Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And now let me present....

Hello dear readers, and happy New Year's Eve!  As we wind down 2014, I have some excellent news to report:  WE GOT MINTERN BACK HAPPY YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!  AND she has agreed to be a guest blogger, so that you all can get a sense of what prison librarianship is like from Day 1.  So, without further adieu, I will turn the floor over to Mintern.

Hello, there, readers!

I am really excited to start working as a full-time minion at the prison library instead of an unpaid mintern! I just received my Masters in Library and Information Science this month, and I’m ready to put my new skills to use in a real library. But, before I get to do librarian stuff, I’ll spend the next five weeks participating in basic training for the Department of Corrections alongside about 100 correctional officers, 10 parole officers, and 4 medical staff. I’m sure the training process is different for every state, but I hope I can give you a little peak at what kind of training you’ll go through as a correctional employee before you can even start training in your library. If I make it through all five weeks, I’ll have passed three written tests and one physical test.

Now, when I first heard the term “basic training” my heart rate picked up a bit because I imagined a lot of sweaty, eight-hour shifts filled with running laps and repetitive push-ups. In reality, the most grueling physical activity I’ve done so far is lifting a giant three-ring binder filled with copies of PowerPoint presentations. (The State loves three-ring binders. The only thing it loves more than three-ring binders is the PowerPoint copies that get put into those binders.) By the end of week one, we had talked about everything from professionalism to games criminals play to fire safety and communicable diseases. 

However, regardless of the content of the lesson, at the crux of every single discussion was the overarching theme of “offender success.” Successful reintegration is a high priority for the department. In training we’ve been learning some really progressive criminological theories and effective management practices. Every staff member can promote offender success through motivational interviewing and positive professional communication. The entire department has shifted its focus from merely warehousing criminals to actively trying to change the thought process of the offender. We spent a lot of time discussing how the state is addressing the 8 criminogenic factors according to each offender’s individual needs as well as how each staff member can be a constructive role model.

Promoting offender success has been a pretty controversial topic in my training class. Some people don’t believe that offenders deserve our compassion or empathy. The idea of encouraging offender success makes quite a few people uncomfortable. As a librarian, I think these concepts come naturally. After all, our profession is all about doing good in the community and helping the public. That being said, I think it might be worthwhile to contemplate how helping an offender achieve his or her personal goals would make you feel before you commit to a career in corrections. Most offenders are incarcerated because they did really bad things; and, as a prison librarian, it would be your job to treat the ‘bad guys’ with the same respect and professionalism as any other patron in a more conventional library setting regardless of the crime that was committed. Just something to think about while you are considering a job in prison!

Until next time! Mintern, over and out.

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