DAMNED IF YOU DON’T / FIRED IF YOU DO

Regarding the American workplace, many people seem to exercise two separate levels of trust — one for friends & family (folks they care about) and one for their coworkers (folks they don’t care so much about). This dichotomy seems to exist for the purpose of keeping private lives separate from professional lives. Time and human nature have taught that blending the two causes many emotional quagmires that we can all do without — and these quagmires are easily enough avoided if we all just behave ‘professionally.’

Fair enough. Now — What happens when you care about your coworkers? Specifically — what  happens when your ‘coworkers’ are convicted felons, people you have a sworn duty to try and help?

We’ve all noticed that crime is an emotional topic. Prison is an emotional topic. Punishment is an emotional topic.

Getting out of jail is an emotional topic for inmate law library users. Trying to stop drinking and drugging is an emotional topic for lending library users reading self-help texts. The very fact of incarceration is emotional for the Keepers as well as for the Kept.

Where we come into the correctional picture — “we” meaning the librarians and educators  — then socialization itself becomes an emotional topic. Why should that be? Because we’re hired and paid and trained and vested to care. Our job then is, by this definition, an emotional one.

Some prison librarians say, “Trust the inmates to perform their job responsibilities….” Let’s look at that. How does one trust the inmate clerks? How far does one trust inmate clerks? Are inmate clerks worth trusting? Remember, these are people who, on the whole, you’re going to end up spending more time with on a given day then your fellow correctional coworkers. And these are the same people you’ve sworn to correct and socialize. A very bizarre emotional mix for the workplace, not a mix you commonly see. And yet you own it, here in your correctional library. Some of these people also participate in your socialization programs, and these classes as we’ve discussed are fraught with emotional resistance and revelation. Some of the inmates you hire have certain emotional problems that they’re taking positive steps to try to resolve (maybe they’re in group therapy, or trying out a new drug regimen). What happens when they have a bad day? Or a bad moment?

The same librarians then say, “Trust the COs to care for and correct the inmates….” We hope and pray that this can be done daily, consistently, and fairly. We’ve already discussed the important responsibilities of the CO who takes ‘care’ as seriously as he does ‘custody.’ But something always gets in the way of this duty, something called human nature. Officers have bad days. Inmates manipulate. And there are sadistic people, on both sides of the fence. Some officers are just incompetent. And sometimes these incompetents are assigned to your area. There’re few things worse than having to work with a bad officer. It’s embarrassing, humiliating, frustrating…all negative emotions. When inmates feel they’ve been wronged by such a person, they’ll search you out & ask you to lend a sympathetic ear. If you’re willing, there’s more emotion in your day.

The librarians also say, “Trust administration to put security above all other needs,” which is probably the least emotional of the three. Although I can tell you that ‘Security comes first’ doesn’t always happen; it doesn’t always happen consistently; and it doesn’t always happen to the same degree between one Administration and the next, between one shift and the next, between one officer and his replacement. Sometimes this inconsistency can cause its own level of frustration.

The job of providing library services to convicted felons is an emotional one. You take rational and reasonable steps to sustain your professional distance, and still emotion elbows its way in. And I say that it’s not necessarily bad. You need to care about your work. And, in the case of correctional librarianship, your ‘work’ is people — prisoners and their social reclamation.

If each day you went inside as cold as ice, or as an automaton, that would be cause for concern. That path leads to indifference; perhaps not necessarily, but you’re on the right road.

When I tell you it’s a balancing act, I tell you truly. You have to be artful, and vigilant. The sorry consequence of letting your guard down is a level of inappropriate familiarity and bonding that may become injurious to your career and may even compromise your safety.

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SEQUEL

Well, it’s here again, and I have to spend the majority of it up in the Segregation Unit library, moving about 2,000 law books off the shelves and back to our building to be picked up by State Surplus later on in the year. Wish me luck (did I really say that…?)

I have returned. I’m tired, my legs ache, I keep drinking glasses of water to hydrate me. This is the most exercise I’ve had in a year — understandable for a sedentary out-of-shape 48 year-old.

The moving of the segregation law collection couldn’t have gone any better than it did. All the books were moved, all the books were boxed, all the boxed books were moved to the 1st-floor balcony of the law library. And no one got hurt. The only thing we did was to break a wheel on a property cart. We reported it and then took it over to the Maintenance shop.

Between 8:30-4:30, I had the help of 15 hand-picked, muscle-bound strongmen. And people complain that inmates lift weights in jail! I’ll not hear a word against a prison weight room as long as I live.

