Beginning in 2009, a groundbreaking choir practiced at the 900+ person medium security prison in eastern Iowa, the Oakdale Prison. Approximately 30 inmates (the Inside Singers) and the 30 outside volunteers (the Outside Singers) have participated in the program at a time. Together they have composed original songs, shared written reflections, and performed together at Oakdale for incarcerated audiences and outside guests.
"The dominant way of thinking is someone's committed a crime, what did they do, and how should they be punished," said Dr. Mary Cohen, Director of the choir and University of Iowa professor. "But there is a different way to think about conflict. The question would be what harm has been committed and how can that harm be healed? Looking at who are we now, and how can we build beauty and build each other up."
THE INSIDE SINGERS is a documentary that explores the stories and lives of some of the inmates in the group. Among those profiled are an inmate who taught himself how to play guitar behind bars, the prison's incarcerated plumber, a man trying to break free from what he calls his "monster inside," and a former Inside Singer returning to prison for the first time to see a concert as a free man. Meet the men's families, see them at their jobs in the prison, and follow them as they use the arts to propel themselves forward.