Posts Tagged ‘arrival’


My name is Jake Martin and I am on parole from the state of Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) currently now living in Ames, Iowa. I write this from my own laptop in an efficiency apartment at a complex dominated by Iowa State University college students. How did I get here? More on that in a minute.

At the risk of sounding corny but what a LONG, STRANGE trip it has been both being in prison and since getting out. The day I was released it was Wednesday June 23rd.  Today is January 16th, 2012. In the roughly 7 months since my release so much has happened. I spent July through August largely glued to my cell phone and laptop while hunting for work, with the assistance of friends and the sponsors of this blog.. My parents grew concerned enough to tell me I might have to take work at a fast food operation or something similar. I had no problem with that. In fact I figured that was what would happen. While all this was going on my parents, whom my father is a minister though he retired in July, received a retirement call to serve a church in Juneau, Alaska. My PO, Helen Gaither, it turned out was very cool to me. Though the walks from the bus to her in Appleton WI were not! Because I had no car and often my parents weren’t available it was necessary to walk. But that’s ok. It just didn’t bother me. These things just don’t bother me anymore.

In about August, my efforts finally began to pay off. A major corporation hired me as a temporary software developer for a project they were working on through an agency I had worked with before and was unaware that I had been in prison the last 25 months. During that time I brushed the rust off my skills, got used to the grind that a software developer will have again and learned to deal with people again. About that time, a company based in Ames IA interviewed me for a position as a software engineer. They hired me. However I was given enough time to finish the contract I had started in with this company in Neenah WI. My parents were still in Alaska when I left in October. Needless to say I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I was fortunate on one aspect regarding work. I had largely lost the last two years and in technology circles that is as much as a lifetime. But this company was on older technology, technology I was well suited for. It was a perfect fit. Meanwhile I continue to upgrade my skills now. But anyway on October 8th I made the move. My first weekend didn’t go well. Furniture I had purchased for the apartment prior to my arrival had accidentally been tossed my a maintenance worker for the complex, as well as two tires going flat. Oh yes, my parents had sold me their old car and I had also managed to get insurance and a license during that time. But needless to say, I got things under control and my employer was extremely understanding as I missed my first day of work getting the car fixed. Things were pretty normal until about a month ago when weight loss and the familiar night sweats had returned – all symptoms I have become very familiar with. Testing revealed that my cancer had returned. Now before you become too concerned, just know, again I am going to be fine. I am doing chemotherapy again. But this time at least, I can control my diet though fatigue and nausea are now my main problems. See though I have insurance they don’t cover preexisting conditions unless you had proof of insurance before which of course I did not have in WPS. So medications I used for nausea and such are not covered either. But it is ok. It’s the same type of cancer as before and because they caught it earlier this time it is even more assured I will be fine. So don’t worry!

But what can I say about being free? My first day out my sponsors took me to a Mexican restaurant where I had chicken and steak fajitas. My mouth and stomach were on fire as they loved what I ate – but they didn’t so much later as they rebellled against the rich food I was not used to. I will spare you the details. Television, the Green Bay Packers and dear friends I have missed. All of it really is about choices of which we had very little in prison.

I still deal with the anxieity junkie. I still am largely alone or at least it looks that way. I am still single. My previous family contacts me to be sure but it is usually only when one of them is in trouble or needs money. My adopted siblings and family remain an awkward relationship. But yet I count myself as one of the lucky ones, one who found a way to be successful on release. I call it luck because things fell together in a way that I can’t really take credit for. Yes it is God and there are others to thank. Friends like Jennifer, Natalie, Mike, Bill, and Rebecca I couldn’t have done it without them. I owe them more than I have life left to repay. I simply can say no more than I am gratefully free. It has been so long and such a hard road, much of it self inflicted, that I can’t bring myself to complain. What right do I have to have such a good life? The answer is I do have that right as long as I do not forfeit that right with my choices I make in life.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank those of you who faithfully followed this blog, especially Jill, Karen, Kelly and Lori. You really kept me looking forward to mail call and such wondering what might be there today. Again, so grateful. How many others wait for even one piece of mail in prison only never to get any! And the rest of you, since my release I have watched your reaction from afar, really wanting to burst out and say hey its me! I’m free! But we all thought it best I keep a low profile until the entries were finished. I hope you understand. That said the future of this blog will be sporadic entries regarding what is happening with me and how it relates to being on parole. I am not going to do an entry every day. There just isn’t time like I used to have. But know this. If any of you want to reach out to me please feel free. I have always felt a closeness to many of you who suffered with your loved ones in prison right along with me.

