For 40 years, Helen Credle has worked with prison inmates and exoffenders in Massachusetts, from inside or outside the state corrections system. The Boston native, who grew up in Roxbury, did not set out to become an advocate for prisoners and their families. Oddly, it was music that first took her inside prison walls and into that role. As director of community services for the New England Conservatory of Music, Credle organized concerts by bluesman B.B. King and balladeer Bobby Womack in state prisons. Her involvement grew deeper when the conservatory’s administrators and faculty members decided to teach inmates to play jazz, and the inmates then would perform in the auditoriums at maximum-security Walpole State Prison and medium security Norfolk State Prison nearby. The conservatory’s foray into altruistic music education came during a socially conscious era when compassionate white churchgoers and black activists volunteered in prisons, teaching classes and providing other services to inmates.



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