Posts Tagged ‘Bible’


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!

Advertisements

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. 


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).  As usual Wednesday there are no ERP group sessions so very little happens.  An interesting dynamic has grown between cellies Brian Whalen and Larry Sands.  As was noted previously, Sands likes to tell stories about his sexual conquests and I also mentioned I tune them out.  Well now these two sit there and tell stories to each other.  Whalen as always is trying to tell stories that keep pace with the ones Sands tells.  But Sands busts him as his stories are inconsistent or he confuses details from earlier stories.  At night I put on my headphones as I see this activity as childish and annoying but because during the day no electronics are allowed, I’m forced to hear what’s being said.  But quite frankly, this is nothing in comparison to what it used to be like when Andre Charles was still here.  That night someone actually showed up from the outside world for a Bible study which we haven’t had in awhile.  There are no religious services on Sundays and AA or NA meetings are rarely held.  But as I grabbed my Bible to go and sign out guard Ruth Barthowski let me know no one else was going and it would likely be cancelled.  It’s certainly different than the religion at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) where people from the outside world were constantly coming in and social interaction available it influences their desire to attend a bit.  The next day our ERP group began with the now voluntary breathing exercises, followed by videos on marijuana.  The first two were Hazelden produced entitled The Escape To Nowhere and Lifeline To Recovery.  They focused on the problems that can occur in your life with the abuse of this drug.  The afternoon session was all about another video, Marijuana In The Nineties featuring Dr. David Ohlms.  Yes I know, it’s 2011.  But much of what was said is still true I suppose.  Finishing up the time in the afternoon, our ERP group leader Ms. Grey reviewed my Phase II goals and objectives which I’ll be telling you about soon once they’re approved.  We spent 40 minutes of group time on it with Ms. Grey or I not communicating effectively to each other.  At 3 pm on Thursday it was time for the Community Meeting, which of course our group was later than everyone else as usual.  It started out with the intervention in the incident in the bathroom that ERP group member Scott Dietz had with another inmate.  They had to do a skit re-enacting the scene and write papers on what they learned about each other.  It was painful to watch and listen too as each had been spewing venom about the other since the incident.  But we congratulated them on doing it.  Because a new ERP group started we had to go around and introduce ourselves with name, phase of program, offense we were there for and our hobbies.  Just like they did when we started.  Because of all this it was the longest community meeting I’d seen up to this point.  I was pretty antsy at that point.  I’m generally antsy these days but that’s because I see the light at the end of the tunnel I 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).  Last night was Monday and it happened to be laundry night but it also was Bible study night sponsored by the unknown group that gave us the gifts Saturday.  But I wanted to go learn more.  It seems quite a few had the same idea as they had to move it out of the smaller room it’s normally held in.  There were 2 leaders who I found out later is called “The Church (In Wisconsin)” of West Allis, WI.  But I get the sense they didn’t want to tell us.  The Bible Study itself was more of a sermon than a study, based on Psalm 118 and Acts 3.  My favorite versus were Psalm 118:17-18 “I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  The Lord has chastened me severely but he has not given me over to death”. While I was in the study, Tom Dietz volunteered to watch my laundry.  I knew I liked that guy!  Unfortunately the beach ball that is my cellie, Andre Charles, bounced the other way.  For whatever reason he has tamed again.  He was upset with me for reasons unknown saying we don’t joke around, we have to be serious.  The next morning at count he said there was a “fagg—– who keeps look at him when he sleeps”.  I didn’t have a clue what he was referring to of course, but the more immediate problem was the name he called me in front of everyone.  Another challenge, this one in public.  But I didn’t do anything.  A guard’s watching and the wrong word ends my time in ERP.  But before we’d go back into the cell, a guard walked up to me and said I was going to the hospital and to get ready to go.  I’m sure I was going to get the cancer test results from the PET scan last week.  But before I left, another cellie Malik Pearl, warned me I was about to find out what Andre is going to do and I better get out of this cell.  I hate to say it cause I’m a little..okay a lot on the stubborn side but I may end up getting out of this cell.  Of course, it was time to go, and of course like always on my road trips, the weather was crappy.  I got to the University Hospital and got to the inmate waiting room fully anticipating a good report from the doctor.  The room was a buzz with the rumors of what Gov. elect Scott Walker was going to do to the prisons and DOC staff.  Let’s put it this way, he seems to be following the playbook he followed in Milwaukee County.  If so, state employees are going to be hurting.  But after the blood work, I saw my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook.  The good news is my counts are normal.  The bad news is there area  couple of lymph nodes that are enlarged.  Nothing will be done except to schedule more scans to see if they continue to grow.  I ate my bag lunch in the waiting room while the guards ate their lunches.  After I got back, I sat 3 hours in an empty waiting room, even eating supper there.  Finally I got back to my unit where no one in my cell spoke to me.  But I’m ok with that.  I’ve got bigger fish to fry and I’ve got to deal with my own issues that are much larger in scope than what Andre Charles influences people to do.


