Freedom Reads is a first-of-its-kind organization that uses literature to confront the hopelessness and desperation that accompany time served in prison. Through our three core initiatives — Freedom Library, Freedom Ambassadors, and Freedom Stories — we seek to remind all people that freedom begins with a book.
We place Freedom Libraries in the center of prison housing units where they become a locus of conversation and community. The Freedom Libraries are objects of beauty, handcrafted by teams that include people who’ve served time in prison. We call them Freedom Libraries as a reminder of how freedom has often followed education. The curved shelves of our bookcases remind us that the
universe bends toward justice — and through conversation and engagement, fellow readers share in the joy, belonging, and possibilities that such stories provide. We do not believe that a book alone will grant a person wings, but the hope is not a fantasy. The hope is that someone will turn a page, and with the turning, transform their lives.
How do we remember that those locked up in prison are still a part of our greater society? By returning to prison with writers, poets, athletes, and performers — Freedom Ambassadors — who remind us that those serving time are our sons & daughters, our aunts & uncles, and our mothers & fathers. In turn, the Ambassadors’ presence reminds
those serving time that they too are still a part of our world. Freedom Ambassadors come bearing libraries, hold readings, lead book circles, perform theater, all to build a bridge through their art that helps us recall we all live in a single world, and shows people inside what is possible through words.
Freedom Stories is our media initiative focused on driving awareness and policy change by shifting long-entrenched narratives about the lives of incarcerated people. For what do we know of the lives of men and women and children in prison? Not much. A hundred years ago Charles Dickens visited an American prison and was astonished at the brutality. Today, the brutality persists but there are few
Dickens who visit and recount. We show up. Our Library and Ambassador initiatives become potent media platforms that amplify the stories of incarcerated people in their own words. They are never just prisoners, but people with the full emotional range of life — love, joy, sadness, remorse, hope. Freedom Stories turns their experiences into a counter narrative that demands acknowledgement and change to our incarceration practices.