A unique prison narrative that testifies to the power of books to transform a young man's life
At the age of sixteen, R. Dwayne Betts-a good student from a lower- middle-class family-carjacked a man with a friend. He had never held a gun before, but within a matter of minutes he had committed six felonies. In Virginia, carjacking is a "certifiable" offense, meaning that Betts would be treated as an adult under state law. A bright young kid, he served his nine-year sentence as part of the adult population in some of the worst prisons in the state.
A Question of Freedom chronicles Betts's years in prison, reflecting back on his crime and looking ahead to how his experiences and the books he discovered while incarcerated would define him. Utterly alone, Betts confronts profound questions about violence, freedom, crime, race, and the justice system. Confined by cinder-block walls and barbed wire, he discovers the power of language through books, poetry, and his own pen. Above all, A Question of Freedom is about a quest for identity-one that guarantees Betts's survival in a hostile environment and that incorporates an understanding of how his own past led to the moment of his crime.
Avery Publishing Group
Avery Publishing Group
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"A Question of Freedom" is a must read! This is an amazing testament to R. Dwayne Betts' resiliency and determination and exposes the failure of laws that passed in the 1990's to prosecute and lock up more kids in the adult criminal justice system. Dwayne is a gifted writer and his writing gives us incredible insights into how the criminal justice system really works. The author will be speaking on a book tour and dates/times can be found on his website at: [...] Congratulations to R. Dwayne Betts for his amazing work!
Here's the story about an intelligent kid (not a thug) that grew up in a predominately Black area. The one older person he admires tells him how he got revenge on the police that abused him by carjacking "a whitey". Having never spoken to a white person himself, Betts honors his Peer by imitating his crime. He is sentenced to 9 years in an adult prison, where he spends the majority of his time, improving himself while seeking out (the knowledge) that will appease his desire to understand who he really is. Transferred from one prison to another, some bad some not so bad, he experiences a series of epiphanies, that mark his progress, told in such a way that can only be described as remarkable. He gets into trouble and goes to confinement frequently to read and contemplate his goals with less distraction. Towards the end of his sentence he teaches himself another language and describes prison as the most culturally diverse place he'd been to up to that point. But through it all...
I read this book for answers as to why so many young men make bad choices that land them in prison. One can see prison as a logical destination for somebody with poor schooling and few marketable skills. The three hots and a cot plus health benefits that prison offers might be a better prospect than anything else. But R. Dwight Betts was different. An honor student with no criminal record, Betts was on the college track not the prison track. Yet, prison was where he was sent, at the age of 16, for carjacking. The judge gave him nine years (He could have received 5 years for robbery, 3 years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and 15 years for carjacking. Perhaps Betts' age and scholastic achievements helped reduce his sentence). Betts does an adequate job of describing those nine years. But, no where in the book does he explain why he committed the crime. There is, however, a kind of epiphany in one of the last chapters, when Betts observes another young inmate in for...
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