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R. Dwayne Betts, a former inmate, prison reform advocate and the recipient of the 2010 NAACP Image Award for Literary Debut, spoke at Lycoming College as part of the 12th annual Larry Strauser Lectureship in Criminal Justice on Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. Heim Building G-11.
At 16 years old, Betts, a good student from a lower-middle class family, carjacked a man. He had never held a gun before, but with this first offense, he committed six felonies within minutes. Betts pled guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison. While there, he became a poet, an advocate and an educator. His first book, the memoir "A Question of Freedom," was published in August 2009. It chronicles his years in prison during which he reflected on his crime and whether a "moment of insanity" would, or would not, define him. In 2010, Betts received the NAACP Image Award for Literary Debut for this book.
An advocate for juvenile justice and prison reform, Betts is also the national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice and recently published a book of poems, "Shahid Reads His Own Palm."
The Strauser Lecture Series, sponsored by Lycoming's criminal justice department, is held each year to honor the memory of Larry Strauser, a 1959 Lycoming graduate and member of the College's faculty from 1973 until his death in 1999. Strauser, who earned a master's in public administration from the University of Arizona, started the interdisciplinary criminal justice program at Lycoming in 1977.
Lycoming College is a national liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. It is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News and World Report. Founded in 1812 in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation.
Photo 1: R Dwayne Betts
Photo 2 (left to right): Dr. Susan Ross, chair and associate professor of criminal justice; Megan Hoffman '13; Erik Book '13; Ed Robbins, intructor of criminal justice and Lycoming County chief juvenile probation officer; R. Dwayne Betts; Dr. Elyshia Aseltine, assistant professor of criminal justice; and Kerry Richmond, assistant professor of criminal justice