National Conference on Higher Education in Prison – Collaboration Beyond Campus: Building Connections Between the Prison and Univesity

Nalini Nadkarni with Sustainability in Prisons Project at Evergreen State College

Nalini created a science lecture series and lab to produce sustainable operations, education, scientific research, and conservation. This includes organic gardens, bee keeping, water catching, composting, recycling, raising butterflies, prairie plant restoration, etc.

This program allows students to develop science skills, collaboration skills, and critical thinking.

She also took views of nature to supermax prisons by creating large installations.

Below is her TED Talk.

George Lombardi with Missouri Department of Corrections

George is the director of MDOC. Prison, he said, is like a small city and has the same operational needs. He reminded us that when bringing interns into the prison that every major has a role in the facility.

He also suggested that staff are offered the same opportunities, for he sees staff struggling with their own education or their children’s education.

George has observed that having colleges and educational programs in MDOC change the environment in a positive way.

He is an advocate for an dog training program to save dogs that face euthanization.  This program connects the city to the prison which makes the community see prisoners as something other than what is on tv. It also shows that the people in this program can give something back to the community. Many of the staff and community members later adopt the trained dogs. Participants in this program keep a journal of their experience that is then transferred to the adoptive parents to be able to know their dog better.

A unique aspect of George’s program policies is that all prisoners have access to programming. He believes that limiting programming based on the length of the sentence does not treat the person.

Jody Lewen with Prison University Project

Jody joins correctional officer organizations and goes to their conventions to incorporate their worldview into their program’s training to better describe officers and how to work well within the prison environment.

She stated that officers are often vilified and demonized by outside volunteers. We need to listen and hear their concerns; provide eye contact, be aware of your body language, say hello, and reach out to staff as individuals and their professional organizations. Have conversations about education in prison with them.

Sean Pica with Hudson Link for Higher Education, Inc. 

I wasn’t able to take notes during Sean’s presentation, but check out their program! You can also watch some videos about their work on their vimeo channel.

Words from Past Prison Librarians: Frances Sandiford

This week the library that I work at has two staff people retiring. Their retirements got me thinking about retired prison librarians and what they have to say in reflection after years in the field. Today and next week we will reflect on a three retired librarians experiences, beginning with Frances Saniford. Frances Sandiford was the prison librarian at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in New York from 1980 to 2000. Prior to her employment, “[t]o restore peace after the riots in Attica Correctional Facility in 1971, New York State prison authorities made some changes, including setting aside a place in every facility for a library supervised by a qualified librarian.”

She credits Brenda Vogel’s Down for the Count: A Prison Library Handbook as a manual for managing the library, for this handbook changed the library’s managerial perspective from correctional facility’s to a librarian’s.

Sandiford states that “the real difference between prison libraries and libraries in the free world—prison libraries are lifelines for the inmates, their one contact with the outside, a small taste of freedom. To ensure their operation, however, prison librarians must accept a few restrictions themselves.” And, for her, “it sometimes sent chills down [her] spine to know that the men [she] dealt with in the library had such sordid pasts. [She] felt the contradiction of providing intellectual freedom in the midst of prison security.” I like that Sandiford lets us know that she had troubles with the restrictions and knowing were to draw the line with intellectual freedom, for this lets us know that the profession may be harder when you are a practitioner in the inside rather than on the outside of the PIC learning about librarianship.

The major question many LIS students, or any student entering a profession, is how much you have liked your job. Sandiford says, “I’ve also been asked if, now that I am retired, I would consider going back as an adviser or some kind of assistant. The answer to that is also no. I did my time and paid my dues.” Although she has considered her dues paid, she serves as a board member of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, so her participation with the PIC is not done yet and perhaps although she would not go back, she might have felt fulfilled in her job.

Source:  Sandifrod, Frances. “Reflections of a Retired Prison Librarian.” Library Journal Archive.  6 Jan. 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.