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British rockers hit out at prison guitar ban

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Apr 29, 2014 | 4:00am EDT

Rockers included Billy Bragg and Johnny Marr are urging British politicians to reconsider a ban on steel-strung guitars in U.K. prisons. The instruments were outlawed in jails in November (13) as part of the government's changes to the justice system, which also includes new restrictions on books for prisoners. Nylon-strung guitars are still permitted in prisons for inmates who earn the privilege of using them. In an open letter published in Britain's The Guardian newspaper the group of musicians, which also includes Dave Gilmour and Richard Hawley, urge Justice Minister Chris Grayling to overturn the ban. The rockers write, "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 practise between group sessions." The letter goes on to note a rise in self-inflicted injuries among prisoners since October (13) and questions whether the ban on steel-strung guitars and books may be partly responsible. The group closes the letter writing, "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."

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