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Jul 26, 2011

Free Minds Reentry Support Continues! Spring 2011

Free Minds Reentry Support Spring Update!

First, a giant thank-you is due to all those who participated in the one day matching funds challenge, as well our continued donors- we are honored and humbled by your support, and we truly couldn’t do it without you.

Free Minds has had a busy few months with events in our reentry support program- Book Club members home in the community have read their poems for a conference of school principals from across the country for the Department of Education, participated at open mics across the city, completed internships in our office, dialoged with students in the public policy program at Cesar Chavez Charter School, and more.

Our latest reentry event was a joint workshop with Free Minds members and their Probation Officers. This was, as you can imagine, an unusual proposition, but by the close of the evening everyone was energized by the results.   

Will, our Reentry Coach, led an exercise in which the Free Minds members pretended they were Probation Officers, and the PO’s pretended that they were recently home on probation and struggling to find employment. There was a lot of laughter, and surprising results. We concluded by all writing poetry together, and the Free Minds members were especially moved by the poem of one of the officers:


I Used to Work at the Jail

by a Community Supervision Officer


When you say I want to see you locked up,

what I want to say is that I used to work there

and I would never want to see you go back there.


When you say I want to see you locked up,

what I want to say is that your family deserves for you to be in the community,

but I can’t make those decisions for you.


When you say I want to see you locked up,

what I want to say is that your past does not have to dictate your future,

but you have to learn the lesson for yourself.


When you say I want to see you locked up,

what I want to say is that I used to work at the jail

and that experience is why I’m your Community Supervision Officer today,

to see the change beyond the jail.


Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience for everyone! Probation Officers and recently returned citizens can often find themselves in an antagonistic relationship, but these creative writing exercises helped them to understand each other and build a collaborative partnership. Your support helps us provide the basics like metro cards for youth who are home in the community to travel to and from these workshops. Each workshop helps to foster self-awareness within our members, root them further in the larger community, and to build a network of positive peer support that is so integral to preventing recidivism. We will be posting more updates with photos soon, so stay tuned!


With deep gratitude,


The Free Minds Team

Dec 14, 2010

What We've Been Up To! Fall 2010

Members and staff at a reentry workshop!
Members and staff at a reentry workshop!

Free Minds members participate in Reentry Internships, Book Festivals, and Poetry

Within the last few months, Free Minds has been able to host several events geared
toward our recently reentered youth. Because of your support, the previously
incarcerated youth in our program have attended reentry workshops, job training
programs, and outings focused around books and poetry. Thank you for your donations
thus far!

Free Minds members enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Baltimore in October for
the Baltimore Book Festival, where they explored new book releases and met authors
including Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore. Later that month, Free Minds attended an open mic night
poetry reading in downtown DC, where they met local poets and experienced a variety of
spoken-word performances.

One member, Chris, spoke about the ways that activities with Free Minds can promote positive peer support: "Free Minds brings together a lot of kids from neighborhoods together that really don't along- we come together and work together, and that can prevent a lot of future problems. We're going through the same thing, so we rely on each other. We all work together like a mini family."

Due to a generous offer from the Washington Redskins, six Free Minds youth were able
to watch their home team face the Minnesota Vikings live at the stadium for the first
time. “It was a privilege to attend the game,” said Wilbert, “Sometimes you never know
who has a surprise for you and that people really do care about helping you recover back
into society.”

Free Minds received press attention this fall for the book club phase of our program that happens inside the DC Jail, with an article in the Washington Post, and two members of our reentry program were interviewed on the radio! They spoke poignantly on what it feels like to be away from your family for the holidays, and the ways in which Free Minds (with your support) helped them in a successful reentry.

Two Free Minds members, Kenny and Darrell, joined the Free Minds office for a week-
long paid internship as part of the initial stages of their reentry process. Kenny and Darrell
performed administrative and clerical tasks, created their resumes, practiced job interview
skills, and attended employment fairs during their week in the office. “It’s been great
working with Free Minds” Kenny said at the end of the week, “because it allowed me to
learn new job skills and prepared me for the jobs I want in the future.”

 Each opportunity for a previously incarcerated young person to expand their horizons beyond the streets and
into professional, educational, and recreational activities drastically reduces their chances
of recidivism. Our youth depend on the support of generous donors like you to give them
these invaluable opportunities to continue to make positive strides in their life path.

Thank you again for your support!

Presenting at a conference on youth violence.
Presenting at a conference on youth violence.
During a reentry workshop on filmmaking.
During a reentry workshop on filmmaking.


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