The quest to be righteous after doing "wrong" is not only the domain of the chaplain. It's how the wrong occurred in the first place that interests many inmates and motivates their reading requests. Social science, religion, philosophy, history and poetry fit the bill.
Several weeks ago, the library team gave the book, Fire in the Belly, to an inmate in Max. He asked for a similar book yesterday. It is an ongoing challenge to find ennobling books that match the pace and energy of the wild rides and thrillers we provide.
This book analyzes violence and love, a hot reading topic in jail. The struggle to learn self-restraint is incredibly hard in a free society, and this book doesn't offer an easy fix. There are a thousand methods to suppress behaviors and sublimate energies in order to conform to the norm, but few manifestos to stand up and stand out as individuals. After several years in this job, I wrote the following:
Jail: Whose violence
has been quelled,
yours against me
or my own gut feeling?
The fire in the gut (and the mind) should stay lit, especially behind bars. This reader reminded me of that fact.