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'Free Minds Book Club' empowers young inmates in D.C. Jail

The 'Free Minds Book Club' empowers young men in D.C. Jail who are facing adult sentences to open up through poetry. All it takes is a pen and a sheet of paper and what these men do with that is extraordinary. Their next poetry reading will be on April 27 at 7 p.m. (ABC7)

The Shakespeare Theatre in the District is holding a special poetry reading. The poems being read are from the journal "The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison."

The poems were written by young inmates in the D.C. jail serving adult sentences and those reading the poems are Poet Ambassadors, former inmates who have now turned their lives around.

It's part of "Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop."

Tara Libert and Kelli Taylor founded Free Minds more than 10 years ago, believing in the power of books and creative writing to change lives. The Poet Ambassadors are proof of that transformation.

Frankie Armstrong credits Free Minds with helping him see a new path while he was in jail.

"I started reading things that I went through, seeing other people. It kind of planted a picture so I understood more," says Armstrong.

Fellow Poet Ambassador Doug Chambers says if it weren't for Free Minds, he would still be in jail.

"They're like my family now," explains Chambers.

Alvin James spent more than a decade behind bars. Free Minds is helping him find a job through its reentry program. James also wants to go back to school.

"If not for the connections to positive groups like Free Minds, their outcomes would've been very different," notes Frederick Rogers, D.C. Department of Corrections Juvenile Services Program Manager.

Now thanks to Free Minds, the young men hope to make a difference in the lives of other teens, by sharing their experiences.

"It just gives them purpose, and really in life that's what we're all looking for," says Libert. "And we're just so ecstatic that we're able to provide that forum. That's all we do."

Free Minds will hold its next poetry reading, along with a panel discussion, on April 27, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.freemindsbookclub.org. You can also find a copy of the book on their website.


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