Freedom Library conceived by Reginald Dwayne Betts, former prisoner-turned-acclaimed-poet, opens at DYS’ Edward J. Loughran Memorial Library in Dorchester, Massachusetts
NEW HAVEN, Conn., July 28, 2023 (Newswire.com)
Today, the national nonprofit Freedom Reads opened a Freedom Library within the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services’ (DYS) Metropolitan Boston Youth Service Center. This Freedom Library, the first to be opened in a Massachusetts youth facility, is part of an ongoing partnership between Freedom Reads and DYS. Freedom Libraries have previously opened in adult facilities across Massachusetts, including at MCI-Norfolk, Old Colony Correctional Center, MCI-Concord, and MCI Pondville.
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 seek to create a space to encourage community and 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 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.”
Betts’ nonprofit is a first-of-its-kind organization that empowers people through literature to imagine new possibilities for their lives. 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 poets, novelists, and essayists alongside classic works from Homer’s The Odyssey to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, titles that remind us the book has long been a freedom project.
“Our very first Freedom Library was opened in a Massachusetts facility. With the opening of this Freedom Library at the Metropolitan Boston Youth Service Center, we hope to continue to create community spaces where young readers can find beauty and imagine new possibilities for their lives,” said Reginald Dwayne Betts, Founder and CEO of Freedom Reads. “We are grateful that the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services continues to share our goal of creating opportunities for daily engagement with literature inside their facilities and a space for books, inquiry, imagination, and community.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Reginald Dwayne Betts and Freedom Reads on this important initiative,” said DYS Commissioner Cecely Reardon. “The addition of a Freedom Library to the Edward J. Loughran Memorial Library provides our young people with an invaluable opportunity to explore a variety of literary genres and discover texts that speak to their experiences. The Freedom Library is a fantastic complement to the Edward J. Loughran Memorial Library and builds on the legacy of Edward ‘Ned’ Loughran, who led the agency during a critical period of development and whose vision is still evident in our programming.”
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 https://freedomreads.org/.
About Massachusetts Department of Youth Services:
For more information on the Department of Youth Services please go to www.mass.gov/DYS.
Department of Youth Services
Freedom Reads Partners With the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) to Empower Youth Through Literature
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