Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On the benefits of having a yoga practice when you work in prison

Greetings loyal readers! It's your friendly neighborhood prison librarian back again with the intention to be more mindful of writing more posts to keep this blog interesting.  Today's topic is the importance of having a yoga practice to maintain your sanity while working in prison. Yoga is popular as a workout but it is also a great tool for changing your mindset and that, in my opinion, is the number one most important coping mechanism you need behind bars.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with yoga, here is a great article to get you started learning about all your yoga options. I prefer vinyasa because I really like to feel like I am getting a workout and when I am focused on my breath and movement I am not worrying about anything else. I can also take that focus and use it when I am feeling overwhelmed and just re-center and focus on the task at hand.
Yoga has also helped me cultivate a mindset of service. When my focus is what I can do for others, I am much happier because even if they don't immediately appreciate what I am doing, it makes me feel better to do it. I think the meaning of life is finding happiness through helping others and there are few better places to help others than prison.
In my facility there are even yoga classes for the offenders. I haven't been to one so I don't know how popular they are but one clerk is always promoting it in the library and our yoga books are frequently on hold. Our old warden was a huge proponent of yoga as a positive leisure activity, so hopefully the new regime will stay on that bandwagon.
When I first started in prison, for some reason I caught the attention of the staff on the Emergency Response Team. They wanted me to join, but I was unable to do the required 2 pull-ups because my upper body strength was not awesome. Now, after 2 years of yoga practice I am "stacked" and can do at least 2 pull-ups. I am still not going to join the team because I actually like being a librararian and don't want to be pulled away from the library for activations for half the month, but the point is that yoga gave me the strength to lift my body weight up by my hands not just once but at least twice.
If you are skeptical about yoga, you don't have to go to a studio at first. You Tube has many free yoga videos to watch so you can get the hang of it. Personally I love going to the studio both for the adjustments which help me do the poses better but also for the inspirational things the teachers say. Powerful words are powerful for a reason and the universe gives you what you need when you need it. If you are feeling frustrated with your position in life, no matter where you are, open your mind and go to yoga. You may be sore the next day but you will not regret it. Until next time!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Prison Urban Legends, Episode 2

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wacky prison weather

Generally our prison doesn't have wacky weather but today was definitely an exception. I was sitting at my desk, happily recataloging CDs and enjoying the fact that my afternoon meeting was cancelled when I looked out the window and noticed it getting dark--FAST.
Now I am generally a weather exaggerator because things are more dramatic and hilarious that way. However, today no exaggeration was needed. The dichotomy of blue sky to the left and black clouds to the right was meterologocally beautiful. After the tornado green was thrown in, it was a sky to rival the sunrises from my deck.
I called my HB because he is in the know about things like that and I figured if I was going to get blown to another state I could at least say Loveyoubye. Then I called the Teacher 2 and said "Hey! Come on down and watch this crazy weather with me!" because tornadoes are always more fun with friends. By the time she got there the convective energy was really starting to build and we watched, mesmerized, as the clouds swirled faster and faster.
We were gaping out the window when we heard the sirens go off and a voice came over the radio and said "Everyone get AWAY from the windows!" because I guess we were not the only ones looking haha.  We decided to go out and see what everyone else was doing and round people up to get them to safety.
One of my colleagues called Control and they said to get everyone away from the glass and take shelter, so because the bathrooms were full I took another teacher and her class to my storage closet which has no windows, just huge heavy shelving units and thousands of books. But I figured hey, if we were going to die, at least we would die surrounded by great literature.
Now, one thing to know about prison library patrons, especially women, is that many of them have PTSD. Things like this freak them out big time. The group with me was pretty calm, even though one girl asked in all seriousness if we were going to die. To maintain the peace, and because I didn't feel like we were going to die, I told her "Nope. No dying today" and she was mollified.
When all the craziness of torrential rain, wind and hail passed, I called Control to ask if it was safe to come out now. "Come out of where?" they asked. "Um, SHELTER..." I replied. "Nobody went into shelter," they told me. "EVERYONE was in shelter up here," I informed her. Classic case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing apparently.
Times like this make me wish we had a camera because the clouds were amazing and the amount of hail afterwards looked like a snow storm had hit. We were instructed to send everyone back (escorted...unescorted....depended on whom you asked haha) and then return to whatever it was we were doing before almost-mageddon.
Let this be a lesson though, potential prison librarians. Become familiar with emergency procedures and evacuation routes and shelters because you never know when you will have to take charge in an emergency because other people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Until next time!