The world's first prison-based label InHouse Records launches mag for inmates in lockdown

While it might seem like something of an odd statement initially; it makes sense that sadly one of the groups in the UK most adversely affected by lockdown is its prisoners.

Since the start of the nationwide quarantine in March, prisoners have been mostly confined to their cells, and all visits were stopped, along with educational and other activities.

Someone more aware of the detrimental effects of such measures than many of us is graphic designer, Hannah Lee. Alongside commissions for the likes of Rankin, Tate, The Global Women's Institute and Christie's, she has been collaborating with the world's first fully functional record label to be launched in prison, InHouse Records.

Working under the strapline 'dangerously positive', InHouse Records (@inhouserec), which launched in September 2017, describes itself as "a label for change wishing to see safer communities, fewer victims of crime, and for prisoners; rehabilitation and employment with dignity and aspiration".

Now working in multiple UK prisons, those in which InHouse operates have reported positive behaviour increase by 428%, with InHouse enjoying an 80% engagement rate for participants who are released from prison.

"InHouse Records is more than a record label, it changes lives by empowering communities to restore themselves," says the label. "We focus on what's strong, not what's wrong, designing safe and enabling environments to foster change and develop healthy dialogue through sustained relationships."

Lee (@__hannahlee) has worked with the label for some time, and under lockdown, when its usual activities had to stop since teachers weren't allowed in (before lockdown she taught Graphic Design inside HMP Elmley in Kent), the label had to try new ways of accessing prisoners.

"Lockdown for the 86,000 prisoners in the UK means remaining in their cell for almost 24 hours a day," says Lee. "Lockdown felt like a more crucial time than ever to alleviate anxiety and to distract frustrations that may result in potential rioting when the cell doors are eventually opened. Out of this challenge, the InHouse Records weekly magazine was born."

As with the rest of InHouse's activities, the aim of the mag is as part of an overarching goal to "create safe and enabling environments for individuals to better their technical and social skills through music" and "reduce the extremely high reoffending rate," Lee adds.

The design of the zine aims to somewhat mimic that of a normal music magazine, but it's been curated specifically to increase literacy, develop new skills, and entertain. "The staff pivoted overnight from being music and label facilitators, to educational journalists," says Lee.

In addition to the print magazine, the team also created an accompanying Audio Magazine to ensure that even those with lower levels of literacy could access it. The Audio CD provides trailer-like intros to each section and features interviews from graduates of InHouse Records, providing inspiring messages to current prisoners.

"Designing a zine per week has been quite a challenge but it has been a project I have loved working on, bringing together all my interests into one place; design, music and helping the public sector," says Lee.

The zine now reaches more than 2,500 prisoners across the UK and USA through nine separate prisons and correctional facilities. The idea is that once lockdown has ended, the magazine will be printed either monthly or twice a month.


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