When leaders from Rock Bottom Ranch met inside the jail library last month to resume Bible study with inmates, only two books and some torn pages remained. That’s why the Ranch recently helped Anderson County Jail’s inmates by replenishing the shelves with roughly 2,000 books.
During the jail’s 15-month closure during the pandemic, volunteers could not come in to help and inmates consumed almost all of the library’s resources. Realizing the library's dire need, Ranch director Kelly Tisney asked Sheriff Rudy Flores, a member of the Ranch’s board of trustees, if her residents could replenish them.
Books are one of few connections inmates have with the outside world, Tinley said.
“It’s really healthy for the inmates to be able to read,” she said. “It had been over a year since we had been in there; those shelves were just completely bare. Unless someone’s trying to actively refill the library or restocking the books it dwindles.”
When Tinley applied to the 1687 Foundation for help, the nonprofit donated 30 cases of new books as part of its Free Book Ministry. The cases contain 60 copies of 12-15 titles, including the book Set Free: Life and Faith on Death Rowabout Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed on Texas’ Death Row since Chipita Rodriguez in 1863.
The Ranch also appealed to individuals and churches for help, receiving hundreds more books.
Jessica Morris, a recent graduate of the Ranch’s program and its new house mom, said reading is important to inmates and helped her stay focused during her time in jail.
“That’s what helps you escape the drama that’s going on,” Morris said. “Most of the books we’re donating include Christian literature which helps you keep your focus on what’s important."
The Ranch’s eight residents did not deliver boxes to the jail, but helped by combing through their own library to donate duplicates they didn’t need. They also helped by packing boxes and loading them into vehicles for transport.
The Ranch opened in 2019 as a rehabilitation home for women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. It provides a stable home, nutritious meals, counseling, religious and academic education, and workforce reentry for women who have already experienced withdrawal, including many recently released from jail or prison.
Three of the Ranch’s current residents came from Anderson County Jail. Two of those will graduate in December, but applicants can come from anywhere in the region or state.
For information about Rock Bottom Ranch’s recovery program or to learn about how to help call 903- 727-2550 or visit online at www.rockbottomranch.org.