The most memorable library I’ve ever visited is one you’ve never heard of. It’s located inside the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center—a medium security prison in Connell, Washington, where men of all ages are serving terms anywhere from five years to life.
I had an opportunity to visit Coyote Ridge and speak with 150 inmates who had read my first novel. Nervously I went, not knowing what to expect, especially since there had been a gang fight the previous week and one of the cellblocks was on lock-down. But when a bald, muscular, tattooed gentleman raised his hand and said, “I’d like to discuss the metaphor of the flower,” I realized that readers are readers. No matter where they are, or what they’ve done. And libraries are precious to them.
To the inmates at Coyote Ridge the library is an oasis—a place of education (many earn GEDs and learn life-skills pending their release) and it’s also a place or normalcy. In prison the library is a gateway drug to a better life.