okFor the past 2-1/2 years I have been volunteering at the Women’s Prison at Mitchellville in the General Population Library. I describe my position as an ‘overseer of the women’ who need no direction from me to operate the library. My presence however does make it possible for the library to be open on Sunday afternoon as no prison employees supervise or work in the library ever ……it is run completely by the women currently living there. Working in the library is a coveted position in the prison and currently pays about 50 cents/hour. As a volunteer I am the only person who can answer the phone, make calls to reception to share library hours, call security for opening and closure, and make calls to summon women who have books to pick up. The women who work in the library are skilled librarians…capable to answer questions about books, authors, and subjects.
I have worked with some of the women for almost 2-1/2 years now and we have developed a unique respectful relationship. There is much we can not share but there is much we can talk about and discuss that has made our relationships unique and special. One thing I do know is that I look forward to spending time with them twice monthly for 2 hours and engaging in conversation with them about a variety of topics. Being an inmate has not diminished or robbed them of their ability to think, have opinions are ability to discuss a variety of issues.
One of the greatest benefits I receive each Sunday is an opportunity to ‘get out of myself’ and give some time to someone else which forces me to not dwell on thoughts or concerns that might currently be troubling me. It is amazing what these two hours of volunteering and one hour of driving time can do for my heart and soul…it is great therapy and for that I am thankful.
Until two weeks from now when I drive to the prison, enter the prison, pass through security, walk up the long hill to the library and I am greeted by these library women workers who no doubt will say, ‘How are you Miss Joyce?’ It doesn’t get any better! ###