Books Behind Bars

As part of our conversations with winners of The Atlantic’s Renewal Awards, I spoke with Kelli Taylor and Tara Libert, co-founders of the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop.

Inspired initially by a connection with Glen McGinnis, a young man on death row in Texas for a murder committed under difficult circumstances while he was a teenager, the two women have built an innovative organization that provides prisoners with opportunities to express themselves and build community through reading and poetry writing. Starting in 2002 with youth convicted as adults in D.C. jails, the group now works with hundreds of incarcerated men and women as well as former prisoners reentering society. In 2015, the group published a book of their members’ poetry, The Untold Story of the Real Me.

Here’s a transcript of our exchange, lightly edited for length and clarity.