“Do you ever actually see the inmates?” Or: PRISON MYTHS EXPLODED WHILE-YOU-WAIT

Friday at 2PM–as a favor to their Instructor who’s currently out of state–I’m meeting & greeting a class of 17 library science students from Boston’s Simmons College. They’re taking a class in Special Libraries and we’ve arranged to give them a tour of good ol’ MCI-Norfolk. Based on previous experiences with student tours, here’re some of the questions we’ve received:

“Have you ever been attacked?”

“Don’t you get scared in here?”

“Don’t you find it hard to censor material?”

“Are Massachusetts guards really the highest-paid in the country?”

“I know they can watch DVDs. Are they allowed to have iPods?”

“Why do you teach them to sue you?”

“Wouldn’t you agree that prisons as a concept are immoral?”

“Don’t you think they should lose their rights once they come to prison?”

“Why doesn’t corrections force prisoners to read and write?”


“Can they use the internet?”

“Do you really need a Master’s degree to work in a prison?”

“Why do we have to pay taxes so criminals can have law libraries?”

“How much does a prison librarian make?”

“Does corrections really rehabilitate anybody?”

“How can you take all the negativity?”

“I bet it’s never boring in here!”

“Can’t you find a decent job?”  (This one always stings….)

“Isn’t is weird being around murderers and child molesters all day long?”

“As a culture, aren’t we coddling criminals by giving them these nice libraries??”

“Why should criminals earn college diplomas?”

“They’re not the most honest people. Do they ever return anything?”

“Why should you care about these wackos?”

“How many of these guys can read?”

We’ll give them an hour tour of the place, including showing them the library in the Segregation Unit, and then end up in the School Building, where we’ll set up shop in the lending library (which will be closed for the afternoon).

We’ll finish the day letting them wander around a bit in the Lending Library and poke around in the collection. We’ll remember to remind them that Malcolm Little did lots of reading here, we’ll answer about 200 more questions, and we’ll just have ourselves one knee-slapping, gut-busting, heckuva good time!

2 thoughts on ““Do you ever actually see the inmates?” Or: PRISON MYTHS EXPLODED WHILE-YOU-WAIT

  1. I would be interested in hearing the answers to some of these questions!

    – *Have* you ever been attacked? I hope not.

    – I think, according to 103 CMR 403.00, that inmates aren’t allowed to have iPods, although I’d be interested in hearing the rationale behind that decision.

    – Making every inmate conform to a certain reading/writing level is an interesting idea. I suppose the funding simply isn’t there, but illiteracy must be a large contributor to criminality in the first place. Removing that obstacle certainly couldn’t hurt.

    – That library science students should question the value of a college education is a bit shocking.

    • No, I’ve never been attacked. Only bumped into on purpose. I’ve been yelled at. And threatened. They call me names, too. But that’s it. And I’m grateful.

      All personal electronics are suspect in jail, because inmates take them apart, modify them, and use them for something else. For instance, we cannot have remote controls for our DVD/ VCR players, because inmates have modified them and made phones out of them.

      In the past we’ve had pilot reading projects where all participants were required to learn reading and writing. The teachers hated it, because they say no one can learn who doesn’t want to be in the class room. And that makes sense.

      Library science students seem to feel that you shouldn’t need an MLS because, well, it’s prison. I understand this position as a form of intellectual snobbery.

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