Inmates perform in first Battle of the Bands competition at Marion Prison.


MARION -- Each year the North Central Correctional Complex in Marion, Ohio holds a reentry fair for inmates soon to be released from prison. It's a chance for them to connect with outside resources that will help them get their lives back on track. This year the event had a little twist. It included N.C.C.Cs first ever Battle of the Bands with prisoner musicians and Channel 3's Monica Robins, a musician herself, was asked to be judge and jury.

VOTE: Prison battle of the bands

Nine bands performed, many of whom had only been practicing for a few days or weeks. They had creative names, such as 'Contraband,' 'Mean Jeremy,' and 'Dooms Day.'

In order to participate, inmates must exhibit good behavior it also required them to work together to make some amazing music.

"It's what I live for and it's what I do on the street and I've made an honest living doing it and I'm just so grateful to have an institution that provides me with the opportunity to keep playing," says Russell Schwartz, the lead singer of 'Mean Jeremy.'

Playing is a privilege and according to the Warden, music really does soothe savage behavior.

"When the offenders have a positive way to put their energy than the result is positive and when they see the avenues available to them to use their talents they then take that outside to the yard and they're positive on the yard," Warden Neil Turner says.

Rick Walker played lead guitar in four of the nine bands and also organized some of the inmates musically.

"It's the gift that God gave me and when I take my music out I'm teaching it, I'm not playing for me." Walker says.

For him and others, it's a form of escape.

"When I'm playing my music I'm playing for my maker and I'm not thinking about being here," Walker says.

After all nine bands performed, Monica and her co-judges, prison guards, had come to a decision. They chose the band, 'Escape From The Tragic' for its original music and sound not yet heard outside these walls. Songs created by the life experiences of singer, Braden Spivey.

"Anytime that you get an opportunity to do something positive it's a great feeling and a lot of us need that because we don't get a lot of opportunities to really express ourselves," Spivey says.