On that note, its time to close. I have got some studying to do! Talk to you soon….


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 was Friday, June 10th, graduation day for my ERP group.  At about 8:30 am we all went down into the dayroom to setup the chairs for everyone to sit along with 9 or 10 chairs on the left side for whatever people that were not inmates that would attend.  They put the Transformer image up on the board used at the last ERP graduation.  They’ve been working on this as part of our graduation project.  Then of course we put 10 chairs up front for us.  John Lloyd, of course, served as the MC.  He read an opening statement but the problem was the same as it was for every person who spoke thereafter.  We really couldn’t be heard beyond the first couple of seats but we didn’t know that at the time.  The unit manager then gave a statement congratulating us.  We then each read a quote each of us chose along with saying what it meant to us.  My quote was “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” by Derek Bok.  The gist of what I had to say about revolved around was that getting to know me, about why I think the way I do, recognizing the errors in how I think and how my changes are a result of a decision to change, not the product of the prison staff or programs.  I’m pretty sure, though I have a deeper voice that carries pretty well, I’m sure they didn’t hear me very well.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, clearly was unhappy with my comments.  Oh well.  If you’ve been following this blog, especially prior to my arrival at MSDF you’ve known this to be true.  Afterwards Ms. Grey spoke and handed out ERP completion certificates.  These were actually pretty impressive.  In order to get my license back I’ll need to do an alcohol assessment and this certificate will show I’ve completed a program.  That was followed with a closing statement by ERP group member Scott Bunker.  Lest I forget, intern Nikita also made some nice comments while Ms. Carr and Ms. Presley both declined to say anything.  After it was over, they handed out cookies to everybody after which we put the chairs away.  We went back to our cells to await lunch.  News of the carry conceal law came over the news.  Cellie Malcolm Johnson said this was great news for criminals like himself because they would just take the guns away from the white people carrying them.  And with that he forcefully put his hand at my side to demonstrate.  I wanted to say something but I decided to wait until we were alone.  About that time Ms. Grey showed up and wanted our Phase I , Phase II, and Phase III tests we had done.  It took me a minute but I found them.  After lunch, when Malcolm was in the room alone with me.  I told him in the future not to put his hands on me.  He said alright but didn’t apologize which is fine.  It wouldn’t have been sincere anyway.  Fortunately 1 pm arrived and since I’m now a graduate I went to our former group room and played ping pong and took a shower.  It’s starting to actually set it.  It’s over!  It’s not so much joy as it is relief.  I said a thank you prayer to God.  I called my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin and Charles got the phone line in for my bracelet but didn’t have the internet in yet.  I also called one of this blogs’ sponsors and they are still planning on getting me at the bus station once I’m released.  The next step   is for the judge to sign my amended judgment of conviction and send it back to Ms. Grey.  Ms. Grey will let my parole officer (PO) Hellen Gaither know who will send a C15 form telling MSDF to release me.  This process should take 10 to 14 days.  Piece of cake considering what we’ve been through.  Don’t you think?