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.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

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).  It should have been a good day.  The Green Bay Packers beat the New York Jets and it’s always a good day regardless when the Minnesota Vikings lose of course.  I however was going on little sleep after the previous evening and wasn’t in a great place in my head as it was.  The day started with conversations with a couple members of the now defunct praise choir questioning the motives and talent of the guy left to sing.  Hey, the guy could have been the best praise leader on earth and it wouldn’t have mattered to me.  All it did was remind me I didn’t know the music, the chords, had never played with the guitar player and this feud between all of them still grated on me.  Oh, and the service was only hours away.  At count time after lunch, I’m in the aisle expressing my frustrations to a chapel service when Percy came up and asked me where my bunk was.  I showed him to my right grabbing the bar.  He had this look on his face that said smug satisfaction.  Those around me thought he might give me a warning for not being by my bunk since I’d never gotten a ticket or warning for anything since my arrival  in WPS.  A warning would tarnish my record but not permanently.  The fact it came from Percy annoyed me but what are you going to do?  Around 4 I went for practice and setup for chapel.  Of course, the leader wants to have special sound settings for each song and brings out another keyboard than the one I’d used on Friday.  I am having to do everything I can to keep from walking out at this point.  The actual practice showed, well, we need more practice, myself included, but all of us together especially.  We didn’t know how to start or end the songs and the guitar and I weren’t playing together.  So chapel, music wise, was a disaster.  The head volunteer suggested we play hymns, if that gives you an idea.  The message was about Daniel 9:20-27, and how the preacher felt the end of the world would occur.  I enjoyed studying such things years ago but that knowledge was only useful then to win a Bible Trivia game.  The stakes are much higher now. 

Afterwards, the politics began all over again with lots of opinions.  I was just glad to get out of there.  I escaped to my bunk.  I put the closed captioning on the football game, put my headphones in the radio while listening to eighties music, trying to keep my mind occupied by these distractions from my current world.  About 2 hours later I was paged to go to the guard desk.  There was Percy, paper in hand.  He informed me I was being written up and was going to get 3 days bunk confinement for not being by my bunk at count. I replied that he had to be kidding, no warning or anything?  He replied sarcastically, that oh sure he was.  His demeanor indicated he was really enjoying this.  Then he told me my bunk restriction would begin immediately unless I appealed to Lt. Brodie.  Great, I thought.  Hardly someone in my corner.  I wasn’t as composed as I had been with Brodie as I said I would appeal.  I returned to my bunk.  Guys around me let me know I’d also lose my electronics, which had been keeping me sane and since I appealed, my punishment would probably double.  I tried to sleep again but gave up at 1 am and got up and did laundry.  It just feels like I’ve been on a bit of a losing streak lately, like everything I touch is turning to stone.  I tried to talk myself down, that at least for now I haven’t lost my ERP program at Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) yet.  I’m not in the hole, and I shouldn’t be surprised, its Percy we’re talking about.  He acted as expected.  I should have been more careful.  I wish I could tell you I was good after that but that would be a lie.  But let’s see what happens.  Maybe Brodie will surprise me.