By Alexis Kallio and Alexandra Gorton

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Participating in musical performance or creation engages a broad skill set, physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally, and has been related to improvements in both physical and mental health. That music is so central to what it means to be human has seen the United Nations declare that everyone ought to have the “right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community [and] to enjoy the arts”. As justice systems around the world seek to promote human-rights centred and strengths-based approaches, music-making programs are emerging as powerful tools to support the wellbeing and rehabilitation of incarcerated adults and young people.

Access to music-making programs has been seen to:

  • Promote wellbeing amongst incarcerated adults and youth
  • Foster a positive environment
  • Enable emotional expression and communication
  • Support the development of positive relationships within and beyond correctional facilities
  • Support rehabilitation and re-integration

This preliminary report outlines the importance of music for individuals and communities in criminal and youth justice settings and presents some innovative programs that have been implemented around the world.