Reginald Dwayne Betts is exploring the impact of violence and incarceration on American society through law, poetry, and performance.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. For more than twenty years, he has used his poetry and essays to explore the world of prison and the effects of violence and incarceration on American society.
He is the author of a memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, as well as three collections of poetry, including Felon, which won the American Book Award. In 2019, Betts won the National Magazine Award in the Essays and Criticism category for his New York Times Magazine essay that chronicles his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney. He has been awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Emerson Fellowship at New America, and a Civil Society Fellow at Aspen. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.
Betts is also the Director of Freedom Reads, an initiative out of the Yale Law School’s Justice Collaboratory to seed 1,000 Freedom Libraries inside prisons across the country, radically transforming the access to literature for people who are incarcerated.
As an Emerson Collective Senior Fellow, Betts is transforming his collection of poetry Felon into a solo theater show that explores the post incarceration experience and lingering consequences of a criminal record through poetry, stories, and engaging with the timeless and transcendental art of papermaking.