Posts Tagged ‘addiction’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  My first morning as a swamper along with my fellow swamper, David Sussex went without incident.  In the time we await the food I got to know him a little bit.  He proclaims himself a born again Christian, as I consider myself, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt him.  He is very vocal about his faith here while I am, as with everything else I do here, am very quiet.  Every morning he is out there reading his Bible just as I do.  If he irritates me in some fashion, its probably his desire to engage me in conversation about what I’m reading and start “preaching” about anything I might share that I struggle with.  But that probably says more about me than him!  As our ERP group got started that morning our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, took the topics from the resumes and interviews to the in-depth topic of relationships.  She handed out another workbook from The Change Companies designed for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that we had used early in group called Living With Others, and another packet from Earnie Larson.  We have used his materials before as well.  We spent the morning on an exercise where we identified the feelings connected to dating through marriage.  She then erased the words “first date” and replaced it with “addiction” and it followed pretty closely.  Pretty clever.  In the afternoon we watched the first four parts of video From the Inside Out from Hazeldon featuring Earnie Larson.  It’s actually quite good.  The first part got into why relationships are important. It looked at positive and negative relationships in our past lives, the different types of relationships, how love has been taught to us in the past, and principles of building good relationships.  I had difficulty sharing details of what my past impressions of love were like early on and solidified as the years went on.  But everyone knows me now and aren’t shocked by my answers anymore.  Even if they were, I decided long ago I was going to be honest.  I’m also grateful no one calls me a liar here as others have in the past, such as the psychiatrist at my court proceedings did and others did as I was growing up into adulthood.  I’m now able to document most details of my past thanks to my contact with my biological family.  After group ended at 4 pm, we had another fill in guard as they still haven’t yet replaced Ruth Barthowski, named Larry Cable.  Due to differing rules with different guards, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved.  Following customs set by pervious officers or what is considered normal.  But it was pretty clear while Sussex and I waited for the dinner trays he was going to be anything but predictable.  Its customary for inmates to go out in the hall in front of the cell to fart if necessary as a courtesy to their cellies.  However; Cable yelled at cellie Corey Ball for doing so.  Then he had us swampers walk around and make sure cell doors were closed.  Again, not normally done.  Cable then tried to micromanage how many extra trays we’d get and how many we’d try to send away.  Ok, I don’t care.  But then the extra tray I did get I took to my table and gave away all of its contents to the guys sitting there.  Cable said I couldn’t give the extra food away, that it was only for me, even though the rule book clearly says I can.  Problem is technically swampers aren’t supposed to get extra food at all.  So the rulebook doesn’t help either of us.  So as he is yelling at me in front of everyone, he announces he won’t allow extra trays when he works here anymore.  Others would later tell me that I should have quit right there.  But I didn’t.  I was mad though. I would return later before 6 pm count and ask him not to hold the whole unit responsible for something I didn’t know was his rule.  Finally he said he’d consider it.  It was uncomfortable at cleanup before 9:15 pm count.  But I’m just grateful he won’t be here often.  Being a swamper is fine but I’m not going to put myself in jeopardy to do it. 

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I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  On Thursday afternoon we had our weekly Community Meeting.  Nothing was really remarkable about it until the floor was opened to concerns anyone might have and a new guy stood up and announced he was tired of how cliquey people were, the disrespect shown and how many inmates who have been here for awhile act like they have ownership of things here.  He went on to say from now on he was going to start pointing out people who were doing such things at future community meetings.  Throughout the room was stunned silence.  My ERP group leader Ms. Grey nodded her agreement, the other group leaders looked just as stunned as we were.  I’d find out later he was upset with his cellmates for farting in the cell instead of going outside to do that and for inmates trying to run the rec room.  He finished up his comments about how dedicated he was to this program, and he didn’t want that to have such things going on.  After an uncomfortable silence we moved on.  I did decide that night that with all the negativity going on I was going to pull into my shell even more that I have been.   I just feel like nothing is good is going to come out of hanging around people these days.  Maybe its because I’m 72 days to graduation and I fear all this work and time being for nothing because of some stupid incident.  The next morning began with Scott Bunker being sent to the hospital for his bleeding problem as it hasn’t gotten any better.  Graduation for another ERP group began at 9:30 am.  This was an OWI ERP group like us.  This group called themselves the “Unchained” group.  It was a nice ceremony, followed by cookies being given out.  I’m happy for them but my thoughts are on myself.  I have so little time left.  I’m happy but I’m afraid.  Where I’ll go, what I’ll do, how it will happen, these questions overwhelm the anxiety junkie in me.  I’ve learned to have faith during times like this, to surrender the illusion of control I cling to but I still have my moments of weakness.  After lunch we saw a video about the evils of inhalants (sorry, I didn’t catch the title)and on prescription drugs which was quite good, especially as it focused on elderly addiction.  At the end I brought up that I’d learned  that the TOP program in Waukesha County was applied to aftercare.  No housing was involved like she had said.  She insisted it was true though, and they’d explain it to me when they visited in mid-April.  I asked if I’d hear from them before my next parole officer (PO) call and she said no, that call was coming up next week!  It was like she had remembered herself that this was happening at that moment.  Anyway, around that time Scott Bunker joined us after his hospital visit so it would seem he must be ok.  The guards were unhappy today as they’ve installed electronic stations around the unit they have to check in with a gadget.  It ensures they’ve actually made their rounds.  But it’s okay.  Week 16 of 26 is complete.


