“A spirit-abusing drudge of mindless routine;” OR, WELCOME TO MY WORLD

A spirit-abusing drudge of mindless routine, priggish complaints, Cassandra-like drama, unpredictable violence, and ubiquitous paranoia. This veritable cornucopia of workaday evil defines contemporary front-line corrections. Welcome to my world.

During a 9-month internship in prison library management at SCI-Pittsburgh under the tutelage of the great Stephen Mallinger, I began to believe that corrections would allow me to help prisoners reject their criminality so they could shoe-horn some meaning and purpose into their broken lives.

I still believe this. But I don’t count on it.

I further nurtured the altruistic-but-misguided conceit that I could champion prisoners’ rights. I learned the only true way to accomplish this was to quit and join a prisoner’s advocacy group. I decided to stay in corrections.

Nearly three decades separate Now from those heady, idealistic days, when my kindhearted inclination was to characterize prisoners as “Those poor, poor people!” Since then, I’ve witnessed enough orgies of self-righteousness in the Pokey to compel even the most starry-eyed public defender to stab herself through the heart with her dog-eared, latte-stained copy of Gideon’s Trumpet.

Corrections can suck so audibly that the licking & slurping can be heard from Honolulu Harbor to Bangor Bay. The bad days feel as if the lone requisite for correctional work is that I be a dim-witted masochist, gleefully subjugating myself to humiliating doses of convict scorn and hate, public apathy, and bureaucratic short-sightedness. And I willingly fell into this talent-wasting, spirit-crushing trap. Whither sanity, rationality, reason? What the Sam Hill’s a’goin’ on here? Back then I could’ve shaken this nightmarish notion, ran outside, hugged a tree, then snagged a practical library job working around happy, trustworthy people who enjoyed their work and were glad to see me each day.

I chose the exact and utter opposite. I am a correctional Librarian at an adult male medium-security prison.

So I labor in blissful obscurity. Some prisoners and Administrators seem to appreciate my efforts. That’s got to count for something. Surely?