New Haven Lawyer & Poet Named MacArthur Fellow

When Reginal Dwayne Betts, a New Haven poet, lawyer, and advocate answered a call from an unknown number he wasn’t expecting the news he got. The caller informed him he was chosen, along with 24 others, as a 2021 MacArthur Fellow, otherwise known as a “Genius” grants. These awards are from the MacArthur Foundation  are given to exceptionally talented and creative people who work towards building a better world. The grant totals $625,000 and is paid out over five years. Recipient can do whatever they want with it.

While still in high school Betts committed a carjacking. He was convicted and served nine years in prison. It was there that he discovered a book of poetry by Black authors that made him realize the power of poetry. After his release he went on to publish 3 books of poetry and a memoir, graduate from Yale Law School, and serve on Obama’s Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Inspired by his experience in prison, he advocates for prisoners and just started Freedom Reads, a nonprofit to bring libraries to prisons.

His books include:

Felon: Poems

Shahid Reads His Own Palm

A Question of Freedom: a Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison.