uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken DC youth incarcerated as adults to their own potential. Through creative expression, job readiness training, and violence prevention outreach, these young poets achieve their education and career goals, and become powerful voices for change in the community.
The idea for Free Minds began with an unsolicited letter from a stranger. In 1996, Co-Founder Kelli Taylor was working as a journalist when she received a letter from Glen McGinnis, a young inmate on Texas’ death row. At that time, Glen had been incarcerated for more than five years for a crime committed when he was 17 years old. In response to this contact, Kelli produced a television documentary about Glen and other juveniles on death row in America. After the program aired, she continued to correspond with Glen over the next four years and ultimately participated in his remarkable journey of personal and educational growth. Books sent to him in prison provided the perfect common ground where two individuals from very different backgrounds could meet and their lives could be positively transformed. While Glen’s formal education ended at the age of 11, reading and writing opened up a whole new world of knowledge and possibility to him during his incarceration. Glen’s execution in 2000 was a catalyst for action. In 2002, Kelli and colleague Tara Libert founded the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop and committed themselves to introducing at-risk teens at the DC Jail to the life-changing power of reading and writing.
Free Minds began as a bi-weekly program for young inmates held in the DC Jail. As members were released or transferred to federal prison after turning 18, Kelli and Executive Director, Tara Libert, recognized that maintaining contact throughout incarceration and beyond was vital to helping these youths positively redirect their lives. Over the years, 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 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.
For more information, contact:
Free Minds Book Club
2201 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037