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'Our Life's Work': Chicago Rapper Common Puts Recording Studio In Stateville For Inmates

CHICAGO (CBS) --Mixing boards, musical instruments, microphones and sound panels.

You wouldn't expect to see all that equipment in a prison. But it's part of a new program for inmates at Stateville Correctional Center.

One big entertainment star from Chicago made the state of the art music studio happen, with inspiration from a young attorney.

CBS 2's Jim Williams reports the hope is that inmates will develop new skills in a productive environment.

Attorney Ari Williams had a dream for the inmates at the Stateville Correctional Center. A dream of rhymes and beats created and recorded behind bars.

"I know music brings us all together. I want them to be OK. I want them to do something they've love to do," Williams said. "And I know many of them are rappers. They love to rap and they love to sing."

Through a family connection, she reached out to a fellow Chicagoan who could make it happen.

"This is our life's work and we're committed to this."

Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy winner Common marshalled his resources and influence to build a music studio at Stateville. The inmates will learn music production and tap into creativity not blocked by prison walls.

"The gentlemen who are incarcerated deserve access to better things in life so that's why I fight for my city," Common said. "And that's why my heart is always with Chicago."

It's Common's latest charitable endeavor. Much of it in his hometown where he said he's found inspiration and guidance.

"Being from Chicago is one of the greatest gifts and assets to me in my career and my life," he said.

Through Common's non profit, Imagine Justice, inmates, including Benny Rios, will take a 12-week course.

"It is a better way to spend a day, no question about it. It give us something productive to do," Rios said.

And for some inmates, a way toward fewer days in prison.

"Everyday they're in this program they'll earn a day credit off of their sentence, as long as the statute allows for that," said Alyssa Williams of the Department of Corrections.

The key words there '"if the statute allows." Some of the inmates said no matter what they do in the program, their time behind bars will not be reduced."

Julio Guerrera is in for murder.

"I've been locked up since I was 21 and I've been locked up 16 years now and I'm supposed to stay here until I'm 69," Guerrera said.

Still, Ari Williams said music and the means to make it will serve all the inmates.

"This brings so much hope for them and inspiration for them. Them to know people actually care about them, that can change them as well," Williams said.

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