Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

WISH LIST: $100: postage for 200 letters to incarcerated youth; $500: metro cards for 15 youth to attend job readiness workshops; $1000: books and supplies for 3 book club sessions at the DC Jail

In 2010, more than 100 males ages 16 and 17 were charged as adults for felony crimes and incarcerated at the DC Jail. On average, they read at a fifth-grade level and many see criminal activity as their only recourse when they return home. Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop uses books and creative writing to empower young inmates (450 in the last 10 years) to transform their lives. The club meets weekly at the jail to discuss a work of literature. Most inmates report that they have never before read an entire book: for many, it is the first time they have felt connected to one. And writing encourages reflection on the consequences of their actions, their dreams for the future. Opportunities like GED preparation and job training programs are available to those who reenter the community. As one young writer explains: "Before Free Minds I thought I was made for the streets and nothing else ... until they got me to write my first poems, read books, and open my eyes."