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How Reading & Writing Are Helping Keep Former Juvenile Offenders Out Of Jail


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Mar 01, 2015

Reading and writing is not just a necessity for education, but also needed as a tool for survival. For example: if somebody does not know how to read and write, a bottle with a warning label on it stating that its poisonous, could be detrimental to them. So, reading and writing is a way of life. Reading and writing has long served a purpose of helping, inspiring and motivating others through literature.

A non-profit organization called the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop took it to another level, when they founded the workshop to help inmates in jail and prison.

The workshop started when one of the founders who was a journalist at the time, started exchanging letters from a man on death row. The letters Kelli Taylor wrote to the inmate helped him deal with being on death row and gave him a whole new perspective about his sentence. Seeing the effectiveness of the letters, Taylor was inspired and wanted to help other inmates who were serving time behind bars, and recruited Tara Libert and started the the non-profit workshop.

The two of them came up with a mission statement of making an impact, to help inmates and juvenile offenders change their lives around and to redeem their souls through poetry, the art of literature and; writing from their hearts.

The members of the workshop meet every week to discuss and speak on various topics about books that they've read, contemporary literature, current events through publishing and memoirs from inmates who became writers; such as Nathan McCall, who is the author for the book, Makes Me Wanna Holler.

The website for the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop shares blog posts of success stories from inmates who were and currently involved with their programs. When the inmates graduate, the workshop awards them with an alumni certificate upon their release from jail or prison, From there, the workshop continues to assist the inmates with job placement and also, registration for college, online courses and other career building classes.

In an article published by The Washington Post, they interviewed three former inmates who utilize the services which Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop provides. The inmates are juveniles who met while they were all behind bars, they are as follow: Robert Barksdale, Phil Mosby, and Juan Peterson. All three of them are friends who support and motivate one another, to not participate in any crimes, drugs ;and to remain focus, by being positive in order to change their lives.

Barksdale, Mosby and Peterson have written poetry and short stories about their experiences in jail. And also, have written artistic poetry, imaginative literature and more.

Juan Peterson who is aiming to become a lawyer wrote the poem below, about finding his light and being renewed.

Check out the poem below.

No more heartaching sins

from the dark place within

thinking of back then it’s too complicated to comprehend

I’m awestruck from the view

It’s like I’m seeing two

My mind is displaying a brighter hue

It feels good to be brand new

During their interview, Robert Barksdale expressed to The Washinton Post how the Free Minds Book Club & Workshop helped him find his passion for writing.

"Writing opened up a passion in me," Barksdale said "That’s what you need to get through. Phil and Juan know; they were on the block with me -- I began to read books, I wrote poetry, got my vocational certificate."

Phil Mosby stated how the workshop helped him attain his freedom and not just freedom from jail, but himself. 

"I want to understand freedom … I want to be able to have a job that can make a decent living," Mosby told The Washington Post. 

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop continues to extend their services to inmates in Washington D.C. and plan to expand their organization from state to state.