Mixing beats, writing lyrics gives Orleans Justice Center inmates a healthy outlet

Gary Delton’s fingers curled around the metal lattice on top of the large glass windows of the Orleans Justice Center. From the fourth floor, he pressed his head close to the bars, watching the city below him.

The white concrete walls of the jail separated him from the chaos of the colorful city. But the high ceilings and bright fluorescent lights in the room where Delton and other inmates gathered offered a stark contrast from the sterility of jail and the feeling of being locked up. An audio amplifier, a drum and bass machine, a keyboard synthesizer and a microphone were in the front of the room, amid pages of lyrics piled on the desk.

“Rewind, take it slow,” Delton sang into the microphone, as he recorded the hook to an original R&B beat during a weekly music therapy session offered by the jail. He crossed his tattoo-covered arms over his orange jumpsuit as the clip played back. He nodded his head while he listened to his voice synthesized with the voices of his fellow inmates.

Delton is one of about 70 jailed people at the Justice Center enrolled in the music therapy program, which allows both men and women an opportunity to express themselves through music and collaborate with other inmates to create original tracks.