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 have a lot to cover and not a lot of time to do it.  The rec room issues continued as my ERP group member Russ Johnson didn’t make a lot of friends here when he told those wanting him to share the exercise bike that he couldn’t help it that he had a million dollars and they didn’t.  Some wanted to pound him but what saved him and many others in these situations is everyone is so close to getting out now nobody wants to risk an altercation and get thrown out.  Many such as Johnson knows this to be the case so they are taking their verbal shots and act tough thinking their won’t be consequences.  Sometimes I think people just shouldn’t play with fire because one of these times a stray, irrational spark might burn them.  On Tuesday our ERP group leader Ms. Grey appeared shortly after 9:30 am.  Today was devoted to the study of heroin.  The first videos shown were Heroin, What Am I Going To Do?  A Hazelden production and Heroin and other Opiates again featuring Dr. David Ohlms.  At the end we had time for discussion and ERP group member Augie Prescott inquired about his Interstate Compact to allow him to return to Alabama to allow him to do his extended supervision (ES)/parole there.  An Interstate Compact is an agreement on a process between different states that allows parolees to move across state lines and reside there.  Unfortunately in Prescott’s case, his paperwork remains out of order.  His presentence investigation and criminal complaint is missing.  Without these items, the compact won’t happen at this stage, it’s really too late.  He’s upset because Ms. Grey and his parole officer (PO) here have known about this since he got here and nothings been done.  I don’t blame him for being upset.  I asked again if she had called Sal’s House, the halfway house in Waukesha I’m considering and she said she still hadn’t done so.  She said an agency called the TOP program was coming in to give Waukesha County people a presentation related to a program called Wiser Choice in Milwaukee County.  We just are getting the impression she doesn’t want to do a heck of a lot.  In the afternoon we saw an extremely compelling video entitled Black Tar Heroin The Dark End of the Street that followed the lives of several heroin addicts in the late nineties.  It was brutal in its honesty in describing the horror of heroin addiction.  I’d highly recommend for anyone just getting into trouble with it.  In the middle of the video ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands got called out of the room.  After a brief discussion (heroin wasn’t a big issue in this OWI ERP group) we got out and got our mail from guard Ruth Barthowski who is kind enough to hand it out right away.  I got word from my sponsors that my biological father’s family had emailed again.  We’ve been writing back and forth since they found me but we’ve always danced around any issues up to this point.  Not this time.  They indicated they wanted to know.  I told them most of what I’ve told you.  It seems none of them knew what had gone on as my biological father wasn’t in touch with them at that time.  I feel…. okay with it.  I mean if I can tell it here I can do this.  I am nervous on their reaction.  I won’t lie.  When I saw Sands he told me what was going on.  He had gone to see the psychiatrist here and told them how Ms. Grey had pushed him on his grief issues (when he read his auto) and such.  They weren’t at all happy and told him that was improper.  They’d be talking to the unit manager and that he shouldn’t fear retaliation from Ms. Grey for talking about this.  You’ve got to give Sanders a lot of credit for speaking up, for saying what many have wondered about.  I have no idea on how this will turn out.  She doesn’t like it if you disagree with her much less something challenging her methods. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  We were waiting for our ERP group leader Ms. Grey, when another ERP group leader told us she wasn’t coming.  Many of us returned to our cells, and we hadn’t been there for a minute when Ms. Grey along with intern Nikita came.  We spent the morning session finishing the book Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain, specifically  Chapter 15.  It portrayed prison as a gift that’s been given to us to allow us the opportunity to effect change in our lives.  Well if you’ve been following this blog at all you know that to be true, that change has been affected, particularity true before my time at MSDF.  But prison as a gift?  There are many words and phrases I’d apply to the concept of prison.  Some aren’t printable.  Gift wasn’t one of them!  But I get the point.  Though I lost everything coming to prison, there is one thing I kept – my life.  Had I not come to prison with the path I was on I very well could have taken my own life by now.  So I guess you could say prison gave me the gift of my life.  Lets just hope prison never gets the chance to give me any more gifts!  But anyway, we have to return this book to Ms. Grey.  I would have kept this one.  