New ‘Freedom Libraries’ in California Institutions Seek to Inspire Those Incarcerated to Imagine New Possibilities

Freedom Libraries, conceived by former prisoner-turned-acclaimed-poet, open at Correctional Training Facility

The national nonprofit Freedom Reads announced today the opening of 24 Freedom Libraries inside the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad, California. The Freedom Libraries will be placed in 22 of the facility's housing units for unfettered access to the 500-book collection. In addition to the libraries placed in CTF's housing units, 2 libraries will be placed for staff use.

The opening of these 24 libraries is a part of Freedom Reads' ongoing partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Freedom Libraries have previously been opened at Valley State Prison (VSP) and Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California. Freedom Reads returned to CCWF on May 1 with an additional 11 libraries. 

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, the Freedom Libraries are placed where people in prison spend guaranteed time: in the housing units, where there aren't barriers to access, where reaching for a book can be as spontaneous as human curiosity. Each bookshelf is handcrafted out of maple, walnut or cherry and is curved to contrast the straight lines and bars of prisons as well as to evoke Martin Luther King Jr.'s line about the "arc of the universe" bending "toward justice." 

On May 3, following the openings of the Freedom Libraries, Reginald Dwayne Betts will perform for an audience at CTF his one-man show 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 show is based on Betts' 2019 poetry collection Felon

"We are thankful for our ongoing partnership with CDCR and our shared goal of creating opportunities for unfettered access to literature inside their facilities," said Reginald Dwayne Betts, Founder and Executive Director of Freedom Reads. "I know first-hand how isolating living inside prisons can be. CDCR isn't just letting us bring books into these facilities; instead, they are allowing us to bring beautiful handmade bookshelves that create spaces of community within an environment often devoid of hope. These libraries at CTF will create the opportunity for daily engagement with literature and foster an environment that will allow those incarcerated to imagine new possibilities for their lives. "

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. Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and 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 .


For more information, please contact Megan Stencel at [email protected] or (703)-490-8845.

Contact Information:
Megan Stencel
Account Executive
[email protected]

Original Source: New 'Freedom Libraries' in California Institutions Seek to Inspire Those Incarcerated to Imagine New Possibilities

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