Posts Tagged ‘assistance’


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….

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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).  Monday started off just weird.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey had us all assemble in our former group room which doubles as the rec room.  There she informed us we need to be patient while awaiting our release paperwork to be processed and to stop having people on the outside contact the clerks for the judges involved.  The problem is none of us have any faith in her or the process involved.  It doesn’t help that the perception of Ms. Grey’s attitude has been one that seems to enjoy seeing the people in our group twist in the wind as they wait and not forthcoming with information.  As for me, I was fortunate enough not to be involved with Milwaukee County and that my parole officer (PO) had already faxed my C15 form authorizing my release for Wednesday.  I thought I was done with Ms. Grey, not quite.  I was called to come see her in the dayroom from my cell.  She wanted to know how I was getting transported from the bus station and if the PO had approved my plans.  Of course, this had been done months ago.  Then I was called down again because she had lost the Socrates assessment I had done way back at the beginning of this ERP group.  She gave me a new one to fill out.  At 1 pm she returned to collect it.  I had thought about it and decided to ask if there was some sort of problem with my release plan.  She said no. She then asked me if I was the group member that drank Everclear.  I replied no I wasn’t.  I was the guy who liked to drink alone at night.  She nodded and went away.  I’m sure she’s trying to write my case summary for my PO, Helen Gaither and her memory has failed her again.  I thought social workers would keep notes on such things.  But my problems are nothing compared to what 3 of my fellow ERP group members are dealing with.  Cellie Larry Sands has somehow had his release paperwork get lost between when records sent it the Thursday before our graduation from ERP.  Scott Bunker has had his release paperwork get put on the wrong desk because his judge had retired.  John Lloyd has had his judge involved in a murder trial so nothing was getting done.  Interestingly enough Lloyd and Bunker are Waukesha County cases.  But neither Bunker or Sands find out what is happening without the assistance of the sister of ERP group member Scott Dietz who is kind enough to follow up on their cases with phone calls and inquiries.  Lloyd had his girlfriend following up for him or he wouldn’t have found out.  They were fortunate to not have heeded Ms. Grey’s acclamation this morning.  The rest of the guys have no had their release paperwork signed.  Now they are just waiting their PO to release them.  One, Augie Prescott is getting released tomorrow (Tues, June 21st), his PO having been quick with the turn around.  Bunker did get some good news.  That ear plug that had gotten stuck worked itself out after fluid build up and pushed it out enough to where he could get it.  He still can’t hear as he feels like he’s underwater but hopefully he’ll be ok now.  I just watched TV that night.  I had figured today to be my release date almost since I got here.  But I’m not complaining, I’m grateful.  I could be going through what Sands, Bunker, or Lloyd are going through.  It really is almost over. 


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’s Wednesday which is a no group day and we’re supposed to be working on something ERP program related.  Work is pretty thin for us at this stage called Phase III.  But I found something to do.  I wrote the outline for the skit that I volunteered to do at the last community meeting and ERP group member Russ Johnson agreed to assist me with.  It will be on the topic of pretentiousness, focusing on how you can suffer from alcoholism despite having money, friends, and a good family.  You might ask if asking Johnson to help was done on purpose especially in light of the kind of person he is.  Not entirely would be my answer. He asked for my assistance on his skit so I thought it okay to ask for his help on mine.  But the thought did cross my mind when preparing the skit.  So Wednesday is spent largely in the cell by choice. My cellies also now spend the majority of their time in the cell as I do, especially ERP group member Larry Sands.  And yes him and Brian Whalen still tell their raunchy stories but not as much as they used to.  Cellie Corey Ball makes comments about teenage girls because he figured out this really gets under my skin.  He means to tease, please don’t think he’s a predator. He’s become the go to guy for making hot water for other folks, using metal prongs in a radio cord, then sticking it in a trash can with saltwater, then plugging it in and waiting for it to nearly boil.  This  leads to a parade of people coming to the door with soda bottles full of water for Ball to put in this trash can.  Inmates make decaf coffee, refried beans and other such things through this.  He usually gets little for his efforts and takes on all the risk.  But he’s indicated he is going to stop doing it now, especially since his graduation is so close.  If you get caught doing this, you will go to the hole and you are putting your whole program at risk so his decision makes sense.  He hasn’t blown the electricity yet like others did so that’s good.  Though my cellies can be annoying at times, I generally like all 3.  I’m going to get 2 new ones after Whalen and Ball leave in mid-May so I pray that goes well.  No one like Andre Charles please!  I started a new book today courtesy of Johnson called Decision Points by former President George W. Bush.  It’s a good read.  At mail call I did get an interesting letter from my biological father’s sister.  As you might recall we have been going back and forth with e-mails through my sponsors now that we have found each other, along with a cousin.  She revealed what I suspected.  She and my father were horribly abused by their father and stepfather, physically and sexually, for years.  I hadn’t know about the stepfather.  But the sick person he became, I completely now get why he did what he did.  It’s not ok, but I understand.  I replied by apologizing for being angry at their family for so many years for not protecting me and thanked her for sharing.  She says this information can never be shared.  I’ll respect that.  She also said she loved me and I told her the same.


