Walking After Midnight

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m at the Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It’s about 12:30 am in mid July.  Clearly this is a departure from my routine.  Usually I’m asleep by now after having listened to the BBC on Wisconsin Public Radio for about a half hour.  But tonight there was a knock on my cell door about 11:15 pm.  The guard let me know after count at midnight, I was to go to the servery (dining room area) for a random drug test.  I was a creature of habit prior to prison, but I think everyone here becomes so while incarcerated.  Habit and routine are the refuge of an inmate.  Anyway, no way was I going back to sleep.  At 12:10 am, I went to the servery.  I was asked if I was on medications and asked to sign a form and take a cup to urinate in.  The guard accompanied me to into the bathroom.  It took a second for me to go.  I still can’t get used to be watched even after all this time.  When I was done, I screwed the blue cap on the cup and washed my hands.  The guard made a point of placing the cup in a bag and sealing it in front of me, telling me to always watch the sample being handled so I’m not “fu—ed with it”.  I came back out to find several other inmates gathered waiting for their turn.  I had been first.  I returned to my cell, thankful I wasn’t going to have to spend time with others.  I haven’t been in the mood much to socialize lately.  I’m not overly social to begin with but now the little I’d been doing has stopped for the most part.  Other inmates have noticed and made comments to me to the effect of wondering how I could spend so much time alone.  What they don’t know is that for months at Waukesha County Jail (WCJ) then at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) I was isolated with very few ways to occupy my mind and very little contact with people.  I learned to exist within my own mind and to cope without external affirmation.  These skills were gained in a very painful fashion.  I am not entirely certain these abilities are healthy for a  person to have.  But it is what it is.  I am pretty sure I know why I feel the need to do this.  The whole PRC mess is getting to me.  But what the inmates consider being “alone” and “by myself” to me is nothing of the sort. I’ve got TV, radio, books and a newspaper.  I’m more than content.  This doesn’t mean I don’t miss the actual relationships and affection from people I love, that love me.  What people here have aren’t relationships.  They’re more like alliances and potential marks for hustles.  I have few alliances and I like it like that.  The difference between an alliance and a relationship is that an alliance makes demands of the other person, while a relationship’s only expectation is that each person give of themselves to the other.  I look back on some so called relationships I had prior to prison and wonder if they weren’t really more like alliances.


Anyway, I was asked via email if anyone from JCI, WPS, the Department of Corrections (DOC) knows about this blog and if I edit what I write because I think they “might be watching”.  The answer is no one from JCI, WPS or the DOC has approached me about this blog.  If they wanted to, it would be so easy for them to find out who I am.  I imagine someone knows, but I really don’t think anyone cares enough to say anything.  I don’t edit what I write because I don’t need to.  I’m careful to avoid using real names of anyone, staff or inmate, to protect everyone though I do assign aliases.   I stick to facts and I don’t embellish, needlessly trash people or institutions, and I try not to portray anyone in a light not warranted by the facts.  If you read regularly, you know when it’s my opinions or reflections and when I relay facts.  Bottom line, I don’t worry at all who might be reading when I write.  Remember, the goal here is to document what life in the Wisconsin Prison System is like and to allow me a place to share what I’m learning.  I also now seek to reach out to those who struggle with mental illness so they reach out and get help prior to severely affecting their lives as I did.  You know when something isn’t right and you are not like everyone else.  You pray for it to go away, try to avoid it with work, church or other activities, try to treat it with alcohol or drugs, but no matter what you do it never goes away.  You spend your life hiding it and trying to cover the damage your secrets leave behind, fearful if found out, you’ll lose everything.  The thing is, mental illness, if left untreated, will never get Better on its own.  It will only get worse.  This is a fact.  You can’t outwork it, believe in God enough or keep yourself so busy it isn’t there anymore.  You spend your life repairing the damage of your actions trying to keep the three ring circus of your life from revealing your illness.  But, you’ll lose everything in the process, exactly what you were trying to avoid.  What one must do is get help and get the illness treated, setting aside for the moment the responsibilities of family, career and all the perceived “important things”.  Otherwise the house of cards you’ve built will come tumbling down.  Believe me when I say that this is true.  This upside is you’ll be free of a paralyzing secret and find new tools to help you live your life.  Most importantly, you’ll keep everyone you love and all of the other things that matter.  And you just might save your life.

  1. Jill says:

    Do you have an email address you can use? Have been following your blogs. Keep your head up (or down as the case may be) Jill

  2. Jill says:

    Do you have an email address?

  3. Jill says:

    sorry, hotmail had a brain fart sending \’could not send\’ messages so hence a number of comments saying the same thing.

  4. Jake says:

    Thank you for following the blog, the e-mail address is: lifewps@gmail.com. Your comments are appreciated. Thanks.

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