The mission of Free Minds – Book Club & Writing Workshop is to introduce young inmates to how powerful books and creative writing can be, how writing can express emotions and put into words the challenges they are going through. In addition, youth can often relate to characters and story situations that they read about. Reading and writing can help them see their is potential for educational and career goals.
Free Minds was founded in 2002 in the Washington DC area to help at-risk teens to the life-changing power of reading and writing. The program started as a bi-weekly program and today Free Minds has expanded its services to include a twice-weekly Book Club Program; a Continuing Support Program which provides new books, written correspondence to members after transfer to federal prison, and pen-pals; and a Reentry Support Program which connects released members to the people, programs and services in the community that will help them to achieve their new educational and career goals.
Free Minds uses books and creative writing to empower young inmates to transform their lives.
Many teenagers are tried and sentenced as adults in the DC area. Most of these teens come from extreme poverty and from crime-stricken areas areas of the city. Average educational level is only fifth grade and most of dropped out of school. Several of these teens have parents that are incarcerated as well. The path for these teens seem to be one of illiteracy, crime and prison. Upon reentry into society, without education or life skills, these teens return to prison, continuing the cycle.
Free Minds is hoping to try and halt this cycle. Free Minds is helping the youth become excited about learning, about how education can transform their lives and that they can have positive and rewarding futures.
Many of the Free Minds graduates have obtained their GED’s, returned to public school, gained employment and have been accepted into vocational and professional schools. In addition, many life and personal skills have been learned through Free Minds such as, strengthening family bonds, attitude adjustments towards higher education, development of self-awareness and self-esteem. Some of the other skills that have been gained are becoming positive role models, being representatives for Free Minds, advocacy for reading and writing and most importantly – to continue ready and writing.
To read about several of Free Minds success stories – please read more here.