The best part of the whole day was the communication. People in power actually worked together to see this thing done right. Unheard of! Incredible! Preposterous! If this sort of thing keeps up, the prison’s apt to give corrections a very bad name indeed. Never in my 23 years have I been part of such a well-organized, thoughtful plan of action. Moving 2,000 law books ain’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Compound that by the confinements, restraints and vagaries of a medium-security adult male prison, and you’ve got some real problems to overcome.

THE ESSENTIAL & NONESSENTIAL: A BALLET OF MUTUAL RESPECT

Is it necessary for an officer assigned to the library to care about rehabilitation or the library’s socialization mission in order for the library to thrive?

I’ve actually never thought of it that way.

Can you do your librarianship without the officer’s blessing? Yes. Can you be a competent prison employee? No.

You cannot waste your time running around a prison shouting to all and sundry “The work I do is important and necessary!” That’s a waste of time & energy.

You also shouldn’t squander your opportunities to remind your colleagues of your correctional function in the prison. In this respect, you’re not trying to ‘convert the heathen’; instead, you’re trying to educate the ignorant.

I’ve always seen a sweeping generalization from an officer — “Convicts never change” — as an opportunity to describe just what it is that I’m doing in that classroom when he goes home for the night. Most will listen if I start out by saying “I’m not trying to change your mind, but respect my experience, too,” then I blather on. When I finally shut up, if they don’t despise me, they usually respect me a little more. It’s a risk well worth taking. How else can they learn?

Ten years ago, I taught a class at our Training Academy called “Prison Law Libraries: Why They Are.” When I told her the course title, a friend of mine — who used to be a correctional librarian — said: “Oh, I get it: “Get Off the Law Librarian’s Back.” Ten years later that still makes me laugh, because instantly she understood that I got fed up with having to explain my reason-for-being so often, I created a program and made them come to me!

It most certainly IS important to show officers the respect they most certainly deserve.

It’s my experience that bad officers are also bad people. I’ve never yet seen a bad human being make an honest, caring, respectful, competent correctional officer. But s/he is there, and has to be dealt with. If you cannot avoid these people, learn something about them to like or admire. The only way to do this is to talk with them. Don’t avoid them, or see them as your enemy. Or, if you must: “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” If they truly want nothing to do with you, at least you know you’ve tried. It’s important that you make the attempt.

It’s also my experience that good officers are good people. Even the good officers may not see eye-to-eye with us but, because they’re good people, they will show us the respect we deserve.

A library officer who also believes in human redemption is the best of both worlds. I say that type of attitude makes a true ‘correctional’ officer, and mirrors my definition of a ‘correctional’ librarian.

The overwhelming majority of correctional officers are good people. I love the officers I work with. I owe them my living, I owe them my life, and I owe them my allegiance.

REHABILITATIVE MATERIALS SELECTION: OR, “Books for crooks!”

[In which we discuss the relative merits of murder mysteries for murderers, porno for pyros, and Parent Magazine for child molesters….]

When a patron walks into any other kind of library in the world, the mental, emotional, and physical problems she brings with her are her own. Unless her actions compel us to call the security guard or police, we’re not concerned if she’s got anger issues, or drinks too much, or reacts before thinking a problem through.

But in corrections, they pay you to be concerned about your service community’s problems. It’s because of their problems that the incarcerated are now part of your service community.

Which always gets gets me to thinking about the type of fiction prisoners often find on the prison library shelves of the United States of America. Can certain kinds of fiction be considered therapeutic as well as entertaining? There are certainly gratuitous fiction that your common sense would compel you to stay away from — you could name some, and so could I. But let’s shine a brighter spotlight on our correctional lending library collection to see what’s actually ‘tween them pages….

Take, for example, science fiction, of which there are various sub-genres, and certainly there are morality tales from certain authors who believe that the good guys must triumph over some particular evil. Same with fantasy, although with fantasy the themes seem to be more obvious, and here I’m thinking particularly of Tolkien and the gargantuan sweep of good versus evil in much of his work for public consumption. Since the 50s Tolkien has certainly had his imitators, dozens of writers the world over who have created their own worlds and peopled them with creatures falling heavily to one side of the good/evil dichotomy.

Westerns! Who’da thunk that Louis L’Amour was out there in the American southwest crafting dozens upon dozens of morality plays? But that’s what he was up to. I never read one of his books until I used his Daybreakers in ABLE MINDS, and discovered that there is true substance to the man’s work, a do-the-right-thing philosophy coupled with careful studies in good human character, therapeutic elements that rarely get preserved for the big or small screens.