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  As I was being returned to my unit from the hole after 6 days for investigation on possible charges related to this blog but for which I’d been cleared.  I looked through the windows and saw regular 2nd shift guard Ruth Barthkowski who smiled at me and tried to work through the paperwork that was deficient with my arrival.  The inmates seated at the tables in the dayroom smiled as I walked in but I couldn’t tell what was behind it.  Barthowski began to give me the lay of the land right away.  Everybody now knew about the blog staff and inmate alike.  She also told me she had worked on people trying to get me out of the hole and I thanked her for it.  My property was still in Segregation and wouldn’t arrive.  I was assigned my old bunk and old cell which I was grateful for.  Barthowski took me up to the linen closet while I got the rest of my yellow outfits.  Guys at the tables in the dayroom welcomed me back but their body language indicated some mistrust.  Once I made it to my cell, ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands gave me the rundown of what had happened in group.  Apparently the night they took me last week the guard on duty, a by the book type named Mike Metcalf had announced I was on a bus back to Dodge Correctional Institution.  Regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters was upset over being named Roscoe.  Guys in my ERP group knew they hadn’t been named but still wanted to know what was said about them.  But probably the most interesting development was what had gone on with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  The week I’d missed she had been smiling, engaging and being kind.  The last while she has seemed distant and combative.  But she had discussed my situation with the group telling them that day I returned that I was not going to return but then telling them something different later in the day.  It seems that yours truly who always sought to avoid attention was the focus of the entire pod this past week.  That and of course this blog.  My main concern wasn’t any of this though.  I was concerned about seeing Peters and Grey the next day.  What would they reveal about me?  I’ve laid myself bare on this blog.  But I also felt a sense of pride and strength, that no matter what might happen I was going to be ok.  That didn’t mean the anxiety about how tomorrow would go in group wouldn’t give me a restless night.  But as it turned out I shouldn’t have worried at all.  Peters wasn’t working on Friday .  And Ms. Grey was engaging and kind throughout the morning.  And then the most surreal thing.  In the afternoon session her and intern Nikita broke us into two groups and had us play Uno!  That’s right, the card game!  Everyone was smiling and had a good time.  Had Ms. Grey read the blog and not liked what she saw and decided to change things up?  Or did something else happen to cause the change?  Whatever it is it’s promising.  On another note, I’d considered asking the sponsors to shut down the blog, much as I did 15 months ago when I got cancer.  After with everyone here knowing about the blog, this may no longer be the typical prison experience.  But I’ve got bigger concerns.  The blog helped me and has helped others.  It’s worked up till now.  I’m going to stick with it.


