Criminal Law and Justice

Freedom Libraries: The Million Book Project

September 22, 2020  • Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

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Dwayne Betts’ story is one of tribulation and triumph. At 16, he was tried as an adult and spent eight years in prison. He discovered a love for literature while incarcerated and decided to become a writer.

photo of Dwayne Betts

Dwayne Betts. photo credit: Mamadi Doumbouya

Since his release in 2005, Betts has published three books of poetry and one memoir, received accolades and fellowships from an NAACP image award to a Guggenheim fellowship; was appointed to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by President Obama and received a law degree from Yale. Currently, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in law while giving speeches across the U.S. Most recently, Betts and Elizabeth Alexander, the Mellon Foundation president, announced their Million Book Project—an initiative that will establish libraries in 1,000 prisons across the U.S.

Listen in to hear a moving testament on the power of literature and reading to change lives forever.

Episode transcript available here.

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About Shades of Freedom

Shades of Freedom, from The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is a new podcast amplifying and uplifting promising efforts aimed at reducing mass incarceration, and looking at the ecosystem of related inequalities that surrounds and perpetuates incarceration.

The podcast can be found on all the major platforms, including Apple, Google, and Spotify. You can also listen from the from the series home page or listen to the current episode at the top of this page.

The Shades of Freedom podcast, hosted by Dr. Douglas E. Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is named after and inspired by the book Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, by Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.