Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Program leads formal creative writing and poetry workshops every day inside the jail school, engaging students in the study of contemporary poetry and literature which is relevant to their life experience. Through increased literacy, written self-expression, exposure to and study of the performing, visual and literary arts, our project seeks to reduce recidivism and help our students find meaningful pathways to self-expression and to further education.
FreeWrite is administered by Chicago Lights, a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2004 providing hope and opportunity to our city’s children, youth, and adults who face the challenges of poverty. Through supportive relationships and diverse programs, Chicago Lights empowers people to thrive academically, secure economic stability, lead healthy lives, and build community.
Community members can volunteer to work as mentors and literacy tutors with youth in detention or recently adjudicated youth in the community. Please consider volunteering with us! Interested? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your cover letter and resume or letter of interest.
The elements of our program include:
One-on-one, deeply personalized print literacy tutoring.
Free Write provides creative writing workshops led by professional writers.
Free Write produces regular anthologies and magazines of student writing for distribution within the school and the broader community. We also encourage our students to submit their writing to local and national literary publications.
Free Write maintains a rich library of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, lyrics, and other high-interest reading materials from which students can choose and borrow.
Media Arts Literacy
We offer students the opportunity to engage in industry-standard digital image manipulation, sound editing and sequencing, web design, book publishing, and the maintenance of personal computers from the inside out, including building them from scratch.
Free Write coordinates book fairs, a series of literary readings, youth poetry readings, street law and prison-industrial complex seminars each year.
Strengthening School Culture
Free Write Staff collaborate with teachers and County Staff, conducting professional development workshops, and supporting the development of curriculum for the unique student population at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School.