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 started out the morning working on my autobiography, getting up to the point of my arrival in Wisconsin, separation from my biological mother, and living with my foster parents in Waupaca, WI.  Ms. Grey, our ERP coordinator, arrived and had us assemble in our group room.  She introduced another thing to do to begin our group.  She played a recording from India Arie off the CD Testimony Vol 1 Life and Relationships that sang the Serenity prayer. It had an African type beat.  We then did our breathing exercises.  Then we went over the last part of orientation workbook explaining what we’d come to learn.  Surprisingly, I’ve been quite vocal in group.  She asked for more reflection on the quantum discussion.  I rendered my opinion, she was not so concerned with getting us to change the world around us but to be open minded enough about alternative ideas.  I could tell Ms. Grey was disappointed not a one of us seemed more open to the specific ideals she had presented.  We then moved onto a group reading of Chapters 1-2 of Houses of healing.  We ended the day with being assigned Chapters 3, “The Long and Winding Road; From Childhood to Prison” and Chapter 4, “The Fallout from Childhood Wounding…. and How to Start Recovery”.  Chapter 3 deals largely with inner child issues and Chapter 4 deals with more of the same issues.  We were suppose to do the “Pause and Reflect” sections but mostly dealt with imaging things as opposed to writing things down.  We called an impromptu meeting without the group leader and all decided we’d put nothing on paper as it wasn’t asked for.  But yet I know I need this stuff, but not a thing we’re going to spend a day or two on.  It’ll open a huge can of worms and I’m not sure its safe to do that here.  But lets just see what happens. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). The number one rule in a prison environment is you don’t snitch on another inmate.  You are suppose to handle whatever the issue is between yourself and the other inmate.  But I feel like cellie Andre Charles has put me in a position of where I feel I don’t have a choice but to ask to be moved.  If this thing explodes all the work and waiting (almost a year) I’ve done to get to ERP goes down the drain.  I feel I’ve given him chance after chance while putting up with his conduct since my arrival at MSDF.  I decided the next time I got a threatening word or an attempt to intimidate me or anyone else in this cell I was going to go to the blue shirts. (guards).  But then cellie Malik Pearl confided he was going to go to the  guards and ask to be moved.  He’s in fear this whole thing will cost him his place in the ERP program too, as well as the chance to get out early.  Sensing an opportunity, I asked him to let me know when he’d done this and then I’d follow and do the same.  I thought we should do it together but I didn’t ask.  Malik, being a black man, cooperating with a white guy against another black man, in this environment it just isn’t normally done.  But later on Malik came to me and told me we should do this together, and in so doing, they’ll probably move Andre.  I asked him about the problems he might face with his guys and he said he didn’t care.  This tells me two things.  One, we both consider this to be a serious enough threat to do something this drastic.  Two, though Malik has been a violent drug dealer in the past he has a strength of character I admire.  We both agreed we should wait until Saturday, which is New Year’s Day, to talk to the regular first shift guard, Roscoe Peters.  The next day was Friday, New Year’s Eve which was treated as a weekend day.  A lot of the inmates spent the day in the dayroom playing cards and chess.  As usual I hung by myself.  That night the FOX television network showed “Rocky Balboa”, the final video of my favorite movie series.  Malik and my other cellie Brian Whalen, traded memories of great champions when boxing was a great sport.  But Andre hates it when the conversation includes Malik but hates it even more when I’m involved in the conversation.  Whalen won’t get involved but I see him not caring if Andre sees him talking to us.  So that’s good.  But I’m focusing on Rocky’s words. “I see you blaming everyone around you and making excuses for why your not doing good.  That’s how a coward acts and that’s not what you are”.  It’s not verbatim but the general drift.  Whatever happens in 2011, my success or failure, rests on me.  No excuses.  No apologies and no quitting.  Happy New Year Everybody!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). They handed out canteen last night which was unremarkable except for the fact I met the regular second shift guard, a sweet older lady by the name of Ruth Bartkowski.  Ruth actually sincerely inquired how I was doing in my adjustment to MSDF.  We talked about what a shock it is to the system for those of us coming from medium or minimum security environments.  I think I genuinely smiled for the first time since my arrival here while talking to her. And if that wasn’t enough, after I had returned to my cell I was well into a bag of BBQ chips being so hungry and my cellmate Malik Pearl appeared to be sleeping on his bunk with his headphones on, her partner tonight, a guard in his mid-twenties, who looks like he could be in a band, named Peter Thorn, came to our cell to inspect it.  I said that was fine.  But he saw Malik sleeping, inquired with me about it and I replied he was.  Then Thorn shocked me with what he said.  He didn’t want to wake Malik up so he’d inspect us another time.  Are you kidding me?  Between Bartkowski and Thorn, the laws of the universe are being turned upside down!  So, I’m in a good mood until time to lock in for the night when Andre Charles and Brian Whalen were talking and appearing to try to shield their conversation from me.  I don’t really care what they are saying.  I’m more annoyed by it and I find it disrespectful.  But I’m in prison so I shouldn’t expect politeness.  The next morning after we ate breakfast and had returned to our cell all of a sudden the power in the cell went out but the lights remained on.  We heard yelling ordering us to come out of our cell.  I was pretty sure it was a shakedown.  I felt pretty confident about not having anything considered contraband.  My cellies scrambled to throw various things in our little wastebasket, but I made sure I was the last one out to make sure they didn’t throw anything on my bunk.  Once downstairs, I had a wave of panic hit me.  I had used newspapers I’d gotten on my subscription to pad my extremely thin pillow and I also remembered I’d brought a box of raisins from breakfast a few days ago and it was on top of my locker.  Ok it isn’t major contraband but I don’t know their attitudes here.  So we were taken to another pod and crammed in a room to await them to complete their task.  We were there about an hour.  I heard they’ve had more searches in the last month than the rest of the year.  My previous institution, Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), was also doing this.  Some say its a budget thing as that whole process in the State of Wisconsin is beginning.  I don’t know.  We were then brought out into the dayroom of the pod we were in to be strip searched prior to returning to our pod.  Even the social workers were locked in clearly upsetting them.  It was there we learned that the canine unit of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office had been here.  In addition to the normal strip search procedure, we had to endure the indignity of bending over so they could see up there.  Other guys report they had to spread their toes for the guard.  We then returned to the same room and then we all assembled in the room next to our pod as our cell number was called.  Finally one cell was left and instead of joining us they were locked in that pod.  What they had had in their cell is unknown but one person among them was scheduled to be released today.  But all 4 were taken to the hole.  I can just imagine what’s going on in that guy’s head.  After 6 months of ERP, putting up with this place and then this.  I don’t know and probably wont’ get to find out what happened to him.  I got back to my cell, the box of raisins still there and newspapers undisturbed but while I’m thankful I realize how truly thin the line between success and failure will be for me at MSDF.


