Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Phillip Selway, former Smiths member Johnny Marr and Elbow’s Guy Garvey are among the 12 musicians who have signed their names to an open letter petitioning against U.K. Minister of Justice Chris Gayling’s blanket ban on guitars in prison, which went into effect last fall.
“As musicians, we are concerned to hear that the use of steel-strung guitars is being prohibited in prisons,” the letter reads. “We believe music has an important role to play in engaging prisoners in the process of rehabilitation. However, this ability will be seriously undermined if inmates are unable to practice between group sessions.”
The musicians claim that the government’s push to keep nylon-string guitars available is impractical as different techniques are used on steel-string guitars.
“There has been a worrying rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in the period since this ruling was introduced,” they wrote. “Since October 2013, when only one death was reported, there have been a total of 50 self-inflicted deaths, over double the figure for the same period last year.”
“We would like to know whether the recent changes to the treatment of prisoners – which includes restrictions on books and steel-strung guitars – could be at the root of this steep increase in fatalities,” they continued.