Affixed to the red-brick exterior of Wormwood Scrubs prison is a small plaque. It reads: "Her Majesty’s Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts. Our duty is to look after them with humanity and to help them lead law abiding and useful lives in custody and after release."
As Mick Jones, former lead guitarist of the Clash, walks through the clunking gates wearing a mismatched suit and carrying two guitars, the unwritten line below the plaque might read, "through the medium of rock and roll".
Yesterday Jones joined Billy Bragg at the west London prison to hand over five guitars as part of Bragg’s Jail Guitar Doors campaign to provide instruments for inmates. "We all believe people have to be punished for their crimes," said Bragg. "I support punishment. But I also believe in rehabilitation. The question is, do we want to help people not to re-offend and to contribute to society? Getting them involved in music is one way we can try to do that."
Bragg is optimistic about the impact of the scheme. "It’s not a panacea and it’s not going to work for everybody," he says. "But, as idealistic as it sounds, there are some people who can find redemption through music, and that’s what Jail Guitar Doors is all about."