First Day in Prison: Part I

Posted: February 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

It was Wednesday, January 6th, about 7 pm.  I was pretty sure the bus to take me to Dodge Correctional Institution would arrive early the next morning.  The week prior I had anticipated this as well.  I had boxed all my personal property including canteen I wanted my sponsors to have.  But, due to holiday backlog in shipping inmates, I wasn’t taken.  So, I went a whole week without my things.  At least I had been smart enough to keep my radio.  Between that and the newspaper my sponsors provided, they kept me sane while being isolated since mid-December due to my low white cell count after my second Chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

Tomorrow would be different I was sure.  Far from being scared and anxious like I’d thought I’d be going to prison a few months ago, I was chomping at the bit to get going.  My reasoning is the sooner I get into the ERP Program the sooner I’ll get out and get on with my life. 

Sure enough at 4:30 am the next morning the call came to clean out my cell.  I had already organized everything into piles for quick disposal.  I had also written a thank you note to the medical and Pod 1 staff at Waukesha County Jail, whom the vast majority did what they could to make me comfortable in the last 3 weeks while being isolated.  I saw a human side come out of many of them that they are not allowed to show us inmates on a daily basis and I wanted to let them know I appreciated it.  I gave up my radio to the mental health department as a donation for another inmate.  I signed my property release sheet to a sponsor to pick up later and I, along with a few others, was taken to an intake, holding cell.  Interestingly enough, I had been required to wear a mask when out of my cell, nor was anyone concerned about me being around others.  I didn’t care either.  Finally, after a little less than a month, I had a group of people to talk to!  I paced the cell until the number of people in the cell wouldn’t allow me to.  One person, who seemed more depressed than others, began talking to me about how it came about that he was going to prison.  His name was Scott and he stated that a whole bunch of people –kids- had turned on him and lied in order to get themselves out of trouble and how the Waukesha County District Attorney’s office had been targeting him.  He had done some things wrong in regards to drugs, but he wouldn’t tell me what he’d been charged with or how long his sentence was, which I thought odd.  His hopes rest on his appeal, and being the kind of person I am I encouraged him not to lose hope. He mentioned his last name was Ziegler and he had owned a tattoo shop prior to all of this.  I vaguely recalled reading about it in the paper, but didn’t remember all the particulars.

Finally about 8 am, Waukesha County deputies appeared and began the process of chaining our feet and hands for our journey to Waupun, WI.  As they loaded us into the van, I overheard the deputy mention we were traveling during one of the worst winter storms we had had this year.  There was a total of six of us inmates, with Scott Ziegler to my left, and three inmates in the back seat of the van.  As we got underway, I silently prayed never to see Waukesha County Jail again.  Almost as soon as we hit the road, the driver almost lost control of the vehicle.  I figured the journey to this point had been rough, why would it change now?

After awhile, we began to relax, the conversation between Ziegler and I began again, this one about attorneys.  He had used a court appointed attorney, I had spent $25,000 – every dime I had and then some.  Both of us felt our attorneys had wronged us.  Then a voice spoke up in back, that he had the best defense lawyer in the state of Wisconsin and had gotten him for free, Gerald Boyle.  I asked how he managed that and he said his case was rather high profile and because of that, Boyle agreed to take his case for nothing.  I made the comment I read the paper regularly, and he said, “Oh, you know who I am then” and I said who?  He said his name was David Waap.  As soon as I heard the name, my blood ran cold.  This was the same son of a bitch who had just been released from prison and killed his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Peterson.  But, not only had he killed this woman, but he had disemboweled her and bragged to a friend he was going to prison for the rest of his life while covered in her blood.  And I knew a detail that hadn’t been published in the media, he had gotten his it bull after her face who had basically ripped it right off.  That detail Waap himself had put into circulation at Waukesha County Jail and been reported to me by others in there.  What made this even worse is I vaguely knew the poor girl.  She would visit a bar I would occasionally frequent in downtown Waukesha.  She was to me your typical 21 year old girl, one who would flirt with men who would buy her drinks, then turn those same men away later on in the evening.  A sweet girl using her looks to get by until life came together for her, like so many before her.  I had read Waap had plead insanity, and the first doctor evaluation having not been favorable to his case, were attempting to get a second.  So Waap asks me, “you know how I am?” and I just nodded my head and broke our eye connection.  Then he asked me if I thought Boyle would be able to help him.  I replied you have two problems.  You bragged to a friend about what you had done which shows consciousness of guilt.  The other is you need more help than any attorney, any person on this earth can give.  Only God himself can save you.  With that he went into a diatribe against this friend and acknowledged how faint of a chance he really had to win this as an insanity case.  All the while he looked at me, knowing I was the only inmate in the vehicle that knew, with the look that he knew what I truly thought of him.  And somehow, someway, he found joy in that and he had gotten power over me as a result.

During a mercifully quiet moment, the thought occurred to me, really at this point, prison is the great equalizer.  Waap, Ziegler and I would wear the same chains, are on this same ride, and would endure the same indignities, put on the same clothing and land in the same type of cell today.  Regardless of what we’ve done, whom we’ve hurt, or what people may think of us, none of us are superior to the other in the State of Wisconsin’s eyes.  In that thought, at that time, as we rolled up to the gates of Dodge Correctional Institution, I found shame and self loathing.  But this is not time for tears as I had to get ready for what was to come.

  1. Unknown says:

    This note is for you Jake, I hope it finds it\’s way to you. I am riveted by your account of life behind bars. I am the wife of an inmate. Many times, when I\’ve asked what he\’s doing or what is going on his response is "sweetheart, you don\’t want to know…" . Maybe I shouldn\’t want to know. Maybe I just plain shouldn\’t ask… But Jake, your words are so straightforward, so honest and I can\’t turn away. I MUST know what goes on behind those walls because he is my husband… I MUST know about his life, what he does, what he faces, what he fears…though it rips my heart out as I read your story, it makes me feel closer to my husband, and in an odd way, closer to you. You could be my son, you could be anyone\’s husband. Yes, you made a mistake…haven\’t we all in one way or another? I do not judge you, I feel a kinship with you. Thank you Jake for sharing. Your words open my eyes and help me face my fears. Not knowing is worse because of what I imagine… Knowing what you, my husband and others are doing daily helps empower me… I need to know so I know what to pray for.. it helps me in a strange way. Again, thank you. Please continue your story. I\’m listening.

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