On the show, Chris Hedges discusses prison with the poet, writer and attorney, Reginald Dwayne Betts.
The poet Dwayne Betts for a long time hid the fact that he had been incarcerated from the ages of 16 to 24 for a carjacking. Betts, a lawyer who was sworn into the Connecticut bar two years ago, is finishing up his PhD at Yale University, where he also earned his law degree. He currently works as a public defender. In his book ‘A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison,’ and in his poems, including his third book of poems ‘Felon,’ he grapples with the degradation, humiliation, and trauma of prison life. Betts, like Virgil in Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ leads his readers into the dark and frightening labyrinth of the American prison system, where, as he writes, “Black men go to become Lazarus.” Confronting evil has a cost. And we, like Betts, must be willing to pay this price. Flannery O’Connor recognized that to tell the truth means confrontation. “St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: ‘The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller.” Betts is that storyteller, for he passed by the dragon.
Dwayne Betts’ books include: ‘A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison,’ and his third book of poems, ‘Felon.’