Greetings future prison librarians! I hope this Memorial Day weekend finds everyone enjoying the sun and BBQing! Today's post is one I feel like I may have addressed before but it comes around often enough in prison that I think it is ok to talk about it again if I did already.
Today's Prison Urban Legend is the one about free money for felons. Now before you use any minute of your precious time research this question for your patrons, know this: THERE IS NO FREE MONEY FOR PEOPLE JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN IN PRISON. My minions and I think this is just a scam perpetrated by other ex-felons to dupe their less savvy homies.
So, how do you answer that ubiquitous reference question that you will be asked at least 792 times in your career as a prison librarian? In true reference librarian fashion, I like to ask for what they are wanting the money? If they say they need it to pay for school, give them a FAFSA form. If they need it to pay for an apartment when they get out, refer them to the social services in their destination county. Social Security will also pay people early if they can prove extreme hardship and you can refer them to the local Social Security office or Nolo Guide if they would like more information.
Many times patrons will give up after you tell them there's nothing in this world for free, but for the ones who are serious about not going back to the streets and selling drugs or themselves to survive, the prison library is going to be their best resource for getting the financial aid to turn their lives around. And that, as ex-felon Martha Stewart says, is a VERY good thing.