February 16

Maine State Prison inmates find redemption through hospice care

A band called Sounds of Comfort formed by hospice volunteers will perform the first public concert inside the prison this week..

By David Sharp
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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From left, inmates Robert Payzant, Chris Shumway, Steve Carpentier (partially hidden) and Nathan Roy perform during a rehearsal of Sounds of Comfort, a band made up of prison hospice volunteers, at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

The Associated Press

“I think we get classified as people who don’t care. But there are a lot of good people here who have that capacity and desire to help someone else,” he said.

The music started as a form of therapy for dying inmates.

Payzant, 47, of Freeport, is one of the singers in the band. The other is Roy, 35, of Bangor. Carpentier, 60, plays mandolin. A fourth man, Chris Shumway, 28, of Caribou, plays bass. Kevin Knight, 42, of Rockland, is the “sound man.”

Roy, who also plays guitar, said some tones can raise or lower a heart rate and some rhythms help with respiration. The songs they’ve created together focus on dark subjects but also on redemption. One of their songs, titled “Darkest Before The Dawn,” was written by Roy’s mother.

“They sing a song, ‘I Am Redeemed.’ There’s a line in there that ‘I’m not who I used to be,”’ said the Rev. Kevan Fortier, the prison chaplain, after a recent practice in the visitor center, where the band will play on Wednesday. “They’re growing every day. They see that there’s more to life.”

There’s little doubt that the volunteers have been changed by what they’ve seen. They say they’re committed to ensuring that inmates can pass with peace.

Carpentier said the images are seared into his memory. And even though the care is difficult, he knows that he’s making a difference for inmates.

“I still see that man’s face every now and again when I’m sleeping. And I see that smile. It really touches the heart,” he said.

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