Redemption Songs

The Program

“Redemption Songs” is our program designed to serve the inmate populations in jails, prisons, and juvenile detention facilities, as well as children of the inmates through music programs specifically designed for youth with an incarcerated parent.

This program’s primary structure is set up as a one or two day songwriting event inside the correctional facility, with inmates each being paired with two of Nashville’s pro/hit songwriters. The goal is for the inmates to collaborate with their songwriter teams to share and begin to process their stories differently through the creation of their own song. Through this process, inmates are also given an opportunity to create something of great value… both a song of their own and new supportive, healthy friendships with their songwriter teams.

Guitars for the inmates are left in the facility in a safe place, that they may continue their new musical journey if they wish, especially with our additional program pieces.

The songwriting event is followed by a professional studio album of the songs created with the inmates (either onsite in the correctional facility or in an outside studio), as well as a concert featuring the inmate-songwriter matches and other artists who strongly support the cause of prison reform and inmate rehabilitation.

Copies of the compilation album are sent to spouses, children, and other family members or significant others that are affected most by the inmates’ incarceration, to create additional bridges and opportunities for healing with loved ones.


  • Guitar (and other instrument) lessons
  • Choir Formation
  • Band Formation and performances
  • Guest speakers/job/certification programs
  • “iPods for Inmates” program
About The Prison System

The goal of the correctional facility is not only to provide a place for inmates to serve time as a sentence/punishment for a crime or multiple criminal acts, but to rehabilitate the inmate population so that they can experience successful and healthy lives upon re-entering society.

According to (DCSO) Davidson County Sheriff’s Office:

  • Every year throughout the U.S., we transition approx. 700,000 inmates from the prison system and 9 million from the jail system back into our communities.
  • In Middle Tennessee alone, our jails and prisons are the largest “mental health hospitals” and “drug/alcohol rehabs”.
  • 37207 – The Nashville zip code – has more inmates released from it than anywhere else in Middle Tennessee, while also having the highest number of its children in DCS custody.
  • Davidson County processes the highest rate of felonies in the state, which means we have more prisoners going in and out of our system than anywhere else in Tennessee.
  • Prison staff turnover rates at Davidson county sites are ranging from 30-50+% each year, demonstrating the extremely challenging work conditions in our correctional institutions.

The police department arrests the person, but this does not necessarily arrest the problem. It is a disservice to the inmates as well as ourselves and our communities if we do not ensure that those being transitioned back into the “outside world” are as healthy and well-equipped emotionally to deal with that transition as possible. In doing so, we are not only rehabilitating the inmates themselves. We are making our community a safer and more peaceful and productive place to live for all of us.

“Redemption Songs” offers the community the opportunity to invest in the health of our communities by serving one of Middle Tennessee’s most forgotten and overlooked populations: corrections inmates. It is often not recognized that many – if not the majority – of corrections inmates are some of the most disadvantaged and excluded individuals in our society, having faced a wide range of issues that have contributed to their crime and subsequent incarceration; issues such as poverty, abuse, lack of parents or parental role modeling and guidance, violence, drug abuse, mental health diagnoses (both diagnosed and undetected), bullying and exclusion from school, and homelessness.

While these issues are not excuses for crime, they are indeed compelling reasons that we cannot ignore and simply lock up, toss the key, and expect a different result when or if we release these individuals. Part of the solution calls for both recognizing and addressing these root issues held within each of the inmates, and creating robust programming in correctional facilities… giving inmates outlets for personal expression and development of self-worth, a new perspective, and even a heart transformation.

But inmate rehabilitation is critical not only because incarcerated individuals are desperately in need of and, more often than not, even desiring a second chance. It is also critical because potentially up to 90 percent of our offender population will eventually be getting out and re-entering our community. Someday, one of these individuals could be your or my neighbor. Through transformative programs such as creating music in prisons, we can provide positive learning experiences that can act as a vital catalyst in the process of rehabilitation and the development of the life skills needed for prisoners to become valuable members of their communities… helping to make sure that it is a better person leaving there than he or she was coming in.

Because Music Can Save an Inmate...

Part of the solution is believing that redemption is possible in the first place. We believe it is absolutely possible because it is already happening. In arts programs in other cities and even countries, music within the correctional system has incredibly far-reaching and therapeutic impacts, demonstrating extraordinary levels of change in the entire prison environment and atmosphere itself – for both inmates and staff. Individuals are transformed but, equally as important, facilities become more peaceful, as inmates and staff are able to connect with one another on a very human level through the universal language of music. What’s more, it has been found that arts in corrections programs can potentially reduce recidivism by up to an astounding 60 percent, assisting in the accomplishment of ultimately the greatest goal for a correctional institution.

