Posts Tagged ‘blog’


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).  Nothing much happened the weekend after our ERP Group graduated.  Two minor incidents would have implications later on.  First, cellie Scar Johnson began talking trash about me in the dayroom.  I got word of this from cellie Larry Sands.  I just didn’t care as I’ve come to know the person he is and since I’m almost out of here opinions here matter even less than it did to me before.  Second, cellie Jose Michaels had the occasion to be playing his music louder than normal.  He likes a Puerto Rican style of rap which I don’t care for.  But the way it has worked in our cell up to this point is we use our headphones for electronics.  It’s a respect thing as not everyone likes what another might.  So, I asked him to turn it down which he did.  End of story right?  Not exactly.  Come Monday, it started similar to when I first got to MSDF.  Lots of TV, took a shower and read.  It’s so nice to not have to wait in line for the shower now!  But during the day, our ERP social worker Ms. Grey came by and summoned us to the dayroom.  I hoped against hope she got word our judges had already signed our paperwork, but no such luck.  Though she hadn’t felt the need to go through our Phase III evaluations, she brought our Phase 3 evaluations for our signature.  Glancing through mine, the ratings were generally positive, but the true reflection of how she felt laid in the comments she made.  She mentioned how I went to the hole because of this blog but also mentions that though I never received any kind of discipline for it I seem to always have to have the last word and that I didn’t seem to grasp the basic tenants of the ERP program.  I read this and briefly agreed.  I was helping at her request other inmates with their goals for crying out loud!  But I wasn’t going to make any headway here, certainly not with all those other group members standing around.  It felt vindictive, almost retaliatory on her part.  Of course, this doesn’t change anything about my status as having completed the ERP program.  The only downside is this eval will go to my parole officer (PO), Helen Gaither.  There’s a good chance she won’t even read it.  But at the time I admit to being angry.  I was even more angry when Sands returned and told me Ms. Grey asked him if he regretted moving to this cell.  When he said no, she asked if he was sure.  Again he said no.  I sat there fuming.  I went about my business thinking about all this.  I got in a better mood though when Michaels came around.  He has such a positive attitude, you can’t help but not be down around him.  We got to talking and he told me that he had been unhappy when I asked him to turn down the music and that he can’t wait till Sands and I leave so he can run the show in this cell and they can be bad as they want in there.  He was decent about it and he demonstrated respect by seeing we had a way of doing things before he got here.  But I’ll still be glad I won’t be here for that collision between Scar and Michaels!  But I’ll close with some comments about what Ms. Grey did.  Its good I always wait before I write these entries.  It allows perspective to form.  But to be honest, I’ve been unhappy with my writing for this blog while at MSDF.  I have had one hour a day to write whereas at other institutions I had tons of time.  I’m also unhappy with my time at MSDF.  I grew as a person much more while at DCI, JCI, and FMCI.  Though MSDF and ERP were largely negative influences in my life, ultimately I’m responsible for my own growth or lack thereof.  So I have to accept responsibility for that.  It’s not Ms. Grey, MSDF, cellies or others fault.  But I will say I do look forward to a more positive atmosphere that I will create out in the world.  The proof is in the pudding as they say.  I believe that with God’s help, I will be successful even if it does look overwhelming now. 


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 social worker Ms. Grey started off the day finishing up the workbook The Price of Freedom is Living Free. Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack. D. Cooper and the video that goes along with it.  She pointed out the entry on the last page (52) entitled “The Beginning” really sums up the choices before us, to live free or to live in bondage.  I wish I had the space to share it but I sent my copy to the blog sponsors and they can link or post it per their choice. Here is the excerpt:

“The Beginning – Those of use who have made the choice to live free understand that the choices we make will always have a price tag.  We just need to be clear on what price we are going to pay:  the price for freedom or the price for bondage.  Both choices in living are available to us.  The pay-off for our old values in living are consistent and predictable…standing for count, random strip searches, the constant roar of inmates, correction officers, concrete and steel or waiting for that letter that won’t come.  What price are you going to pay?  In making your decision, you might ask yourself, “Am I prepared to spend another month, decade or lifetime locked up for a few hours of excitement here on the street?”  If your answer is yes, the system will gladly refund your misery. The choice rests with you.

Whether we are locked up or on the streets, we can choose to live free.  As “values” in living are rational, sound and sensible.  We recognize that we possess the ability to feel, appreciate and understand, as we learn to change the internal and external condition of our lives.  We can take care of ourselves while simply caring for others.  We can start living our own lives usefully, respecting other people’s rights to live as they choose.  We will understand that getting is not always better than giving, and that chasing objects and holding attitudes that set us apart from other people are not as important as seeking values that will bring us together.  Finally, we will see that we’ve been brought back into being…living with value and living free.”

