Messerschmidt, Edward, D. (2017). Change Is Gonna Come: A mixed methods examination of people’s attitudes toward prisoners after experiences with a prison choir. Boston University College of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.
Author Affiliations: Boston University
Artforms: Choir, music
Program: Doctoral Dissertation
Program Description: Community-member and prisoner choir
Program (Study) Location: Four Midwestern minimum-security correctional facilities
Participant Type: Court-detained juveniles and adults, both men and women, aged 13-18
Study Published: 2017
Participant Type: Non-incarcerated volunteer singers from four prison choirs; community choir members with no prior prison experience (controls); non-incarcerated adult audience members at a prison choir concert.
Sample Size: 41 non-incarcerated volunteer singers; 19 community controls 78 non-incarcerated audience members
Data Type: Mixed-method-qualitative/quantitative using Attitude Toward Prisoners Scale (ATPS). In part 1 of the study, the volunteer singers completed the ATPS and answered open-ended questions after performing with a joint community-prison choir. The control group completed the ATPS after performing with a non-prison-based choir. In part 2, audience members completed the ATPS before and after attending a community-prison choir concert. They also answered open-ended questions regarding their experience.
Evaluation Focus: “The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of (a) singing with incarcerated choir members and (b) listening to a live prison choir performance on non-incarcerated people, focusing particularly on the effects of such experiences on participants’ attitudes towards prisoners.” Research questions were:
● How do the ATPS scores of the volunteer prison choir singers compare to the ATPS scores of the control group? What is the relationship between participation in a prison choir and ATPS scores?
● What relationship if any, is there between the number of concerts the volunteer singers have sung with a prison choir and their ATPS scores?
● What changes, if any, are there between audience members’ pre-test and post-test responses to the ATPS (Melvin et al., 1985)?
● What effects, if any, do volunteer singers and audience members report regarding their experiences with a prison choir?
Summary of Impact: The research found that non-incarcerated people can change their attitudes toward prisoners through experiences with a prison choir. Specific findings include:
● Part 1: A non-significant difference between the ATPS scores of non-incarcerated volunteer prison-choir singers and non-prison-based community choristers; 69.2% of the volunteer prison choir singers reported that their attitudes toward prisoners had grown more positive since joining a prison choir.
● Part 2: ATPS scores of audience members were significantly more positive after attending the prison choir concert.
KEYWORDS: adult, choir, music, singing, social interactions, stigma