Musical development and positive identity change within criminal justice settings

Henley, J. and Cohen, M. L. and Mota, G. (2013) Musical development and positive identity change within criminal justice settings. In: Rethinking Education: Empowering individuals with the appropriate educational tools, skills and competencies, for their active cultural, political and economic participation in society in Europe and beyond. ACP, Brussels, pp. 129-149. ISBN 978-90-90-28437-8


Drawing on three research projects undertaken in the UK, the US and Portugal, this chapter presents evidence that considers the relationships between music-making and development of both musical and positive learning identities, and in turn how music-making contributes to the rehabilitation of people in criminal justice settings. First and foremost, the interventions discussed provide musical experiences and opportunities for people within specific contexts who might not otherwise have access to arts education, so that they can explore their own musicianship. However, in light of recent work in criminology concerning the change processes that lead to desistance from crime (Weaver & McNeill, 2010), we also consider how personal and social development occur within musical learning, and explore the links between musical development and positive identity change. Within this, the role of creative work in inspiring ownership, confidence, and renewed self- perception will be discussed in relation to developing personal attributes and individual agency. We explore how preparing and performing contributes to the development of social skills. Finally, we suggest that there is a case to be made for providing musical activities within criminal justice settings that foster musical development as well as support positive identity change.

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