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Your Library Needs You!

Chat with Stephan Likosky and Alexandra Sax

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Transcript of Live Chat
June 22, 2004

NYPL Welcome to today's online chat exploring NYC resources for recently released inmates, their family, and friends. Our guests are Stephan Likosky, New York Public Library's Correctional Services Librarian and Alexandra Sax of the Mid-Manhattan Library Job Information Center. Let's get started...

NYPL Stephan, can you talk a little bit about some of the services that the library can provide for ex-offenders?

alex The New York Public Library puts out a brochure called CONNECTIONS. It is a guide to resources in NYC for people coming back to the city from incarceration. In addition, the booklet has a job hunting guide which helps in writing a resume, going for interviews, explaining time spent in prison, how to avoid discrimination, etc. The Library has many, many services for the public, which are helpful to ex-offenders as wee. For example we have job information, literacy, English as a Second language, computer learning, etc. You can check the Library website for more information at www.nypl.org. For a free copy of Connections, please write slikosky@nypl.org.

NYPL Alexandra, where is the Job Information Center, is it free, and do you need to make an appointment to visit?

alex Since it is part of the public library services. The user does not need to make an appointment, however, the user should know the library's hours which are available at many places in the library. Come and see what it is all about by stopping in at 455 Fifth Avenue at 40th Street. Our hours are also posted on the website : www.nypl.org

jm_291 I need help finding a job I'm just out of prison and don't know where to go. Can you help me get a job?

alex Dear jm-291, Although the Job Information Center on the second floor of the Mid-Manhattan Library at 455 Fifth Avenue at 40th Street (second floor ) has much to help you, it is important to know that it is not an employment center. It has key employment centers listed for the nation as well as New York City sites. The other areas which you may want to study would be the many websites...some seventy in number, the advertisements from various newspapers which are changed regularly; the directories such as The New York Job Bank and others. Of course, there are various programs which are offered free of charge and are helpful in preparing you toward the job interview etc. The Center also offers counseling sessions with a trained counselor. There are several computers for the prime purpose of typing a resume and cover letter. It is a valuable area of the library which offers so much more. Drop in at your convenience.

NYPL Does the library offer resume clinics, or somewhere where we can get one to one help in filling out applications, or typing up a resume?

alex Dear NYPL, The Job Information Center offers programs in the evening as well as workshops on Saturdays at given times which highlight how to write a resume. Also, there is a large selection of resume and cover letter writing books, both for reference and circulation to help the user. When the career counselor is on duty there is help in filling out the resume. The computers which are six in number offer a prepared program called resume wizard which helps enormously.

s_ndy Am I allowed to vote? I'm on parole and want to beat Bush ...

alex Dear "s_ndy" States vary, but in New York State, a person is ineligible to vote only if they are now incarcerated for a felony or on parole. A person on probation, no matter what the charge, can vote.

NYPL Will the library send a Letter of Reasonable Assurance for help in job assistance? We know that can help when a person appears before parole?

alex Dear NYPL, We can write a letter confirming that the Library has many job related resources to help in searching for employment, such as the Job Information Center.

ANN Can you send free books to my husband in prison? He likes to read and the library there doesn't have much of anything he likes.

alex The Library doesn't send free books to prisoners, unfortunately. However, there is a website which lists many groups throughout the country which send free reading materials to persons in prison. The web address is: http://www.afsc.org/greatlakes/dayton/criminal-justice/books-programs.htm

NYPL How important is it to know how to use computers?

alex Many people are still not aware of how to use computers; therefore, since it is becoming a great part of society the Library offers many steps to learning computers. There are more than twenty-five classes per month given at the Mid-Manhattan Library, for instance. Many of the branches also offer lessons. The website lists classes and times at www.nypl.org.

Jimmy My father is in prison and is HIV+. He thinks he may have Hepatitis C too. The prison doesn't test for that. Does the library have any idea or info?

alex Dear Jimmy, Frequently asked questions and answers about co-infection with HIV and Hepatitis C can be gound at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website: www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/faq/HIV-HCV_Coinfection.htm

Liz_Mellen May I ask here what groups are working on changing the things that make it harder for ex-inmates to gets housing and employment, e.g. rules about ineligibility for public housing, the myriad licenses for work in various trades that one could not apply for, be tested for and get, e.g. hairdresser, plumber. Such counter-productive punishment-continued rules.

alex The Legal Action Center at 153 Waverly Place, 8th Floor, NYC 10014 (212 243-1313) has just published a brochure surveying the various restrictions (in housing, voting, employment, scholarships, etc.) for all 50 states. New York ranks as number one in having hte least number of restrictions overall. The report can be found at http://www.lac.org/roadblocks.html. For other advocacy groups to abolish prisons, change prisons and obstacles for ex-offenders. You can do a google search using key words "prison advocacy."

Liz_Mellen Thank you!

NYPL Can you suggest any good ways to explain gaps in work history, for instance time spent at Rikers?

alex Dear NYPL, If you were at Rikers only as a detainee, that is arrested but not convicted, in NY State you need not ansewer the illegal question "Have you ever been arrested." The proper question is "Have you ever been convicted of a felony". Only if you have been convicted is it necessary to answer "yes". If you want a discussion on the pros and cons of being honest, check CONNECTIONS, the free boolklet the library offers to (ex-)inmates. A free copy is available at slikosky@nypl.org or at any NY public library CIS collection.

Liz_Mellen Re; Jimmy's question. Want to ask again. Inmates are supposed to get medical treatment, I thought. I ask again, what groups could Jimmy contact that are concerned about health care of prisoners and working to make it better? Thanks

alex Even though all prisons have basic health services available, Hepatitis C screening and treatment is considered 'nonessential' and too expensive an undertaking for some. This of course is highly unfortunate and more costly in the long run in terms of expense and, far more importantly, human cost. There are many groups and even journals which advocate for better standards of health care in prisons. You might want to do a google search using the terms "healthcare advocacy prisons US" I came across many including a "prison health" page of Medical Advocates for Social Justice at http://medadvocates.org/marg/incar/main.html.

NYPL Alexandra, Stephen we're almost out of time. Is there anything else you'd like to say?

alex No. Thanks so much for helping us and giving us this opportunity and guidance on this worthwhile project.

NYPL Thanks everyone for joining us. For further information please contact Stephan at 212-340-0971 or slikosky@nypl.org