Chicago Lights Free Write Jail Arts and    Literacy at Nancy B. Jefferson School

Chicago Lights Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy at Nancy B. Jefferson School (Free Write) provides the only one-to-one literacy tutoring available to 150 youth incarcerated in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Free Write seeks to reduce recidivism and help students find meaningful pathways to self-expression and further education through daily writing and arts workshops. The skills the students acquire through the study, critique, and creation of poetry and fiction help them to make meaning of their own stories and to connect with the stories of others.

Students have access to a rich library of resources as well as the opportunity to engage in the creation of media arts. Some of their poetry and music is published in a quarterly newsletter and an annual anthology as well as released in a CD recording. You can learn more about the program, and read the poems and stories of youth in detention at:

With the support of the Chicago Community Trust, Free Write has expanded school-based arts programs by increasing its creative writing classes, publishing student art work and writing, and expanding a ceramics program. The hope for the future is to collaborate with other partnering arts organizations to increase access to arts programming within the detention center so that every young person in the center is exposed to arts education during their time there.

Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy Photos

“The Work: Fifteen Years of Free Write” | July 10, 2015


More information about Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy is available on the Chicago Lights website or by contacting Ryan Keesling, Director of Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy.