Everyone expresses their remorse in different ways. It is a deeply personal and emotional experience. Expressing remorse benefits both the perpetrator and the victim of a crime. Prison systems should consider the programs and services that they could provide to inmates that help them develop and express remorse for past misdeeds. This fosters personal growth and change – and is important for those serving life sentences as well as those who will one day return to society.
Music, along with other forms of artistic expression have been found to be effective in expressing powerful and deep emotions. Unfortunately, these services are not always available in criminal justice institutions.
Michael Tenneson spent d over two years lobbying prison officials to give him a band room to play and record music. When the music room was finally given to him, it was handed over to inmates that were white supremacists to run. Tenneson had to make sure that the white supremacists were not around when he and a diverse mix of other inmates he had organized wanted to play music.
The prison band that Michael Tenneson organized included fellow black, native American, white, and queer inmates. They managed to record and release an album called Tlaxihuiqui, which means the calling of the spirits in a Native American language. The album took four days to record and was released in August of 2021 by Die Jim Crow Records. It is a record label that focuses exclusively on recording and releasing music created by current and formerly incarcerated musicians like Michael Tenneson.
The album created by Michael Tenneson begins with Native American chanting from two incarcerated Native Americans who are serving sentences alongside Tenneson at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. Then the album has a raw, strange, electric, and dreamlike sound that the prison band members call prog-Americana.
Tlaxihuiqui weaves together an array of music genres to create its unique prog-Americanas music genre. It features a mixture of hip-hop, country, blues, ballads, and soul music to create its distinct sound. A combination of musical instruments, including alto saxophones, organs, and flutes, distinguishes the music from anything that most listeners have heard before.
The lyrics of the song can be described as poignant and powerful. It touches upon the experiences of the prison inmates. Majors themes of the songs include drug addiction, sexual abuse, discrimination, and incarceration. Yet, despite the horrific and tragic events that most inmates have experienced and even committed, the songs always provide a chance at redemption.
Michael Tenneson, the leader of the prison band at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, is serving multiple life sentences for murders he has committed. He says that creating music is one way to express his remorse over his past misdeeds. It provides a way for him to cope with the wrongs he has committed and hope for the future.
Fellow inmates whom he collaborated with to make the music album view it as a way to express their own regret, shame, and sorrow while looking forward to redemption and forgiveness in the future. For those who are not serving life sentences, expressing remorse is a good sign: it correlates with lower levels of recidivism.