ANAMOSA BLUES: Hard Rock While Doing Hard Time

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When the band Dead Time jams they don’t hold back. But you can’t buy Dead Time’s cd or see them in concert.

Dead Time plays their hard rock while doing hard time.

The group is one of several inmate bands that play in a one of a kind music program at Anamosa State Prison.

The program has several individual practice rooms, instruments and two professional recording studios.  All of the equipment is paid for through inmate fundraisers - no tax money is used.

For Darrell Bizzett, his sax is more than an instrument. It’s an extension of his soul.

“It’s my method of escaping and leaving here,” Bizzett said. “When I’m playing and doing that, mentally I’m far away from here.  And I think that’s the way I do the time.”

Bizzette has been in Anamosa for 43 years. He went in when he was 22 after killing a man in a fight.

Before he was arrested, Bizzett played in bars and clubs.  That’s what he misses the most.

“Playing my music. Being able to see the people’s eyes.  Feel their vibes along with mine.  And see how they all mesh together.  I really miss that.”

For band mate Stan Cribble, playing music behind the walls of Anamosa is also an escape.  Cribble wrote a piece he calls sleep to remind him that life in prison doesn’t mean life is over.

“I just, I lose myself.   I lose myself in the music.  It’s a song that I wrote.  It’s very dear to me.  And whenever I play that song I just lose myself,” Cribble said.

Cribble is doing life for killing his wife seven years ago.   The music program here has changed him.

“That guy? I don’t even know that guy.  I don’t know that guy.  That’s not me.”

For inmates to be able to play they have to stay out of trouble in the yard.

“We’ve got guys who are staying out of trouble trying to get back in because they had some bumps along the road.  So, it’s a privilege,” explained music program supervisor Craig Campbell.

These guys can’t imagine serving time without this program.

“Been in for five years on drug and robbery charges.  Three years left. I used to stay in the hole for fighting and other stuff.  If I come up here I know I’ll stay out of trouble,” band member Jonathan Zazueta said.

It would be hard to find an inmate more productive than Johnny Pippins.  He’s been in for 18-years for robbing and killing a rival drug dealer.

During his time he has earned his bachelor’s degree, is working on his masters, serves as the imam for the prison and produces music. He often helps inmates develop their talents.

“It’s nice to watch it come to fruition,” Pippins said. “There’s a lot of negative things that guys could have got into out in the yard, but they come here and they spend their time and it’s a different caliber of guys that come up here.”

Pippins says he likes working with younger inmates.  Not only teaching them about music, but also giving them life lessons.

“My voice is one that young people will listen to.   And I enjoy that.  Life lesson about where we hail from.”

Pippins says these guys are serving their time, they’re paying for their crimes in a horrible and lonely place where freedom is stripped away from inmates.

“There’s this hope that’s attached to participating in this program,” Pippins said.

He says the music program gives them something this prison can’t take away.

“I think that’s important.  People have to have their dreams, you know, because once that’s gone, I think life is gone if you don’t have that dream that hope to hold on to.”


  • joe

    Last I knew, being in jail was suppose to be a punishment. All of this goody goody treatment is bologna. Start up the chain gang road crews and fix roads, highways, and bridges. Try saving tax payers money! Instead we give criminals 3 meals, cable tv, and recreational activities.

    • Don

      I saw a youtube of WOI TV show at Iowa State University done in the early 1950s called ‘In Our Care’, done at the Iowa State Pen. The warden stated ‘Prisoners are sent here *as* punishment, not *for* punishment’. Seemed like a decent man.

      If you know more, feel free to change your career to criminal justice, work your way up, become warden and run the place your way. But if that’s not worth your time, then let those managing a nasty dangerous overcrowded place use the carrot, along with the stick to get home safe at night. You think taking the carrot away would ‘save money’, that shows you’ve never managed anything in your life. The carrot is at least as powerful to control, as the stick, probably more so.

      • joe

        People like you sir, are what is currently wrong with society today. You have to work for something to achieve greatness. It isn’t just given to you… There would no problem with control for any of the inmates like there is currently. Pretty tough to fight and cause problems when you work hard labor for 8 to 10 hours a day.

  • Mike Cee

    “People have to have their dreams, you know, because once that’s gone, I think life is gone if you don’t have that dream that hope to hold on to.”

    What about the dreams of the people who were murdered by you and the rest of the thugs in the band?

  • Bob

    What a joke of a news story. How “hard” is their time if they’re playing instruments some of our youth don’t even have. Murderers having fun in prison and then getting a “pity party” news report. Terrible

  • William Denison

    “All of the equipment is paid for through inmate fundraisers.” Why not use those funds to pay back the victims or the victims familys of these men instead of buying them toys?

  • William Denison

    I do have a request for a song if they have time. Could you guys play “Afternoon delight” recorded by Starland Vocal Band in 1976.

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