© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Poet, Former Inmate, Yale Law School Ph. D. Candidate Receives 'Genius Grant'

Prison cells
Courtesy of Pixabay

A formerly incarcerated poet and lawyer at Yale Law School has won the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship — commonly known as the Genius Grant.

Reginald Dwayne Betts spent more than eight years in prison for three carjacking felonies. When he got out, he turned his life around, won acclaim as a poet and passed the Bar in Connecticut.

Betts told the MacArthur Foundation his time in prison informs his work.

“People in prison are not obsessed with prison. People in prison, they become obsessed with freedom. If I write about prison every day for the rest of my life, the thing that I’m really writing about is that desire, that chase, that want, that hope for freedom,” Betts said.

Betts is a Ph.D candidate at Yale Law School. He recently founded a nonprofit called Freedom Reads to build libraries in prisons. And he is also a member of Connecticut’s Criminal Justice Commission, which appoints state prosecutors.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.