Felon: A Play
Before emerging as a critically acclaimed writer and poet and earning appointments to criminal justice panels by President Obama and the governor of Connecticut, before earning a succession of degrees including a J.D. from Yale Law School, Reginald Dwayne Betts spent more than eight years in prison for committing a carjacking. Released at age 24, he now channels the experience and impact of incarceration into his work, including his 2019 book Felons: Poems.
Betts carries that dialogue into a special online Library event featuring an excerpt of a solo performance, based on Felon, that he is developing. Felon: A Play speaks to mass incarceration and the challenges of having a complicated conversation about crime, punishment, and sorrow in contemporary America. Betts also discusses the show in the broader context of literary work on those issues.
Betts, now 40, has written four collections of poetry and a memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, released in 2009. Felon: Poems won the 2019 NAACP Image Award for outstanding literary work in poetry and was named one of The New York Times's 100 Notable Books of 2020. Betts also is founder and director of the Million Book Project, in partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, whose mission is to establish libraries of 500 curated books in prisons across the country.
Watch the Library presentation live online at YouTube.com/kclibrary.