It is at this time of the rolling year that our Department Education Division – a rather robust leader of our rehabilitative effort to help aid convicted felons in turning their lives around—extends some welcome and generous financial support to the DOC’s 17 library collections.
“Generous” because the support can be anywhere from $1,000-$3,000; “welcome” because it’s money spent where it’s needed most. By this I mean that, like most things in life, there’s a catch, and Education purchases for the prison’s lending libraries are no exceptions.
The caveat, we are told, is this: the money can only be spent for the following topics:
- Community Re-entry/re-integration
- Recovery/ self-help
- Job/ Career guides
Well, that’s hardly a concession, when you consider the mission statement of the Department: “To promote public safety by managing offenders while providing care and appropriate programming in preparation for successful re-entry into the community.”
The Department also has something called a Vision Statement, which adds: “To effect positive behavioral change in order to eliminate violence, victimization, and recidivism.”
Seems like the Education Division Director has paid close attention to the intentions of the current Commissioner to move MA corrections to a more pro-active stance to help the incarcerated mend their lives. Because of this, she agrees that this is the way library services should be heading, too.
In a few minutes, I’ll be taking my approved purchase order for $1,900 to the Shire, armed also with my trusty laptop and manila envelope containing lists of specific titles I want to look out for. Included in this envelope are written requests from the prisoners. This is because I publicize my book buying beforehand, and want their input.
They are also informed of the purchase limitations. “Why can’t we get what we want?” some invariably exclaim.
“You can,” is my response. “Through ILL, through your own purchases, through purchases made on your behalf by family and friends, through purchases made by the Inmate Education Committee, and through the myriad prisoner reading organizations that have sprouted up all over the country.” All of which is true. Some inmates, I’ve learned, even have relatives working in the publishing world, who send them galley proofs on the regular. I also remind them that, because it’s Education money and not prison funds, Education may dictate all day long how they want their own money to be spent.
So — let’s go get some good books for crooks….
OK, we made it to the store. We use this store because we believe in keeping used bookstores afloat. Plus, they give you 30% off if you arrive with check in hand, which is what we’ve done. Buying books is fun — saving money while doing it, doubly so. They have a small shopping cart for people like me, so I grab that and head out onto the main floor.
Let’s start with the self-help section. Not a lot here today, at least not a lot that’s new since the last book buy. What should we toss in our cart? How about:
- New Rules
- Going Postal
- Cows of our Planet
- Politically, Fashionably, and Aerodynamically Incorrect
- Winter’s Tales
- Baseball & the Meaning of Life
- Men in Love
- Sexual Health for Men: the Complete Guide
- License to Rape: Sexual Abuse of Wives
- Some American Men
- Male MENnopause
- Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man
- Men Confront Pornography
- Beyond Feelings: Guide to Critical Thinking
- Hurdle: the Book of Business Planning
- Small Business Start-Up Kit
- Why is God Laughing? Path to Joy & Spiritual Optimism
- Before It’s Too Late: Why Some Kids Get Into Trouble–And What Parents Can Do about It
- Coming Home to a Place You’ve Never Been Before
- When the mind hears: a history of the deaf
- Mind to crime: controversial link between the mind & criminal behavior
- Freedom will conquer racism & sexism
- Readings in contemporary criminological thinking
- In the belly of the beast
- Winnie-the-pooh on problem solving
- American red cross first aid & safety handbook
- Who survives cancer?
- Finding beauty in a broken world
- Plain & simple: a woman’s journey to the Amish
- How good do we have to be?
- Is there life after stress?
- Escaping the shadows/seeking the light: Christians & sex abuse
- Owning your own shadow: dark side of the psyche
- Full catastrophe living: using your body & mind to face stress, illness & pain
- For your own good: hidden cruelty in child-rearing & the root of violence
- Character disorders in parents of delinquents
- Anxiety cure: 8-step program for getting well
- We weep for ourselves and for our children
- How Proust can change your life
Actually, there was more here than I realized. That’s because I scrutinized several different sections of the store to find this stuff. I’ve learned to broaden my outlook on what constitutes a ‘self-help’ book for the incarcerated. In other words — I don’t limit ‘self-help’ to the Self Help section. If you notice, the first several titles in this list are humor books. And this is because, from the reading and research I’ve done, I see humor as just as important a coping tool as any other strategy recommended by any self-help guru in any pop-psych section of any bookstore or library. Humor is coping and humor is healing and humor is fun. You need all three to get through a day in the Pokey….
The other titles in the list are more-or-less self-evident.