By Linda Shambarger, Library Director
Maybe the last place you think of art on exhibit would be in a jail setting. At the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker (CCNO) -- a regional jail that serves five counties and a large municipality -- art is on display on every wall within the library. And all the art has been drawn by the offenders and donated to be on display.
CCNO joined the SEO Library Consortium in 2001 and is the only jail to actually belong to the consortium. Before joining SEO, CCNO was able to join another library consortium in northwest Ohio upon receiving a grant in 2000 from the State Library of Ohio. At that time, CCNO contracted with Defiance Public Library and now contracts with the Williams County Public Library for staffing.
An offender is welcome to submit art work to the library clerk at any time during his or her incarceration. They are limited to one art piece on display at any given time. Offenders may be housed at CCNO as briefly as a few hours and up to 2 ½ years to serve time on charges involving felonies and misdemeanors. CCNO is operated on local tax dollars and is not a state facility. The jail houses an average of 532 offenders with 445 men and 87 women. Despite the low numbers, the female population has the most dedicated readers.
“Our walls are full of drawings,” said Linda Shambarger, Manager of Offender Programs who oversees the library operations. “It is amazing the talent that can be found within a jail setting,” she said, “as well as the talent that is on display with only the use of a pencil and paper. There are rare occasions where we may reject a piece, but 95 percent of the time we graciously accept and proudly display the artwork created by the offenders to put on display for others to see.”
Mrs. Shambarger said the art pieces are not only seen by the offenders but also enjoyed by jail staff. In addition, there are visitors who see the artwork on display in the library when they tour the facility. Those visitors include high school and college students, jail officials from across the United States as well as CCNO board members, volunteers and citizens advisory committee members. “All are amazed at the art work that is on display,” she said, “and it is very common to receive numerous comments and compliments about the art work.”
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