The Libraries & the Choices They Offer




Life is full of choices. All choices, even not making one, have a positive or negative effect, intended or unintended. Prison is no different. What determines the effect prison has on a person is choice, primarily the choice of response. The prison environment is inclined to take a person in a negative direction. After all, it is filled with law-breakers and limit-transgressors. The bad choices with negative consequences made in the free world offers prison as the effect and the consequence of the law-breaking and limit-transgressing thinking.


Once in prison, what choice is there for the prisoner? They can choose to “gen in where they fit in” and “go with the flow”, which like water, goes downstream. This path is one of learning ideas that make a person a better prisoner or as is said, “a better criminal.” But there is nothing good about being a criminal, or being in prison. The only thing that may be considered good about being in prison is that it teaches a person change is necessary.


The other choice is to go against the current prison culture, to swim upstream. The choices made will determine not only how the prisoner “does time” but also their chances of staying out of prison once released.


Many prisoners will say the two choices they had growing up were prison or the grave. I wonder why these are the only two choices many people thought they had. Millions of people have an ample amount of choices, while prison and the grave are not amongst them. Why? The more choices a person has, the greater the probability they will achieve higher goals. Choices create opportunities. Better choices create better opportunities which offer chances at a better life. Choices come by being exposed to different ideas.


But, from where can a prisoner obtain ideas?


There are a few worthy options for the Texas prisoner. The most well-known are Windham School, vocational trades, and college. These are without doubt worthy options, but sadly they are not available to all prisoners. Fortunately however, there are two alternative sources of education available in some fashion to all prisoners: the Law Library and the General Library.


Libraries contain the best words of some of the wisest people to have ever lived. The authors are endless. Whether they are jurists, philosophers, story tellers, or otherwise, books will take the reader to places they are unable to go while incarcerated. The author will give the reader inspirational ideas to think and talk bout. Books are a record of a person’s best thinking. They benefit the reader by giving good advice, warning, or just some good counsel. Books are a wonderful companion in solitude. Wentworth Dillon said, “Choose an author as you choose a friend.” People tend to do that which their friends do. Who shall be befriended? Both the Law Library and the General Library expose the prisoner to ideas that give choices, creating opportunities to travel a different road in order to make a better future for the reader. Or, even teaching the traveler to beat a new path and be a trendsetter.


The Law Library is a more than a bunch of confusing books written by pundits clad in black robes. Law books are filled with the rules of society that enable people to understand how to establish businesses, family life, tax benefits, and every other aspect of the life of a society. And yes, they even offer the reason for prisons. Studying the law not only offers an appreciation for rules and policies, but it will also aid in the acquisition of a better vocabulary and improved thinking skills. Thinking skills are necessary for decision making; thus, the better a person can think the better their decisions will be, which as a consequence leads to a better life.


The General Library, on the other hand, is filled with every possible genre conceived. The concepts are endless. These books can expose the reader to a plethora of ideas (and new words) that can catapult their life in a new and exciting direction never before imagined; a direction that does not consist of “prison or the grave.”


These two libraries offer ideas that expand the prisoners’ thinking to create bigger and better opportunities, letting prisoners befriend those who will push them towards a better and more rewarding direction in life.


Many people believe their only choices in life are prison or the grave. Joan Baez once said, “You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.” Resist the downward spiral of prison, resist going with the flow and instead, choose to win upstream, reach greater heights, and obtain a life full of opportunity. Choose wisely.

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