NLF helps setup ten libraries inside prisons in Karnali Region

Nepal’s police officers are not usually known for establishing educational facilities in the prisons they manage however Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) Mahesh Bikram Shah is an exception. He is an established author and the recipient in 2007 (2063 BS) of the Madan Puraskar, Nepal’s premier literary award. “I have always been interested in writing and literature but I had never thought prisoners might like to read and that prisoners would benefit from libraries” he says, “The epiphany moment occurred during my interaction with a prisoner about eighteen months ago. An inmate asked me if I could provide good books for them to read. The request stunned me. This had never happened before and I decided to launch a book collection campaign”.

Shah was in charge of the province of Karnali at the time. Local organizations, public personalities and businesses joined the campaign. Shah connected with NLF Canada’s President, Naresh Koirala, who enthusiastically endorsed the NLF’s participation in the project. “Prison libraries have been NLF’s dream for a long time and this was an opportunity we did not want to miss” says Koirala. Dhan Kumar Shrestha, NLF Nepal’s Director, coordinated book collection and provided library management advice. In less than six months the campaign collected nearly 11, 000 books and distributed them to the ten prisons in the province’s ten districts.

The prison libraries run reading clubs; hold writing competitions and literary seminars where invited guests participate. Shah says a recently freed prisoner told him that he had read 50 books in four months and this had helped him ‘expand his mind’. He now wanted to do something positive for his community. Reading culture is developing in the prison libraries and this is a good thing he adds, citing positive feedback from prison wardens, one of whom stated that the relationship of wardens with the prisoners had improved considerably since the inmates had access to books.