Inside the Pitches Detention Center in Castaic, a band is jamming to a Van Halen Song.
All of the musicians are inmates. The name of their group is “Contraband” and the manager is LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Palumbo. He says, “It gives them a sense of not being in jail, freedom, and they just forget about where they’re at.” Most of the band members are in jail for drug possession. Meth was the drug of choice for at least three of the bandmates. Twenty six year old Mark Jonathan Mendez says, “I let drugs take over my life so much. I hadn’t played bass for about a year before I came to jail and and when I came to jail and started playing music again, it made me realize how much I love music and how much I love being sober and doing the things that I love.”
Contraband is part of the Merit program that was established in 2006 to help inmates with higher education, life and job skills. All of the instruments were donated and Deputy Palumbo dedicates most of his time to improving the lives of his band members. He says,
“Giving people a chance to change especially in jail instead of just sitting on their bunk and watching tv all day, they’re given a chance to actually better themselves in there.” The inmates promise not to repeat the destructive behavior that landed them in jail in the first place. They say thanks to music, they’re finally on the right track.