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Pros & ConsNews

Joyceville & Grand Valley Institution Release Second Collection of Songs – Paint In The Forest and Private Town

The restorative justice project Pros and Cons has released two new albums, Paint In The Forest and Private Town.

These innovative song collections present a forceful, eclectic and celebratory musical depiction of life in jail.

Pros and Cons was created by Canadian artist-producer Hugh Christopher Brown.

Pros and Cons works inside federal penitentiaries, providing inmates with the tools and instruction to write and record their own songs.

Pros and Cons released its first album in 2014, Postcards From The County, which was recorded at Joyceville Correctional Centre in Kingston, Ontario. Exclaim! Magazine called it “inescapably honest and raw.”

The long-awaited follow-up is Paint In The Forest. 12 songs were selected from over 100 tracks recorded at Joyceville’s on-site recording studio to showcase Pros and Cons participants’ prowess with rock, funk, reggae and country. A highlight is Lord Prepare Me, a rendition of the traditional Methodist hymn—sung in English and Tamil.

Chris Brown explains: “It began as a simple, weekly workshop—a space for inmates to play, listen and share music. Nine years on, the program has grown beyond all expectations, and continues to prove that compassion is a key to a better society.”

In 2017, Hugh Christopher Brown and electronic music educator Aimee Copping began working with female inmates at Grand Valley Institution for Women, in Kitchener, Ontario.

The result was 2018’s Undisclosed Location. The first known album recorded inside a women’s prison, Undisclosed Location, as described by NOW Toronto as “soulful.”

Private Town is Grand Valley’s sophomore collection. Aimee Copping describes the production process. “The women I worked with this time around weren’t always sure what they wanted to write—or if they even could. There was a lot of one-on-one time, sistering and confidence-building mixed in with the singing and lyric-writing lessons.”

Inmates participate in Pros and Cons anonymously and on a volunteer basis.

Pros and Cons operates with financial and in-kind support from The David Rockefeller Fund, Kingston Soundworks, Long & McQuade Musical Instruments and Yamaha Canada Music. Pros and Cons is a federally incorported not-for-profit organization.

Pros and Cons participants have this to say about the project.“It’s a positive space, somewhere to go. We’re productive. We’re nice to each other. It’s like we’re not in prison when we’re in the music program.”

“I lost my faith for many years while incarcerated. That first day of the program in 2012 would have a profound impact—inspiring me to work with those society has marginalized.”

Watch video for “Private Town” here: