The Inside Literary Prize began when Lori Feathers, co-owner of Interabang Books in Dallas, floated the idea to a friend at the Center for Justice Innovation after reading an article about a similar award in France. With support from the Center, Freedom Reads, and the National Book Foundation, 300 incarcerated people will read and discuss each book before leaving their mark on the national conversation by deciding on a winner. The award is a much-needed acknowledgement, Feathers notes, that “people in prisons…are part of our humanity.”
In collaboration with the Center for Justice Innovation, Freedom Reads, and the National Book Foundation, the Inside Literary Prize is the first major US book award to be decided by incarcerated people. 300 people across six states will serve on the jury for the award, announcing a winner in June 2024. The four books nominated for the prize will also be made available in each facility’s library, ensuring that more incarcerated people have a chance to participate in the national conversation and make their voices heard.
“The award tells us, hey, we can add meaning, it shows us that our word can count too.” That was John J. Lennon, one of the jurors of the Inside Literary Prize—the first major book prize in the United States to be awarded by people currently in prison, supported in part by the Center for Justice Innovation. 300 incarcerated people will choose a winner among recent books by four renowned authors: Tess Gunty, Jamil Jan Kochai, Roger Reeves, and Imani Perry. “I’m glad that the literary establishment is recognizing the people inside,” Perry commented. “They have a great deal of critical insight and wisdom about literature.”
Our very first program, the Midtown Community Court, now has a new name: the Midtown Community Justice Center. In its 30 years of innovation, the program has taken an increasingly holistic approach to justice, connecting people to a range of vital services not only within the legal system but outside of it as well. As Chief Judge Rowan Wilson said at the program’s 30th anniversary celebration, the Midtown Community Justice Center is a “lifeline for the New Yorkers it serves and for the communities from which they come.”
In a new initiative of Freedom Reads, the Center for Justice Innovation, and the National Book Foundation, a panel of people incarcerated in prisons across 6 U.S. states will collectively choose a book to receive a new award, the Inside Literary Prize, as the New York Times reports. Inspired by a similar initiative that took place in France, the award gives incarcerated people an opportunity to shape the national discourse around literature and culture. As Freedom Reads founder Reginald Dwayne Betts puts it: “Being able to say that this is the dopest book this year, chosen by these men and women still in prison, is ultimately about saying that their lives matter.”
“We want to make real that people are more than the crash.” The New York Times profiles our Circles for Safe Streets program, which brings drivers face-to-face with the people they have harmed to do something all too rare in the criminal legal system: talk to each other. In this piece, hear from Hillary Packer—associate director of restorative practices at the Center—as well as people who have taken part in Circles for Safe Streets from both sides of a car crash.
Our Executive Director Courtney Bryan is recognized in City & State New York and NYN Media’s Nonprofit Power 100. The annual list celebrates nonprofit leaders with a strong track record of serving under-resourced communities. We are so excited to see our work represented alongside other leaders and organizations committed to building a better, more just New York for all.
“All these systems are basically failing these kids.” That was one of our research team’s major takeaways from their recent report on why some young people in Brooklyn carry guns. In Amsterdam News, Center researchers Basaime Spate, Javonte Alexander, and Elise White share what they found by talking to these young people directly and what those findings might tell us about how to put a stop to this violence.
As shootings increase among youth under 18 in New York City, it is vital to meet their needs and promote peace in the community. Our Save Our Streets program in Crown Heights shows News12 around their work as violence interrupters and youth advocates, and the impact it has on their neighborhood.
Supervised release programs in NYC, including those run by the Center, keep people out of jail and connected to the world; however, these programs are facing heavy caseloads as cash bail laws change. Fola Akinnibi and Sarah Holder explore the successes and effectiveness of supervised release in reducing incarceration and trauma, along with its future needs.