WA Secretary of State Blogs

Patricia Briggs visits Coyote Ridge Corrections Center Library

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Patricia Briggs visits Coyote Ridge Corrections Center Library

CRCC Program (2)23On April 9th, 2013, at the invitation of Library Associate Gayle Shonkwiler, Patricia  Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson shapeshifter series, visited the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. The presentation was very well received and liked by the 30 inmates in attendance. Patricia read from her newest best seller “Frost Burned” which was just released in March.  After the reading she answered questions about everything from her books, how to write, how to get published and character development. Patricia thoroughly enjoyed her visit and donated the seven book series to the CRCC Branch Library.

Patricia Briggs website gives her perspective of her visit, so check it out.  Spoiler alert, she had a good time.

Redemption through Reading

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Institutional Library Services | 1 Comment »

According to a recent Reuters news item, the country of Brazil is offering a novel way for prisoners to shorten their sentences: read a book!

Washington Corrections Center LibraryInmates in 4 federal prisons can read up to 12 works of literature, classics, science, or philosophy, and shorten their incarceration by 4 days per book, up to a maximum of 48 days off their sentences.

The program, which is called “Redemption through Reading,” requires the inmates to read the book within 4 weeks, and to write an essay that meets certain standards. A special panel will decide which prisoners are eligible to participate.

Somehow I doubt that this program will be adopted here in these United States of America anytime in the not-too-distant future! But why not?

Emcee at Poetry Reading at Washington Corrections Center for Women

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Emcee at Poetry Reading at Washington Corrections Center for Women

On May 10th, 2012 the WCCW Library hosted a poetry reading. Laura Sherbo and Doug Gelis planned the event and invited 3 poets to come and read their and other poet’s poems.

70 inmates signed up to attend and 35 showed up to listen to poetry read. This was held in the WCCW Visit Room.  

The first poet to read was Kathleen Flenniken. Kathleen is the current Poet Laureate of Washington State. The second poet to read was Merna Ann Hecht. Merna is a social justice educator, storyteller, and poet. The third poet to read was Storme Webber. Storme is a spoken word, vocal, and visual artist.

This was not only my first time to host and serve as the emcee at a poetry reading, it was also my first time attending a poetry reading.  The reaction among the inmates was interesting because every single comment was positive. When the poets, who by the way, had 3 powerful and very different voices, asked if there were any questions, the only questions were when can you 3 come back.

Author of Sisters Brothers visits Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Author of Sisters Brothers visits Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

Patrick deWitt

Sisters Brothers is a book about two brothers from gold-rush era Oregon and California who are employed as henchmen. They ride horses, camp out on the trail, try to gather clues about their target, and eventually uncover a lot more than they probably wanted to know about him. What starts out as a simple job becomes something more fantastic, and the two become entangled in the life of a man they set out to eliminate.

As I was reading this book last summer, I noticed the author, Patrick deWitt, was local to the Pacific Northwest, and I immediately thought to ask if he would visit Coyote Ridge for a reading. I wanted this particular author to read from this particular book. Sisters Brothers is modern, funny, and easy to read, but also thought-provoking. I felt that inmates might relate to all the characters in the book on some level, not just the hired killers but also the side characters who display a variety of weaknesses that make them human.

To my surprise, Patrick was immediately agreeable and enthusiastic about the idea. He told me he had been wanting to do some sort of work with inmates related to books and writing. He arrived on November 30, 2011, and read from Sisters Brothers for about thirty minutes to an audience of forty inmates. Many of those who attended said they had never been to a live author reading before. There was a seemingly endless supply of questions about the book, writing, publishing. Some had read the book prior to the event and had complex questions about the themes and characters. Others were interested in learning how to improve their own writing, or the process of getting a book published. Patrick patiently answered all the questions, never departing from his kind and gracious demeanor, until the time ran out. He even volunteered to take the unanswered questions, written on slips of paper, and answer them by email after he returned home.

Patrick has written two books and is working on a third.

Virtual Reference in Prison

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Virtual Reference in Prison

Librarians at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center Shelton, and Washington State Penitentiary, have started using kiosks at their local institutions to send overdue notices and hold pickup notices to offenders. We are also answering questions submitted by offenders.  The result has been even better than expected!  At Coyote Ridge, we have drastically reduced our paper usage by sending the notices over the kiosk.  The new system is a win-win for staff and offenders alike; correctional officers don’t have to distribute the paper notices to individual offenders, and offenders get their notices instantly. Quicker delivery of notices may even shorten the time that high demand items will sit on the hold shelf, waiting to be retrieved.

