A VHI program that features prison musical groups has drawn complaints from state officials in Pennsylvania and a mother who was stunned to see her daughter’s killer jamming with his bandmates on TV. The first episode of “Music Behind Bars,” set to air tomorrow (Oct. 18), focuses on Dark Mischief, a heavy metal band formed by inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford near Philadelphia.
One of the band’s members, Christopher Bissey, is serving time for the murder of two teenage girls at Lehigh University in 1995.
When promotions for the show began playing on VH1 this month, the mother of one of the girls complained to state officials that she had been flipping channels and was alarmed when she saw footage of her daughter’s killer cavorting with fellow band members. Other crime victims said the series glamorized violent criminals.
The state’s House of Representatives passed a resolution asking VH1 to donate profits from the episode to the state’s Office of the Victim Advocate, which serves as the prison system’s liaison to victims and their families.
And on Tuesday, Gov. Mark Schweiker promised that the Department of Corrections would begin warning victims when prisoners are going to be on TV. “We need to ensure that crime victims are never again caught off-guard by turning on their televisions and unexpectedly seeing the inmate who has caused them so much pain,” Schweiker said.
“Music Behind Bars” producer Arnold Shapiro, best known for the 1979 prison documentary “Scared Straight,” has said the show is intended to highlight music’s role in rehabilitation. VH1 has declined to comment on whether the network would make a donation.
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