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Inmates At Ohio Reformatory For Women Turn Their Experiences Into Music

Looking out from the Tapestry Unit onto a courtyard at the Ohio Reformatory For Women.
Gabe Rosenberg
Looking out from the Tapestry Unit onto a courtyard at the Ohio Reformatory For Women.

The Columbus nonprofit We Amplify Voices debuted a song Friday co-written by inmates in an addiction recovery program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

“I’m letting go of everything that could control me, of everyone who couldn’t show me myself," sings Amber Nicole, lead singer of the Columbus band Mojoflo." You can have it if you want it, phoenix rising from the ashes. I’m living proof."

The song, titled, "Living Proof," was developed through weeks of sessions with women in the prison's Tapesty program.

“The theme was resiliency and overcoming, which is something they’ve all had to do in their lives,” says Nick D'Andrea of We Amplify Voices. “And we condensed everything that had been said and what the women had wanted to express, which is they are living proof that you can overcome the odds.”

He says the universality of music helps bridge the experiences of the inmates.

“When the women had this opportunity to put down their experiences into a song, they leapt at it, they took it so seriously,” D'Andrea says. “We debated every single line of this song for hours. It was very intensive.”

The original plan had been to make an entire album, but the pandemic threw a wrench into those plans. First, prisons halted visitation. Then, D’Andrea says they were told the Tapestry program had been put on hold.

We Amplify Voices hopes to work with the general population at the prison once visitation restrictions are lifted. Until then, “Living Proof” stands as a testimony to their experiences.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.