Last year I had a conversation with a prisoner who said he read murder mysteries because they’re morality plays where the good guys & gals pursue the baddie until he’s brought to justice. That certainly gave me food for thought.

It could creditably be argued that Crichton’s Jurassic Park — at least in the hands of Spielberg — was a re-telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankensein.

What about the plays of Camus? Satre? Tennessee Williams? Eugene O’Neil? The poetry of Donne? The novels of Dickens, or the short stories of Shirley Jackson? I’ve made a study of the Twilight Zone stories of Rod Serling, which are collected in at least four paperback anthologies, and much of his stuff centered on human frailty/ immorality and the sometimes terrible consequences of such behavior. These stories are in the fantasy section of the Norfolk library.

There are some who’d argue that the smut ‘n’ fluff of romance novels qualify not only as good, dumb fun but also as therapy, because you’ve got the pursued & the pursuer in a healthy social setting and usually the characters you want to see ending up together end up together and live happily ever after. Is Pride & Prejudice therapeutic? What would Jane herself say? Perhaps she’d agree, at least to see her work in the context of a correctional lending library.

All I’m asking you to do is to be thoughtful in your choice of reading material for the people you serve, where those that you serve have problems to overcome that might not be helped and even hindered by the type of material you provide. To me, that’s worth giving thought to.

To me, that’s part of the responsibility of a caring correctional librarian.

To me, that’s a professional way of serving your employer.

To me, it’s a good way of being accountable to the public.

To me, it makes the librarianship meaningful, challenging, even fun.

And you certainly will never look at your collection in the same way again.

PATRONIZING INMATE PATRONS

[In which we contemplate exactly what it takes to be a competent corrections employee, and how librarianship sometimes gets in the way….]

 

In his fascinating text Libraries in Prisons: a Blending of Institutions, author Bill Coyle rocked the prison library world with this simple truth:

Prisoners do not legitimize prison library services — the State does.

What Coyle means by this is simply that the inmate’s relationship to the prison, the prison’s library, and the prison’s librarians are different than those of free-world library users. The prisoner does not pay for library services like his free-world library-using counterparts. Nor is the inmate in a position to dictate library services, due to his temporary status as ward of the State.  Indeed, his presence in the prison is involuntary, he doesn’t give a plug nickle to the building or its contents, nor does he collaborate with the librarian or the prison or the State with any library programming efforts.

On the other hand, every free-world library user coming through the library doors is a bona fide patron of that library, because his taxes help to support the building, the grounds, the librarians, library staff, maintenance crew, the library collection, and every business meeting and program the community wants. Free-world library users are stakeholders in their community libraries, and therefore have a say as to what goes on in them. This cannot be said for the incarcerated and correctional library services.

For many librarians, this is at least a sea-change in service philosophy, if not outright professional blasphemy. Each library science program proclaims that it is the library patron who legitimizes library services. Without the user there’d be no libraries, library services, librarians, or library staff. So the idea is — Give the people what they want. Why? So they keep coming back. If you have patrons, you have a reason  for being.

Well, you can’t do that in jail. You cannot give the inmates what they want, the same way you cannot give an alcoholic or a gambler or an arsonist or a junkie or a rapist or a cat burglar or child molester what he wants. When it comes to people with problems, common sense dictates certain limits. If your best friend who is an alcoholic and has been on the wagon for 13 weeks tonight begs you for a drink, you will not give her one. And you do not give her one because you have a vested interest in her well-being, that vested interest being that you love her and want to see her get well.

In corrections, you are paid to serve the inmate community. But that ‘service’ is not defined to mean “Anything goes, as long as they’re quiet.” ‘Service’ in the correctional sense means Helping people overcome problems that brought them to prison. In order to be successful at this, you have to have a vested interest in the incarcerated. You have to care.

The correctional librarian needs to construct a service philosophy based on the therapeutic and programmatic needs of the incarcerated human being. Why? Because the State expects corrections to correct. The State does not require its public libraries to correct its patrons, therefore the materials and services there can be more recreational in scope. This is folly in the correctional library. Your ‘patrons’ are not patrons — they are wounded, down-and-out women and men who’ve hit rock-bottom, and wouldn’t mind a helping hand up out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves. If as the Librarian you can help lend a hand, you must.

