In prison, rap lyrics are the only style of music that you hear being recited endlessly without the aid of a radio or MP3 player. People don’t just sing along, they have memorized the words and meditate on them: “get money”; “bitches” and “ho’,”: “nigga”this and “nigga” that; Steal, Kill, and Destroy. Rap lyrics are satanic psalms.
A friend once said that he didn’t think he’d be able to go to the bathroom out in the world because there wouldn’t be some guy in the next stall rapping. There are wanna be rappers in the housing units, the chow hall, the school, waiting in lines-everywhere, not just on the yard. They speak out loud into the air, but mostly to themselves. Some original pieces, but most what they have learned from commercial artists.
Like your home town or gang affiliation, there are certain artists that are liked and others that are disliked. Most have studied intently the biographies of their favorite artists and follow them on TV, radio, and in print. When the next song comes out they gotta have it and discuss it among themselves like theologians or philosophers seeking to get all of the nuanced meaning out of the lyrics.
When a person spends their time, hour upon hour, meditating on, thinking about, internalizing and identifying with the ideas, lifestyle and morality expressed in music, it penetrates down deep into the bones and psyche. The old adage is true “you are what you eat.” By saturating yourself in rap music you become enamored with violence, sex, drugs, gangs, selfish and self-gratifying behavior. It is all you know, destroying any desire to learn about anything else.
By allowing rap music into prisons by way of TV, MP3 downloads and television, the MDOC allows the perpetuation of these errors in thinking: the dysfunctional and dystopian world view, the depraved and denigrating view of women, the glorification of violence and drugs as a way of life that brought so many to prison in the first place and keeps returning them in through a revolving door.
By living in an isolated sub-culture that has no redeeming value, no positive contribution to the greater society, fails to provide for itself through legal means, fails to utilize government programs as they are intended but rather uses the resources to perpetuate the lifestyle from generation to generation. The result is that 25% of the American population which identifies itself as African-American represents 50% of the incarcerated in the U.S.
Proverbs 23: 7 says, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Prison is intended to take a person out of a society in which they committed the offense and be rehabilitated so that they can be released without exposing the society to further risk. As long as rap music is allowed to remain in prison, with its sub-culture, then it is undermining attempts at rehabilitation by singing its siren song.
Psalms 1:1-5 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.”
Psalms 1 makes it clear that if you do the right things and think about the right things, you will be successful in life. Prison needs to be about training those who have broken the law, not only to do the right thing next time, but to think in positive, constructive ways. Education, both vocational and moral must be taught to those who do not have socially acceptable job skills or behavior. Raise the expectations for those in prison to change their behavior, to acquire the knowledge and skills required to make a legal living. In some cases, it may need to be looked at like trying to deprogram someone who has spent time in a cult. You have to remove them from the environment and then present compelling reasons to change, coupled with new information to overwrite the old. Intensive programming like that must occur not only in the classroom or therapy group, but in the housing unit as well.
It doesn’t do to give the kids a bath when they are muddy and then let them go out and roll around in the muddy backyard. You need to plant grass and provide other activities for them to participate in if you want them to stay clean. The MDOC is only just beginning to understand this concept. Vocational students are being placed in housing units together with the intent of fostering a living environment that will make the learning process more effective. If you don’t create an environment where you go to bed at a reasonable time and get up ready to work in the morning, the vocational training will not be placed within the context of developing good work habits or work ethics.
Sex offender programming is being conducted in sex offender housing units. This is a step in the right direction, however, if you don’t remove pornography and sexually explicit materials from the unit or block overtly sexual images from TV you are not going to help the person with a sexual addiction. The same is true of violence and drugs. Violent people need to be removed from conflict and drugs and alcohol need to be removed from the grasp of the addict.
If the MDOC can’t control the environment in prison then they aren’t really in control, the inmates are. Very few people will successfully be able to change with help, let alone on their own in a negative environment. It is the exception, not the rule, for a person to rise from poverty to wealth from illiteracy and ignorance to knowledge and comprehension, or from addiction to health. You have to take the person out of the place where the problems allowed to flourish or fix the place before you can begin to address the problem effectively.
A simple place to start with is rap music. It is not an attack on any specific ethnic group or race, but a necessary step to take control of undesirable sub-cultural influences that have a negative effect on the prison environment and is contrary to the departments goals for rehabilitation and correction.