Freedom Reads Returns to Open Additional Freedom Libraries in New York Prison

National non-profit Freedom Reads to open five Freedom Libraries in Groveland Correctional Facility in New York

On July 17, the national non-profit Freedom Reads plans to open five new Freedom Libraries, including one for staff, at Groveland Correctional Facility in New York. Freedom Reads previously opened two Freedom Libraries at Groveland. The Freedom Libraries will be opened directly in cellblocks across the prison, allowing incarcerated individuals direct access to inspiring literature. To date, Freedom Reads has opened 340 Freedom Libraries across 41 adult and youth prisons in 12 states.

“Freedom Reads brings great books and thought-provoking authors to prisons to start conversations and help build community,” said Freedom Reads Founder & CEO Reginald Dwayne Betts. “We are grateful to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for partnering with us to make these Freedom Library openings and events happen. Every library opening gets us closer to our vision of a Freedom Library in every cellblock in every prison in America.”

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Daniel F. Martuscello III said, “Unfettered access to literature can have a profound impact by introducing readers to ideas, knowledge, and worlds they may have never otherwise encountered. We are excited to expand the selection of literature available to staff and incarcerated individuals at Groveland Correctional Facility through the addition of five new Freedom Libraries. I thank Reginald Dwayne Betts and Freedom Reads for this continued partnership and look forward to opening more Freedom Libraries in the future.”

Freedom Reads is a first-of-its-kind organization that empowers people in prison through literature to imagine new possibilities for their lives. The Freedom Libraries are the brainchild of 2021 MacArthur Fellow and Yale Law School graduate Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was sentenced in Virginia to nine years in prison at age 16. Freedom Libraries are spaces in prisons to encourage community and in which reaching for a book can be as spontaneous as human curiosity. Each bookcase is handcrafted out of maple, cherry, oak, or walnut and is curved to contrast the straight lines and bars of prisons as well as to evoke Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observation about the “arc of the moral universe” bending “toward justice.”

Books in the Freedom Library have been carefully curated through consultations with hundreds of poets, novelists, philosophers, teachers, friends, and voracious readers, resulting in a collection of books that are not only beloved, but indispensable. The libraries include contemporary poetry, novels, and essays alongside classic works such as Homer’s The Odyssey and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man – titles that remind us that books have long been a freedom project.

Correction: An earlier version of this press release identified that there would be a performance to accompany the library openings. That performance will take place at a later date.