A QUESTION OF FREEDOM by Dwayne Betts

This book walks through Dwayne Betts’s experience with prison from the moment he gets locked up at 16 to his release 8 years later. It’s about the institution as much as it’s about the individual. It’s also about resisting dehumanization by paying attention to the people around you. He says something like it takes 2 weeks to hear your bunkie’s life story. After that, you’re just filling in gaps until you get another cellmate or are placed in solitary, stuck with your own story (and hopefully some books).

Betts isn’t a street dude by any means. He was a middle class kid involved in a carjacking that he struggles to rationalize throughout the book. He traded 30 minutes for 8 years in prison. But that unclear logic is very relatable to the other teenagers he meets who have been sentenced to 20, 30, 40 years in prison (or life or triple life). Street dude or not, the numbers make no sense. They’re supposed to symbolize something, but those are days and weeks and months of torture without redemption.

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