How? Offer consequential thinking seminars. Offer bibliotherapy programs. Offer every kind of self-help and recovery book, tape, and DVD that there is. Offer career information and materials. Offer book discussion programs. Offer re-entry and reintegration material specifically written with the ex-con in mind. Instead of just the typical and often destructive (as opposed to constructive) reading material from the popular best seller lists, offer positive-recreational novels and classic literature — go out of your way to find uplifting fiction and nonfiction for these folks to try.  Offer program support for as many rehabilitative and socialization programs in your prison as you can. And let every department head in that prison know that you’re there to support them, from the education staff on down to the contract vendors.

In the public sector, you can afford to be passive and let the patron guide what you do for them. Below is a concise illustration of the typical patron-librarian dynamic:

PATRON: “Gimme.”

LIBRARIAN: “Here.”

In correctional librarianship, we focus on what are the programming needs of the incarcerated, and not so much on what they want out of the library. And when an inmate indignantly tells you “It’s my library!” you say “Let me disabuse you of that notion. This library belongs to the State — it’s not yours, and it’s not mine.”

You cannot be passive in correctional librarianship. The State–in the form of taxpayers and politicians, crime victims and the long-suffering families of criminals–says to you “These people need help. That’s why they’re here. Your role here is socialization and program support. You’ve also been trained to find information. Go find information that can help these people turn their lives around.”

You cannot wait until an inmate decides to try this text or watch this video or see what this program is like. You have to take it to the streets, and hit them where they live. You have to advertise and make them know what’s going on in the library for them to take full advantage. You gather therapeutic and socialization material, make it available, advertise, and develop programs around this material to see who bites. Also, many inmates will open up to you and confide exactly what brought them to prison. Those moments are golden opportunities to recommend a book, to encourage program attendance, to talk about the seminar you’re teaching. You get them involved. And you get yourself involved.

There is a legitimate penological objective at stake in the correctional libraries of the nation. That objective is to rehabilitate and socialize. This effort includes the incarcerated women and men who frequent the libraries. You owe it to them. You owe it to their families. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones. And you damn sure owe it to the State, your employer. The State has hired you to to simultaneously fill the roles of Authoritarian, Disciplinarian, Humanitarian, and Librarian. And all of these roles are compatible with one another; in fact, it’s the first two that make the last two possible. You establish authority and consistency so that socialization has a fighting chance to happen. You cannot have rehabilitation without good reliable security. Security and good order are paramount to the socialization efforts of the correctional librarian.

In prison, daily routine negativity is a palpable part of the air you breathe. Your efforts at socialization through the library and its services help to cut down on that negativity so that all may breathe a little easier. Any time you do something to offer the incarcerated some hope, you participate in a human miracle called redemption.  And only then is the State getting their money’s worth out of you.

You also need to encourage what we in this course refer to as unstructured socialization. This is when inmates, for reasons known only to themselves, refuse to attend any structured programming taught by prison staff, contract vendors, university professors, or volunteers. Instead, they seek self-help information on their own, and prefer reading,  watching DVDs, or writing in workbooks to participating in a classroom. Unstructured socialization is a frequent occurrence in correctional libraries. There are more of these inmates that you might think, and you must provide material for them to use. Otherwise, the State wastes many helping opportunities.

As a correctional librarian, the patrons of the library are not the people who come through its doors – it’s the people you never see. And these are the very people you must forever keep in mind, if the time that the incarcerated spend in the library is to have meaning, value, and purpose for the State — that is, for the much greater free-world community, the real patrons.

A CATCH-22 IN THE HOOSEGOW

Then there’s the apocryphal statement, invented in the 1960’s by war correspondent Peter Arnett, of a fictional US soldier explaining to his commander about the flattening of Vietnam’s Ben Tre : “Sir, it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”  Arnett must have read Joe Heller’s Catch-22 one too many times. Although this statement was a product of Arnett’s shell-shocked imagination, absurdist language like this allowed folks like comedian George Carlin to carve out a top-grossing social satirist career for over five decades.

Approximately 35 years after the fall of Saigon, something akin to Arnett’s dubious attribution happened in my library. Prison security discovered that certain of my lending library clerks had been writing personal letters and completing homework assignments using word processors on their work computers. They’re not authorized to do this, and an investigation ensued.

While the investigation was in progress, a decision had to be made: how do we suspend these workers and get new clerks for the librarian to train? It was decided that the clerks would be fired pending investigation, and new temporary clerks would then be hired. The caveat would be that, if any of the original clerks were vindicated, they’d be returned to their former positions and the temps would have to hit the bricks.

