Friday, June 27, 2014

I don't need to have kids- I have 965 wayward daughters!

Greetings, future prison librarians! Today was a challenging day in prison because I felt more like a mom dealing with screaming rowdy kids than a librarian. This is definitely a good example of the need for gender-informed practices when dealing with offenders because library patrons in a male facility are rarely as high maintenance as the patrons in a female facility.
Thankfully, I have a great mom who used many exceptional child-rearing techniques on me that I can turn around and use on my library patrons. My favorite quote is "Bummer. What are you going to do about that?" because too often staff want to tell offenders the best way to handle things and fix their problems for them rather than letting people problem-solve for themselves. I get that, though. Clearly, we think, we are much more capable of making better decisions because we are in prison by choice rather than because we are bad. But, you really aren't doing anybody any favors if you constantly solve their problems for them.
Motivational interviewing is a good technique for helping people figure out solutions on their own that we are going to be using more and more in prison. (Interview tip: if you know what this means and can use it in your answer intelligently- interview bonus points!)
Sometimes in prison you have to act like a parent with people who are old enough to be your parents or even grand parents. I always find this a bit awkward and amusing at the same time, but if you remember that you are in the position of authority and are here to guide them to better life decision then age doesn't matter.
Being a good prison librarian and a good parent have a lot of the same requirements. You must be willing to set ground rules and consistently enforce them. You must have a sense of humor but don't ever laugh when your "kid" drops the F-bomb, even if they use it in the appropriate context because then they will do it all the time. You must be skilled at negotiating sibling rivalry. "I'm sure you two can work it out." and "I only want to hear about it if there's blood." are two good ones from my childhood haha. You must be good at creative problem solving because the minute you think you have it figured out, your "kids" will throw a curve ball. Also you want to raise your "kids" with loving kindness. This doesn't mean that you let them get away with everything, but rather that you are a benevolent leader who knows when to lay down the law yet is also kind because you never know what someone is dealing with on the inside.
Until next time!


  1. Carl Sommer credits this decrease to the way that character is under assault in our country. In his new book "Character Under Attack and What You Can Do about It" Carl Sommer considers the soul of America's establishing fathers in light of today's atmosphere of rough wrongdoing, the expansion in jail populace, and the philosophical fight and social war being seethed in the political field.