Home 5 News 5 A Poet is Filling Prisons with Literature

A Poet is Filling Prisons with Literature

by | Mar 4, 2024 | News

At age 16, Reginald Dwayne Betts was tried as an adult and sentenced to prison. After surviving solitary confinement, he is now a poet, lawyer and award-winning MacArthur “genius” grant recipient. He’s also a man on a mission: in 2020, with a grant from the Mellon Foundation, he founded Freedom Reads, a first-of-its-kind initiative that provides books to those incarcerated via 500-book libraries installed in prison housing units and dormitories.

For Betts, his first introduction to the arts was by way of a sports encyclopaedia. He recalls, in second grade, reading about basketball legends in a moment that has stuck with him through adulthood. “What Freedom Reads is trying to invent that hadn’t really been there before is a possibility, which is not to say that possibility didn’t exist in the lives of these men and women that we work with,” he told Bowen. “But you want to create a moment where people start to recognize that something that was always there [like reading], that they hadn’t noticed, matters more than anything.”

The Freedom Reads libraries include books such as Toni Morrison’s “Paradise” and Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” Mixing contemporary and classic authors in the libraries “creates these moments of spontaneous joy” that can’t be replicated, Betts says.

He recounted a story of an incarcerated young person noticing “The Odyssey” in the library and excitedly sharing that it’s his favourite book, kickstarting a conversation with a Freedom Reads team member about Homer.

“What’s going on is these kids are experiencing a child and an adult having shared joy over books,” Betts says. “The collection is filled with what you love, what we believe you’ll love, and what we believe will inspire you to have fierce arguments for the rest of your life about whether or not this Shakespeare book should be in [a collection].”

 

Recent News

20Jul
Gen Z Brings New Life to Kafka on TikTok

Gen Z Brings New Life to Kafka on TikTok

On TikTok, classic authors like Franz Kafka are enjoying renewed popularity. On the social platform, Gen Z are reinterpreting The Metamorphosis and other works through creative videos, integrating pop culture references and personal experience. People might assume that reading is falling out of favour due to social networking, but they could be wrong. Franz Kafka, […]

20Jul
Lexington Literary Launches in London

Lexington Literary Launches in London

There is a new literary agency launched in London in good time for both the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Sharjah International Book Fair.  Lexington Literary (LL), based in London’s Soho, has been formed by Kat Aitken and Seren Adams, both agents at United Artists.   Aitken worked as a bookseller before starting in the […]

20Jul
Backlash Forces Closure of MIM Edition Over Novel’s Content

Backlash Forces Closure of MIM Edition Over Novel’s Content

Algeria’s Arabic publishing house MIM Edition announced this week that it is suspending business following an online backlash over an award-winning novel criticised for perceived inappropriate content. “We announce that MIM closed its doors effective immediately in the face of the wind and the fire,” the publisher said. “We were nothing but advocates of peace […]

Related Posts

Lexington Literary Launches in London

Lexington Literary Launches in London

There is a new literary agency launched in London in good time for both the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Sharjah International Book Fair.  Lexington Literary (LL), based in London’s Soho, has been formed by Kat Aitken and Seren Adams, both agents at United Artists.  ...

Backlash Forces Closure of MIM Edition Over Novel’s Content

Backlash Forces Closure of MIM Edition Over Novel’s Content

Algeria’s Arabic publishing house MIM Edition announced this week that it is suspending business following an online backlash over an award-winning novel criticised for perceived inappropriate content. “We announce that MIM closed its doors effective immediately in...

Bodour Al Qasimi Launches ‘Read You’re in Sharjah’ Campaign

Bodour Al Qasimi Launches ‘Read You’re in Sharjah’ Campaign

Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Founder and Honorary President of the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA), has launched the ‘Read You’re in Sharjah’ campaign, implemented by Menassah Distribution Company. The initiative aims to foster a culture of reading across...

Previous Next
Close
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this

Pin It on Pinterest