Free Minds uses books and creative writing to empower incarcerated youth and adults, awakening them to their own potential. During biweekly workshops at New Beginnings Youth Development Center (for teens) and the DC Jail (for adults), Free Minds members read stories and poetry that reflect their lives and then learn to write (and even publish) their own. After sentencing, when members move on to federal prisons across the country, Free Minds sends cards, newsletters, books, and feedback on their poetry. The re-entry program offers a weekly book club and writing workshops, apprenticeships, and job skills training to help members achieve their goals for a successful homecoming. In 2018, Free Minds served more than 900 individuals and achieved a recidivism rate of just 13%, compared to the national average of 75% for young adults an extraordinary achievement. Your support turns lives around.

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 (http://profiles.dcps.dc.gov/incarcerated+youth)


  • 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.

Press

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

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