Putting a new spin on his old fabrication, Arnett could write of this situation: “Sir, we had to fire everyone to keep them on the payroll.”

Administratively, it was the sensible solution, because:

* The original clerks were suspended pending investigation

* The library can’t provide services without clerks

* Temporary clerks won’t work without pay

When you run a one-person library, you’re only as good as the people you have. Between the lending library, law library, and segregation library, I have 24 clerk positions to fill:

Legal research – 5  *  Janitors – 2

Regulations/legal forms – 1   *  Accounts/Receiving – 1

Book binder – 1   *  Typewriter loaner program – 1

Interlibrary loan – 1   *  Cataloger/ classifier – 1

Circulation – 3   *  Spanish-language – 2

Legal copiers – 3   *  Segregation janitor/shelving – 1

Classroom assistants – 3

What are the real-world job pool logistics of a medium-security adult male prison? Most inmates have never:

*  Owned a library card

*   Walked inside a library

*   Checked out a book

*   Developed a ‘read-for-pleasure’ habit

*  Finished high school

*   Used computers

*   Served the public

So what kind of library staff can you realistically expect to end up with? I will now pass on a prison employee secret of how to find good correctional library clerks who care about doing a competent job — Hire lifers. Lifers make the best library clerks, because lifers make the best prison clerks, period. Their maturity level is higher, in general they’re more intelligent, sensible, and creative, and they’ve had more time to make peace with the prison routine. They’re invested in their work, and self-motivated. Personally, I’d put these men up against any library staff anywhere in the world.

Another aspect of inmate library clerk hiring that cannot be ignored is staff chemistry. Everyone has to get along with each other. It doesn’t have to be overt displays of brotherly love, but cooperation, reliability, and a good healthy dose of self-effacement goes a long way.

Here’re some things to find out about a potential hire:

1    Does the inmate get along with the librarian?

2   How long has the librarian known the inmate?

3   How well does the inmate know the other library clerks?

4   Will there be any racial tension?

5   What kind of prison work history does the inmate have?

6   What is the inmate’s disciplinary history like?

7   Will the inmate’s criminal history be a problem?

8   Does the inmate have a sense of humor?

9   Is the inmate a thief?

When it comes to correctional libraries, staff chemistry might be more important in jail then in the free world. Prisoners have a social pecking order based on a person’s conviction. Depending on what the guy’s doing time for, he can be ostracized or even hurt. Race can be a polarizing issue. Whether the inmate is seen as a standup con or an informer is important. If you know that the inmate hates corrections staff or talks bad about the department, you probably don’t want him around. And if the guy doesn’t play well with others, let him be somebody else’s headache.

So the only way to temporarily replace lifers was to — hire more lifers. Which is what I did. A bunch of inexperienced men who never worked in a prison library before. And then I truly had a problem, because two of them eventually worked out so well, I dreaded the thought of losing them!

Ah, well. Feast or felons. I mean famine.

I-ME-MINE? NOT IN THE POKEY, MR. HARRISON….

When people have their apartments or houses broken into, they tell us that they feel ‘violated.’ They explain that it’s as if someone has stolen something of great value from them.  And that is, of course, what has happened. The sanctity of their home has been betrayed by a stranger with utter contempt for that sanctity. No one but you and your family has any business in your home, unless you welcome him in; anyone who cannot conform their behavior to this sacred societal trust is rightly accused, tried, convicted, and punished as a criminal. “A man’s home is his castle,” as one English legal precept has been insisting for 300 years.

But when you’re working for corrections and your internal peace officers come to shake down the libraries, it’s not the same. That’s when you discover that your libraries, your office, your work desk, and the contents of your libraries/ office/work desk have nothing whatever to do with you.

In corrections, you own nothing. That desk you’ve worked at for 20 years? Property of the state. That office? Belongs to the prison. That substantial collection of library material in those shelves/ rooms/cabinets? Taxpayers paid for that. The chair in which you sit? Not yours. Never was. Librarians are even fond of saying “my patrons” or “my clerks” or “my students.” Sorry. They were someone else’s clerks/ patrons/ students before you, and they’ll be someone else’s clerks/ patrons/ students when you’re gone.

Quite naturally, when adult human beings take a vested interest in their work, they become territorial. It’s human nature. But nothing reminds you of just how limited your actual territory is until your libraries are shaken down.

When you sign on with corrections, you must lose the personal concept of ‘mine.’  This is because the only thing you own is something you had before they hired you and something you take home with you each day — your reputation. Everything else you make use of or consume has been bought with state money and is, literally and logically, the property of the state.

