Position: Prison Book Club Coordinator

Application deadline: March 30, 2022

Experience inspiration every day as full-time coordinator of the growing signature program at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, Washington, DC.

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop builds community to foster personal development and systems change for justice-involved youth and adults. We use the literary arts, workforce development, trauma healing, peacebuilding, and member-led advocacy.

Our vision is that every Free Minds member is able to access the necessary opportunities, inspiration, and support to write new chapters in their lives.

The Prison Book Club Coordinator serves as the heart of the program, ensuring letters are written and mailed each week to book club members participating in Free Minds’ correspondence-based book club while serving in federal prisons across the United States. (*Note: This position is not inside a correctional facility.)

As a motivated, compassionate and creative individual, you play an important role in helping Free Minds expand the Prison Book Club—as well as volunteer engagement in the program—in the year ahead. As the program expands, there will be opportunities for advancement.   

You are a fit for this role if you have powerful emotional intelligence, a love of books/reading, and a commitment to social justice and community engagement. BIPOC candidates and those who are directly impacted by incarceration are strongly encouraged to apply.

The Prison Book Club Coordinator creates content and supports book club members, and recruits, trains, and oversees volunteers who engage with the program. 

About Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop:

Free Minds runs book clubs and writing workshops at the DC jail and juvenile detention center, as well as a long-distance, correspondence-based book club with members in the federal prison system. When members return to DC after their release, they join our reentry book club.

About the Prison Book Club program:

As DC does not have a prison, a majority of Free Minds members spend the larger part of their sentences in federal prisons across the country. Our Prison Book Club provides long-distance, written correspondence to members in more than 110 federal facilities. Members are shipped diverse books selected to meet their individual interests and requests. Members vote on the “Books Across the Miles” (BAM) book, which is sent to every member along with discussion questions. Their responses are featured in our Free Minds Connect magazine which features poetry, essays, and artwork from Free Minds members, staff and friends.

About Prison Book Club Volunteers:

Volunteer engagement is an important aspect of the coordinator’s role, and you will interface with volunteers in several ways.  

Through the Letter Writers Circle, volunteers meet weekly to read letters by members of the Prison Book Club and to write personalized responses. For example, Volunteer Lynn attends one week and writes a letter to Prison Book Club member Michael; the next time Lynnattends, they write a letter to member Steven. The Letter Writers Circle is focused on community support and on belonging rather than a one-on-one pen pal connection.

Volunteers also transcribe handwritten poetry and essays by members of the Prison Book Club, and participate in the On the Same Page program, including Write Night events or smaller events with the volunteer’s own network (such as a workplace, faith group, school, or other civic/social group).

The essential duties and functions of the Prison Book Club Coordinator include: 

  • Writing letters to incarcerated members 
  • Recruiting, training, and coordinating volunteers in the Letter Writers Circle (facilitating weekly sessions, communicating with volunteers outside of sessions, providing feedback and support for volunteers) 
    • Coordinating volunteers typing poems/essays received from Prison Book Club members; reviewing/proofing the work, mailing final copies to the incarcerated poets, and retaining digital files. 
  • Assisting with the On the Same Page program and monthly Write Night events
    • Identifying and preparing poems for public use at Write Night and On the Same Page events
    • Co-facilitating events/sessions as needed (virtual and in-person)
  • Assisting the managing editor by suggesting story ideas, gathering content from contributors and creating and editing content for the Free Minds Connect magazine. (See past issues here.)
  • Creating or editing other content for the Prison Book Club as needed, which may include photos with accompanying writing prompts, packets of self-guided literary and therapeutic activities, or other important resources or news (past examples have included mailings about stimulus payments, voter registration, COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, etc).
  • Maintaining the Free Minds poetry blog featuring poems by Prison Book Club members. 
  • Tracking member engagement, and maintaining the program database
  • Identifying publication opportunities for the work of book club members 
  • Maintaining other resources for incarcerated members (such as legal aid, advocacy, education, arts programs)
  • Assist with tri-annual (three times/year) book orders (including personalized book selections for members, ordering books through approved vendors, tracking returns and re-ordering as needed)
  • Assist with intern recruitment, training, and supervision as needed
  • Additional program support as needed 
  • Demonstrate commitment to program member needs, and flexibility, enthusiasm and compassion in working with members 
  • Exhibit personal interest for reading, writing and literacy programs

Qualifications:

  • Commitment to racial justice and social justice
  • Experience working with incarcerated youth or adults, and/or firsthand knowledge/understanding of the impact of incarceration
  • Exceptional written communication skills 
  • Creative problem solver
  • Strong appreciation for the literary arts
  • Experience with group facilitation and/or classroom management
  • Flexibility; ability to work in a changing and fast-paced environment
  • Ability to engage and motivate volunteers and program participants
  • Ability to handle administrative detail required for program operations
  • Ability to engage people through different forms of communication
  • Collaborative
  • Spanish language proficiency a plus

Technology skills required: Microsoft Office, Google Suite, Zoom, Calendly, Miro, Canva, Efforts to Outcomes (Social Solutions)

Applicants seeking a long-term relationship with Free Minds Book Club & Writers Workshop will get first consideration. 

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop requires staff be current on COVID-19 vaccination and boosters, with limited exemptions.  

This is currently a hybrid position requiring in-person attendance at Free Minds programs.  The position is expected to be primarily in-office by late 2022. 

Reporting: This position reports to the Manager, Prison Book Club

Salary: $42,000/annual with benefits

The position offers a generous benefits package, including health insurance, employer contribution to a retirement plan, 10 days paid vacation in the first year as well as 12 paid Federal/DC Holidays and the week off between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Free Minds is committed to developing future leaders and to the professional growth of our staff. 

Access, Equity, and Inclusion

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. 

Access, equity, and inclusion are central to our work. We are committed to uplifting leaders from the communities most impacted by incarceration. 

We are guided by our values of real change—racial equity, empathy, agency, and liberation—as we build a pro-Black organization.  Free Minds encourages applications from racial and/or religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, individuals with disabilities, and members of other underrepresented groups.  

Application deadline: March 30, 2022

Target Start: May 1, 2022

Please send resume, cover letter, and professional or personal essay writing sample (maximum 1000 words) to jobs@freemindsbookclub.org

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