Chicago Common rapper puts recording studio in Stateville for inmates – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) —Mixing tables, musical instruments, microphones and sound panels.

You wouldn’t expect to see all this equipment in a prison. But it’s part of a new program for inmates at Stateville Correctional Center.

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A major Chicago entertainment star has created a state-of-the-art music studio inspired by a young lawyer.

Jim Williams of CBS 2 reports that the hope is that inmates will develop new skills in a productive environment.

Attorney Ari Williams had a dream for inmates at Stateville Correctional Center. A dream of rhymes and rhythms created and recorded behind bars.

“I know that music brings us all together. I want them to be OK. I want them to do something they love to do,” Williams said. “And I know a lot of them are rappers. They like to rap and they like to sing.

Through a family connection, she reached out to a fellow Chicagoan who could make it happen.

“It’s our life’s work and we’re committed to it.”

Common, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winner, pooled his resources and influence to build a music studio in Stateville. Inmates will learn about music production and tap into creativity not blocked by prison walls.

“Gentlemen who are incarcerated deserve access to better things in life, which is why I fight for my city,” Common said. “And that’s why my heart is always with Chicago.”

This is Common’s latest charitable initiative. Much of it in his hometown where he says he found inspiration and guidance.

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“Being from Chicago is one of the greatest gifts and assets for me in my career and in my life,” he said.

Through Common’s nonprofit Imagine Justice, the inmates, including Benny Rios, will complete a 12-week course.

“It’s a better way to spend a day, there’s no doubt about it. It gives us something productive to do,” Rios said.

And for some inmates, a path to fewer days in jail.

“Every day they are in this program, they will earn a day’s credit on their sentence, as long as the law allows it,” said Alyssa Williams of the Department of Corrections.

The key words there “if the law permits.” Some of the inmates said that no matter what they do in the program, their time behind bars will not be reduced.

Julio Guerrera is charged with murder.

“I’ve been locked up since I was 21 and I’ve been locked up for 16 years now and I’m supposed to stay here until I’m 69,” Guerrera said.

Still, Ari Williams said the music and the means to make it will serve all inmates.

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“It gives them so much hope and inspiration. Knowing that people really care about them can change them too,” Williams said.

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