Rutherford County, TN - Residents of the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center (RCCWC) have experienced a variety of music events in the last month.
One event was on Saturday, September 23 that featured an afternoon of rap and praise music, scriptures and testimonies. Rapper AJ Chavez aka Prafet and his team shared a message of hope to encourage everyone in attendance to begin the process and take one step at a time. Chavez is well acquainted with the justice system. He shared how he was facing a life sentence after committing numerous crimes, but God miraculously changed his life as he served a reduced sentence of seven years. After completing his sentence, Chavez stepped away from a life of crime and now shares how God’s power can deliver people from crime, addiction and hate.
Chavez rapped, “This is my life, this is more than rap, I testify I met Christ completely transformed, ask the people I do life with.”
Members of the team came from Alabama and California to share personal accounts of triumph over abandonment, addiction, crime and unforgiveness. Chavez has been coming to RCCWC for five years. It is his way of giving back and decreasing the percentage of recidivism, the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. RCCWC has partnered with local churches and organizations in the past to provide inspirational events for the residents.
Music was also used as behavior modification during a three-day event with the 501(c)(3) Send Musicians To Prison (SMTP) based in Nashville. One of the pods was transformed into a stage with chandeliers, velvet curtains and a sound system that vibrated in the heart of the listeners.
Before the start of the concert, SMTP President Nathan Lee sat at the front of the stage and talked about why the group wanted to perform.
“A couple of friends came together and said, ‘Let’s start doing concerts for people in prison.’ No one sent us here. This content will not be sold. We don’t exploit people’s hard times.”
The concert recording will be given to prisons across the world. As stated on SMTP’s website, they are singers, songwriters and musicians from around the country who believe in reconciliation and restoration. Ninety percent of the facilities they perform in are maximum security. The group has been spreading hope through music since its inception in 2009.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson, “American Idol” Season 16 runner-up with a band of three other musicians, played and sang for over an hour as if they were on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Residents got their chance to hear old and new selections that infused the musical genres of country, rock and funk. Hutchinson belted out songs of dreams, love lost and found and lost again.
RCCWC Superintendent William Cope said the center hosted the event.
“God doesn’t ignore the broken, nor should we,” Cope said. “The role of incarceration should include reforming, restoring and ultimately reintegrating people back into society. These men and women work daily on our grounds and in the community. When they aren’t working, they are usually attending classes to better themselves and their families. They deserve positive reinforcement for their diligence to change.
“Organizations like’ Nathan’s Send Musicians to Prison’ provide positive encouragement to offenders during their incarceration,” Cope said. “The offenders’ restorative efforts and these types of events increase their odds of living productive lives after release, which in turn benefits our community.”
Two-time Dove Award and 2019 Grammy nominee Cory Asbury performed his hits as well including “Reckless Love” and “My Inheritance”. Asbury shared how as a child an abusive relationship with his father haunted him as an adult. After years of denial, he had a heartfelt conversation with his father that started them on a road to forgiveness and reconciliation. His music speaks of that journey.
Life is hard, things happen,” Asbury said.
The women residents enjoyed a performance from Nicolette Hayford, aka Pillbox Patti. Hayford’s songs do not sugar coat the hard life many face as evidenced by one of her songs “Eat, Pray or Drugs.”
All of these events were of no monetary cost to Rutherford County and could be the difference between releasing rehabilitated individuals or increasing recidivism.
Lee was asked why he does this.
“Every day I have a different answer, but I always have to keep coming back to people are not their worst day, and because I’ve been loved well, why would I not remind other people they are not their worst day and just try to love them well?” Lee said.
More information about SMTP can be found at https://www.