Book Club for Youth in Federal Prison

by Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop
Apr 12, 2013

Viewing the World through a Different Lens

Reading during Book Club at the DC Jail
Reading during Book Club at the DC Jail

Dear Free Minds Friends,

We are so thrilled that spring has finally reached Washington DC! Last time we updated you, our winter book order was just going out, and our incarcerated Free Minds members were beginning to read The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place by Hill Harper as part of our Books Across the Miles (BAM!) reading initiative. In the past months we’ve gotten some great feedback from our members about the book, which re-conceptualizes wealth to include the value of building strong relationships. Here’s what some of our members had to say about the book:

"The Wealth Cure is definitely a '5' hands down. I really enjoyed it, maybe because those types of conversations and books grab my attention.” —Devonte

“I read The Wealth Cure, and I was amazed, really. That’s the first book of his that I had ever read, and now I want to read his whole collection! One day while I was on lockdown I got completely lost in my book. I started reading around 5:30 or 6:00 PM and next time I checked my watch it was past 11! I read something in that Hill Harper book that blew my mind. He said that doing the things that bring you the most joy in life will ultimately lead you to your purpose in life. The way Hill Harper flowed smoothly through that book with the strength that comes along with honesty and vulnerability...I was in awe. That’s something I aspire to—I want my book to be like that. I want my life to be like that.”—Jonas

In Free Minds we have long held to the belief that anyone can learn to love reading; all it takes is the right book. For this reason in addition to our BAM! selections, we also send our members additional books we think they would enjoy based on their individual personalities and interests. We send fiction, mysteries, biographies, drawing books, graphic novels, GED and vocational training books—you name it. We understand that books can serve a functional purpose as well. For many of our incarcerated members, the books we send are the only opportunity they have to acquire practical information about job skills. And as one Free Minds member explains, books have the power to transform lives and allow people to see the world in a whole new light: 

"My perspective on life has risen to heights through the books that Free Minds has exposed me to. They bring books that I never before would have thought came close to reality or at least my reality.  But reading books and mind-provoking literature has opened my mind to view the world through a different lens."—Robert

Another exciting project we’ve been working on lately is revamping our monthly newsletter to federal prison, The Connect. We’ve been working tirelessly to solicit feedback on the newsletter so we can include information that our members find engaging, relevant, and educational. The extra effort seems to be working because we’ve gotten increasing requests from cellmates of Free Minds members asking if they can subscribe to the newsletter as well! We’ve changed the format to include a regular writing advice column, a regular international page and news updates column, and a monthly article about our current BAM! book. Every issue also has a theme that members can respond to by contributing their own original thoughts, poems, and art. Our most recent theme was “Trust.”

As youth in the adult system, many of our members spend tremendous amounts of time in lockdown for their own protection. In solitary confinement, our members spend 23 hours a day alone in their cells and 1 hour outside of their cells. The books, newsletters, and writing feedback we send help them process through their isolation and keep their minds active and their spirits up:

“I survived 90 days on lockdown all by myself in my cell. Reading books made me get through it. Before Free Minds came I didn’t read at all. It was nothing I wanted to do at all. When I was reading I could picture all the things they were talking about like it was a movie. It let me know what things are going on around the world. Books showed me that life doesn’t revolve around my neighborhood. They made my reading level go up too!”—Malik

“I never thought I would love Harry Potter. I wasn’t into dragons and wizards and all that stuff. But when I was on lockdown, I just wanted to read so badly. If it hadn’t been for those Harry Potter books, I would never have gotten through solitary confinement.”—Andre  

Books provide a vital lifeline between our members and the outside community, and we couldn’t make that connection without all your support. Thank you so much for believing in the power of literature to create change!

The cover of our most recent issue of The Connect
The cover of our most recent issue of The Connect
The Connect newsletter ready to be mailed
The Connect newsletter ready to be mailed
Member Everett finds his poem in our journal
Member Everett finds his poem in our journal
Popular books with Free Minds youth
Popular books with Free Minds youth
The Wealth Cure by Hill Harper
The Wealth Cure by Hill Harper



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Organization Information

Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Tara Libert
Washington, District of Columbia United States
$17,500 raised of $20,000 goal
382 donations
$2,500 to go
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