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Institutional Library Services

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Mission Statement

With spirit and fortitude, ILS branch staff enhances the quality of life for unique populations by providing a welcoming, neutral and secure place where informational, educational, and recreational needs are met.

About ILS Libraries

Department of Social and Health Service Libraries

Department of Corrections Libraries

Books, Films, Magazines and Reference Material

Percipience – collections of poetry from the Institutional Library Services Poetry Months

About ILS Libraries

CRCC Art Display in the Library

The Washington State Library (WSL) partners with the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to provide library services to inmates in adult correctional facilities and patients in adult psychiatric hospitals. There are currently eleven ILS branches throughout the state (see below for individual branch information); an additional branch is currently in the process of opening at the Washington State Penitentiary South Complex.  ILS strives to provide a welcoming, neutral place where informational, educational, and recreational needs are met. 

In addition to the library’s presence, individuals in these facilities have the benefit of a diverse array of educational, therapeutic, family, and cultural/religious services as well as enrichment programs, including sustainability projects and animal care programs. Programs and services such as these serve to contribute to recovery, personal growth, and constructive use of time for those that reside in these institutions, as do library programs and collections. ILS collections, which consist of a variety of books, audiobooks, magazines, film, and music, specially emphasize topics related to reentry, recovery, self-improvement, self-paced learning, digital literacy, consumer medical information, and small business information. Access to these materials supports a positive culture of learning and growth for both staff and patrons.


DSHS Branches

Eastern State Hospital (ESH)

Eastern State Hospital for the Insane was established in 1891, and currently houses approximately 300 patients. It is nestled in the heart of Medical Lake, a quaint community with an abundance of wildlife and small-town charm located just west of Spokane. One of ILS's smallest branches, the library's collection of just under 10,000 items is located in the hospital's Active Treatment Mall, right across the hall from the patients' bowling alley.

Western State Hospital (WSH)

The state's first public psychiatric hospital, Western State Hospital is located in historic Lakewood, 30 miles southwest of Seattle. It began operations in 1871, and houses approximately 800 patients; ILS has served the library needs of its patients for more than 50 years. Today, the WSH library serves its patrons with a collection of over 13,000 items, with an emphasis on education and personal enrichment. Through the outreach delivery program, the library is able to reach every unit in the hospital, allowing patients unable to come to the library to access its services.


DOC Branches

Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC)

Airway Heights Corrections Center opened its doors in 1992 on a 160 acre parcel in Airway Heights, 10 miles west of Spokane. Today, the library provides services to AHCC's 1500 inmates with around 19,000 items in its collection; as one of the larger libraries in the system, the AHCC library stays busy with up to 50 patrons at any given time. When they're not in the library, inmates at AHCC benefit from a number of educational and vocational programs, including beekeeping and computer refurbishing. 

Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC)

In 1985, the Clallam Bay Corrections Center opened its doors to 900 inmates. Located in Clallam Bay, a small town on the northern Olympic Peninsula coast known for its fishing and outdoor summer recreation, CBCC now has the distinction of being the most remote prison within the Washington State Department of Corrections.  The library houses over 13,000 items and serve over 700 patrons.

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) 

The newest corrections center in the state is Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, which opened its doors in 2008 in the small railway town of Connell in southeastern Washington. The CRCC library is one of the largest in the system, serving over 2,000 inmates; it supports patrons studying computer programming, basic computer skills, HVAC systems, environmental sustainability and other fields via its collection of more than 16,000 items.

Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC)

Stafford Creek Corrections Center opened its doors to almost 2,000 inmates in 2000. Located in Aberdeen, inmates of SCCC enjoy a variety of programs that allow them to contribute to the surrounding community, including a charitable bike repair program and the much-beloved dog training program. SCCC also has a unique Skill Builders program that helps individuals with intellectual, developmental, and neurological problems learn real-world skills; the library contributes to this initiative through literacy-building efforts and programs. One of ILS's largest branches, this library houses over 22,000 items.

Twin Rivers Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex (TRU)

The library at the Twin Rivers Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex has been providing service to its patrons since 1984. With a wide collection of nearly 15,000 items, the population of around 800 inmates can browse and find a variety of materials at the library, including reentry materials and materials that support participation in TRU's many sustainability and education programs. 

Washington Corrections Center (WCC)

Washington Corrections Center is unique in the state of Washington, as it is the DOC receiving center for everyone who will be incarcerated in a men’s facility, with an average annual transfer rate of 12,000 individuals into the system. Located in Shelton on the Puget Sound, WCC provides a number of horticultural, agricultural, and sustainability programming opportunities for inmates; the garden program alone has supplied over 84,000 pounds of produce to food banks in Washington over the last 5 years. The library at WCC serves around 500 patrons who are long term residents in the Training Center and Intensive Management Unit, and has a collection of almost 14,000 items. Because WCC has the highest release rate of any DOC institution, the library focuses heavily on providing reentry materials and programming to its patrons.

Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW)

The library opened its doors to the patrons of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in 1971; it currently serves approximately 900 inmates, and houses more than 19,000 items in its collection. The programs, treatment, health services, facility and staff training are all directed by gender responsive principles in order to make a safer and more supportive environment for WCCW inmates. The facility also has a nursery known as the Residential Parenting Program that allows participants who give birth while incarcerated to live with their children in a special unit where they can learn parenting skills and gain knowledge about child development. ILS supports early literacy and learning through a storytime called Baby Reads.

Washington State Penitentiary (WSP)

Washington State Penitentiary, the oldest corrections facility in the state, is located in Walla Walla, near the Washington-Oregon border.  It has a rich history starting with its construction in 1886; although the facility has expanded over the years, some of the original structure - built with stone extracted from the Columbia River - remain in place today. ILS has served the library needs of WSP for over 50 years; in 2007 the West Complex branch opened to serve over 1,300 inmates with its collection consisting of approximately 15,000 items. In late 2020, a second ILS branch will begin to serve WSP's medium security inmates at its South Complex. See bibliography below for books about the Washington State Penitentiary.

Washington State Reformatory of the Monroe Correctional Complex (WSR)

The Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, built by inmates in 1910, is one of the oldest DOC facilities in the state. The 750+ inmates at WSR can browse the library's collection of 18,000 items to find reading and listening material, study for classes, and find information for reentry. In addition to the library, inmates have access to a variety of educational and sustainability programs, including composting and vermiculture (worm composting) programs. 

Interlibrary Loan Services for DOC Minimum Security Facilities

DOC minimum security facilities do not have ILS libraries. To supplement in-house collections made up largely of donated books, inmates at those facilities can request to borrow any item that is owned by the ILS libraries through the program's Interlibrary Loan Service.



Books, Films, Magazines, and Reference Material



Percipience A collection of poems from the Institutional Library Services Poetry Month 2014

Percipience A collection of poetry from the Institutional Library Services Poetry Month 2015 & 2016


 Feature Films

A Beautiful Mind.  Universal Studios, ©2002.  Nobel Prize winner John Nash was a brilliant mathematician who spent years overwhelmed by his schizophrenic delusions.

Canvas.  Universal, ©2008.  Outstanding portrayal of the challenges faced by a man and his young son when their wife/mother is hospitalized.  

Elling.  First Look Home, ©2002.  Two young men leave their state-funded institution and share an apartment in Oslo Norway that leads to touching and hilarious results.

Frances.  Starz Home Entertainment, ©2002.  Frances Farmer was a beautiful—and doomed—actress who became trapped in the 1940s American mental health system.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story.  Universal, ©2011.   Based on the semi-autobiographical novel about a teenager who admits himself into a mental health clinic as a means of keeping himself from committing suicide.   He finds much to learn and live for.

Nobody’s Child.  Koch, ©2005.   Based on the autobiography of Marie Balter who spent most of her life institutionalized.  With love and hope, she created a life for herself most would have considered impossible.

Promise .  Hallmark, ©1987. A modern classic about the love and tension between two brothers who only have each other in middle age.  One is a lonely and driven business man, the other is his schizophrenic brother who has been released from the state hospital.

Shine.  New Line Video, ©1997.   Australian pianist David Helfgott suffered a nervous breakdown at the zenith of his career.  With the support of friends, he returned to the concert hall.

The Madness of King George.   MGM, ©2001.   When Great Britain’s King George III showed signs of mental illness, a fierce battle began for political control during war with America.

The Snake Pit.  20th Century/Fox, ©2004.  This classic was one of the first Hollywood films to portray a mentally ill woman in a compassionate manner.

The Soloist.   Paramount, ©2009.   Journalist Steve Lopez was looking for a simple story when he became involved with a homeless L.A. man who had once been a promising musician.

The Shawshank Redemption.  Columbia TriStar, ©1995. Two convicts turn hope and friendship into an uplifting bond no prison can ever take away.

American Me.  Universal Studios, ©1992 James Edward Olmos directed and starred in this violent depiction of gang life in a Los Angeles barrio-- and later--prison life.

Murder in the First.  Warner, ©  1995. This movie depicts the murder trial of Alcatraz inmate Henry Young that finally persuaded officials to close the institution.

Documentary Films

Back from Madness: the Struggle for Sanity.  HBO Productions, ©2003.  Film makers followed four patients at Harvard’s Massachusetts Hospital for a year—focusing on both the historic and current challenges for those living with psychiatric diagnosis.