Our afternoon session was spent watching a video on addiction that describes how it affects the brain and how scientists are trying to develop a vaccine for addiction, specifically cocaine.  Sorry, I wasn’t close enough to see the DVD case for info on the video.  The evening was full of intrigue, thankfully none of it directly involving me.  Both swampers are now from the cell next door where cellie Larry Sands came from and where former cellie Malik Pearl had moved to earlier.  Sands informed me about how cellie Brian Whalen was planning to sell a lot of cocaine being provided by another inmate from that cell.  Unknown to him, their plan was to rob him once they were all out and Whalen came up with the money.  I told Sands if he knew this we had a responsibility to throw Whalen off this plan somehow, even if he didn’t want to cross those guys.  I just feel bad for Whalen.  I’m afraid he’s going to get himself hurt with his biggest crime being he wants to be liked.  As the day and night progressed more and more people began arriving to take beds for the next ERP group that’s starting.  The problem began when an inmate arrived with a lower bunk restriction and there were no lower bunks to be had at this point.  The guard in charge, not a regular, decided to bump the swamper in that cell next door, that is making this deal with Whalen off his bottom bunk for this guy.  He put him in a cell on top bunk above an inmate when many think this is the nastiest guy here.  But the guys in the swampers cell vehemently protested, wanting instead for them to move Sands out of our cell and move the new guy here.  They tried to convince the guards to do this but no dice.  The female guard got to the point she tossed their cell (inspect for contraband) after they said one of the reasons they couldn’t move him was that they all combine their canteen which is of course a rule violation.  I don’t know how the inspection came out but Sands was mad that they tried to disrupt his situation just because they didn’t like what was happening.  These guys made it clear to Sands once regular second shift Ruth Barthowski returns she’ll make him move as they believe they have influence over her.  I’ve seen it but I don’t think she’ll let them push her into this.  We’ll see.  Through it all, I’m still relaxed which is remarkable for this anxiety junkie.  My thoughts are outside of this place, for a day when I can write you about the positive things out in the world even if I’m struggling. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). This morning cellie Andre Charles and Malik Pearl immediately started in on each other once Malik revealed people talk about Andre’s tendency to snap on people.  Andre didn’t like learning people talked about him though he says he knew they did.  But of course, he was angry that Malik didn’t tell him before.  That’s not what he was really mad about.  But as I talked with him I again tried to make him understand that his rage issue, if he didn’t get a hold of it, with medication or whatever, he’s going to kill someone to no avail.  He keeps wanting my opinion/approval, I don’t know why.  But I’m going to keep telling him the same thing.  After the ERP group began this morning, Ms. Grey, who’d been on vacation all last week, was here.  She asked us our impression of the What the Bleep Do We Know.  We were all pretty skeptical.  Then we did breathing exercises which she wants us to do everyday to start group.  We close one nostril, breathe in, bend our head, then blow out the other nostril.  It’s different.  But we better get used to it.  Then we talked about the assignments in “Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment” by Kenneth Wanberg and Harvey Milkman and Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian.  Everyone completely agreed including Ms. Grey, that the Milkman workbook completely sucks and Casarjian rocks.  But we’re required somehow to do this workbook according to Ms. Grey.  So that’s what we’ll do.  In the afternoon session we managed to get a hold of the remote for the DVD player and were able to watch “Portraits in Addiction” by Bill Moyer, which we hadn’t been able to do last time and wrote a one page essay on it.  It was at least 15 years old so some of the references and people were dated but I thought it showed several types of addiction as well.  They’re telling us much of what we already know.  Yes we are alcoholics.  We don’t need convincing.  But perhaps I speak too quickly.  After the afternoon session, I checked at the desk for mail and to my shock there was a letter from my former step-daughter Lynn.  She sent a Christmas card with a photo of her and her boyfriend, a photo of her and JoAnn, and Lisa and a letter.  In her letter she apologized for how she has treated me and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on with me.  They had even gone to see my adoptive parents this past weekend.  I sense there’s more going on out there in regards to this group of people.  But its the same issue when JoAnn sent me the Christmas card.  To what level can I get involved with these folks?  Should I?  I still haven’t decided.  But I have a letter to write.  I’m excited she reached out to me as I had wanted that for a  long time. 


