TALES OF A JAILHOUSE LIBRARIAN: MARYBETH ZEMAN
You committed a crime. You are just a young teen. Your life is about to change and there is nothing you can do about it. You are placed in a cell in a local jail until which time your final fate is decided.A place for the confinement of persons in lawful detention, especially persons awaiting trial under local jurisdiction is what a jail is defined as. But, imagine a young teen, scared, alone with no one to turn to because his family is poor, some just don’t care and there is no money for bail or anyone to help him. A public defender might be assigned but rarely do these young kids ever really see the light of day and many are never reformed. Imagine being confined every day in a cell that is 6 by 8 feet in size. Imagine hearing the metal lock close behind you every time you enter it. Imagine the steel or brick walls, no window and one solid or barred door that keep you locked inside. Imagine what you would do if your movements were confined, your life not your own yet you had to desire to try and elevate yourself but did not know how? Tales of Prison Librarian will enlighten readers to the way our prison system works. The job of those working within the walls of these prisons or jails, their true feelings, frustrations and voice of one woman everyone calls Mrs. Z who decided to devote her life to making a difference to some many others. Hear the stories that she relates of the young inmates. Understand her passion for trying to help them by reaching out to them as their counselor, someone to talk to and someone who gave them some hope. Listen to these young tough kids ask her for books to read to escape to other worlds and learn what happens when some want to take the GED and are denied the right or something changes and they are no longer eligible. Enter the prison, find yourself outside the cells of so many of these young boys and hear them as they flag down this amazing woman as she relates their stories, endears you to many of them and helps readers understand just where so many have gone wrong and why our prison system needs to be overhauled. So many want to better themselves but more than likely they will return. Freedom is their goal but can they handle what it means? So many try but because there is no one to guide them on the inside or outside they fail.
Close your eyes. Open them: pretend you are in that small room in which this young teen is confined. “In its most common usage in corrections units, the term lockdown can be defined as a course of action to control the movement of inmates. Confining all prisoners, except workers, to their cells until the end of the day is a good example of a “lockdown period” in a corrections schedule.” Imagine having that happen to you! But, what if you are one of those prisoners that cannot seem to avoid punishment and the prison officials decide to isolate you even further. Solitary confinement. “Solitary confinement n. the placement of a prisoner in a Federal or state prison in a cell away from other prisoners, usually as a form of internal penal discipline, but occasionally to protect the convict from other prisoners or to prevent the prisoner from causing trouble. Long-term solitary confinement may be found to be unconstitutional as “cruel and unusual punishment.”
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/solitary+confinement. If a prisoner seems suicidal or will endanger him or others this is the solution.
Enter the prison along with Marybeth and hear the voices of the young inmates like David, Kris, Hector, Damien and many others as the flag her down with her special cart filled with books, look at her with hope and try to understand within the depths of the abilities why the system often denies them access to the justice so many deserve. Books are their escape. Making choices taken away from them. Their every move monitored, catalogued and controlled and yet one act of kindness, one brief encounter can give them the hope, the joy and the comfort so many have been denied for so long. Join Marybeth as she tells you their stories, might bring tears to your eyes as I share what she has shared with so many her special stories of Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian and hopefully when you complete reading this review or read the book for yourself you will understand why that special golden cart of books will keep rolling on for many more years to come.
Reading is power. It helps you to escape to places and worlds that you might never visit or see. Books are powerful and can fill the days of someone’s life with stories, poems, events, history and much more taking them away and allowing them to not think about what is directly in front of them metal bars!
Standards, rules and regulations are just some of what is part of each inmate’s life. Libraries have rules, standards and regulations too and they classify and catalogue their inventory the same way these inmates are processed when entering the system. Cold, unfeeling and filled with uncertainty, disorganization and sometimes disjointed. Diquan is one of the students that rarely asked to see our special Librarian and counselor. When he did ask it was only for pens, pencils or to check a court date. You see Marybeth has two hats and she makes sure to wear them both at all times. Learning more about him you will find out that his brother died and he hoped to get to go to the funeral. As the events are told and Marybeth does her best to relate his request to the proper person, Diquan’s request gets heard but not given. With a mother who cannot place money in his account and he lacks phone privileges and losing his brother, when Diquan was told he would be able to attend his request was denied because his mother could not prove that he was really her other son’s brother. No exceptions made. Learn what happens to Hector who awaits death row and here Marybeth’s voice as she says she only wants to make a difference. Hector follows the rules now and is her personal assistant in the library but is his change of attitude enough to grant him a way to get his GED and finally feel some type of success? The power of books: Nothing better! But, will Hector’s newfound love of books save him? Hector and Diquan make her life so different and the author states in her own words: “ In them I recognize the source of human happiness, which I always knew all along. That the simplest things have great value.”
Learn about the Five Classroom Schoolhouse and who wants to read Harry Potter, comics, James Patterson and James Woods. How do these young boys learn about the outside world if no one trains them inside to cope with it? How will they choices they make inside, even if the right ones prevent them from returning if they have no support inside or out? Choosing a book. Having the right to decide is that the first step?
Meet David, Francisco and Dyshone and listen to Marybeth as she tries to explain why books need to be returned, why they are not and about the fine she received when she forgot to return her book. What happens when Dyshone’s story is told and you learn that his home was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and his family displaced. What happens when lawyers do not return phone calls and CO’s seemed cruel to the inmates? Read what happens when Marybeth tries to explain to Dyshone how his charges might be lowered from a felony to a misdemeanor and why these boys are often so naïve they have no real understanding of what reality is and what happens when you plead from A to B to C to D and the consequences you might face. Imagine being told one thing and facing something worse! There are so many stories to share but I will let you the reader find out more about these boys on your own when you read about Kourtney and the boys in classroom 4, Dawuan, Lockdowns and Freddy and gangs.
One of her greatest resources she explains in the chapter about Nausan is METRO Special Interest Prison Librarian’s Group, which is hosted by the Metropolitan Library Council in New York City. Learning about many other support groups that support reentry. She is now able to network with other correctional facilities. Empowerment: A great feeling and now Marybeth can really help these boys by helping them have the tools to get jobs on the outside, learning about a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct and many other steps and organizations that might help these boys when released. Read page 195 and learn more. These boys need information and information will empower them to make the right choices. Learning just how the PUBLIC LIBRARY will help is enlightening. Read pages 196-197 and learn more.
Mary, The Lady from the Library: What happens when sometimes there is not a happy ending but a great subplot added to a novel? Marybeth, our author was contacted by Mary Robinson the Outreach Services director at the Nassau Library Systems who entered her life and that of the boys and made more than just a difference: She gave them hope, dignity and the right to make your own choice! Coming to the jail, meeting the boys, interacting with them and answering and asking them questions this chapter is quite compelling and finally Sister Dolores whose wisdom, guidance and willingness to help sneak in some special books on the library cart will make you smile. Meet the CO’s and you decide whether any of them care about inmates or are they just doing their jobs. Read this book, meet the young boys and hope that the system will change and provide more education for them and even provide classes in the prison explaining their rights, the laws and give them lawyers that will guide them and help them. Wouldn’t it be nice if these boys learn that everyone starts out as a blank page and it’s up to you to fill it with the right words. Empowerment: The power of books and the power of understanding: “Jail is a place full of people who’ve made mistakes, but the world is too. We can learn from our mistakes,” and move on by making the right choices and decisions when given the right tools. Let’s work on keeping more young people on the outside and leaving prisons with empty cells.
This book will enlighten readers as to what really happens behind the doors of prisons and those locked within the metal bars. Read their stories and listen to Marybeth’s words and understand that more needs to be done.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer