Prison Library Humor: Participation and Observation in a Contested Environment

Claire Schmidt (Missouri Valley College) and William D. Mongelli (Massachusetts Department of Correction, retired)

A prison's Librarian is able to observe and participate in humorous expressive culture with both prison staff and inmates. This humor is dependent on the traditional unwritten rules of corrections occupational expressive culture. The prison's library is an environment of potential rehabilitation and conflict because the space calls attention to differences in intelligence, education, and potential future quality of life. This project draws upon Mongelli’s personal archive of prison library humor collected over 34 years in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, and argues that humorous communication debates and acknowledges these differences within the boundaries of the prison library environment.

Part of 52-03 Jokes, Humor, and Tradition, Friday, October 22, 10:30 am–12:00 pm