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 up about 4 am at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI) knowing it was my day to go, so I could shave and shower as experience has taught me there are no guarantees how things might go initially.  Then I went back to my bunk and slept.  About 7 am, the guard woke me up and told me it was time to go.  I cleaned up my remaining linens.  My cellie told me “not to let the door hit me in the a—“ with a smile on his face.  They told me to walk down to Unit 10 where another inmate named Scott Bunker on his way to MSDF for ERP as well joined me.  He had gotten to keep his electronics the last 5 days!  The guards gave him a hard time about that in a good natured way.  They pretended to strip search us and then got on the same kind of bus that brought me to FMCI.  We were joined by John Lloyd, who had managed to get staffed straight to ERP at MSDF from Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI).  I let him know how totally lucky he was.  John was in for his 5th DUI and Scott was in for his 7th DUI.  John had some good news.  He had reviewed the “handbook” on each institution and our ERP was only 13 weeks!  I was on cloud 9!  I’m going to be out by April!  We got to MSDF, which is across the street from the Milwaukee County Courthouse and got sent to a holding cell.  Everything screams a county jail to me here from the dingy walls to the layout of the facility.  They took the greens issued to me my first day in prison.  They gave me bright yellow clothes with a white t-shirt.  I look like a banana!  Then they went through my property.  Turns out I got to keep everything except the clothes I bought out of the catalogs, including my electronics which everyone said I couldn’t keep.  Now I’m in a great mood!  They threw away my old badge, gave me a new one and the nurse checked in.  All of the staff was by far the most professional and courteous I’ve seen in my time in jail or prison.  Then we got lunch.  Oh boy.  It was some kind of hoagie and it tasted awful.  Again, the food resembles county jail food.  Well, I wanted to lose weight so I’ll get that wish.  I got to the 4th floor where I was assigned a cell.  Top bunk again of course.  It’s a 4 person cell with 4 full length grayish blue lockers in front, 2 bunks on each side, 2 TV stands on each side, and 2 desks.  The walls are a dingy white with a maroon door.  Just like a county jail its a 2-tier setup. My 3 cellies were all there and they clearly weren’t expecting me as my locker and TV stand were being used.  Then they dropped the bomb on me.  Its actually a 24-week program.  We’re talking June release.  I got bummed.  How could I be so stupid as to believe inmate information?  We’ve learned this over and over again.  I got settled in, figured out where the TV shows I watch were.  I’ve got till December 13th to get used to this place.  I’m so very tired.