Blog

The latest from Founder & CEO Reginald Dwayne Betts, the Freedom Reads team, and our larger community, both on the inside and the outside.

Tagged with Inside Literary Prize

Founder's Take: What Started as a Dream

By Reginald Dwayne Betts, Freedom Reads Founder & CEO

It was all a dream. Or not a dream, but a fantasy, this belief that people would get behind the idea of the Freedom Library. The Freedom Library, which, at its root, is simply the notion that beauty and literature matter. That nature matters. That incarceration should not deprive people of these things. To put this all in another way, I’ll say that I was thinking like they thought with the Field of Dreams, that is: If you build it, they will come.

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Inside Literary Prize Tour Leg Two: North Dakota State Penitentiary, MCF-Faribault, and MCF-Shakopee

By Steven Parkhurst, Communications Manager at Freedom Reads
Freedom Reads Communications Manager Steven Parkhurst takes a selfie with the sign outside of Minnesota Correctional Facility - Shakopee.
Freedom Reads Communications Manager Steven Parkhurst outside of Minnesota Correctional Facility - Shakopee.

Taven, young by any measure whether Inside or out, sat preoccupied in the corner of the library turned poetry stage turned polling station at North Dakota State Penitentiary (NDSP). He was scheduled for a parole hearing on the day Freedom Reads arrived to bring acclaimed poet Roger Bonair-Agard and a handful of Inside Literary Prize ballots to vote on books. I gave him a knowing handshake. I, too, needed a distraction on the day I went up before the parole board that granted me freedom after serving seven days short of 30 years on the Inside. He reminded me of the 17-year-old version of myself who cared less about books and more about surviving the rest of my life in a place that looked like anything but a library. He showed up for our event though, the way Freedom Reads shows up for people incarcerated, and the way I now have shown up to 25 prisons since being released just 17 months ago. I gave him a ton of credit.

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Inside Literary Prize: Updates from Leg One of the Tour

By Gabby Colangelo, Program Coordinator for Freedom Reads
Judges inside at La Vista Correctional Center in Colorado vote on the four shortlisted books for the inaugural Inside Literary Prize.
Judges inside at La Vista Correctional Center in Colorado vote on the four shortlisted books for the inaugural Inside Literary Prize.

In a few days, the Freedom Reads team will set off for North Dakota and Minnesota, for the second leg of the Inside Literary Prize tour. We’ll meet dozens of Inside Literary Prize judges, lead live discussions about the books, and host literary readings with Roger Bonair-Agard, Douglas Kearney, and Randall Horton.

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Inside Literary Prize Books Sent to Judges

By Freedom Reads
Freedom Reads team members (from left to right) David, Gabby, Mike, and Steven with the four books shortlisted for the Inside Literary Prize.
Freedom Reads team members (from left to right) David, Gabby, Mike, and Steven with the four books shortlisted for the Inside Literary Prize. (Photo: Keenan Hochschild)

In January, the Freedom Reads team packed and shipped out the four shortlisted books for the Inside Literary Prize to each of our 300 judges on the inside in 12 prisons. Five additional sets of the shortlisted books were also sent to each of the prisons for those who are not participating as judges. In addition, we are also providing copies of the books to correctional staff, to include staff in the communities being built around reading.

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Freedom Reads, National Book Foundation, Center for Justice Innovation Launch First Major U.S. Book Prize to Be Judged Exclusively by Incarcerated People

By Freedom Reads

On December 4, Freedom Reads announced the launch of this new joint initiative with the National Book Foundation and the Center for Justice Innovation, with support from Lori Feathers, literary podcaster and co-owner of Interabang Books. It’s the first major U.S.-based literary prize to be judged exclusively by incarcerated people.

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