NEW HAVEN, Conn., October 27, 2023 (Newswire.com) - The national non-profit Freedom Reads announced today the opening of an additional 13 Freedom Libraries at Otisville Correctional Facility in southeastern New York state. Freedom Reads previously opened three Freedom Libraries in August 2022. These additional 13 libraries mean that individuals in every cellblock at Otisville, as well as the staff, now have access to a Freedom Library. The opening yesterday featured a live performance of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, adapted and developed by our partner Literature to Life from Junot Diaz's award-winning novel.
These libraries mark an ongoing partnership with the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NY DOCCS), which have welcomed Freedom Libraries in several facilities statewide, including the Mid-State, Albion, Woodbourne, and Groveland Correctional Facilities. As part of these openings, Freedom Reads celebrates the opening of its 200th Freedom Library nationwide.
The Freedom Libraries, the brainchild of 2021 MacArthur Fellow and Yale Law School graduate Reginald Dwayne Betts, who was sentenced to nine years in prison at age 16, are spaces in prisons to encourage the full realization of self. The libraries are handcrafted out of wood and curved to contrast the straight lines and bars of prisons as well as to evoke Martin Luther King Jr.’s line about the “arc of the universe” bending “toward justice.” Centering beauty and dignity, the Freedom Libraries create a space in prisons that encourages community and the exploration of new possibilities.
Betts’ nonprofit is a first-of-its-kind organization that empowers people through literature to imagine new possibilities for their lives. Books in the Freedom Library have been carefully curated through consultations with thousands of poets, novelists, philosophers, teachers, friends, and voracious readers, resulting in a collection of books that are not only beloved but indispensable. The libraries include contemporary poets, novelists, and essayists alongside classic works from Homer’s The Odyssey to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass that remind us that the book has long been a freedom project.
“We are grateful to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for their continued support of Freedom Reads and our mission to inspire those incarcerated to imagine new possibilities for their lives,” said Reginald Dwayne Betts, Founder and CEO of Freedom Reads. “The 200th Freedom Library is a testament to the vital partnerships we have forged with state corrections departments around the country. It is fitting that we mark this milestone with NY DOCCS as they have been indispensable in our endeavor to ensure incarcerated New Yorkers have dedicated spaces for the type of creativity, community, and hope that we believe can transform lives. And thanks to the commitment of Freedom Reads' supporters to this significant investment in the lives of incarcerated people, the Freedom Libraries, each handcrafted with natural woods and holding a curated collection of 500 brand-new books, come at no cost to the prisons where we open them.”
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Daniel F. Martuscello III said, “The Department is proud to help mark the opening of the 200th Freedom Library with the latest installation at Otisville Correctional Facility. The ability for staff and incarcerated individuals to easily access a wide range of literature within the facility is priceless. I thank Freedom Reads and Reginald Dwayne Betts for their partnership and look forward to continuing this meaningful work together.”
About Freedom Reads:
Founded by Reginald Dwayne Betts, who knows firsthand the dispiriting forces of prison, Freedom Reads works to empower people through literature to confront what prison does to the spirit. Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and inspired by the recognition that freedom begins with a book, Freedom Reads supports the efforts of people in prison to transform their lives through increased access to books and writers. For more information about Freedom Reads and the Freedom Libraries project, please visit https://freedomreads.org/.
For more information, please contact Megan Stencel at [email protected] or (703)-490-8845.Contact Information:
Original Source: Freedom Libraries Opened in Otisville Correctional Facility