On May 9, members of the Just One Foundation visited the Kentucky River Regional Jail and performed music for the inmates. The message of the songs and conversations was an effort to show inmates that they are not alone or forgotten, and that they can overcome the addictions they face.
Just One Foundation, a non-profit organization, was founded by Matt Butler, a recovering addict. Butler, along with his friend and tour manager Mario Diurno, travels across the country visiting schools, jails, prisons, shelters and more, speaking to the audience about drug addiction and how to get sober, as well as performing music. Currently, Butler is on his “Country Roads Tour.”
Butler is originally from New York City and said he met Diurno while working on a movie about kids struggling with drug addiction, for which he was asked to write original music.
“As a result of working on that film and being put in that position, I sort of accidentally got the opportunity to go play a concert at the Albany County jail in New York,” Butler said. “That was in 2016 and it was an amazing experience for me and the guys seemed to get something out of it, so it was really special. I’ve been doing this ever since.
“It is something we like to do. We think of it as service,” Butler continued.
“This is more stuff that we like to do to give back for free through our non-profit,” Diurno said. “We just love it.”
Many of Butler’s songs are originally written and are based on his experiences.
“Both of us (himself and Diurno) have been in jails and institutions, that was part of our road,” said Butler. “I feel like the stories are all the same regardless of where you’re from.”
Butler told them inmates that no matter what, there is hope.
“There’s hope and there’s a solution,” Butler said.
Music, Diurno said, is a powerful thing.
“Music is so universal and you hear a lot of messages in this music, so it is easy to bring things up and open up the mind,” Diurno said. “It is hard to explain what we do, but once people actually see it, it’s powerful.”
Many of the inmates who participated said they really enjoyed the show and felt like they were not alone in their fight.
“I thought it was amazing and something special for them to reach out to us. It was exciting,” said Nicole Seitz, an inmate at KRRJ who got to see the performance and speak with Butler and Diurno. “Me personally, I’m not a drug addict, so it didn’t hit me in that way. But I know a lot of the people here are so it hits home in a lot of ways.”
The inmates weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the show.
“I was really impressed,” said Jail Administrator Lonnie Brewer. “When I looked at their page, I knew this was perfect.”
Brewer said he likes to utilize various programs and activities to connect with inmates, in hopes of helping them get sober.
“It takes different ways to get to people. Music, yoga and art are just outside-of-the-box thinking that helps,” said Brewer. “We’re always looking to find support systems for our inmates.
“It’s real. The drug epidemic is real. What we deal with on a daily basis is real. We’re trying to find people who have a voice,” said Brewer. “I can tell them (inmates) about drugs, but I don’t have a drug problem. But someone who’s had a drug problem can relate, they’re stories relate to them. We want them (inmates) to be able to hear those stories and hear somebody who has overcame.”
Brewer said it is important that the jail try different methods to reach the inmates.
“These folks are going to be out of jail soon, and a lot of times they go back and do the same thing. We’re trying to introduce them to some more positive things that show them they don’t necessarily have to go back into the lifestyle they were living which was mostly drugs,” he said. “If we can do something to get them off drugs, get them sober and get them having fun in life without using drugs, it is very important.
“I believe in people. I love my people and my county and this area, and I know they can recover,” he continued.