Posts Tagged ‘basis’


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 the first Wednesday of the month which means it’s a training day.  What this means for us is it’s a cleaning day on the pod and there are no ERP group sessions.  We’d been told by our ERP Social Worker Ms. Grey that this would be a different kind of cleaning day in that it would be a more extensive cleaning than we’d been accustomed but that didn’t appear to be the case.  I never enjoy days like this but mostly because of my own personality I dislike chaos and disorganization, and while the process to get the cleanup done fits that description, the work does get done.  It was a little different for me this time being a swamper.  At the end of the cleanup, fellow swamper David Sussex and I had to move all the tables and chairs out of the dayroom, turning the tables on the side to clean out hidden treasures from underneath in the rail of the table such as butter and ketchup packets, stored there by inmates so they can have extras at a meal of their choice.  To be honest, its an unpleasant task as often the packets have been crushed and are messy.  After this was done, we mop the entire floor and sweep.  We still get in each others way but it’s a work in progress that will get solved as we get familiar with the job and each other.  Once we were done we had to move the tables back to where they were.  The former swamper that is working with cellie Brian Whalen to go back into the business of dealing drugs decided to direct Sussex and I where to put the tables.  That was fine until he decided he was going to have fun with it.  I have little tolerance for the former swamper to begin with much less any desire to fool around while working.  I’m kind of the type to get focused on a task.  So, I walked away when Sussex continued to play with him.  Someone came over and helped Sussex.  He’d tell me later he was just wanting to goof around.  I suppose I get it.  They’re both about 10 years younger than me and the way they work is different than mine.  And lets face it, it’s not like the fate of the free world rests on my performance so I could lighten up.  Once done, we returned to our cells for the day supposedly to work on ERP program materials.  That was no problem for cellie Larry Sands and I as we had a ton of stuff to do.  By Friday we had to have our Phase III Goals and Objectives done, the Living With Others Workbook done – all 61 pages and we’re supposed to be working on our legacy project for the graduation.  I managed to finish the workbook but not doing a very thorough job in the process.  I wrote up my Phase III goals as improving social skills and working on patience.  Because the goals are to be presented by Friday May 13th, I chose the Bible as my basis for study on patience, as there’s no time to find and read a book of any value on the subject and to write an essay on it.  For improving social skills, I’m writing an essay on the positives and negative things I’ve learned about myself working as the swamper.  Just a lot of time constraints.  At lunch and supper, Sussex continues to have real problems counting trays.  But more importantly, we had another guard who rarely works on our unit.  He let me know right away there would be no extra food given to swampers when he works.  I was fine with that as I rarely eat the extra stuff anyway.  But it told me this wasn’t going to go well.  At 6 pm after supper he wouldn’t let us come out of our rooms as every other floor is locked down on training day.  But he didn’t know the program floors like ours were exempted.  So 7 to 8 inmates were down at his desk arguing the point with him.  Finally a white shirt (supervisor) let him now.  But by the time cleanup began, barely anyone was in the dayroom which was funny considering all the fuss that was made.  It came time to take out the trash.  I asked the guard to open the door but he ignored me for 10 minutes, while chatting with another guard.  I just left it and went to go get ready for 9:15 am count.  Yes, I still need to work on patience?  After count, I read emails you all send to the sponsors for me.  One reader, who has corresponded in the past, compared reading this blog to an episode of Real Housewives.  I get that!  But more importantly, it gave me a real good laugh prior to going to sleep.  So thank you!

