WANGANUI — Songs Down Pauri Road 2012 is the title of a CD made by a group of prisoners from Wanganui’s Kaitoke Prison, with help from the local prison chaplain and volunteers.
The CD, which was recorded behind prison walls, was released to the outside world just before Christmas.
Prison chaplain and Home of Compassion Sister, Sr Litia Vakameitangake, who has for a long time recognised these men’s natural musical talent, initially wondered if this, combined with helping them spiritually, might enable them to learn about themselves to address their behaviour.
Eyeing John Scudder, who had just retired as foundation deputy principal of Cullinane College, and with his musical expertise, the sister thought he might be key to realising her goal. Following
several requests, Mr Scudder couldn’t say “no” any longer and consequently became a volunteer in the St Mary’s prison-visiting team.

From left: Mary Anne Elliott, John Scudder and Sister Litia.

“Along with Mary Anne Elliot, who is the assistant chaplain, John not only shared his own musical giftedness, but worked alongside these men for many weeks. He nurtured them to not only write their own lyrics, compose the music, play the instruments but to sing. He was a great listener and encourager through the whole process,” Sr Litia said.
Thanks to grants from the Palmerston North Diocese Charities Foundation, musical equipment had been purchased over the years and, with Mr Scudder’s own gear, all was set for recording.
Their efforts quickly caught the attention of the prison management team. Indeed, acting manager Jan Smith spoke about Sr Litia’s efforts on the front page of the local newspaper, saying: “Music can bring self-reflection, which for some prisoners is the beginning of a process to change their behaviour. The prisoners in the group have used music as a way of expressing themselves, and to share their experiences. Music can be an important part of prisoners’ rehabilitation.”
The support from the Corrections staff was appreciated. “Getting my gear from the vehicle and through the security access was made much easier by the staff actually venturing out to help carry it all to the music room. This, each time we visited, was quite unusual, yet reflected the supportive cooperation coming from the prison itself,” Mr Scudder said.
The words to the 16 original songs tell of the prisoner’s lives, their hopes, dreams, families and time behind bars. Naming themselves the Urban Migration, the musical genre ranges from rock to reggae to blues. The CD sells for $15. Its title is named after the road where the prison is located just south of Wanganui. The funds are going directly to the Child Cancer Foundation, a charity that the group decided to support.
The project required the prisoners to make a serious commitment and learn to cooperate — to not only see the dream, but become the dream of making and producing their own CD in the confines and restrictions of being behind bars. The prison administration department has come to the party and is selling the CDs.