Common Builds Music Studio Inside Chicago Prison for Inmates to Tap Into Creativity

Multi-talented rapper and actor Common has created a new space in a local Chicago prison that allows inmates to get away from the prison cell and into a music studio.

The Oscar-, Emmy-, and Grammy award-winning Chicago native used his resources and star power to create a built-in music studio in the Stateville Correctional Facility. Inmates there now get a rare opportunity to learn about music production and put their freestyle skills to use.

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

The prison program is a part of several charitable projects by Common and his non-profit—Imagine Justice. The organization’s mission is to provide community, civic engagement, and mental wellness to disadvantaged communities with the hope to inspire change.

Imagine Justice is launching a 12-week course for the Stateville inmates to learn about the landscape of music production. They will have a fully equipped studio with access to mixing boards, microphones, sound panels, and musical instruments. Inmates who take part in the course can also receive a shorter sentence.

Common said he tries to give back to his hometown where he found his inspiration and guidance.

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

The innovative idea was created by attorney Ari Williams, who wanted new and better solutions for inmates to find outlets while fulfilling their sentences.

“I know music brings us all together. I want them to be OK. I want them to do something they’ve love to do,” Williams told CBS Chicago. “And I know many of them are rappers. They love to rap and they love to sing.”

“This brings so much hope for them and inspiration for them. Them to know people actually care about them, that can change them as well,” Williams said.


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