For lunch we were having chicken salad, one of the better meals here.  For me as a swamper, what it meant is we would go through more bread than normal.  We’re usually provided 3 loafs of bread for the meal but inmates are accustomed to asking for and getting more than the 2 pieces allotted by the menu, which is okay, considering they cheat us on the quantity on most other things such as potatoes!  But toady I wasn’t going to be able to give more than 2 slices.  Inmates weren’t happy when I wouldn’t give more than 2 slices, but oh well. I treated them all the same, my cellies, guys at my table, everyone.  I told those who gave me a hard time they could come back for anything left over.  As I finished serving I heard a remark made by ERP group member Mark Hogan that since I’d become a swamper I was acting like a cop.  He was talking to someone else but clearly intended for me to hear it.  Like an idiot, I stopped at his table and asked him if he had something on his mind.  Fortunately he said no.  What would I have done if he hadn’t????  Of course, I didn’t let it go at that.  After the meal while I was cleaning up, I went to his cell and asked him what the problem was.  Hogan apologized and I reluctantly tapped his knuckles.  I don’t believe his apology but I’m betting he was smarter than me today knowing nothing good would come from this.  At our afternoon ERP session, Ms. Grey showed a movie I think we’ve seen before called Smoke Signals, a movie showing two Native Americans who attempt to overcome their own issues from their past each for their own perspective.It was obviously effective on some level for Augie Prescott as he was moved to tears.  I thought it was a good movie.  But I decided during the movie that this swamper experiment is going to have to end.  The reasons I took the job weren’t nearly as important to me as graduating.  ERP in 28 days on June 10th.  It had given me the material for my Phase 3 Goals and Objectives on improving socialization and patience so it wasn’t a total bust.  Only thing the guard who’d have to approve the change, Roscoe Peters, wasn’t working so I told the sergeant on duty I wasn’t feeling well.  I got the guy who had the job before me and who still wanted it to take over for me until Peters got back.  Many, including former cellie Malik Pearl who had tried to scheme him out of the job, weren’t happy he was coming back but I just don’t care.  I felt like a huge load was off my shoulders.  I got more good news.  In the mail, blog sponsors let me know my biological relatives had checked in and they were safe.  Also, cellie Brian Whalen who is being released Monday, that though he wishes to to maintain contact with the former swamper who wants to rob him, he is no longer willing to engage Whalen in any kind of business dealing since Whalen has a bit of a tendency to talk too much.  You think????  But Whalen doesn’t have any idea of the kind of bullet he has dodged.  Next week is the third PO call and our presentation of Phase 3 Goals and Objectives, while working on our legacy project.  Let’s keep it simple from here on out.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  This past weekend was marked by arguments and in fighting amongst inmates over stupid things.  Most of it of course involved Scott Dietz, revolving around rec room issues.  I’ve just noticed the courtesy between inmates in the laundry procedure and the order for showers is breaking down.  People skipping each other to use laundry or the shower causes friction.  I got to talk to Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents this weekend.  They’re going to send the glasses I sent away at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) to the sponsor of this blog who is picking me up.  They also will have cable which means I’ll be able to have internet access which is critical for my job search and getting up to speed on the technology and software I’ve missed the last two years.  Speaking of which, Sunday, May 8th marked the 2 year date of my incarceration.  Sixteen of those months this blog has run.  Not an anniversary I look at fondly but assured I won’t forget it. But I’ve been talking like it’s a foregone conclusion that I’m going to graduate June 10th.  Not if I keep acting the way I did Monday.  Now the last graduating class has a high number of guys who are busying themselves by starting trouble, including former swamper and cellie Malik Pearl joined by one of his cellies.  They took aim at me because on occasion I don’t wear a hat (not a hairnet mind you but a paper hat) when serving food as a swamper.  There is not rule that I’m aware of that says I have to and I’ve told you previously, I shave my head, so there’s really not a need.  But they started yelling at me to wear a hat.  I was visibly angered.  I put it on and asked them if they were happy now.  Afterwards, it was time to start our ERP group.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey took us through the entire Living With Others workbook that day.  In the middle of the morning we observed through the window to the dayroom that the guards on 1st shift had been joined by several others.  They began to shakedown every single cell even taking the extra clothing the inmates had acquired which usually is ignored.   Group got interrupted several times as we observed them taking things out of the cells critical to our graduation project.  At the end of the morning session, I went out to clean tables and put out napkins to get ready for lunch service.  I came right back and didn’t touch anything else an inmate egged on by Pearl’s cellie, demanded I change my gloves.  I refused.  This was just harassment.  We exchanged words across the dayroom.  My reaction was so out of character for me.  Lunch got served.  We had Swiss Rolls, which are a pretty hot item around here.  I observed that same inmate shoving some down his shirt to smuggle them to his cell.  I asked him if he wanted me to play this game he had started.  He quickly got back to his cell.  I wasn’t going to tell but I was mad!  Afterwards, I was told Pearl and his cellie were going to try to get me fired as a swamper.  Initially, I didn’t care. I don’t need the extra food and who needs this aggravation?  But after I calmed down, I remembered why I took this job to begin with.  I went to the inmate who took issue with the gloves and apologized for my reaction.  But more importantly, what is going on with me?  Is it just a simple chase of the “shirts”, where inmates near release get irritable and melancholy?  