I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  I left you yesterday where the buzz was about the incoming winter storm and we had a guard who was quite strict.  When second shift came and guard Ruth Bartowski came on, the dayroom greeted her arrival with cheering and clapping.  The only problem is this guard was still there.  She yelled about how she was being disrespected, how she was only going by the manual and we should dare to try doing that again.  No one did, but after she had gone everyone laughed at her.  It’s all in how you enforce the rules if the inmate respects you.  If you make it about you, the inmates won’t respect you.  At mail call, I got a pleasant surprise.  My eldest former step daughter, Lynn, had written me a nice letter.  She is doing so well.  She’s maintaining a relationship, helping her mom out and trying to get her younger sister, Lisa, on track.  She seems like she wants a relationship with me now which is so far away from where we were.  So I’m letting my guard down a little bit.  I woke up today and found Bartowski still on duty as I imagine no one was able to relieve her.  They didn’t have us come out for count and gave us breakfast and lunch by having us come out one cell at a time much like the tornado warning at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI).  Again the sense of all of that with a place that never sees the outside world and the threat is snow escapes me but oh well.  Finally Bartowski got relieved by another unknown guard and she was another strict guard making cellies Andre Charles and Brian Whalen take down the towels they use to keep their faces hidden from view.  No one ever says anything about that normally so it wasn’t received well.  As soon as she left they put the towels right back up.  Again we were happy to see Bartowski come back on duty after less than 8 hours off.  Almost instantly the environment relaxed as she exchanged blankets, laundry, let people use the restroom and get ice.  At supper we came out as normal and Bartowski announced after 6 we would have dayroom as normal and that we were the only unit getting to do that (not have to be locked in our cells) in the whole building.  I told her as I put my tray up I wish we had a hundred guards just like her.  People like her we want to follow.  Does that make sense?  I suppose some might say strict by the letter of the law following of rules is better for us over the long term.  I don’t agree.  How many of us drive 35 in a 25?  Use more water than we should in the summer?  But how about the idea that an authority figure appears to be on your side?  So many guys here have never experienced that ideal.  Authority is not the enemy and does not have to be hated.

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