Posts Tagged ‘advice’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It seems more had gone on that I didn’t know about on Monday.  As I’ve told you previously, our ERP group leader Ms. Grey was unhappy with guard Ruth Barthowski for having helped inmates with information and advice.  Ms. Grey in full hearing of all inmates in the dayroom told her it wasn’t her place to have helped inmates in any fashion as that’s not her job.  That was followed by a phone call from the unit manager to Barthowski  echoing the same sentiments.  Barthowski disappeared halfway through the shift due to a medical emergency at home.  I hope that wasn’t just a cover story but I also hope everything is ok there.  The next day in the morning began the second week of parole officer (PO) calls.  But Ms. Grey has clearly been embedded in recent events.  People from the last graduating class were working out in the rec room which doubles as our group room and the computer room, which doubles as a visiting room, during ERP program hours.  Historically graduates have been granted a lot of freedom while awaiting their paperwork to be processed.  But Grey went to all these inmates and pointed out that according to the letter of the contract signed when PRC granted us ERP they still have to follow ERP program rules until release, even asserting herself on regular 1st shift guard Roscoe Peters.  I do agree with her that I don’t want to smell the sweat of people working out that morning in our afternoon group session but I wonder if the ERP staff know or care that their very public in fighting is so obvious to us and the damage to their credibility it is doing.  Our afternoon session was devoted to the study of Ecstasy.  We watched the video Ecstasy When the Party’s Over from the Educational Video Network.  It dwelled on the physical consequences of its use.  Then we watched the movie called Crash starring Terrance Howard and Sandra Bullock.  Its storyline revolved around the ripple effect of intolerance and bigotry on its participants.  It was a good movie.  At the end of the session there were a couple of surprises.  As you recall, Ms. Grey had asked me to help group member Mark Hogan do his Phase II Goals and Objectives.  Hogan had let me help with one of his goals but insisted the other one was fine.  Ms. Grey didn’t.  But she gave it back to me to help him which annoyed me.  But then the last thing that was said took me back a bit.  She told us that we are here to work on ourselves and not worry about her and that she gets to go home at night and we don’t.  That was rude but clearly these words were a reaction to something else, possibly cellie Larry Sands stories to the psychiatrist.  Sometimes the days are just a struggle you know?  But that night I got mail from the biological father’s family responding to the last letter where I laid much of what had happened years ago in a letter passed via email.  Much to my surprise they didn’t reject me.  They even confirmed some of the horrors my biological father had done to some of them.  They had  had doubts I was who I claimed to be.  No longer.  I didn’t write back that night.  I’m just drained these days.  But I found some good medicine that night on Milwaukee Public Television watching the series The Civil War A Film by Ken Burns.  Such an excellent production.  It was chicken soup for my soul.

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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).  Last evening started off with on of my cellmates, Brian Whalen and I in a disagreement.  Whalen has an issue with boundaries, both establishing them and violating those of others.  Andre Charles, another cellmate constantly plays with him, one moment huddling up to him acting like his friend, then the next using those words to ridicule and criticize him. Andre is always going into his locker to get things like the AIM Dental Floss picks they sell here (which by the way are useless.  Old fashioned dental floss is much more effective and easier to use).  He has weight issues, so Andre tells him what’s good to eat and motivates him to work out, both of which he usually gives good advice for but adds to the impression of a small dog desperately seeking his master’s approval.  While Andre picks on him I often tell them both they’re like husband and wife in the way they argue.  Both Malik Pearl and I just laugh when they get into it because often it is funny.  Andre tries this with me but I upset him as I won’t play.  I told him he’s a teenager (he’s actually 37) looking for attention when he farts (which is a lot), or starts yelling or acting out.  He didn’t like that at all.  Plus it annoys him I care nothing about his opinion.  On the plus side he’d make a heck of a salesman.  But Whalen has the habit being on the lower bunk and I on the upper of grabbing the edges of my bunk while I’m laying on it.  Sounds like nothing but when someone’s knuckles bump your butt you notice.  So I asked him to stop and when he didn’t I started hitting his knuckles when they appeared.  He replied that he didn’t think it was a big deal.  But the nice thing about men as opposed to women who disagree is we usually get over it quickly.  That night, guard Ruth Bartkowski was on duty again.  As I walked pas the desk, I heard her talking with an inmate about his heroin addiction.  The inmate was explaining how tough it was to get out from under and Ruth was engaging him, giving him advice, affirmation and encouragement.  I have not met a finer person I think in the prison system.  She doesn’t have to do what she’s doing.  The demons of cynicism and burnout haven’t gotten her yet unlike so many who work in these institutions.  I hope I get the courage to get to know this blue shirt.  The next morning was not my finest hour at all.  I get up about 5am and went for breakfast.  I found out later that extra cereal containers and raisin boxes are left on the serving table and inmates will grab them.  A guard named Sgt. Tackleberry loudly yelled at an old inmate who took a box of raisins and he returned them.  A while later, John Lloyd who came into MSDF with me and also starts ERP on Monday and sits to my left at mealtime got up and grabbed a plastic cereal container and returned to the table.  I asked if anyone cared if he did that and Lloyd said no.  So despite hearing the warning from earlier I got up and did the same. Tackleberry immediately pounced on me.  I returned it.  It was SO stupid on my part.  I’m pretty sure he wrote my name down and wrote a warning on my card.  It wasn’t fatal this time but I’ve GOT to be smarter, more focused and stop thinking about food.  ER starts for me in two days and I can’t afford to keep screwing up like this.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). We just had “Sweetest Day” pass by on the calendar, one of those holidays Hallmark has chosen to bless us with.  Guys here have varied ways to express their love for the one or those on the outside they state they love.  The vast majority I think are quite serious.  There is a minority that are “running game”, that is they are writing and/or calling several women at one time saying they love only them to each person, for the purpose of conning the victim out of money, purchases out of catalogs or to reach out to their associates on the streets.  Apparently there are web sites women go on to find these guys.  If you’re wondering, no I have not gotten any such contact.  I have had people contact me through this blog who have offered  money, but I have never accepted.  I usually ask people to promote the blog who want to help. Many have become good friends.  Its not the same as what these guys do.  Some have shown me these letters they get.  In a way, its a full blown virtual relationship complete with affections, arguments, advice and sex.  Many women express the idea they are being conned to the inmate and the inmate expresses fear that the woman is “being unfaithful” in some way.  Even here, the con artist tries to control the female mark.  I know this won’t be popular for me to say, but I can understand the inmate who does this.  Often they have no one, no real relationships, so this is all they are going to get.  The con artist knows no other way to act in a relationship.  It seemed many of the women know what they are getting into.  Would these women know how to act in a real relationship, where they are not abused?  I also know for a fact many of these women aren’t aware they are being played.  They got sucked in by guys who are pros at this.  I hope people write inmates but going in they need boundaries they will stick to and not deviate from them.  The sure mark of a con artist are those who constantly try to find ways to violate your boundaries despite having been asked to respect them.  Obviously, if you do this, please be careful. 

But on another note, guys here who have real relationships with women on the outside will often call on the talented artists to draw pictures of themselves or other artwork to send their loved one, using canteen to pay the artist.  It’s against the rules but its easy to look the other way.  Relationships that survive incarceration are of the strongest and rarest kind.  Mine did not.  For many of us, incarceration exposed the sham of a relationship that existed and it could not survive.  But for those of you that are making it, I take it as a source of inspiration and hope that I too may find that again someday.