I’m at Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  On Saturday at the supper meal, cellie Andre Charles, who is just weeks from graduating ERP, in front of the entire unit, got into a verbal confrontation with another inmate that continued with voices raised while Andre went up the stairs to his cell.  Guard Ruth Bartowski noticed but didn’t say anything.  He remained at the door looking out the cell window down at the inmate who had dared to offend him.  As a rule you mind your own business in situations like this.  The last thing you want is to get in the middle of it.  I returned to my cell once the meal finished and went to brush my teeth, my habit after each meal. When I was returning, I saw the inmate who had somehow offended Andre at the top of the stairs, still jawing with him while rounding the corner to his left and to pass by a large square stoned pillar which obstructs the guards view.  Andre jumped out of his cell, swinging at the inmate twice, landing one punch.  The inmate at the receiving end quickly moved into the guards view while trying to act normal.  Once I got back into the cell, I saw that cellie Brian Whalen was there and him and Andre were talking in an animated fashion with Whalen telling Andre to calm down.  They didn’t want to tell me what happened as it “wasn’t my business” but eventually Andrew would tell me.  He always does.  It seems the inmate he’d hit had a cellie who Andre had heard had been talking about him in their cell and Andre believed this man was talking about that at the table to other people.  He popped up and told this inmate” to keep his name out of his mouth.”  After the confrontation, Andre fretted that someone would snitch to the guards about what had happened.  But I have this flaw where I tell the truth in situations like this.  I told him I hadn’t thought through the consequences of his actions and going after a guy for something someone else said was irrational at best.  He agreed but continued to rant.  I reminded him that inmates close to release often sabotage themselves.  But we had other problems.  It was our turn to do the cleaning on the unit like we did before.  Whalen had made a bet on the Super Bowl that it turned out he didn’t have the funds to pay.  Before things got too ugly for him (not paying off a debt is a big no no) Andre bought the debt off the owed inmate but he kept reminded Whalen how much he owed him it seemed like every second.  But he got Whalen to cover his cleaning duties for the next 2 weeks in order to cover his debt.  Worse yet he’ll owe Andre for saving his butt for the rest of his time.  But for all his bluster, he really had rescued Whalen.  I think, in his own way, he had done a decent thing.

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