Posts Tagged ‘bread’


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.

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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).  My routine has been adjusted thanks to my swamper role.  I’m getting up at 5 am every morning, mostly because with my release 37 to 47 days away, I want to get accustomed to getting up early like I did in my days as an Information Technology professional.  After getting the rags we use to clean all over the pod out of the washer and putting them in the dryer I take down the 40 chairs stacked on the tables in the dayroom from the night before so the floor can be cleaned.  Then I read my bible for about a half hour until about 6 am.  Then I get ready for 6:15 am count.  After count I  return to the dayroom and get the breakfast cart.  Fellow swamper David Sussex counts the cereals and I count the milks and juices making sure there are 40 for our pod and 34 for the pod on the other side.  This particular day both our counts were off which mean the pod on the other side were short.  Guard Roscoe Peters let us know that annoyed him.  Then breakfast is called and we hand out the food.  Inmates will try anything than can to get extra food out of us but both of us are pretty firm mostly because we each have ideas of what to do with the extras!  At the end, the extras are split in half between us.  I give some to my cellies and some to the guys at my table.  Once breakfast is complete, I  wipe the tables, take out the trash and clean the counters while Sussex cleans the trays they’re served on and gets the cart back so we can load the trash.  I get back to my cell about 7 am where I write a blog entry, do homework and a journal entry.  I had been going back to bed about 7 am till 8 am when program starts but I’ve decided to stop doing that as I can’t do that after release.  I continue working on things until 9 am, or when ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, comes by usually shortly after.  Today our ERP group got into part 5 and 6 From the Inside Out video series by Earnie Larson.  After watching the videos (quite good), we did the evaluations in the accompanying workbook in section 5-1 and then went around the room to reveal our scores.  It didn’t start out too well as ERP group member Scott Dietz nearly had a meltdown as Ms. Grey and others challenged how he scored himself on several points.  He did this early in group too but fortunately he pulled back before it was too late.  I have to say though this was the first group session where we freely provided each other with constructive feedback, challenging what the other person said about himself when needed.  When they got to me, people expressed shock at my taking the swamper job as I had stepped out of my comfort zone.  They did say I’m hypersensitive to some things though.  I won’t argue with that.  At lunch, as well as supper, I go clean the tables and put out napkins.  Once the trays arrive, I count out milk and open bread while Sussex counts out trays.  He has really struggled with this.  While waiting, we have time to talk.  Talking to him makes me very conscience of how my language has deteriorated while I’ve been locked up.  I didn’t cuss and swear like that before prison.  You can’t around kids and at work.  I’m going to have to work on that.  Once we serve, I clean the tables, change the trash and help Sussex keep the trays steady while he’s stacking them.  At ERP group in the afternoon, we finished the evaluations.  But the highlight was when Ms. Grey let us know the huge workload in store for us until graduation on June 10.  Most groups took it easy on Phase III but not Ms. Grey.  We scrambled in the evening hours to get the goals and objectives plan for Phase III done by Friday, pages 1-31 of the Living With Others workbook series from The Change Companies.  We found out cellie Corey Ball will most likely be gone by Monday.  He and his fellow cellie Brian Whalen graduate this Friday because he’s done so much of his time.  He’s already planning on how and where he’s going to get drunk.  It’s too bad too because he’s a very good guy.  But that’s not the point is it?  At about 8:45 pm, when dayroom closes, Sussex and I go to put up the chairs, take out the trash, sweep and mop the dayroom floor, and wash the rags.  Peters, who worked a double shift, let me take a shower after count.  Clearly he doesn’t trust me but he is professional, courteous, and kind.  I still have nightmares but I’m out pretty hard now when I sleep with this schedule.


