Conducting Hope is a fascinating documentary that follows the East Hill Singers - the only men’s prison choir in the United States allowed to perform outside of prison walls – as they prepare for an upcoming concert. The East Hill Singers are a unique group, as they are composed of current inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas, along with former inmates and community volunteer members. Being part of the choir has a surprising emotional impact on the inmates as they are able to feel a sense of community, commitment, and purpose that they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in the incarcerated environment. One gentleman even said that singing made him feel “human again”, and “not just an object” (or just a number) which is typical of the prison experience. The inmates find it exhilarating to be able to go outside of the correctional facility. They get to feel like part of the community again for a few hours, and are even able to see family members who attend the concert – sometimes this includes family they haven’t seen in years, or children they are not able to see while incarcerated, due to visitation guidelines. For those skeptical of the program and allowing inmates a chance to be outside the correctional facility, volunteer guards do go with the men when they leave for concerts. And in 15 years of this program’s existence, there have been ZERO incidents and no one has ever tried to escape. I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and highly recommend it. It shows the incredible power and impact that music can have, and makes you think about the possible ways that prison programs could be reformed. Programs like the East Hill Singers help to reduce recidivism by building self-esteem, teaching the importance of teamwork, and most importantly fostering hope.
Overall Rating: A
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