An exploration of the potential of music in youth justice

An exploration of the potential of music in youth justice

By Dr Dennie Palmer Wolf
Lea Wolf


This review by US consultancy WolfBrown was commissioned by the Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in 2012. The purpose of the review was to invite readers and stakeholders – including organisations, musicians, staff, and advocates–to think about three key questions:  What exactly can music (or, more broadly, the arts) contribute to the reform of juvenile justice systems? What constitutes making that contribution responsibly and well? How do we build evidence that music (or the arts more broadly) make a difference in the lives of youth, staff, families, or facilities? The study involved extensive desk research as well as contributions from individuals from across the arts, youth and the juvenile justice system.  It considers how artists and arts organisations can go about partnering with communities to offer alternative choices that young people really want.

Finally, in correctional contexts,participatory art activities may also matter because of what they are not. The arts "offer a non-institutional, social and emotional environment; a non-judgmental and un-authoritarian model of engagement" (Baker & Homan, 2007, p.11). The fact that artists and arts and cultural organizations are neutral agents within the potentially oppositional world of justice system makes them welcome and trusted visitors and teachers (Department for Culture, Media & Sport, 2003; Ezell & Levy, 2003).

Resource type: Research | Published: 2014