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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).  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we got started on reading Chapter 13 on forgiveness out loud to each other in Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain.  Of course, I’ve already read this for my phase one Treatment and Goals.  But it’s a deep read and an excellent chapter of a great book so I don’t mind reading it again.  I had to laugh when it talked about practicing forgiveness toward your cellmate (page. 251) on a daily basis.  If you were following the saga of former cellie Andre Charles and I, it certainly tested my limits.  But he’s gone so I can afford to laugh about it now!  It was all pretty quiet.  We had some fireworks in the afternoon.  We did the exercise “Getting Clear” on page 206-208. Basically, your ripping away the layers of emotions and thinking away from a given situation.  I chose the relationship with my former step daughter Lynn and what was behind why we couldn’t have the relationship I wish we had.  What was interesting is many of the problems I did the right thing but often for reasons that were related to my own needs for a close family and love, not for Lynn.  It also occurred to me how few active relationships are no in my life.  I had to bring up things from before I was jailed almost 2 years ago.  Anyway,  I wasn’t chosen by Ms. Grey to share mine so I listened as others shared.  The one that stood out was group member Scott Dietz who discussed his relationship with his ex-wife.  He clearly was angry with her for having cheated on him and said he showed progress by not kicking the butts of both of them.  There was no interest in forgiving her.  Ms. Grey tried to push the issue with him and he railed against her for thinking anyone could possibly forgive after that.  We were all pretty shocked at how he spoke to her and was looking around for group members to support him.  No one did.  We began telling him verbalizing threats against his ex was not ok.  This was so obvious we couldn’t sit by and ignore it.  After lunch, Ms. Grey handed out the evaluations she had done on us for Phase one of ERP.  Mine was ok, although she called me a “Super grouper”, a term of derision used by inmates for one who is zealous in a group.  No one ever called me that as Ms. Grey has gotten on me a few times.  I’m sure she didn’t intend to insult me.  Her point was I contribute to group and ask questions when I don’t understand.  Some in the group challenged their evaluation, particularly Dietz and cellie Larry Sands but she held her ground and for once Dietz let it go.  We got done with group and it came time for our community meeting as is now our custom on Thursdays at 3 pm.  Our ERP group got a “positive reinforcement” from the group for almost getting to Phase 2.  Everyone had a good laugh over that as many thought we’d be there last week.  I don’t care about such designations.  I can count and the only numbers that count is 84, the number of days to graduation from this program and 679, the number of days since I was incarcerated and my life was completed upended on May 8, 2009.  If I can do 679 , deal with what I have, learned what I have and grown as I have I can do another 89 standing on my head.  Ok, not literally but you know what I mean.   


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 weekends there is no ERP activity.  The lights are turned back off after count at 6:15 am and remain off until 10:30-11:00 am.  I usually try to take advantage and enjoy the silence as close as it gets anyway.  One of our regular 1st shift guards is Roscoe Peters.  He’s late forties, early fifties and is know as a “cool” guard.  He has a booming voice that will rattle you if you screw up but it’s known he’s not out to mess with you just because.  My cellmate, Andre Charles and Peters usually go back and forth with each other on a near every day basis, with Andre talking from the top tier down to Peters who bellows back.  But it’s always done tongue in cheek.  At about 11 am, the swampers brought in our lunch trays and after we had all gotten in line, he announced there would be no trading food between inmates, not even at your own table, because someone had “gone over his head to the unit manager”.  At another point in the meal, after having busted a couple of people for trying to trade, he said the inmate needs to come talk to him to fix this.  After we were finished with lunch a whole parade of inmates went to the desk, including Andre, to find out what was going on.  It seems the swampers had been getting extra food and the inmate who wrote the complaint to the unit manager was unhappy about it.  They seem to do that a lot around here, complain, if another inmate is perceived to get preferential treatment.  My philosophy on this is if someone else has found a way to make their life here a little more bearable more power to them.  It’s none of my business.  I don’t want to use the word “cutthroat” to describe the environment here (bad image) but its an apt description, more so than any prison I’ve been in up until now.  Then Peters announced he’d find out who it was on Monday and it wasn’t going to go well for him.  I’ve never even spoken to Peters but he always made a good impression on me.  I just wish he’d be a little smarter in what he says.  I can’t imagine this not getting back to someone he doesn’t want it to especially if there  is an inmate trying to take him down.  So we probably haven’t heard the end of this one.  But I guess as much as I hate this place, and though the phrase “watch your back” has taken a whole new meaning for me with some of these inmates, I have managed to get into a semblance of a routine which has been key to my survival anywhere I’ve been.  I’ve completed one week of ERP and have 23 to go.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it.

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Shortly after this was written, about 20-30 people showed up with musical instruments and started singing Christmas carols!  I asked what church they were from and they told me several different ones and they they have a Bible study on Mondays.  They gave us a paper bag with treats and a bag of chocolate chip Chips Ahoy Crunchy cookies.  I’ve never seen anything like this before in prison, nor had my cellies.  And most unexpected in a maximum security facility like MSDF!  Of course, a few cons in us couldn’t just enjoy the rare moment and scammed extra cookies and treats by claiming they were missed.  But really, an awesome event by what I think might be awesome people!


