I went to prison…. for library outreach services

Yesterday I presented at the Specter Grant Re-entry Seminar at the Martin Correctional Institution. I was asked to provide an overview of the opportunities available at the public library. The fifty men in attendance were in their last days/months of incarceration and were taking time yesterday to learn about places to go in the community where they would feel welcome and receive help in their journey to life outside of prison.

My speech went well. I was very grateful for the Benevon training I received a few years ago on learning how to tell the library’s mission in meaningful ways — as opposed to just listing out the services that are available by walking in the door of their nearest library. It definitely kept everyone’s attention and provided a richer experience than the traditional “this is what’s at the library” verbal tour.

I was one of the first speakers. Following me were United Way, Workforce Solutions, the Child Support collection agency, and the re-entry specialist for the prison system. Hearing these presentations really brought home the tremendous uphill struggle that these soon-to-be released inmates have to overcome. The fact is, many of them won’t succeed and will wind up back in this or another facility. Participating in yesterday’s program made me want to help in other ways. I’m wondering about the possibility of partnering up with Workforce Solutions and providing a place and materials for perhaps a mentoring or support group. I am short of time and staff to really make this a reality at this time, but if I find the right volunteer to bring this to a reality in the next year– I believe it could be a valuable resource for my community.

I will definitely present again, if invited. I will also try to keep this group of people in my heart and be open to ways to help all residents of the community I live in to succeed.

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