Free World Music for Prisoners

Prevent Oppression End Misery

An Appeal to Creators

Michael Armendariz

New Mexico prisoners and many other prisoners throughout this nation purchase music through the Access Corrections Company. Access gets their music from Google Play (Google’s self-censoring music app). The vast majority of music from my youth is absent from Google Play’s catalog. That music is important social commentary and I have to think that much of today’s important music is also gone. This music helps people relax and unwind but also tells stories which tend to address inequities. Censored music is a contributor to prisoner’s stress and therefore to their unhealthy behavior which can lead to recidivism. If real steps were taken to create a less stressful environment for prisoners (and respect their freedom of thought), corrections administrators could demonstrate they are in the business of rehabilitation and not simple profiteering through human warehousing.

Purchasing music can be a traumatic event for prisoners. Occasionally we get what we pay for but we are usually forced to settle for completely unlistenable, edited versions of our selections; either that or we see the dreaded “Removed from Catalog:” in our System Message’s sync summary. This is censorship and the purpose of my project is to raise awareness of a flagrant violation of prisoner’s First Amendment protections. I want to address creators of musical content. My hope is that this project will set in motion the steps which influence prison music providers and their contracted facilities to sell music the way artists intended it to be heard (esp. by well paying, adult listeners). This research was focused on the following three areas:

  • The origins and social significance of one particular genre of Hip Hop and how those influences affected me. My focus is on one record label which left an indelible mark on my generation and has been a target for removal.
  • Freedom of thought in prison (especially in relation to the therapeutic effects on a prisoner’s mental health and furthermore their ability to adapt to free society).
  • The company which owns the music provider (especially their history re: human rights).