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 woke up in segregation, also known as “The Hole”, with a much different reality than the one I knew less than 10 hours before.  The night had been quiet much to my surprise as the stories I’d heard about seg said it was loud all the time but as you might expect I didn’t sleep well anyway.  New environments and uncertainty are a huge feeding ground for the anxiety junkie in me to gorge on.  But it was different this time.  I had confidence that I’d come out of this okay, mostly because I felt like I’d done nothing wrong writing for this blog.  I’d conducted myself in a reputable manner, never putting staff or inmates at any kind of risk and being truthful to the best of my knowledge without being vulgar in the process.  I’ve grown and learned a lot as a result and a lot of others have found our efforts useful.  I just didn’t want to believe I”d have to do another 18 months because of this.  Breakfast came in a brown paper bag, the same breakfast on my unit.  But here in Seg, the guards are the ones wearing hairnets and hats, stuffing the breakfast bags and distributing meal trays from us through trap doors in our cells.  Often they have no swamper assistance.  My faith everything was going to come out alright was tested later in the day on Saturday when a guard showed up at my cell wanting my signature for my property.  They’d packed up all my stuff out of my unit.  I wondered if they’d gone through all of that if there was a possibility I’d be coming back to ERP.  I signed it despite not knowing if all the stuff is really there.  I’d seen what can happen when someone goes to the hole, how his supposed friends can rip him off.  I expressed my concerns about my losing my bunk on the ERP unit and what it might mean to guard Sam Neville, the regular 2nd shift guard in Seg on 5A.  He assured me this was standard procedure for anyone going to the hole.  Again he put me at ease.  He also told me he was sure the DOC and MSDF simply didn’t know what to do in this situation as it was something they hadn’t encountered before.  So I would spend the next few days sleeping, pacing the floor, reading my Bible and reading the book The Last Disciple by Hangeraaff and Brower, which incidentally are both excellent books!  Surrounding me in the cells were people representing the extremes of violence and insanity.  Every once in awhile, only when the lights were turned on after 11 am and always on 2nd shift someone would do something which would require 5 to 8 guards to come running to intervene shouting of “Stop Resisting!” as they struggled with the offender.  One such incident the inmate tried to pull Neville through the meal slot in the door which was a physical impossibility.  Another situation when he was trying to move an inmate to another cell, the inmate decided to start kicking him.  In trying to subdue him, one guard was injured using the Taser on him.  The inmate ran around his cell naked which of course everyone saw thanks to the fishbowl mirrors on the walls.  The other inmates cheered.  It was funny yet sad.  The supervisor who would visit him told him he was facing a year in the hole for assaulting staff.  Could you imagine a year of this?  You get 4 hours of rec a week.  Rec consisted of going into a cage a quarter of the size of my cell with a TV on the wall which the guard had the remote for.  On the other side was another gate.  I met a man who was suicidal and an avowed racist on different days. It was just good to have conversation that wasn’t through a door.  I finally got to shower on Monday in my cell.  I got a few visitors.  Dr. Raymonds, a psychiatrist, the psychologist who met with ERP group member Larry Sands and Seg social worker Peter Botha.  All came because unnamed people had expressed concern for my well being.  That made me feel good and was surprising considering how little I say.  But Tuesday came and went with no word if I’d be released.  I even said to Neville, hey you said I’d be out of here by now!  But I knew he didn’t know why either.  Finally, on Thursday night the call I’d been waiting for came.  I was told to pack up and return to my unit.  Boy was I happy!  I was pretty sure everyone there knew about the blog by now.  This place can’t keep a secret to save its life.  How would they all react?  I was nervous but what are you going to do?  The important thing was no institutional charges and I’d get to finish my ERP program.  I said a silent prayer thanking God for answering my prayers as they led my back to my unit on 4C.