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this!  It’s November 25, 2010 as I write this.  I realize by the time you read this it will be probably closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving.  Such is the nature of this blog – the delay is intentional.  But I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have read this blog, many of you who have shared and/or expressed support via comment or email and to those of you who have someone inside whom you love and care about and possibly this blog has somehow helped you.  I thank you for not abandoning them, even though this separation is the toughest battle your relationship has endured.  Nobody but you knows how much you silently suffer.  Special thanks goes to Rebecca, Steve and Jill who have followed me almost since my first day, giving encouragement to me and giving a voice to those who aren’t able to be heard.  You all have put into practice the words of the Sermon on the Mount.  Another special thank you to Dr. Rachel Cook, my oncologist at University Hospital who was an awesome advocate for me, very patient, and expertly defeated my cancer. I also thank the few of my friends I had prior to prison who have not forgotten me.  I will always remember you and all I’ve thanked the rest of my life.  This blog and all of you have far helped me more than I have gotten from you, trust me on this. My biggest thank you goes to the sponsors of this blog who have tirelessly typed up the chicken scratch of my handwriting, managed this blog with expertise and dedication, in a pinch have helped me, and even provided a newspaper subscription. Quite frankly, none of this is possible without you and words aren’t adequate to express the amount of gratitude owed to you. Many of you that got involved hadn’t even known or worked with me previously.  That’s simply just awesome!  So thank you!  Finally, I thank God!  It was one year ago this week that my cancer was diagnosed.  It was the culmination of the absolute worst year of my adult life.  Where the loss of my wife, family, career, friends, music and finally my health were realized and just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the isolation and despair of those days at Dodge Correctional Institution of early 2010 occurred.  It seemed you (God) had completely deserted me.  But it became clear that I had deserted him (God), refusing because of my silly pride and being concerned with material things and people I couldn’t control, had refused to seek help to stop the bleeding of my heart, mind and soul.  But you (God) were always there waiting for me to learn that simple yet difficult lesson.  The lesson is I don’t have the answers and I must surrender on a daily basis as I move forward.  This is 1 lesson I’ll continue to learn for the rest of my life.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’m standing in line waiting for lunch about 10:30 am and a black inmate standing next to me said “I hate all white people.” He hadn’t intended for me to hear it as he didn’t know I was there.  We made eye contact and he tried to backtrack, saying he meant “some white people”.  I laughed, I joked that no he didn’t, he hated us all.  With the ice broken, he explained to me what was going on, without me asking for an explanation.  It seems Lt. Brodie had told someone something different that what he told someone else, concerning some issue and had basically blown him off when he complained.  Having had some experience with Brodie and the others on first and second shift I sympathized.  My new friend commented that he’d guarantee he’d go to the hole the day before he got out in 4 months because he would let them know what he thought of them.  I shared my theory, as I’ve shared with all of you.  The guards and Brodie see us as less than human, like animals in a cage, and if they didn’t meet the needs or wants of the caged animal, so what?  Besides, at the end of the day, what could we do about it really?  There’s no immediate redress of grievances available to us.  I’m not sure its the guards fault entirely.  Day in and day out they do what they’ve been trained to do – keep the inmates down.   The only caution I throw in is that its the same attitude that allowed an entire nation to approve of and/or look the other way while ten million people were murdered.  When you dehumanize people, conscience is rendered useless.  But the point to my friend is that it wasn’t so much racism at play as he thought but rather extreme apathy on the guards part – to tell whoever whatever they want to hear just to get them to go away.  It really isn’t personal on their part.  Their apathy is applied on an equal opportunity basis regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.  Furthermore, I encouraged him to be careful in what he says or does in his remaining time.  Don’t sabotage yourself.  Privately, I thought the fact you are so focused on getting revenge on those that disrespect you 4 months from your release is worrisome.  There are so many other things to be thinking about.  Finally, I told him, no matter what you do, you won’t change anything in what the guards or Brodie do or think.  It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn here.  