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 Saturday, I got a surprise knock on my cell door from former cellie Malik Pearl.  He is to graduate from ERP this coming Friday (May 6th) along with current cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen. The question Pearl passed to me didn’t take but a second for me to respond.  He asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Swamper as he was going to step down.  I said no way.  It would interfere with my routine, force me to interact with more people, upset my TV watching and I’d have to deal with people whining for the extra food that Swampers get as their defector compensation (even though technically we’re not supposed to get that) since I’m told there is no extra pay while in the ERP program.  He left and that was that. A t least so I thought.  As the day went by, I learned the swamper job was probably going to go to ERP group member Mark Hogan who had developed a good relationship with guard Roscoe Peters, who would make the decision.  There were two problems here.  Pearl, along with the other blacks, knew Hogan to be racist.  How you might ask?  As we’ve seen in the past with him, he blurts out inappropriate remarks, not caring who hears.  So that’s how Pearl indicated he’d keep the swamper job rather than letting him have it.  Cellie Larry Sands revealed to Pearl that Hogan had Hepatitis C.  I don’t know how he knew that.  But lets face it, swampers wear gloves and you are not going to get infected from serving food.  But Pearl used this information to turn opinion against Hogan being a swamper in the dayroom.  Later on that day, guard Ruth Barthowski again approached me with the question if I’d be willing to be a swamper.  Now I had had time to reconsider the situation and I had changed my mind.  Why?  Because it will interfere with my routine, force me to interact more with people, upset my TV watching and deal with whiny people.  Kind of like real life!  So against my instincts I said yes to the job knowing I’ll be free in about 50 days so its time to get used to these things again.  The only problem is Pearl had not changed his mind too.  He wanted a guy of his choosing, his cellmate David Sussex, to have the job so he could still have access to the extra food.  So Pearl managed to talk Barthowski into a new policy on swampers which Peters approved.  Swampers would change out every 30 days so more people would have a chance to do it.  From Pearl’s way of thinking, he’ll be long gone by the time the next swamper change occurs so its all good.  The swamper that held the job with him, whom he found annoying anyway, would now have to give up the job as well which would mean his guy, David Sussex, would get the job along with me.  That night was also Barthowski’s final night as a guard.  She made a nice speech at her final count at 9 pm, followed by us all applauding her.  She is going to be missed, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing from her again!  The next day, the 2 old swampers came out to train us, giving us tips on how to count extras for ourselves.  I’ll give you the swamper routine in a future blog entry.  I was assigned to hand out the liquids and bread while Sussex handed out trays or cereal.  Breakfast went fine but at lunch, when stacking dirty trays on the cart, 7 or 8 fell which caused the inmates in their cells in the dayroom to erupt in applause.  I stayed out to help him clean it up after I was done.  Things largely went fine otherwise.  I returned to my cell more energized, I think simply because I was doing something other than sitting on my butt.  My cellies of course complained I gave too much food away to others and not to them. I I had actually kept very little for myself.  I just smiled.  So this is what its like to be a swamper!  But Sunday night things got put into perspective about 9:30 pm when word came down that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  None of this really matters in comparison, does 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).  Last evening started off with on of my cellmates, Brian Whalen and I in a disagreement.  Whalen has an issue with boundaries, both establishing them and violating those of others.  Andre Charles, another cellmate constantly plays with him, one moment huddling up to him acting like his friend, then the next using those words to ridicule and criticize him. Andre is always going into his locker to get things like the AIM Dental Floss picks they sell here (which by the way are useless.  Old fashioned dental floss is much more effective and easier to use).  He has weight issues, so Andre tells him what’s good to eat and motivates him to work out, both of which he usually gives good advice for but adds to the impression of a small dog desperately seeking his master’s approval.  While Andre picks on him I often tell them both they’re like husband and wife in the way they argue.  Both Malik Pearl and I just laugh when they get into it because often it is funny.  Andre tries this with me but I upset him as I won’t play.  I told him he’s a teenager (he’s actually 37) looking for attention when he farts (which is a lot), or starts yelling or acting out.  He didn’t like that at all.  