From the archives: Author and activist Reginald Dwayne Betts on the power of books

A woman and man in a zoom conversation
Reginald Dwayne Betts (right) animates the ideals of justice, integrity and equity in his work as both an attorney and a poet. He went to prison as a teenager for carjacking and later went to Yale to study law. He joined MPR News host Kerri Miller on the virtual Talking Volumes stage for a conversation about race, criminal justice and reading.
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Reginald Dwayne Betts animates the ideals of justice, integrity and equity in his work as both an attorney and a poet.

Betts is also the founding director of Freedom Reads, which aims to establish freedom libraries in prisons across the country. He said it exposes people to the various ways that poetry, fiction, memoir and other literature operate.

“Prison is a brutal place, but I don't want to act like prison is just a brutal place. A man I didn't know heard me ask for a book and slid me ‘The Black Poets’ because he thought it might matter to me. It profoundly changed my life,” Betts said.

Their conversation was the first of four included in MPR and the Star Tribune’s Talking Volumes series in 2021 centered around race in America.

Guest:

  • Reginald Dwayne Betts is the founder and director of Freedom Reads, a first-of-its-kind organization that empowers people through literature to confront what prison does to the spirit.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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