What i have been working on is to learn to be content regardless of the circumstances.  Often you have read where I’m upset when I’m not happy with what is happening.  Even leading up to my arrest, when everything was falling apart around me.  If I’ve learned that lesson, I’m not in prison.  I can be content regardless of my circumstances as long as I have made changes to the things I can control.  My friend told me he doesn’t think that way, that he can’t not just let it go.  I get it.  But I don’t want to live that way and make those same mistakes.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I told you last time I was promised I’d get my property, things like my TV, books and letters, the next day.  They’re the kind of things that can make your time tolerable.  Of course nothing happened with that the following day.  I asked the blonde female guard to call property to remind them and she wouldn’t.  The following day I went to get the results of my tests at UW Madison.  Everything was still showing no signs of cancer having returned for which I am thankful.  This trip was notable because the guard that took me, brown hair, very tall, about 285 lbs, drove like a maniac there and back.  I was so used to guards who barely drive the speed limit.  To be honest, it was kind of fun.  We saw a late 60’s, early ‘70’s truck driving on a beat rim and he rolled down his window and told the driver!  Just unusual behavior.  When I got back I approached the sergeant on duty and asked him to call property so I can get my stuff.  A guard interrupted my conversation with him.  He is in his mid to late twenties, blonde hair and is thin.  Everyone to a man here agrees he comes off as an arrogant jerk.  I’m calling him Percy because there was a character in the movie “The Green Mile” who expressed and acted on his desires to hurt inmates and others and enjoyed it.  He was self absorbed with a highly developed sense of entitlement.  Who brought out only the bad, if not the worst, in others.  This guard should sue Oliver Stone for basing a character personality on him without permission.  Percy informed me that I’d have to submit an interview request.  He knew full well I’d done that so many times.  I told him this and his reply was that he didn’t care, his hands on his hips and he smiled as he said it.  I replied, my blood pressure rising, asking him if its your intent not to help me at all no matter what.  Percy replied “That’s right.  It’s not my job to help you and I’m not going to”, while pointing his finger at me for emphasis.  I had to get away from the desk quickly as what I wanted to say and do was not a good idea.  I related what happened to the guys at the dayroom table and those who’d been here for awhile nodded.  They also have had similar experiences with Percy.  Fortunately, they called property pick up for other inmates and though I wasn’t on the list I went along.  After all, the property sgt. had been decent to me.  He didn’t remember me until I said my name.  It seems he had arranged for me to get my stuff today but due to my Madison trip it hadn’t been possible.  I was so grateful I hadn’t overreacted to Percy.  Once again, this property sgt. was extremely gracious and classy.  He promised it would be there the next day. 

The following day, I was summoned to HSU where the psychiatrist met with me.  He agreed to take me off the Wellbutrin I’ve been on for 4 years but since they took away the Seroquel, wasn’t very helpful.  I’d already stopped taking the Wellbutrin for a couple of weeks but no one had said anything.  I couldn’t have done that at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI).  I really wish I could have had this doctor to talk to on a regular basis.  I just felt confident talking to him, I almost told him about this blog.  But I didn’t.  He won’t follow me to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) for my ERP program.  I got back to my unit and was almost immediately told to get ready to go to property.  I was happy!  I got my boxes back to my bunk and got my TV, radio and such setup.  But there are no backs on the bunks so they are uncomfortable to watch TV on.  Everyone just deals with it.  Of course, not me!  I took my empty boxes and put them against the bars at the top of my bed, putting my back against the boxes.  Many went by and made a comment about how ugly it looked, wondering what I was doing and some telling me to break the boxes down like everyone else.  I just smiled and said nothing.  If you’ve been reading along, you know I can be a little stubborn.  Or is it independent?  The radio reception is lousy here so I took a wire from another inmate, wrapped it around the antenna and hung one end from the corner of my glasses (yes, I’m wearing them) and I got good reception.  At the end of the night I put the box on top of the TV.  So today I have Christian music, NPR, classic rock and Badger football today on my headphones as I’ve written this.  I just keep smiling as people observe me.  The difference between stubborn and independent is the attitude in you that people perceive.  At least I think so.  I’m going to go walk some laps now.  My cell mate isn’t used to me being around so much and I need the exercise.