I’m a the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  The Cold war has begun between cellie Andre Charles, his ally cellie Brian Whalen, cellie Malik Pearl and myself.  So silence reigns our cell now.  And guess what?  I like it that way!  The next day, normally between 8 and 9 am, we can study our ERP materials in our own cells.  But not the last two days.  With Ms. Grey, the ERP Coordinator, gone all week, the structure of our ERP group has kind of broken down.  Ok, I admit to being a bit of a routine guy, and disruptions can throw me off my game.  But inmate Larry Sands who had been appointed our ERP group leader had assembled us to watch the video Ms. Grey had assigned this morning called “What the Bleep Do We Know”.  It was one of the strangest things I’ve seen for a self help video.  It dealt with the idea that there is an universal observer that appears to be their version of God.  I wrote down a quote which was interesting.  It was “the height of arrogance is the height of control who create God in their own image”.  At another point it was stated the idea that us mere carbon based life forms could somehow influence an almighty being was ludicrous.  Our oldest group member, named Mark Hogan, just couldn’t contain himself throughout.  He is in his seventies and looks like the old drunk that hangs out in a bar at two in the afternoon, but he has a heck of a wit.  So too was it the same with Dean Stark and another group member, Russ Johnson, who is extremely knowledgeable on this treatment stuff.  He tells me he’s been to Hazelden and other famous programs.  I wish I had his knowledge.   He often gets fired up and tries to intimidate others by his physical presence if you do something he doesn’t like and is very confident in his own knowledge and you could say he likes himself.  But like I said I wish I knew all he knows.  After lunch we returned to the video room to watch “Portrait of Addiction” by Bill Moyer.  Unfortunately Sands nor any of us could get the DVD to work without the remote which was missing.  So we had to abandon the effort after an hour.  I really think Sands has done a fine job considering the situation.  I continued to work on my autobiography, ending with an interesting life!  But nobody got much done.  My favorite guard, Ruth Bartkowski, was on duty and really with everyone on vacation she and other guard don’t know what to do.  I did share the first pages of my autobiography with John Lloyd, whom I’ve come to trust a bit, in order to gage his reaction and get his opinion on this being read to the group.  He was clearly shaken but felt it would be okay to share.  But really, I’m an idiot.  If he said don’t do it, I still would have had to.  So why bother asking the question?  Supper was the most awful – Chili Mac casserole.  But its okay.  I’m okay with things so far.


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 got my towel and washcloth third in line on the chairs in front of the disgusting shower and was happy about that.  It was also laundry night so I was plenty busy.  The next morning cellie, Brian Whalen, agreed we would pull all our cords out of the tangled mess on our outlet and I would try to get it so that the wires and cables weren’t interfering with the reception of our antenna’s for our televisions.  Though we don’t have cable we do pick up 31 television stations, which is amazing considering all the granite and steel here.  But electrical cables seem to interfere with the antennas.  But I decided to wait until lunch to do this as we were having the worst meal here, beef stroganoff.  I went to my ERP group where our group leader, inmate Larry Sands, decided on his own to show a movie called Gracie’s Choice , an excellent movie of a young girl with several brothers and sisters whose mother was an addict.  After it was finished I returned to my cell and when lunch was called, I began to work on the cords and antennas.  Cellie Andre Charles was the only one left in the room, his fan blaring on high, and having just banged around at his locker.  As I experimented with antenna positions he challenged me in a threatening manner on the amount of noise I was making.  This coming from a guy who plays his TV and radio loud all the time and no one says a word.  I just looked at him and left.  I saw Whalen coming up the steps and told him after he inquired of whether I was finished that no I wasn’t and he should ask Andre why.  After I returned, everyone was quiet and Andre was pacing the floor saying he’s not going to put up with this sh—anymore.  I showed no fear or concern, but I didn’t answer.  The other cellie Malik Pearl, confided once Roscoe Peters, our regular first shift guard, returned from vacation he would ask to be transferred.  I told him I probably would after he did.  His reasoning is he can’t handle it.  But I don’t put it beyond Malik to be playing games either.  I just don’t know for sure.  Our ERP group resumed and after doing a couple assigned crossword puzzles on the Body System and Neurotransmitters, we watched another movie, “When a Man Loves a Woman” starring Meg Ryan.  It’s a story about how a woman gets help for her drinking problem but as a result of getting healthy as a person, her marriage suffers.  I avoided this movie in the real world as I heard it was a ‘chick flick’ but it was actually pretty good.  Afterwards I returned to my cell.  Andre wasn’t saying a word now.  But right before supper was served, Malik drew my attention to the cell window.  There was Peter Thorn, the guard who liked like he belonged in a punk band, on  a chair head in hands with a white shirt (a supervisor) encouraging him to come with him.  He hadn’t looked right before and he displayed the eyes of heroin use.  Some inmates laughed, some cheered, but not me.  Addiction can take down a guard, an IT Specialist/programmer like myself or anyone else really.  People are fighting for their lives in here on several different levels and not all of them are inmates.