Music as a Therapeutic Bridge in the Unique World of Bjorgvin Prison

Bjorgvin prison, nestled within Norway’s open woodlands, challenges conventional perceptions of incarceration. Established in 2006 to address long waiting times for sentencing, the prison houses 90 male inmates, each with surprising freedoms, including keys to their own rooms. In this unique environment, music therapy emerges as a powerful force in shaping emotional landscapes. The prison’s music room becomes a “musical emotion zone,” offering a sanctuary for self-expression. Inmates describe their music room as a non-judgmental space where they feel like musicians.

This study sheds light on the nuanced role of music therapy in prison settings, emphasizing its potential to create emotional spaces, challenge stereotypes, and foster connections. While acknowledging the complexities of power dynamics and the potential for exclusion, it highlights the transformative impact of musicking in the rehabilitation journey, underscoring the fluid and emergent nature of the emotional geography within the prison walls.

The impact of music extends beyond the music room, influencing communal spaces. The presence of a guitar in a common room transforms the atmosphere, fostering shared experiences and changing social dynamics. Public concerts, though challenging to set up, serve as powerful emotional outlets, allowing inmates to challenge their past and express vulnerability through carefully chosen songs.

Therefore, music therapy becomes a unique form of caring in the prison. In a context where physical contact is limited, music serves as a technology of care, offering inmates a way to connect, express emotions, and support one another. Inmates can take on the role of “musical careers,” extending their musical abilities to uplift others, demonstrating the healing power of music.

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Hjornevik, Kjetil, & Waage, Leif. (2019). The prison as therapeutic music scene: exploring musical identities in music therapy and everyday life in prison setting. Punishment and Society, 21(4), 454-472.

Jose N.Claros O., MT-BC

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC