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November 5, 2007

Jailhouse rocks as prisoners sing out

Shanghai Daily (China):

About 800 inmates from local 11 prisons launched their own version of "Jailhouse Rock" yesterday in a singing contest held at Qingpu Prison.

Dozens of foreign convicts also found no bars to their talent in the event, "Sound of Hope," held every three years. Artistic activities such as singing and dancing have become a major part of prison reforms, according to officials of the Shanghai Prison Administration.

Each team of 60 inmates and a conductor performed two songs, either famous Chinese songs or those written by the convicts. Professional musicians made up the judging panel - and Shanghai Women's Prison took the first prize.

While some contestants performed in stage costumes or prison uniforms, some 20 foreign convicts wore ethnic clothes from their home countries and waved their national flags. They greeted the audience by introducing their nationality and name in Chinese, and then everyone joined the chorus of Chinese favorite "The Same Song."

Art plays an irreplaceable role in convict reform, said Huang Xiaoshui of Xinshoufan Prison, where classes such as Go chess, musical bands and flower arrangement have opened. "Encouraging and inspiring songs can enlighten inmates and help them return to the right way of life," he said.

Huang mentioned an inmate surnamed Li who received a reduced sentence after joining a singing group. "The former senior office worker was jailed for six years for taking bribes in 2004. Due to his changed circumstances and contrast to his former life, he was very pessimistic and depressed at first."

In 2005 Li was transferred to Xinshoufan Prison and became an active member of the choir. "Since then he has been cited many times for his good behavior," Huang said. "In April his sentence was reduced by one year."

Posted by acapnews at November 5, 2007 8:07 PM

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