Years before Albert Ramos finished his children’s book about an energetic pup who learns that dog toys don’t bring true happiness, he began by writing a letter.
In 2010, Ramos, five years into a life sentence for murder at Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina, mailed off his message to Venerable Thubten Chodron, founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, in eastern Washington state.
Ramos had come to know the community through the abbey’s prison dharma program, which reaches about 1,000 prisoners across the United States. The monastics at the abbey correspond with the prisoners and send them a quarterly newsletter as well as books on Buddhism. Chodron and others from the abbey also visit prisons when they’re able and organize a virtual “Retreat from Afar” for about 200 inmates in the winter.