On Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, 9 am ET, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Poet, Essayist, Lecturer on Mass Incarceration, was our guest on Criminal Justice Insider with Babz Rawls Ivy & Jeff Grant – The Voice of CT Criminal Justice. Live on WNHH 103.5 FM New Haven, rebroadcast at 5 pm. Live-streamed and podcast everywhere, see below. Sponsored by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven – Now More Than Ever.
A poet, essayist and national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice, Reginald Dwayne Betts writes and lectures about the impact of mass incarceration on American society. He is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era and Shahid Reads His Own Palm, as well as a memoir, A Question of Freedom. A graduate of Yale Law School, he lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife and their two sons.
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With the groundbreaking FELON [W. W. Norton & Company; October 15, 2019; $26.95 hardcover], celebrated poet Reginald Dwayne Betts tells the story of a man confronting post-incarceration life, struggling to reenter a society that doesn’t offer open arms. The reader follows Betts’s speaker through the pains of reentry, homelessness, underemployment, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood, and finally redemptive love. As Betts makes clear, the trappings of life on the outside don’t make prison simply go away: “You come home & become a parade / of confessions that leave you drowning, / lost recounting the disappeared years” (49).
These stories are extraordinarily personal to Betts. As he wrote about last fall in a National Magazine Award–winning New York Times Magazine essay, “Could an Ex-Convict Become an Attorney? I Intended to Find Out,” Betts himself served nine years in adult prison, and came out the other end; he went back to school, started a family, and ultimately was accepted to and graduated from Yale Law School.
In this powerful collection, Betts swings between traditional and newfound forms, from the crown of sonnets that serves as the volume’s conclusion to revolutionary erasure poems. Redacting legal documents that challenged the continued incarceration of individuals simply because they did not have the money to make bail, Betts illustrates the injustice of a legal system that exploits and erases the poor and imprisoned from public consciousness. Traditionally, redaction expunges what is top secret; in FELON, Betts redacts what is superfluous, bringing into focus the profound failures of the criminal justice system and the inadequacy of the labels it generates. From “In Alabama” (20):
With astonishing skill, formal inventiveness, and rare insight, Betts brings us a book that is not only a must-read for poetry lovers but a necessary contribution to the effort to understand what it means to be a “felon.”
For more information and to order “Felon”: https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393652147
The Criminal Justice Insider Podcast with Babz Rawls Ivy and Jeff Grant is broadcast live at 9 am ET on the first and third Friday of each month Sept. through June, from the WNHH 103.5 FM studios in New Haven. It is rebroadcast on WNHH at 5 pm ET the same day. Podcast and Archive available all the time, everywhere.
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Season Three Guests:
Fri., Sept. 6, 2019: Khalil Cumberbatch, Chief Strategist at New Yorkers United for Justice
Fri., Sept. 20, 2019: Aaron T. Kinzel, Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Michigan-Dearborn
Fri., Oct. 4, 2019: Charlie Grady, Outreach Specialist for the FBI CT Community Outreach Program
Fri., Oct. 18, 2019: Michael Kimelman, Former Hedge Funder and Author of Confessions of a Wall Street Insider: A Cautionary Tale of Rats, Feds, and Banksters
Fri., Nov. 1, 2019: Corey Brinson, Former Attorney Convicted for a White Collar Crime who is running for Hartford City Council
Fri., Nov. 15, 2019: Cathryn Lavery, Ph.D., Asst. Chair & Graduate Coordinator for the Iona College Criminal Justice Department
Fri., Dec. 6, 2019: “Free Prison Phone Calls” Show, Guests to be Announced.
Fri. Dec. 20, 2019: John Hamilton, CEO, Liberation Programs
Fri., Jan. 3, 2020: Reginald Dwayne Betts, Lawyer, Poet, Lecturer on Mass Incarceration
Fri., Jan. 17, 2019: Serena Ligouri, Executive Director, New Hour for Women & Children – L.I.
Fri., Feb. 7, 2020: David Garlock, Program Director, New Person Ministries, Lancaster, PA
Fri., Mar. 20, 2020: Tiheba Bain, Women’s Incarceration Advocate
Sponsored by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven – Now More Than Ever.