 I have also noticed a growing volume of “electronic mail” (kiosk version) that we are receiving from offenders, now that they realize they can send messages to the library’s electronic mailbox.  I’ve received countless messages that simply thank us for our services, and some that make suggestions for improvement or ask us to purchase their favorite books and music.  They also ask questions about library policies and ask us to check their accounts for overdue items, and attempt to resolve item return issues over the kiosk. 

The beauty of this new system is, to me, three-fold: 1) offenders are learning how to communicate effectively in an electronic world, a skill that is critical for successful re-entry, 2) conflict resolution is handled in writing, rather than face-to-face, which may encourage both parties to think about what they say before they say it, and 3) both offenders and staff are able to communicate in a much more efficient and organized way.  I can send messages to multiple offenders at once, and I can send them instantly rather than waiting 1-4 days for mail delivery and response time.  I can also answer questions in batches, rather than responding immediately every time someone has a question the library clerks can’t answer, and without asking offenders to wait in line at the counter to talk to a staff person. I can’t help but think this is the prison equivalent of virtual reference, and that is exciting!

Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) Braille Team Receives Award

Thursday, August 11th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) Braille Team Receives Award

WCCW Library

It is not everyday that inmates are recognized for the work they do for the community.  Inmates are serving time for a crime they have committed against society.  However, many of them are making a difference in any way they can.  This includes the Braille Team at WCCW.  These women have taken the time to develop their skill and to become certified so that they can provide a wonderful service to the blind community.  To read more about the service that these women are providing checkout “Braille Team Receives Award from Washington State School of the Blind.”

Inmate magazines

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Inmate magazines

Magazines Galore
Magazines Galore

For the most part inmate directed magazines come and go, but we recently started getting a new magazine in our library.  Hopefully, Insider Magazine will stick around.  I am sure funding can be an issue in a lot of cases, but also staff who are willing to take the time to provide the magazine can be as well.  I have only seen a few copies, but so far, so good.  Interesting articles are spread throughout the publication, along with puzzles, humor, inmate poetry and art, and lets not forget advertisements.  However, major points for the advertisements as they are directed to inmates.  However, don’t think this magazine is a slouch in the literary department, the crossword puzzle is harder then it looks.  So for now I am reserving judgment (read waiting for inmate response), but I do believe it has been money well spent.

Urban Fiction in Prisons

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | 1 Comment »

Urban fiction, street lit, and “gangsta” fiction are all terms used to describe novels that deal with life on the street.  Some may say that the books glamorize the criminal element of the world and are not appropriate for anyone to read, but especially not for inmates.  I would have to disagree.  Many of us, and inmates included, read material that they can relate to, and for them this could be the urban books of the gangster lifestyle.  Yes there is crime in these novels but at least one character is paying the price, prison time.  Not everyone can win at everything and these novels show that aspect of living the “gangsta” lifestyle.  However, the most important thing about these books is that they can give an inmate hope.  Books are read for many different reasons and this is true of urban books as well.  Some inmates read them to be entertained, others read them to escape, others read them because they hope to be able to write some day, and others because they recognize themselves in the books.  In my humble opinion, anything that gets someone to read is a good thing.  I have even read a few of them myself and find that I enjoy the stories.  So the next time you are out and need something to read, check out books by Vickie Stinger, Teri Woods, Jihad, and many others.  For recommendations check out Street Fiction a website created by Daniel Marcou, a corrections librarian in Minnesota.


Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Time



What is time?  It can be a short time, a long time, an easy time, or a hard time, but for an inmate it can also be a slow time.  Time seems to pass slower in prison, for many a day can seem like a week or a month.  Years don’t fly by in prison, they crawl and it can truly feel like an eternity.  Books help the time pass and let you forget where you are for a while.

Reading for Others

Monday, October 5th, 2009 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Reading for Others



Reading takes on a new meaning for some inmates as they try to keep in touch with their children. Many of the inmates will try to read the same books that their children are reading at home. Currently one father is reading the Monster Manor series by Paul Martin, trying to stay one book ahead of his daughter. Not only does it give him something to talk about with his daughter, but the experience is even more valuable. By showing an interest in something his daughter enjoys and being able to discuss it with her, shows a great amount of respect for her. This will help him build a lasting relationship even while incarcerated. Reading is a joy, but sometimes reading for others provides so much more.

The following is a comment made by an inmate at the Washington Corrections Center for Women:

“I am 40 years old and I have read more in the 2 months I have been here @ WCCW than I have my entire life I tell my Daughter the Books I check out and she goes and checks out the same book and we read the Book together and talk about it. the Library not only helps me but it is Helping my Daughter with her reading ability this is something we plan to continue even after my release Thank you you are all a wonderful treasure. My Daughter is only 12 but is now reading at Adult level.”