Reginald Dwayne Betts
Februrary 26, 2024 | 6:00 PM
Confined as an adolescent in the worst prisons in the state of Virginia, Reginald Dwayne Betts became a poet, a scholar, and an advocate for the reform of the criminal justice system. He is the author of a memoir, “A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison,” and four acclaimed collections of poetry, including one collaboration with visual artist Titus Kaphar. Writes poet Mark Doty of “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” “Betts has written an indelible lament for a generation”; while Sujatha Baliga, director of the Restorative Justice Project, says of “Felon”: “[Betts’s] compassion and breathtaking literary gifts make it impossible for us to look away or remain complicit in mass criminalization’s status quo.” In 2019, Betts won the National Magazine Award in the Essays and Criticism category for a New York Times Magazine essay on his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney. He is also the founder of Freedom Reads, a first-of-its-kind organization working to radically transform access to literature in prison.
“I survived solitary, and rediscovered a sense of freedom the system had tried to beat out of me, because of a book. I realized that a poem can give somebody a whole world of hope. And after reading that book, I dedicated myself to helping other prisoners, and people outside of prison, discover the freedom blueprint that poetry, literature, and other arts can provide.”
Februrary 26, 2024
The Prior Performing Arts Center