Who We Are

Tara Libert, Co-founder and Executive Director

Before co-founding Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop in 2002, Tara worked as a radio and television news and documentary producer for twelve years. After producing many features on the US criminal justice system, showcasing such topics such as the death penalty, prison overcrowding and juvenile justice reform she was drawn to direct service. Tara began volunteering with Georgetown University’s Family Literacy Program, tutoring incarcerated parents at the District of Columbia jail. She is trained as a tutor with the Literacy Volunteers of America and a mediator with The Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County, MD. Tara is also a facilitator for the Community Conferencing Center, a conflict transformation and community justice organization that works with youth to resolve conflicts and to prevent crime. Tara is an advisory board member of The Beat Within, an organization that conducts writing workshops for youth in juvenile detention facilities. Tara is also a certified yoga instructor.

Kelli Taylor, Co-founder and Book Club Facilitator

Before co-founding and serving as Executive Director of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop (2002-2010), Kelli worked as a television news and documentary producer. She has served as a trained volunteer for Offender Aid and Restoration, mentoring and sharing literature with young inmates at the Arlington County Jail. Kelli uses her expertise to develop curriculum, research and locate books that will engage and excite new readers, and lead the weekly book club session at the DC Jail. Kelli continues to nurture Free Minds members’ love of reading and writing with frequent letters to our Continuing Support members in federal prisons across the country.

Marcus Bullock, Reentry Apprenticeship Coordinator

Marcus Bullock grew up in Washington, DC and at the age of 15, he was charged as an adult for carjacking and armed robbery. After serving eight years in federal prison, Marcus was released in 2004 and by that time determined to turn his life around. He got a job at a paint store and after only being employed there for a year, he began his own residential and commercial painting company. He is now the CEO of Perspectives Premier Contractors, which employs other returning citizens. Marcus is the founder and CEO of Flikshop, an innovative mobile app that allows you to send a postcard to a loved one in prison directly from your phone. He is also the founder of the Flikshop School of Business, a program that teaches incarcerated youth life skills and entrepreneurship. In 2015, Marcus joined Free Minds as the Reentry Apprenticeship Coordinator and mentor, helping to make a difference in the lives of our members.

Suzanne Dhere, New Beginnings Writing Program Coordinator

Suzie leads Free Minds programming at New Beginnings Youth Development Center, DC’s youth detention facility. Suzie plans, leads and evaluates weekly writing workshops with Free Minds Poet Ambassadors (members in our Reentry Support phase) that inspire detained youth to find their voices and realize that change is possible. She coordinates Poet Ambassadors’ training, arranges guest poet visits and evaluates the program on a consistent basis. She was previously a volunteer with The Beat Within, and holds a degree from The College of William and Mary. She is Project Coordinator for the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

Seana Drucker, Program Director

Seana was an investigator at the Public Defender Service for Washington, DC for eight years. As an investigator, she worked with both adults and juveniles charged as adults in the criminal justice system. Many of her clients were members of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, which led her to begin volunteering with Free Minds. Seana has a degree in Criminal Justice and Public Policy, and she brings her great experience and expertise with the criminal justice system to her work with Free Minds.

Keela Hailes, Book Club and Reentry Manager

Keela started working at Free Minds in 2012 as the first-ever Reentry & Family Coordinator before taking over the Program Manager position. Her son has been an active participant in Free Minds since 2007. Keela has worked in the DC Public Schools and at Powell Tate Strategic Communications and Public Affairs. Keela holds an undergraduate degree from Trinity College in DC. She brings her extensive knowledge of positive youth development and of the DC community to Free Minds.

Jess Lawson, Program Coordinator

Jess grew up in Buffalo, New York, and moved to DC to attend American University, where she discovered her passion for sociology and education. In her senior year she interned with Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. After graduating, she joined the family as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator, before transitioning into her role as Program Coordinator.

Melissa Majano, Program Associate

Melissa provides programmatic and administrative support for all phases of our program. She manages the Free Minds office, oversees our IT needs, maintains our database of supporters and coordinates volunteer events. She is a 2013 graduate of Trinity University in Washington, DC. Melissa is the first in her family to attend college.

Julia Mascioli, Director of Development and Communications

Julia started at Free Minds as an intern in the summer of 2010. After graduating from Vassar College with a BA in English she moved to Cusco, Peru to teach English for eight months. When she returned to the US, Julia became the Free Minds Interim Program Manager until September 2012, when she entered graduate school. Julia earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in May 2015. As a writer, Julia has always found the way Free Minds uses poetry and books to empower youth an attractive methodology.

Poet Ambassadors

The Poet Ambassadors are a group of 25 Free Minds members home in the community who lead the On the Same Page sessions on a rotating basis. They have been members of Free Minds since the age of 16 or 17 at the DC Jail, where many wrote their first poems and read their first books. They have gone on to become avid readers and writers throughout their incarceration, and have pursued education via GED programs. These young men are highly motivated to give back to their community by sharing the strength and wisdom that writing has given them in order to prevent future violence.

Office Interns

Free Minds’ work is assisted by a dynamic team of interns from area universities. These interns provide valuable office support by typing poems, providing writing feedback, coordinating our writing blog, and helping with Community Outreach events. For more information about internship opportunities, contact Seana Drucker at seana@staging.freemindsbookclub.org.

Our Board

Allen Chin
Chief Financial Officer, Foreign Policy Magazine

Alexandra Edwards
United States Government Accountability Office, Senior Analyst

Andrew Ferguson
Professor, University of District of Columbia, David A. Clark School of Law

Amy Fettig
Senior Staff Counsel, ACLU’s National Prison Project

LaKeeshia Fox
Program Analyst, US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Christopher Gaskins
Occupational Therapist, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Tara Libert
Co-Founder & Executive Director, Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Tiffany McClenton
Education Program Specialist, Academic Improvement Programs Group, US Department of Education

Sarah Ireland Modica
Senior Administrative Officer, Host Hotels and Resorts

Jessica Sandoval
Board Chair, Vice President and Deputy Director, Campaign for Youth Justice

Advisory Board

R. Dwayne Betts
Author, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison and Shahid Reads his own Palm, Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice (FCCJJ)

Len Elmore
Lawyer, ESPN Sportscaster, Professor at Columbia University

Mary Goldschmidt
Ph.D., Educational Consultant, University of Scranton

Odile Isralson
CEO, Brown Hats Media

Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan
Filmmakers, Safari Media

Bradford Koles, Jr.
Executive Director, Advisory Board Company

Janet Libert
Editor-in-Chief, Executive Travel Magazine

Steve Lilienthal
MLS Librarian, Writer

Jennifer Lyman
Attorney, DC Office of Bar Counsel

Clinique Marshall Chapman
Forensic Social Worker, Office of Rehabilitation and Development, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia

Michael Mattocks
Author, Unlikely Brothers: Our Story of Adventure, Loss and Redemption with John Prendergast

George Pelecanos
Author (The Cut, The Way Home), TV Writer & Producer (The Wire)

Juliana Ratner
Law Student, Harvard Law School

Neha Raval
Program Officer, The New York Women’s Foundation

Santha Sonenberg
Attorney, Office of the Pardon Attorney

Etan Thomas
Poet, Author, Activist, former NBA Player, www.etanthomas.com

 

Thanks for all the love with my poetry Free Minds—I realize I have a talent the world needs to see and I promise I will expand it and share it.
– Alonzo, Age 18