The reason for this is in large part due to the fact that through music, inmates are reconnected with their personal humanity. Music touches the soul and spirit deeply, and has the ability to reach and trigger emotions that perhaps nothing else can – which is precisely what is needed in order to get to a change of heart and behavior.

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), introducing music into a correctional environment can achieve tremendous results, including the following:

  • Music leads to self discovery and awareness, providing a new way to think, feel, and express their inner life on a level that inmates likely do not have in the normal prison context – and in a non-threatening, supportive and even uplifting environment.… often leading to evaluating, changing, or adapting their inner person, and thus their behavior and overall lives.
  • Music can create identity for the first time or perhaps, a new and better identity – whereby inmates can see themselves as someone who can contribute something to the world.
  • Raised self awareness, perception, confidence and esteem through the experience of both success and the creation of healthy self-expression. Inner resources that may have been dormant are discovered, as well as new coping mechanisms, and the promotion of creativity – the ability to find new solutions to problems.
  • Overall positive changes in mood/outlook/emotional states, including emotional release and anxiety/stress reduction – these in and of themselves leading to potential behavioral changes.
  • Re-socialization and social integration among inmate populations. Music is a powerful tool to bettering social relations and emotional intimacy with both peers and families/loved ones. Joint interaction through music can be successful in improving harmony within a group as well. It produces feelings of togetherness and being integrated in a joint activity with a sense of community. Bonds and friendships may be formed where there was once hostility.
  • Inmates start to see their relationship with the world differently, as well as the effects of their personal activities on others. Music is a way for them to learn to express themselves positively in a non-confrontational way, as well as to experience compassion and empathy for others in a group.
  • Music-based projects are challenging, and require participants to demonstrate dedication and concentration to a task.
  • Music-based programs can help promote safety, particularly in overcrowded prisons where stress, conflict and the risk of violence is high.
The Beat Goes On

In addition to the inmates residing within the correctional institutions, we also strive to include the administrators and staff who work within the prison walls in our programming, matching them with their own songwriter teams. It is our goal to care for and serve the care-takers/staff teams for each of our program groups, as we believe they often are struggling in their own rights due to the work they are performing, possess a unique perspective of their own on the population group being served, and can also be a key part of the solution. In the prison environment in particular, our program can serve as a therapeutic outlet for the high stress of the job and struggles faced daily when working as a correctional officer. Additionally, a healthier corrections staff means a better environment for the inmates and prison environment. We are proud of this holistic approach in our programming, and are encouraged to see equally powerful songs coming out of the staff and administrator groups.

For more information or to get involved as either a songwriter, sponsor, or in any other way, please email with “Redemption Songs” in the subject line.

Our Founder: A Personal Story

I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life, and all that’s dead inside can be re-born… – Tenth Avenue North, Worn

Our “Redemption Songs” Program is perhaps the one closest to my heart because of a significant part of my – and my family’s – life story. I grew up visiting my dad in prison, from the time I was 9 years old until I graduated from college, for approximately twelve years total of my young life. Because of this experience, I never developed the stereotypes that the majority of people often have about prisons and inmates and “what kind of people are in there”. I just saw the humanity and humanness of them, because my dad was one of them. So I just saw people. I got to know my Dad’s friends in there – people with humor and talents and things they loved and histories that brought them there… and someone’s son or daughter or mother or brother or father. Just like mine.

As I visited prisons and correctional facilities of all sorts and levels (everything from local jails to maximum security facilities to prison camps) throughout those twelve years my dad was incarcerated, something struck me – the realization that yes, there were some individuals that had committed heinous, unspeakable crimes. But there were others too, and these “others” actually outnumbered the former. There were white collar criminals; there were some who had addictions or mental illnesses undiagnosed their entire lives; some who had faced astronomical levels of abuse or domestic violence; some who got caught up in that wrong crowd; and even inmates that it was later discovered were wrongly convicted and had been doing time or most tragically of all executed for a crime they never committed. Some inmates were there for less serious crimes that many commit, but they simply were the ones who got caught. And so vastly many of the inmates I saw were there in large part because of a horrific cycle of poverty, abuse, addiction, gangs, and so forth that they were born into and grew up and got stuck in… and that but for the grace of God, that could be me or any one of us in there.

I saw that these human beings enter into the system and become a number and are completely stripped of their humanity, which to me was one of the most heart-breaking things about the prison system. They actually get assigned a number, which literally becomes their new name. It’s the name you write on the paperwork when, as a family member or friend, you go to visit them; the name you write on the envelope when you send them a letter; the name that is called out for their daily “count”, and often printed on their orange or tan solid-colored prison uniform. But they aren’t just a number to those who love them. My Dad was not a number to