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 it was back to business as normal after the snowstorm.  The morning started off with group member Augie Prescott from our ERP group reading his autobiography.  His relationships were mostly with the various pickup trucks he has owned while touching on his girlfriend he had.  I guess what I took from it mostly was what sacrifices we made for drinking.  Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, didn’t have any questions of significance for him nor did we.  We were done early so we had a  casual conversation in our group about real estate, cars and jobs.  After lunch, I had a good talk with ERP member Scott Dietz about his ideas for multicolored tints for motorcycles and cars.  He’s the idea guy.  He’s got all this going on but he doesn’t have anywhere to go when he gets out either.  So there’s a bit of a disconnect there.  When Ms. Grey returned we watched a movie called “I Don’t Know What To Do Decision Making Skills” by Guidance Associates.  To be honest, it was the worse video I’d seen here.  The dialogue was something where you’d expect Wally and Beaver Cleaver to show up in the next scene.  They lost the room almost immediately.  The whole point was to think through the decisions we made which was quite valid.  Afterwards we got a couple of worksheets for homework weighing the positives and negatives of making or not making a decision.  It wasn’t real clear how to do it but we’ll get there.  Afterwards we had our Weekly Community Meeting.  Callie Andre Charles had the current event, dealing with the bank robberies and its effect on ERP.  He did a very good job on that.  One of the other ERP Coordinators announced that due to lack of participation by some in the meetings we would now have to write down our comments to the quote, word and defense mechanism of the week and turn it in.  Yeah I’m rolling my eyes a bit.  But the good news is tomorrow is Friday, this weekend is the Super Bowl where the Green Bay Packers will be crowned Super Bowl 45 Champions and week 8 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).  Anytime I’m in a new environment it’s a hard time for me and this is no exception.  But I am trying.  I’m back in a place again where we have to stand for count which means we fall out about 6:30 am and stand in front of our door.  I got yelled at for not having my arms laying at my side instead of folded against my chest.  We have to be silent and be wearing the yellow smock.  I was told the days of hot breakfasts were over and they were right.  It was a plastic container of cocoa puffs, a carton each of grape juice and milk.  I returned to my cell.  All I really wanted to do was sleep.  Another thin I’m going to have to get used to is you can’t get caffeinated coffee off canteen anymore.  It’s just as well, there’s no microwave to warm up water.  On the upside because my ERP program doesn’t start until December 13th, I get to spend some actual time alone as the other 3 had to go to their classes.  I haven’t done that since leaving Jackson Correctional Institution (FMCI).  A couple hours later a lady came by to do the mental health evaluation that they apparently do for each inmate.  I was mostly honest, once I made sure my answers wouldn’t get me kicked out of ERP.  She offered to look for information for free and low cost mental health assistance in Brown County for when I get out, as she only knew anything about what Milwaukee County offered as the vast majority of inmates here are from there.  I went to the bathroom afterwards and saw this wasn’t fun either.  They have 2 toilets on my tier, both with no privacy.  Not to my liking at all.  At this point, I’m praying for a quick end to the next 6 months.  My cellies came back from program a bit later.  The one on bottom bunk by me is a large guy named Brian Whalen, who today is upset with his lawyer for keeping his entire fee and he felt he hadn’t earned it.  I can relate.  He provides a lot of comic relief to the other guys.  My cellie on the top bunk on the other side is Malik Pearl, a young guy who feeds off my other cellie Andre Charles.  They both seem like pretty good guys.  They are in the middle of their programs and often come back talking up a storm about it.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about them as time goes on.  In all honesty, I’m not doing so good but I’m glad I have you all as an outlet to help organize my thoughts.  Truth is everywhere.  I’ve gone in prison, its been out of my comfort zone and i adjusted and found ways to cope and I’m sure this will be no different.  Pretty sure anyway.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  My routine is such that I walk on the track in the afternoon.  When I returned to my bunk area I found out that one of the guys near me had been busted for smoking cigarettes outside.  He was a well liked guy around here.  The guards called a van to take him to the hole immediately.  Though he was well liked, it didn’t take but a minute for those same who had been friendly to turn into vultures.  They began going through his things taking what they wanted while keeping an eye out for a guard who might approach.  Finally, a second shift guard rolled a cart down the aisle.  He began to box all his possessions  that they hadn’t taken.  He received assistance from his cellie (bunkmate), who had been one of them going through his things.  It’s different here than other facilities I’ve been at.  Some inmates and guards are friendly and are open about it with each other.  But I’d never seen an inmate help a guard do his job before, much less pack up his own cellie.  The sight of this repulsed me, even made me angry.  Ironically,  before I came to prison, I always would assist those in authority if I could.  Yet now, I know I would not.  What changed?  I’m pretty sure this isn’t a positive change in me.  Has my assimilation as an inmate in the WPS been such that the way I think has been altered, even turned upside down?  That I would side with the criminal against those who represent the system?  I’ve even noticed when I write, I’ve changed in how I refer to inmates, saying “we” as if I’m one of them.  I told you when I wrote this blog, I’m going to be honest.  You’ve seen the ways I’ve grown and the positives.  Part of that honesty is things that don’t necessarily put me in a good light.  I don’t want to overreact either.  But I have recognized how my outlook has changed.  Anyway, after all of this inmates things were packed, they slid the cart down the hall, and loaded it onto a van where it would get taken to property.  He’ll be gone for awhile.  That night, the inmate who helped the guard pack his cellie up approached me and asked if I wanted a lamp.  I asked where it came from and he told me not to ask questions.  A lamp is something every inmate should get from the catalogs but I had not, thinking I could get by without it. But after my arrival at FMCI, and not having a desk, a lamp on your bunk bed is almost a necessity.  I have no doubt where this lamp he wanted to give me came from.  But as I write this in the dark with that lamp fastened to my bunk I have mixed emotions about it.  Again, I would never have accepted it 17 months ago.  But I’m happy I can write any hour of the day and night now.  I just have a little less respect for myself now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you had a little less respect for me too.