WA Secretary of State Blogs

Dogs in the library, normalizing life for inmates.

Thursday, November 10th, 2016 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Institutional Library Services | Comments Off on Dogs in the library, normalizing life for inmates.

From the desk of Jean Baker – Library Associate, Washington State Penitentiary

State Librarian Cindy Aden visiting the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center LibraryI was sitting in the office yesterday and someone pointed to the hallway and said, “Look at all of the puppies”.  I went out in the hallway and found about a dozen puppies spilling out of a basket and climbing over each other.  Standing around in a circle were about 10 grown men some with tattoos and ponytails cuddling, petting and cooing at the little canines thus erasing the stereotype of tough convicts with a few simple gestures.   The men told me they were about 3 weeks old and had every sort of coloring, black and white, brown and red, all brown, all white.

The men and the puppies are residents, some for a longer period than others of Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CCRC), a medium custody facility in Connell, WA.   One of the prized jobs at CRCC is to be a dog handler.  These men are very dedicated care-takers of their charges who are brought to the prison to receive training and socialization before being adopted out to families in the community.

This program is one of the many normalizing activities these inmates can experience to help them learn new behaviors and skills for when they can re-enter society.   I was very excited to see this interaction of inmates and puppies while visiting the CRCC library.  The library is located in the building where inmate programs are held and is a branch of the Washington State Library.   The Institutional Services program of the State Library operates libraries in nine prisons and 2 mental hospitals in Washington.

I am the Branch Library Associate at Washington State Penitentiary and my visit was to assist newly hired CRCC Branch Library Associate, Justin Dickson with some final details of his training.    The CRCC library is the newest and largest of the institutional libraries, opening in February 2009.  At any time there can be 50-60 inmates using the library for one-hour periods.  Justin has 4 inmate library clerks who handle patron customer service as well as shelving materials and keeping the collection in good order.

The library program at CRCC is another normalizing activities that is highly used and appreciated by the inmates.  It is a neutral, comfortable environment which provides the opportunity to pursue interests, learn something new, find recreational reading and prepare for re-entry to the world outside the prison walls.


March on Washington, a Washington State Perspective

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public | 1 Comment »

As a boy of 12 living in “whitebread” rural Oregon I was little aware of the significance of Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this significant moment in history most commonly know as the March on Washington.

4265614981_6e2e5b2da1_oNational Public Radio’s Kat Chow wrote: “The summer of 1963 was bursting with drama and would become a pivotal moment of the Civil Rights movement. It was the year that Alabama governor George Wallace tried to block — physically and politically — two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone Jones, from enrolling in the University of Alabama; the year Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his own driveway; and the same year that brought together more than 200,000 protesters for the March on Washington for better jobs and equal treatment.” Kat is leading a team who are replicating the events of 50 years ago in their @TodayIn1963 Twitter  site, http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/06/12/190680446/-todayin1963-captures-moments-from-a-historic-summer

Over 50 years ago Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I have a dream speech.” Thirty-six years after the speech ignited the nation, Congress issued as a supplement to a report Commemorating the “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial : report (to accompany H.R. 2879) (including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office). The report is in our federal publications collection in both print and microfiche formats. (Because these will have to be retrieved for your use, please call ahead.)

The story is told from a Pacific Northwest perspective in The Facts the “official voice of the N.W. Black community.” The Facts is one of the many Washington State newspaper titles in our extensive Washington Newspaper Collection. Our issues run from 1962-1979 and are on microfilm. The August 30, 1963 paper (front page) reported:

“Seattle residents of all races joined together Wednesday in a Freedom March from 14th & Pike to the Federal Court House. Like the march on Washington, it was orderly and filled with religious tone.

Local leaders spoke to the crowd gathered on the Court House steps. One by one they spoke from the top of the steps with the background reading UNITED STATES COURT HOUSE.”

Father Lynch; Charles Johnson, Seattle NAACP President; State Representative Sam Smith; and Father Anton are shown in photographs. A short story with the headline, “Mixed Crowd Demonstrates for Equality: Negroes, Whites, Join in effort to Bring End to Discrimination” tells the story of the Washington march. “Packed elbow to elbow around the memorial, they heard their leaders call for Congress to pass laws to end all manner of racial discrimination and enable the unemployed to find dignified work with decent wages.”

The same issue’s editorial ends: “True, life has not been fair, but the statement of the unfairness is merely a shaky crutch upon which to support an empty argument. The Negro standing at a new starting mark in the history of his race will fail himself if he looks behind. He must look ahead to a life struggle in which he can now and at last compete on equal terms.”

The following week, September 6,The Facts carried an editorial, “Rights March Just a Start, Negroes Reminded” and speculated on the effect of the Washington march to speed up civil rights. “The top question in race relations today is whether the successful massive civil rights demonstration will speed establishment of an integrated society in America.”