Freedom Library to Open in Colorado Prison

Library conceived by former prisoner-turned-acclaimed-poet opens at Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, bringing beauty, books - and hope - to those behind bars.

The national non-profit Freedom Reads announced today the opening of a Freedom Library at the Colorado state prison Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. This is the first installation of a Freedom Library in the state of Colorado.

The 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 seek to create a space in prisons to encourage 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 the book has long been a freedom project. Freedom Reads aims to build 1,000 Freedom Libraries in prisons nationwide. 

"As unlikely as it may seem, there can be beauty in prison. I discovered that when a stranger slipped me a book about poetry under my door in solitary confinement some 23 years ago and transformed my life. The almost 2 million incarcerated men and women in our country deserve the opportunity to encounter the wisdom and inspiration of the written word, and we are grateful that the Colorado Department of Corrections shares our goal of creating opportunities for daily engagement with literature inside their facilities," said Reginald Dwayne Betts, Founder and Executive Director of Freedom Reads. "With the opening of a Freedom Library in Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, we can support those who are incarcerated to imagine new possibilities for their lives." 

"It is critically important for our incarcerated population to have purpose behind the walls," said Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams. "Inmates having access to education, the arts, literature, music and other positive pursuits can provide purpose for the individual, but also collectively helps change the culture inside prisons. If we are serious about reducing recidivism and increasing the safety of our facilities, then we have to continue to look at ways to expand access to the outside world and help those men and women coming back to re-enter society better prepared and more inspired than when they came to us." 

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 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


For more information, please contact Megan Stencel at or (703)-490-8845.

Source: Freedom Reads


Categories: Educational News

Tags: colorado, criminal justice, department of corrections