Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An unfortunate thing happened on the way to the library...

Good evening, dear readers!

As you can tell from the post title, an unfortunate thing happened on the way to the library the other day for one of my clerks.  It was time for our afternoon sessions and it had been a fairly normal day.  However, after movement was called for the library, Mintern and I heard a commotion on the radio.  We didn't catch what was happening, other than they needed "first responders" to the west stairs.  Since neither Mintern nor I are designated first responders and we had a few patrons and clerks arrive in the library already, protocol states that we remain in place and manage our offenders in our area, rather than running out to be the hero in an unknown situation.*

We knew it was not going to be good when an overhead announcement was made closing the yard and locking everyone down.  This usually happens when there is a fight or other significant disturbance, so we had more of an idea what was going on.  We also saw our officer colleague running down the hallway to assist so we knew whatever was going on was urgent, especially because she is pregnant but in prison, being pregnant is not an excuse to not respond if your help is needed.

While Mintern and I waited in the library and helped our patrons and clerks who had made it prior to the incident, we speculated on what the cause might be.  We were both in agreement that it was probably involving someone who was coming to the library...  We weren't locked down for too long, probably about 10-15 minutes or so, and when everything was finally back under control, we learned the reason for all the drama.

Our missing clerks arrived, white-faced and wide-eyed.  It turns out that one of our clerks had been attacked by her on-again, off-again girlfriend in the stairwell while coming to the library for work.  Apparently, this clerk was walking with one of her friends, and the girlfriend became super jealous and started attacking our clerk.  She bit her hand so hard that she broke the skin and it was bleeding.  Then, when she had delivered the beat-down to our clerk, she ran after the friend and beat her up too.  I could tell it stressed our clerks out because they were very quite when normally they are happy to come to work, and one made the comment, "Ugh, skin on skin punching is NOT something I ever want to hear again!"  They reported that our clerk was not fighting back (in prison, if you fight back when you are attacked, you are liable to get a fighting write-up as well) and that they all got sprayed with OC because the officer who deployed it did it from a bit of a further range than is recommended.

All three of the offenders were taken to Segregation (in prison terms, they were RFP'd or "Removed from Population") in order to give them some cooling off time and also to give staff time to sort out what happened.  I haven't been back to work since then due to vacation and training, so I don't know what has happened, or if we can expect that clerk to return to work.  Generally, if they don't get a write-up we will retain them, especially in this situation because this clerk has come so far with regards to her personality since she started working there.  When she first started, she would not work at the Circ desk, and basically just wanted to shelve books and not talk to patrons.  Now, she makes awesome displays and actually engages patrons and even staff and provides really good reader's advisory services for Urban Fiction and Gay and Lesbian Fiction.

Unfortunately, incidents like this serve as a harsh reminder of the environment in which the prison library exists.  Don't let this scare you away, readers, but rather just let it be a lesson and a head's up that sometimes these things happen.  It could have been a lot worse--the girlfriend could have had a weapon, or the attack could have happened in the library.  I am interested to see what the result of the investigation is when I get back tomorrow, and I will keep you all informed.

Until next time!

*Note: when I was in a uniform and carried OC, I probably would have gone, but being in professional dress with no defense tactics other than what I learned at PPCT, I made the decision to stay in the library.  This is a situation you may come across in your prison librarian careers.  I highly suggest playing the "What IF..." game so that way if an emergency arises, you are not caught in the paralysis of indecision.  For example-what would you do if you noticed a scuffle between a Mental Health staff member who has an office directly across from the library and an offender?  Would you A.) Run over there and start throwing down; B.) Call for help on the radio or using the duress alarm and watch the situation from the safety of your library; or C.) Call for help with the radio or duress alarm, tell your offenders to sit down and lock down and go over to help your fellow staff member?  These are the things you need to think about.

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