Literary Journal

The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison

Literary Journal CoverFree Minds released their second literary journal, entitled The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices From Prison, in 2015. This volume contains a collection of poems exploring a variety of complex themes, including parenthood, love, pain, identity, race, and freedom. All of the poems were written by Free Minds members who were charged and incarcerated as adults at the age of 16 or 17. Many of the poets are currently incarcerated in the DC Jail or federal prison. In addition, this anthology features individual profiles of Free Minds members who are home from prison and serving as Poet Ambassadors in the violence prevention initiative, On the Same Page. Already being used in classrooms and workshops to start conversations around youth violence and the justice system, The Untold Story of the Real Me provides a new take on the power of one voice.

Copies are available for purchase through our publisher, Shout Mouse Press. Click here to order The Untold Story of the Real Me.


They Call Me 299-359: Writings by the Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Literary journal cover artIn November of 2011, Free Minds was thrilled to announce the release of They Call Me 299-359: Writings by the Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, an anthology of essays and poems written, edited and compiled by incarcerated Free Minds members held both at the DC Jail and in federal facilities across the country. This literary journal is being used as a tool for violence prevention and healing in Free Minds’s youth violence prevention initiative “On the Same Page,” and is also taught as part of college curricula at several universities. Copies of They Call Me 299-359 are available for a suggested $10 donation. Please write for more information.

Sample Poetry

My World


I was born into a world where the only language men understand is violence and you have to be trained to go at the drop of a hat. Displaying physical aggression at any given moment. Gun, knife, or a bat, or hand to hand combat, you never knew. You just had to be ready to work with no hesitation.

A world where your reputation is everything, it can make or break you.
A world where it’s best to simply stay in your lane, play your role. Because when you try to step outside of yourself into someone else’s position, it’s only a matter of time before those that occupy that same position figure out that you don’t belong there. Then exposure can and will take place.

And in the world I was born into, exposure can be a matter of life and death… I was born into a world where there’s no such as thing as meek, either you’re strong or you’re weak. Predator or prey. Any chance of finding a grey area is slim to none.
A world where manhood is defined by how many girls you can have sex with, how much money you have, and whether your guns goes off or not.

A world where extortions, armed robberies and drug dealings are a part of everyday activities, from sun up to sun down. A world where the probability of your death being a homicide is much higher… I was born into a world where most people who don’t know how to cope with the pain of their struggle try to numb it with drugs and alcohol.

A world full of so much potential but the people have endured centuries of brain-washing that has taught them to hate themselves. The young man doesn’t value his own life much at all, so he surely won’t think twice about taking yours. The young woman will sell her body to you for a dime rock, a dippa or an E-Pill. How much value can she possibly be putting on herself?

A world where we’re conditioned from early on to believe that somehow being educated and well spoken is lame and un-cool. A world where the gentleman generally doesn’t exist because we’ve been terribly misinformed, whether it was directly or indirectly as to how we’re supposed to treat women. I was born into a world where most never escape, and blessed are the few that do…

I was born into a world where it’s not nearly as glamorous as mega-media would have you believe. It’s an everyday struggle to simply survive. I just wish that all of my brothers and sisters in the struggle the best. I would love to see my world rise above the current state of mind, back into our original state consciousness. I’ve highlighted the problems, but I choose to be a part of the solution. I will start by being the change I would like to see in the world. The more I learn, the more I will grow, the more I will rise and shine and be a source of light for others.

Word To Lil Brova

By E.M.

Well dis is what I got to say, don’t go out there running the street like me everyday.

I mean just look at where I am at and where I could have been in could have been at home with y’all but I’m in jail with my cuzzins and guess what we all failed.

I failed as a big brother to you I was there physically but not really there for you. I fought for you, kill for you, even when we were little I usta steal for you because that’s what I didn’t want you to do.

I got beat up for you, even got jumped for you because as a big brother that’s what I was there to do to protect and believe in you.

Since I was little my criminal way put me in awkward positions but as of today my criminal ways are finally finished.

Well what I’m really tryin to say is don’t be like me be better than me show me that running the streets don’t run in our family.

Don’t be no fool like me not going to school and breaking every one of mom’s rules.

Show me that you can go to school and get A’s and B’s and get on the honor roll don’t give it to the streets but give god your soul.

By the way give mom a rest she don’t need no more stress on her chest she already have enough coming from me that’s why she always have swollen feet but just tell her prop up her feet I’ll be home any day now from her son.

Pen Fiend

By D.W.

As I sit back
And operate this pen
In my mind
I feel like I’m a pen fiend
Sick with words
Sick with the pen
Whoa! Just had a brain freeze
Right back at it
Like your every day dope addict
Sick, can’t go without it
Got to write about it
In my eyes
I see the light
And only I can see what to write
Every day and night
I think, am I doing what’s right?
This is my life
Some say pray to Christ
But every time I think about it
I am back writin’ with the pen
Sick with so many emotions
And no one to talk to
So who can I turn to
But my pen
I’m just your every day pen fiend


By R.B.

Brick walls, fences, and razor wire criss-crossed in a bind
Feelings overlooked ‘cause remorse is the punishment of crime
No warmth lives here but the wind that chilled
Where it’s a lot of counterfeit ‘cause fake outweigh the real
Not always behind walls and locked doors while doing time
But in the outside world, incarcerated in the mind
Not always what it seems, sometimes a blessing
Only what you make of it, not always unpleasant
A learning experience that’s strongly reckoned with
A chapter of one’s life that’ll never just shift
Forever with you, there all the way to the end
But what will you gain? Strength? Or will you bend?

I want to thank you all for your companionship and the books that you all have been sending me over the years. I will continue to write poetry for Free Minds and for everyone else to read because you all encourage me to pursue my ambitions and that is to become a better learner everyday.
– Nokomis, Age 22