The last week of January, our institution conducted a shakedown of the law and lending libraries. The great news is that no drugs or weapons were found. The bad logistical news is that, in every shakedown, the place is left a mess. Not the libraries: the officers were careful to keep the shelves orderly, even though each book had to be searched for contraband. The libraries were fine. But the offices in which work the librarian and inmate library clerks — different story. It will probably take two days before everything is organized and back to normal.

As it should be. When those officers are searching for contraband, that is their main focus and concern – nothing else matters. They come in unannounced, take their time doing what they need to do, and leave unannounced. And by the way: while they’re searching the libraries, you are nowhere near the area. The institution asks you to work temporarily in another office. The librarian is not security staff, and is therefore not a part of this operation. You must allow yourself to be moved out of the way.

After the shakedown, one of my ABLE MINDS assistants heard me mutter something about the contents of an office drawer being in disarray. This was his cue. “They don’t have to do that,” he said.

“I’ll admit I was upset at first. ‘Righteous indignation,’ I think they call it. But let me ask you– who did I choose to work for?”

“The DOC, but–”

“–then I know that occasionally my office will be left a wreck.”

“I can understand them treating us that way. But you’re staff, you’re not doing time!”

“They’re trying to run a prison. Everyone has to be treated the same. They have to shake me down, they cannot assume because I’m an employee that I’m above reproach. Look at the things employees bring into prisons! Everyone is subject to search and no one can be above suspicion.”

“But we’re human beings!”

“Look about you, in this room you and I call the librarian’s office. Nothing in this room is mine. It all belongs to the Governor. Now, if they took my coat or damaged it — something I’ve worked for, something I’ve paid for — that’s a different story.”

“I’ll concede that. But what about your dignity?”

“My office needs straightening, but my dignity’s intact. What do you think?”

“I think you’re taking this a lot easier than I would if I were you.”

“Everyone has their burdens. If you must, be glad you’re not me.”

“Be glad you’re not me,” he said, smiling.

With that he reminded me of something esle that’s mine — my correctional mantra, which is  ‘There–but for the grace of God–go I.’

Kinda keeps me humble.

Kinda.

“What we’ve got here is failure to…um….”

Didja ever notice, in this swinging Information Age of ours, that each time you’re compelled to communicate in a slightly different form than that to which you’ve grown accustomed (e.g., iPhones, PDAs, Facebook) you have to learn how to cry/crawl/toddle/walk/run all over again? Kinda defeats the need and desire for immediate, concise communication, don’tcha think? Me too.

Take this blog. Please.

Because if I have to learn one more line of ASCII characters, HTML code, or  cPanel jargon, I will never actually communicate — talk/ write/ gesture — again. All we do is read manuals, watch tutorial videos, and email the computer gurus in our lives whose sad lot it is to hoist us out of whatever learning-curve quagmire we’ve fallen into face-first after misunderstanding what we’ve read /watched/ been told.

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Now I know why the Yellow Pages are crammed to overflowing with web site design businesses. It’s ’cause everyone wants a web site, but no one has the time to learn how to build one. These designers are the first to say, “All this code stuff is easy. Anyone can do it!” So you take their word and you look at the code and a half-hour later you’re still looking at the code and then you suddenly channel your kindergarten Reading class when first you cracked a Fun With Dick and Jane text and start weeping & shaking the same way you did all those happy, care-free years ago until your teacher got disgusted & sent your crying a$$ out in the hall.

Communication in corrections is a lot different. More stable. Traditional, if you will. The librarian’s communications arsenal consists of an impressive contemporary array of techno-wonders, including:

1     A corded land line

2     A battery-operated two-way radio secured to their person from a belt clip

3     A ‘panic button’ alarm, either mounted to the librarian’s desk or to the wall behind the office chair

4     A God-given ability to yell, scream, or holler

Recently, corrections has made communications advances that have launched all Departments into the latter half of the 20th century. These include:

1     An email system for staff to annoy each other with

2     Voicemail (in case email isn’t annoying enough); and

3     A severely-filtered internet portal, allowing librarians the whole of the commercial web at their fingertips, provided that the web they use is limited to certain government home pages, the Google search engine, and Wikipedia. This is because Security Comes First.

I’d tell you more about communications technology in the prison library, but I have to go watch a WordPress video on how to save this blog entry.

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YOUR CORRECTIONAL MANTRA: “Security comes first!”