Plus it annoys him I care nothing about his opinion.  On the plus side he’d make a heck of a salesman.  But Whalen has the habit being on the lower bunk and I on the upper of grabbing the edges of my bunk while I’m laying on it.  Sounds like nothing but when someone’s knuckles bump your butt you notice.  So I asked him to stop and when he didn’t I started hitting his knuckles when they appeared.  He replied that he didn’t think it was a big deal.  But the nice thing about men as opposed to women who disagree is we usually get over it quickly.  That night, guard Ruth Bartkowski was on duty again.  As I walked pas the desk, I heard her talking with an inmate about his heroin addiction.  The inmate was explaining how tough it was to get out from under and Ruth was engaging him, giving him advice, affirmation and encouragement.  I have not met a finer person I think in the prison system.  She doesn’t have to do what she’s doing.  The demons of cynicism and burnout haven’t gotten her yet unlike so many who work in these institutions.  I hope I get the courage to get to know this blue shirt.  The next morning was not my finest hour at all.  I get up about 5am and went for breakfast.  I found out later that extra cereal containers and raisin boxes are left on the serving table and inmates will grab them.  A guard named Sgt. Tackleberry loudly yelled at an old inmate who took a box of raisins and he returned them.  A while later, John Lloyd who came into MSDF with me and also starts ERP on Monday and sits to my left at mealtime got up and grabbed a plastic cereal container and returned to the table.  I asked if anyone cared if he did that and Lloyd said no.  So despite hearing the warning from earlier I got up and did the same. Tackleberry immediately pounced on me.  I returned it.  It was SO stupid on my part.  I’m pretty sure he wrote my name down and wrote a warning on my card.  It wasn’t fatal this time but I’ve GOT to be smarter, more focused and stop thinking about food.  ER starts for me in two days and I can’t afford to keep screwing up like this.


I’m at the Fox Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We were suppose to have an inspection today.  Basically a white shirt (Supervisor) comes by and at the minimum security level is basically just looking for obvious rule violations or bunks that are unclean.  But it got cancelled because there was two bags of hooch (homemade alcohol made with yeast, bread and other ingredients) found in Unit 10.  We suspect it really didn’t affect the amount of time available to do the search but its a Friday so it was a good excuse to call it off.  The guards everywhere I’ve been are by no means overworked and this place is no exception.  The guards have a disadvantage here in that they are much more visible in everything they do.  They don’t have a covering over them shielding them from inmate view like they did at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI) or have distance from inmates like they did at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) Admission and Evaluation (A&E) units.  We see when they have two to four times the serving sizes for meals that inmates have or when they spend a lot of time surfing the internet, reading books or being really noisy themselves.  I’m sure other places did this sort of thing but its just not visible to us as much.  The upside for inmates is they largely leave us alone here.  Guards rarely leave their island desk except for the forty foot walk to their bathroom.  The downside is that inmates who are loud, intimidate others or take advantage of others rarely get checked (put in their place).  We do have snitches here, like any other facility and every once in awhile someone goes to the hole based on that information.  But like JCI and DCI, guards don’t want to be bothered as a rule.  But like other places I found exceptions to the rule.  The Property Department Sgt. seemed genuinely interested and wanted to help if he could.  But for the most part, Lt. Brodie, the main white shirt, and the guards, just don’t care about anything that concerns us.  I suspect after they work as guards awhile we become less than human to them.  I’m sure that’s probably true everywhere too.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not out to get the blue shirts (guards), white shirts (supervisors) or the Department of Corrections (DOC).  I’m here to do my time for my crime for which I’m guilty.  I don’t think rehabilitation is the responsibility of the guards or the DOC, but rather the inmate.  If you’ve followed along, you’ve seen how far I’ve come in the time I’ve been incarcerated.  I’ve done it by minding my own business, working on myself and staying focused.  When I slip, I do the very opposite of those things.  This blog, my sponsors and many of you have played a big part in that.  But guards and prison programs can’t do any of that for you.  It would be easy for me to blame guards, the DOC, JCI or DCI for impeding the changes, but needed to be made, but ultimately it really  isn’t their job to make these choices for me.  Can they frustrate or aggravate me?  Oh yeah.  You’ve read about it.  But that won’t stop me from seeing through the obstacles and the possibilities that lay behind them.