In DC, children as young as 16 can be sentenced as adults for felony crimes and incarcerated in the DC jail. Typically from the city’s poorest, most violent neighborhoods, these kids see criminal activity as their only recourse. Reaching more than 350 young people each year, Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop uses books and creative writing to empower incarcerated youth to transform their lives. Teens attend twice-weekly book club sessions (most report that they have never before read an entire book) and when they move on to federal prison at age 18 – mostly far from home – Free Minds sends cards, newsletters, books, and feedback on their poetry. The re-entry program offers apprenticeships, GED prep, and job skills training to support young men and help them stay on track. The recidivism rate for members is only 24% – one third the national rate for juveniles sentenced as adults. Your support helps these young people turn their lives around, creating a better world … for all of us.

Headquarters: DC-Ward 2

Where They Operate: DC-Citywide

Age Groups Served: Pre-teen/teen (12-17); Young adult (18-24); Adult (25-49)

Population(s) Served: Men/Boys; ; Low- to Moderate-Income Community Members

Schools They Work In: Free Minds works with the DC Incarcerated Youth Program (

  • Number of people (clients, patrons, students, etc) we serve annually:   500
  • Number of volunteers who work with us annually:   250
  • Number of books (textbooks, school supplies) distributed/donated annually:   2000
  • Percentage of Free Minds members who do not recidivate:   90%

Awards & Recognition

May 2010, National Book Foundation INNOVATIONS IN READING Prize.
2012, Mayor's Arts Award for OUTSTANDING ARTS EDUCATION.
2014-2015, Corrections Information Council BEST PRACTICES.
2015, Library of Congress BEST PRACTICES IN LITERACY Award.
May 2015, Council for Court Excellence JUSTICE POTTER STEWART Award.
June 2015, Aspen Institute ASPEN IDEAS Award.


Budget (FY2014)

  • $3 million or higher
  • $1 million to $3 million
  • The current budget for Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop is: $500k to $1 million
  • Less than $500k

Catalogue charities range in size from $100,000 to $3 million. This graphic indicates the budget range of the organization featured here. If you see an organizational budget above the $3 million mark, that is because the featured charity has grown in size since it first appeared in the Catalogue. We proudly present on our website the work of these "growth" charities.

About the Catalogue for Philanthropy

Each year 120 expert reviewers evaluate applicants for distinction, merit, and impact. Each featured charity has been successfully site visited and its financials given the thumbs up. The Catalogue for Philanthropy charges no fees and raises funds separately to support its work. Since 2003, it has raised over $40 million for charities across the Greater Washington region.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy looks to friends like you to keep our services independent and entirely free of charge. Consider a small contribution to the Catalogue to cap off your gift and help the causes you care about get the full support they deserve!

If you like Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop you might also like

This organization collaborates with