If the truth were told, we’d have to admit that we nurture prejudices, and some of these are based on reason.

For example: If you are a woman and mother, you cannot reason away not liking child molesters and rapists. Nor should you, nor should anyone tell you that you have to.

The thing about correctional workers — and I don’t know why this is! — is that they’re nosey, and they’re gossips. They LIKE finding out why a guy’s in prison. I know some of this is simple human curiosity, but some of this is prying, plain and simple. There’d be more professionalism in corrections if we controlled this aspect of our curiosity.

But who knows — maybe for some, knowing the heinous stuff helps them to cope with prison. Gossiping about the heinous stuff smacks of moral superiority to me, and I know moral superiority when I see it, having spent the better part of the last decade trying to exorcise it out of my corrections persona (and I’ve made headway, believe it or don’t).


I have a lending library janitor who has a nasty conviction of bullying and torturing a mentally ill patient. I made this discovery one day after an officer told me he’d just read the clerk’s criminal appeal in one of the case law reporters.

I made the mistake of reading the appeal. I could not see that man the same way. I actually looked for a way to fire him. My behavior toward him began to change and, of course, he noticed. Each time he’d tease a clerk or engage in regular prison banter, I’d make comments to him, whereas before I’d see the teasing and banter as normal prisoner behavior with coworkers.

Finally, through staff who should know, I learned three things about his post-arrest life in jail that helped me change my thinking: not toward his conviction, but toward the person he’s become:

One — He suffers from depression and has scars up and down both arms from suicide attempts (he always wears long sleeves). Over the years he has eaten himself alive with guilt for what he did.

Two — He feeds reliable information to our inner perimeter security people and, in particular, watches over the libraries.

Three — From talking with him, I learned that he nurtures a spiritual life, and since deciding to do so has made contact with his children and a beloved sister, all of whom dropped him like molten lava when his criminality ultimately resulted in incarceration.

So PERHAPS it wasn’t such a mistake to have read his appeal. I don’t know, except to say I learned more good about the man than if I hadn’t “pried.”