Whatever it is, I resolved to get a hole of myself and stay in today instead of thinking about my release in June.  We turned in our goals and objectives for Phase 3 in the afternoon session.  She approved them on the spot and told us to have our presentations ready for the following Monday (May 16th).  Mine are ironically, to improve my social skills here and being more patient.  Clearly, these goals are appropriate and necessary. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Late Friday we got some great news.  The family and home of ERP group member Augie Prescott is safe after the devastating tornadoes down south.  Of course, I’ll have no word from my recently reconnected biological family for some time as my only means of communication is by email through the blog sponsors.  But I’m not thinking about that because it would be counterproductive to my mental health.  Kind of like some of you worrying continually about your loved ones who are locked away will only serve to make you insane.  You’ve got to go on, be able to function, which you can’t do it your always in your own prison of paralysis.  Some of you out there are in so much pain over what has happened to the inmate you love and what is happening to your and your family as a result you’ll turn to the likes of me.  Perhaps you know I’ll understand like no one on the outside will.  Be honest, compassionate, and actually answer your correspondence unlike many men who are locked up who seem reluctant or unable to respond.  For many of us inmates we are consumed by shame, guilt, fear, insecurity, and doubt so much so that we’re unable to even know where or how to begin an honest discourse with those that we love on the outside.  Let me say that again.  Those that we love!  Be assured their hearts are still with you and though your inmate may not communicate well at times, its not because they don’t’ want to.  They just don’t know how.  That becomes evident in the inmates silence or communication that seems trivial, sexual, controlling, or angry.  Please keep in mind when you write me, I’m not trained as a counselor (though I’ve though about it but don’t have the first clue how to achieve that).  I was an Information Technology (IT) guy prior to prison.  I don’t claim any special insight nor am I going  to have a solution to all your problems.  Heck, I’m not aware of the solution to all of my problems yet.  What I do have to share with you has not been something I’ve done on my own but it is part of who I am today and it’s something you’ve seen played out on these blog entries over the last 723 days.  And that is the battle for my soul and mind.  It’s the same exact battle your loved ones in prison fight with varying degrees of effort and success, just like me.  What I tell all of you is your inmate is so blessed you stand by him and have not forgotten him.  Until the last 6 months, I largely had no one except for the blog sponsors and those through this blog I now call friends.  But I feel blessed and am happy that I’ve made a difference for some of you and wish I could do better for many others.  Thank you for reaching out to me and telling me your stories.  When my answers aren’t adequate there is always prayer, which I do for many of you often.  If I could end your pain I would but prison is not a place of magical solutions, but lessons learned through tears, honesty, and perseverance by inmate and their loved ones alike even though our loves ones didn’t deserve this.  Be strong, ask for help and know that you are not alone!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Today we are scheduled to take our Phase II test.  We were all hoping it would be easier than the Phase I test which had been very difficult.  But our ERP group leader Ms. Grey had already advised us not to get too worked up over the test.  I certainly didn’t.  It was again another essay test but the 5 questions were much easier including one asking how our perception of OWI crimes has changed since the beginning of the program.  At the end of the morning session, Ms. Grey asked me to stay behind as she wanted to speak to me.  It seems she had taken the time to sit down and read this blog after it had been discovered and was clearly unhappy.  The only thing she expressed dissatisfaction with was the fact I refer to her as the “ERP Group Coordinator” or as the “ERP Group Leader” in this blog.  She wanted it to point out she has 2 Social Work degrees and has the title of “Social Worker” here.  So that is put here in case any of you were under an incorrect presumption about her.  I had felt that none of this had been relevant to her character in how she interacts with us nor had I even known about her educational background until today which is why I hadn’t mentioned it.  Apologies to Ms. Grey if I have offended her.  While I’m at it, I apologize to anyone written about here, or who think a given character represents them, that are offended.  These are my impressions of what has gone on around me and the facts the way I see them.  Does it mean I dislike you, don’t think highly of the work you might do in many respects or am trying to get you?  No, of course not.  I strive to be objective but I’m also human.  Most of the time I try to let the reader draw their own conclusions but I also am allowed to use this space to vent my frustrations with prison life.  Again I stress, I am human and that can happen.  We’ve had almost 200 entries by now and if you write that much you’re going to write something people won’t like.  It would have never been an issue had not some very unprofessional people at MSDF spread the word about investigation of this blog to other staff and inmates alike.  We went 16 months undetected.  Keep in mind as well I didn’t write this with the idea that people would pierce the anonymity shell around me, that everything that happened in my past (read the first several entries in the blog) would have become common knowledge to all staff here and certainly not to be joked about by such staff.  Yes I know about that too but I’m not going to mention your name yet because at the end of the day writing this blog has done far more for me in my life than your petty, stupid, and ignorant remarks could ever do to hurt me and throwing mud would mean I lie in the same puddle of pig vomit you reside in with your life.  If you don’t understand what I’ve done here with this blog, the idea you work in corrections for the purpose of rehabilitation of inmates is frightening. 

