Sarasota Jail officials are applying USFSM students' idea for a music therapy program.

USF Sarasota-Manatee program is music to inmates’ ears

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 11, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 11, 2018) – A music therapy program that originated from a class project at USF Sarasota-Manatee is now being implemented at the Sarasota County Jail as a stress-reduction tool.

USF Sarasota-Manatee program is music to inmates’ ears

Dr. Jessica Grosholz

Students floated the idea along with other suggestions to jail officials last fall as part of Dr. Jessica Grosholz’s Prisoner Reentry and Recidivism Class. The music therapy idea quickly got the officials’ attention.

“Music therapy is a long-standing yet unique way to introduce therapeutic treatment to disenfranchised or behaviorally difficult populations,” Corrections Treatment Specialist Sandra Goluch said.

Jail officials have hosted two hour-long solo performances of classical music so far, on May 8 and March 3, and say inmate responses have been positive. Citing surveys, they said inmates reported feeling less stressed afterward, which was one of the goals of the sessions.

Students in Dr. Grosholz’s class, meanwhile, say they’re thrilled at seeing their idea become a reality.

“I thought it was just really cool, that something I did with my classmates is now being implemented in the jail system,” criminology student Lane Moore, a junior, said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee program is music to inmates’ ears

Michell Escoto

Fellow student Michell Escoto agreed: “I couldn’t imagine not having music. It’s so gratifying to know that they’ll be able to hear music and explore their emotions.”

Goluch said the program is being rolled out intermittently. Depending on volunteers, it could be scheduled at regular intervals and include a facilitator with group discussions afterward.

“Currently we are reaching out individually to local musicians to volunteer their time by coming into the facility to perform,” she said.

The idea emerged last fall after Dr. Grosholz’s students visited the jail and Salvation Army to observe therapy sessions involving inmates and former inmates who were exploring the impact of emotions and techniques to control them.

Tasked afterward to develop their own ideas for a program, Escoto, Moore and two other students came up with music therapy, saying it could be useful in relieving stress given the right songs. The group researched the idea and found a handful of correctional institutions that implemented music therapy programs.

“We would want to keep it ‘PG’ and identify songs that can bring out emotions in a healthy, therapeutic way,” Escoto said.

Eventually, the students said, they would like the jail program matched with group discussions to encourage the inmates to explore their emotions more fully.

Dr. Grosholz said she’s proud of her students’ efforts.

“I thought it definitely had potential,” she said of the idea. “I thought it was innovative and provided an area that hadn’t been tapped into. The best part of this program is the idea that music can bring calmness into what can often be a chaotic environment.”

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