I know that might sound weird, especially for those who don’t know I worked in a jail library for 19 years. Jail was not always an easy place to work. Many days could be very stressful. I spent a lot of time trying to get out and was relieved when I was finally transferred. There are things I miss about it, though.
I worked Monday through Friday and 8-4 when I was at the jail. No weekend work.
I worked alone. I could do things my way and not deal with anyone else doing it wrong.
I worked alone so my day didn’t depend upon others actually showing up for work.
I worked alone so there was no one around to micromanage me.
I worked alone so I could go on vacation or call out sick without worrying about my absence creating work for others.
I could have problem customers removed from the library.
Customers were only allowed in the library for an hour and then they had to leave.
I worked alone. Have I mentioned that? I love some of my coworkers, but working alone can be very nice.
I was invisible. I mean, I am still basically invisible, but I suddenly become visible when someone wants me to do something they don’t want to do. I was always invisible in jail.
Maybe I can get them to transfer me back to jail…
As I promised in the last installment of “My Life as a Jailbrarian” today I will write about the fights I saw while working in the library. This is not going to be as exciting as it sounds. There were rarely fights in the library. I can really only remember two actual physical fights inside the library. There were numerous arguments that could have turned in to physical altercations had the officers not responded to my call and stopped it before it started, There were times that I was threatened, but that also never turned physical. I saw the aftermath of fights in other areas of the jail. I think the library had fewer fights because they didn’t want to lose library privileges. I had the law books, so they were nicer to me. So, now that I’ve told you that this post is boring – here are the two fights I remember.
The one common theme of both fights is that they started fast, with no warning. There were no arguments, no yelling, nothing that would indicate that something was about to happen. Just a sudden burst of violence.
Fight one was the oddest one. I was at my desk answering a question when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a chair raising up in the air. The library went from relative quiet to violence in the blink of an eye. People who had been sitting quietly were now in a physical altercation and one of them was about to go after the other one with a chair. I have no idea why or how it started. It’s possible that this was a continuation of an argument that happened in the housing unit. It’s possible there was a quiet argument I missed. All I know is that I had an inmate going after another one with a chair. Luckily, it was not my job to intervene. I called for officer assistance and they stopped it before anyone was injured.
The other fight also happened quickly, but I know the reason for behind it. The county jail is a co-ed facility. The library was one of the place in the jail where the female inmates were allowed to work. At the time, I had a woman assigned to work in the library. Apparently, she was also writing notes to two different male inmates at the same time. These notes were not allowed, but they were passed all the time in a variety of ways. One of the guys she was writing also had a job within the jail. One day he was cleaning the halls outside the library and the other guy was in the library looking at books. I was at the desk helping someone find something in one of the law books. Suddenly, the guy cleaning the call charges in to the library and jumps the other guy. The officers arrived quickly again and broke up the fight before anything too extreme happened. It wasn’t until after the fight was over and I was cleaning up the library that I found the shank(homemade knife) that had been dropped when the officers arrived. Someone had been prepared to stab the other guy over a county jail pen pal.
That is the extent of real fights in the library. Not too exciting. There was plenty of yelling, plenty of me yelling over them to try to calm things down and plenty of times I felt the need to call the officers because it was past the point I felt I could intervene, but really only two real fights. It could have been much worse.