There, thank you for allowing me to apologize and unload.  At the afternoon session, Ms. Grey gave us our Phase III badges and assigned us to read therapy projects two and three (p. 205-210) of Driving with Care:  Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Impaired Driving Offender Treatment by Wanberg, Milkman, and Timken.   These revolve around if your current work matches your job and learning to search for a job.  Apparently, other ERP programs have resources like cameras to practice interviewing, and allow inmates to go into the communities on Phase III, but not here.  So, Phase III should be interesting alone for those reasons in and of itself. 


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 couldn’t believe it but on Friday evening the Koss headphones I bought off the Jack & Marcus catalog cracked over the right ear piece.  Cellie Corey Ball had tape and managed to make them useable for the short term.  He and cellie Brian Whalen are graduating May 6th, over over 2 weeks away so they each tried to get me to buy their headphones or ear buds.  I had to say no because in the event of an inspection that could be trouble for me.  But these plastic clear headphones are frustrating.  They appear to have no more than a 4 to 6 month life span before they break and doubly so because I’m 2 months away from release.  I bit the bullet and put in an order for a new pair of headphones.  After Ball and Whalen leave I’m going to have 2 new cellies come in for my last 45 days or so and no telling what they might be like. Headphones are an essential piece from going crazy at times.  Guard Roscoe Peters was very professional in signing the disbursement form and such even if he was distant.  Since this blog was discovered, professional but distant, would be the way to describe how most of the staff treats me.  No joking around and such, but that’s ok.  Many ask me about specific blog entries, especially the identify of the guard who had a drug problem.  I’ve taken to saying its all made up just to avoid the questions even though of course it isn’t.  Nobody buys it anyway as they all think they know who it is.  Anyway, one thing I haven’t covered here are the visits we get, mostly because since my arrival I haven’t had any.  But once you are called for a visit, such as Whalen was this weekend by the therapist who sent him the letter. (who by the way are doing quite well) You go into the room that doubles as the computer room on the top floor and as the library on the bottom.  Anyone in the room at the time has to leave.  It’s a video visit more like what you would do over a webcam or in a county jail.  The biggest problem you might have is the inmates walking by and checking out who is visiting with you and what they look like.  And of course, then the comments and catcalls you receive after.  It’s very easy for others to see the person because of the glass walls and the size of the screen.  I’m sure this is designed this way for security reasons though.  When Whalen finished, of course everyone in the room joked about his visit which he enjoyed.  The good thing about this cell is when people joke around with each other it doesn’t get taken too far, unlike some other cells here.  On Sunday I got to speak with my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  After wishing each other a Happy Easter, they let me know my ex-wife had had her father pass away a week prior.  Like many inmates I get annoyed with the time delay in getting news.  But what are you going to do?  I wrote her a condolence letter which considering how angry I used to be with her, is quite remarkable.  In it I shared a memory of her father, expressed hope that her and the kids were okay and told her I looked forward to seeing the family at Charles Martin’s retirement in July even though it also makes me nervous.  Honesty is good and this isn’t something I would have done almost 24 months ago.