Prophets of Rage Performs for Inmates, Undeterred by Prison Fence

A concert for inmates was canceled at the last minute

The supergroup Prophets of Rage performed outside a state prison fence to muffled cheers from within in Norco on Wednesday, aiming to blast music to inmates' ears after a prison concert was canceled at the last minute.

"The barbed wire cannot keep the music out," said Tom Morello, a member of the group and Rage Against the Machine's guitarist. "The barbed wire cannot keep the message out."

The group -- which also features musicians from Public Enemy and Cypress Hill -- originally planned to play before hundreds of inmates at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco that evening. The event was a collaboration with Jail Guitar Doors, which brings concerts and musical instruments to jails and prisons as a rehabilitation measure.

But the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation canceled the event with short notice, due to what it described in a statement as problems with the approval process.

Nonetheless, the group set up stage and raged on with a three-song set.

Cheers from inside and outside the fence could be heard between songs. Parents and kids from a football league practicing nearby formed a smiling crowd, and prison officials hung back keeping watch.

"There's great power in music, power to transform people," Jail Guitar Doors USA Co-founder Wayne Kramer said. "That's what the band intended to do today."

Kramer said prison staff had made excellent preparations for the concert, and he didn't find out until he was on his way to the venue that it had been canceled.

"The staff here did a bang-up job," he said. "This was great. So I have no idea what happened."

The CDCR said in its statement that it regrets any inconvenience caused to the musical group or Jail Guitar Doors, which it called "a long-time supporter of the department's rehabilitation programs."

Prophets of Rage's performances have a subversive bent, and include a protest show during the Republican National Convention.

While introducing the band, Kramer referenced his own time serving in prison. He said he wants to promote a message of positivity to those inside.

"I'm a musician. But for a few years I was known as 00180190," he said. "And I lived in a place just like on the other side of that fence."

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