“Johnny Cash and His Prison Reform Campaign”

On 26 July 1972, three grizzled-looking men dressed uneasily in suits gave evidence at a US Senate subcommittee on prison reform. Two of the men were former inmates of some of the toughest prisons in the US – the third was the country and western singer, Johnny Cash.

Cash’s famous live albums recorded at Folsom Prison and San Quentin are the stuff of music legend – likely to feature on any critic’s list of defining albums of the 1960s.

But it’s much less well-known that these were only two of many prison concerts Cash played over the course of almost 30 years.

Fitting the gigs in around his relentless touring schedule, the “Man in Black” performed for inmates all over the US, always unpaid, and in the process, became a passionate and vocal spokesman for prisoners’ rights.

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About Eve Tushnet

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