Out of the Shadow.  Directed by Susan Smiley.  Vine Street Productions, ©2004.  Intensively personal documentary by Susan Smiley who interviewed her mother over several years as her mother underwent several hospitalizations, setbacks and successes.

When Medicine Got It Wrong.  KGED, ©2009.   In 1974, a group of parents joined forces to hold psychiatry accountable for blaming schizophrenia on poor parenting.  That movement sparked the beginning of the consumer advocate movement.

Doing Time: life inside the Big House.  New Video, ©2006 This documentary looks at life within the walls of the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa., one-time home to Al Capone, Alger Hiss, and Jimmy Hoffa.  Examines the daily routines of prisoners, guards, and the warden.

Children’s Books

Broken umbrellas.  By Kate Spohn. Viking,  ©1994.  A sympathetic portrait of an old homeless woman.     

Face at the Window.  By Regina Hanson. Linda Saport Illustrator. Clarion Books, ©1997.   A wise and compassionate mother teaches her child not to fear or hate the “crazy” woman of the village.                  

Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry. By Bebbe More Cambell. E.B. Lewis, Illustrator.  Puffin Books, ©2005.    A child is taught by her grandmother how to cope with her mother’s unpredictable mood swings.              

Visiting Day.  By Jacqueline Woodson.  Scholastic, ©2002. Gentle illustrations enhance this children's book about a child's prison visit to her father.

Young Adult Books

Frozen Summer.  Yearling, ©2000.  This novel follows the struggles of a 12 year pioneer girl in 1816 who must face hardships and her mother’s growing insanity.     Mary Jane Auch, author.

Or Give Me Death.  Gulliver Books, ©2003.  While Patrick Henry was away advocating for American freedom, his family was faced with the everyday challenge of caring for his psychotic wife during a time that psychiatric care was nonexistent.  Ann Rinaldi, author.

Rabble Starkey.  Houghton-Mifflin, ©1987.   A young girl is forced to move in with the neighbors when her mother is suddenly taken away to a mental institution.    Lois Lowry, author.

The Road to god knows (graphic novel).  Allen Studio, ©2007.   Semi-autobiographical story of a young Canadian who struggles with the everyday torment of adolescence while witnessing her mother’s mental decline.  By Von Allen.


Halfway House.  Atlantic Monthly Press, ©2006.  A family is torn apart by the tensions caused by a child’s self-destructive behavior.  Katharine Noel, author.

Tomato Girl.  Algonquin Books, ©2008.   A novel about how mental illness affects every member of the family—as seen through the eyes of a child.  By Jane Pupek.

Unless.  Fourth Estate, © 2003.   A mother is frustrated in her attempts to understand and find help for her increasingly mentally disturbed daughter.  By Carol Shields.

On the yard.  By Malcolm Braly.  NYRB Classics, ©1967 The author used his experience as an inmate of both  juvenile and adult institutions to create a picture of the complex and frightening world of American prison life.

 Yesterday will make you cry.  By Chester Himes.  W.W. Norton, ©1999. This novel is based on the experiences of the author.  Himes was imprisoned for eight years. Upon his release, he made a modest living free-lance writing.  His hard-hitting novel  was not accepted for publication for 16 years due to its graphic nature.  Today it is considered a classic of the urban literature genre.

 An Inmate’s Daughter, by Jan Walker.  Raven Publishing, © 2006. The compassionate story of Jenna, an inmate's daughter, gives us insight into the challenges of families with a loved one in prison. It reminds all of us that the viewpoint of a child can teach us much about acceptance and tolerance. 


An Unquiet Mind.  Vintage, © 1996.  Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison has written a modern classic about the inner life of a woman who gradually comes to accept her psychiatric diagnosis and develop a successful recovery plan. 

Crazy: a father’s search through American’s mental health madness. Putnam, ©2006.  Journalist Pete Earley used all his investigative skills to chronicle the tragedy that befell his mentally ill son and others he came into contact with at various jails, hospitals and halfway houses.  He has concluded that America’s mental health system is broken—and needs major reform.

Madness: a bipolar life.   Houghton-Mifflin, ©2008.  Author Marya Hornbacher has written candidly about how substance abuse and undiagnosed bipolar disorder nearly destroyed her and how she rebuilt a new life for herself.

Scattershot:  my bipolar family.   Dutton, ©2008.   Most of David Lovelace’s family has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression.  David treated his wild mood swings with hard living until he finally came to terms with both the disease and his desire to live a meaningful life.

The Center Cannot Hold.  Hyperion, ©2007.   Elyn Saks struggled to keep her diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia a secret from her parents, friends and colleagues until the disease overwhelmed her.   Today, Elyn Saks is a nationally respected expert on psychiatric research and recovery.

Wishful Drinking.  Simon & Schuster, ©2008.  Author, actress and advocate Carrie Fisher talks about her celebrity upbringing and bouts with substance abuse and manic depression.

Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist.  By Alexander Berkman.  NYRB Classics ©1999.  After he was convicted and sentenced for attempted murder, Berkman wrote of his coming of age as an inmate in a Pennsylvania prison from 1892-1906.

Makes MeWanna Holler: a Young Black Man in America.  By  Nathan McCall.  Vintage Books, ©1995.  Washington Post journalist Nathan McCall  writes about his misspent youth as a habitual criminal. And he tells about how his job as an inmate library clerk changed his life forever.


BP (BiPolar) Magazine Both professionals and patients contribute articles about every aspect of the diagnosis and successful coping strategies.

SZ (Schizophrenia ) Magazine   Both professionals and patients contribute articles about the diagnosis and successful coping strategies.    

NAMI Adocate Magazine The National Alliance on Mental Illness welcomes patients, families and individuals that are interested in the political advocacy of mental health care reform.

Non Fiction

 The McNeil Century: The Life and Times of an Island Prison, by Paul W. Keve.  Nelson-Hall ©1984  An analysis of the historical events and special operating conditions that made prison life at McNeil Island more safe and humane than at most other penitentiaries. 

Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla, by John McCoy University of Missouri Press ©1981  Washington State Penitentiary in the raw reality of prison life. The favorite prison book of all who served time there.

Doing Life: Reflections of Men and Women Serving Life Sentences, by Howard Zehr, Good Books ©1996  Bleak b&w photography illustrate Zehr's interviews with 60 men and women serving life sentences in Pennsylvania prisons.

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, by Ted Conover, Vintage Books © 2000 Investigative reporter Ted Conover spent nearly a year as a prison guard in the notorious New York prison to tell about life inside from the perspective of both the jailed and the jailer.

Are Prisons Obsolete?, by Angela Y. Davis, Seven Stories Press © 2003 Former political prisoner Angela Davis makes a well-researched argument for the abolishment of the present-day American penal system.

Politics of a Prison Riot: The 1980 New Mexico Prison Riot: Its causes and aftermath by Adolph Saenz, Rhombus Publishing Co. © 1986 Saenz was a witness to one of the most shocking incidents in modern history.  He discusses that day and its long-reaching consequences for the American penal system.

Funhouse Mirror: Reflections on Prison, by Robert E. Gordon. Washington State University © 2000. This is a brutally honest and explicit book about Washington's prisons and inmates, authored by a writing teacher within the correctional system. The book paints a revealing portrait of those who are incarcerated. It also includes short stories written by the inmates


Mental Health Websites

Bring Change To Mind  This non-profit organization was founded by sisters Jessica and Glenn Close as a means to bring public attention to the stigma attached to psychiatric diagnosis and provide a public discussion forum..  

Mental Health America  This is the organization founded in the 1920s by former psychiatric patient Clifford Beers.  Beers autobiography A Mind That Found Itself helped to launch the first organization to champion civil rights for mentally disabled persons. 

National Alliance on Mental Illness    One of the nation’s most influential lobbying groups that was founded by parents who were frustrated by the stigma and lack of support / education about psychiatric disorders. 

National Empowerment Center   Patient founded and supported organization that advocates for mental health reform and a greater voice in new psychiatric care models that include a greater voice from patients themselves.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration  This government-supported website is dedicated to public education about both substance abuse and co-occuring mental disorders.

National Institutes of Health  This government website is dedicated to all aspects of public health issues and offers information about grants, funding and research.  Offers links to other authoritative health information websites.

MedlinePlus  This government website serves as a portal to various authoritative sites about health and drug issues. Sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health.


Prison Library Information

The Prison Library Primer: A Program for the Twenty-First Century. Brenda Vogel. Scarecrow Press, 2009. ISBN 0810854031 / 978-0810854031

Library Services to the Incarcerated: Applying the public library model in correctional facility libraries. Clark & MacCreaigh. Libraries Unlimited, 2006. ISBN 1591582903 / 978-1591582908

Libraries Inside: A practical guide for prison librarians. Rubin & Suvak, eds. McFarland, 1995. ISBN 0786400617 / 978-0786400614

Down for the Count: A prison library handbook, Brenda Vogel. Scarecrow Press, 1995. ISBN 0810829274 / 978-0810829275

Guidelines for library services to prisoners, 3d ed. (pamphlet), Lehmann & Locke. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2005. ISBN 9077897070

Library standards for adult correctional institutions (pamphlet), Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies. American Library Association, 1992. ISBN 0838975836

Directrices para las bibliotecas de prisión de Cataluña (pamphlet), Col-legi Oficial de Bibliotecaris-Documentalistes de Catalunya, 2007, Col-legi Oficial de Bibliotecaris-Documentalistes de Catalunya, 2007. ISBN 9788486972257