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Freedom Reads Brings Literary Presentation to Men’s and Women’s Prisons in Rhode Island

In its first events in Rhode Island prisons, national non-profit Freedom Reads brings literary dialogue to the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility and the Gloria McDonald Women’s Facility in Rhode Island

The national non-profit Freedom Reads today brings its first events to Rhode Island prisons. At both the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility and the Gloria McDonald Women’s Facility, poet, lawyer, and Freedom Reads Founder & CEO Reginald Dwayne Betts is presenting FELON: An American Washi Tale, in which he explores the lingering consequences of having a criminal record, fatherhood, the power of literature, and love. The adaptation is based on Betts' 2019 poetry collection FELON, winner of the NAACP Image Award. Rhode Island Department of Corrections Acting Director Wayne T. Salisbury, Jr., is planning to attend both events.

In addition, following the presentation, Betts and Freedom Reads Program Coordinator Steven Parkhurst, who served over 26 years at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) in Rhode Island, will engage in a wide-ranging dialogue about his story, the experience of incarceration, and the role of literature and access to books, writers, and artists in transforming the lives of incarcerated people.

“With programs like these, we aim to build community spaces where people who are incarcerated can find beauty, imagine new possibilities, and envision what their lives could look like outside of prison walls,” said Reginald Dwayne Betts, Founder & CEO of Freedom Reads. “We are grateful to the Rhode Island Department of Corrections for partnering with Freedom Reads to make today’s events possible.”

“I’m very pleased that we were able to connect with Freedom Reads and bring this to our department,” said Wayne T. Salisbury, Jr., Acting Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. “I had the opportunity to listen to Steven’s life experiences and his journey to redemption at the State House, and at a Correctional Leaders Association (CLA) Conference in Philadelphia. It was clear to me what books and reading meant to him and to those entrusted to my care – it’s a bond with others and a tool to heal. For those who will use it, this program will be an oasis.”

“Literature opens hearts and minds to what is possible,” said Barry Weiner, Assistant Director Rehabilitative Services of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. “Freedom Reads' libraries and programs at the Rhode Island DOC will, no doubt, raise the spirits of our population and provide each person that embraces this initiative with hope and motivation for a productive and successful future.”

“It is humbling to come back to the house I grew up in and to be of service to the folks I spent the majority of my life with,” said Steven Parkhurst, Freedom Reads Program Coordinator, who was incarcerated at the ACI in Rhode Island for over 26 years. “And to do so representing Freedom Reads means the world to me.”

Freedom Reads is the brainchild of 2021 MacArthur Fellow and Yale Law School graduate Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was sentenced to nine years in prison at age 16. Betts’ nonprofit is a first-of-its-kind organization that empowers people through literature to confront what prison does to the spirit. 

About Freedom Reads:

Founded by Reginald Dwayne Betts, who knows firsthand the dispiriting forces of prison, Freedom Reads works to empower people through literature to confront what prison does to the spirit. Inspired by the recognition that freedom begins with a book, Freedom Reads supports the efforts of people in prison to transform their lives through increased access to books and writers. For more information about Freedom Reads and the Freedom Libraries project, please visit https://freedomreads.org.

Contact Information:
Megan Stencel
Senior Account Executive
[email protected]

Original Source: Freedom Reads Brings Literary Presentation to Men’s and Women’s Prisons in Rhode Island

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