Posts Tagged ‘canteen’


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 was Thursday, which is Community Meeting day.  I volunteered to do the current event for the meeting the previous week and I picked an article involving the events surrounding Charlie Sheen and his very public meltdown in front of the cameras this past week. I chose to relate one of the criminal thinking defense mechanisms to each one of Sheen’s more interesting quotes from the interviews he’d given and then relate his conduct to my own.  Granted, as I’ve noted before, what I did wasn’t entirely what you might think of in the clinical definition of  criminal thinking, there are similarities.  ERP at MSDF heavily incorporates this into the non-OWI related groups so I thought this would relate to everyone.  When it was my turn I could tell the minute I started talking I’d lost the group.  They weren’t paying attention.  At the end, they clapped but id didn’t feel right.  And they never clap on a current event article.  When asked for comments, one or two commented but it was pretty obvious no one seemed to know what to do with it.  Mercifully, another social worker stepped in and began a discussion on how everyone saw Sheen’s rehabilitation attempts in light of the chronic abuse depicted in the show 2 1/2 Men.  This got the conversation going, with many commenting on this thread.  One of the things about prison you won’t get patronizing comments about how good you were if you sucked.  After the community meeting ended, this held true.  Cellie Andre Charles told me I was talking over people’s heads.  He was absolutely right.  Plus I identified 10 defensive mechanisms for the 10 Sheen quotes I read so it is a lot to process and it was too long.  So it was a learning experience.  Andre himself was bouncing off the walls.  He would graduate the next day and his on again off again girl was throwing curves at him, keeping him off balance with rules of how things will work when he gets out.  Plus he’s going to a transitional living placement (TLP) in Milwaukee County, which is a short term (90 days usually) placement designed for parolees with no place to go, where he’s not sure what he’ll encounter and doesn’t even know where it’ll be located.  They have such things like a TLP in Waukesha County where I’m suppose to go but they are usually reserved for sex offenders.  So I wonder if this will be me in 90 days or even worse, if I’ll end up in a shelter.  But I can’t focus on that just now.  The next day’s graduation ceremony saw the warden, unit manager, and all the social workers show up, and be seated off to the side while all the rest of us sat in front of the graduating ERP class.  The had constructed a door using colored paper that signified them walking through to a changed life.  They each read a quote significant to them in some fashion while the warden, unit manager, and their social workers made comments encouraging them to do well on the outside.  Then they received a certification of completion.  At the conclusion, we were all given a couple of cookies to celebrate.  But for us in our cell we all chipped in some refried beans, cheese, tortilla shells, jalapeno peppers and sodas off canteen and had our own little celebration.  We made so much we felt so sick and ended up giving a lot away.  We got so loud we even drew a warning from guard Ruth Bartowski.  I congratulated Andre and wished him the best and despite everything that happened I really meant it.  Don’t get me wrong.  He’ll be gone in 7-10 working days here and I’ll be glad about that.  But I really do hope he makes it.  

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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).  The new cellie, Corey Ball, is settled in but cellie Andre Charles won’t act out in front of him.  He went off on me about supposedly looking at him again.  But he waited until Ball left the room.  What followed was the usual shouts and threats and finally I caved.  I told him I’d leave him alone in the cell from 8 to 9 am instead of staying in our cell like we’re allowed to do prior to ERP group.  In exchange, for the remainder of his time, the complaints will stop.  Like I believe that’s going to happen!  Afterwards, Andre left the cell and I’m told others asked about the noise and he snapped on them to mind their own business.  One inmate told him to go ahead and get in his face and to watch what happens.  Charles backed off.  Good thing too.  I know the one who confronted him and he is every bit as unstable as he is.  There is no ERP group on Wednesday mornings.  On Wednesday afternoon our ERP group leader Ms. Grey had us watch the movie Pay It Forward starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.  I’ve seen it before and its one of the best I would say.  There was no time for discussion so she handed out a worksheet to fill out.  She also handed out a schedule for the week and it indicated Thursday and Friday would be a “Paperwork Day”, that is time to allow us to get some of the work on our ERP Goals and Objectives done.  Once group was complete I returned to my cell and all the cellies were there.  I helped Ball with his antenna for his TV. He had ordered one of the pricey Digital televisions off the catalogs but it didn’t help his reception any.  Andre joked I couldn’t fix mine so  how could I fix his?  Just like everything was back to normal or at least if it was suppose to be.  We all were still trying to be on our best behavior in front of the new guy.  We had canteen that night and talk turned to the graduation party for Andre next Friday. I stayed out of the conversation but I knew I’d get asked to contribute.  Ball is good at making “hookups” which is to combine several items into one dish.  I don’t care for doing that because it can get pretty expensive.  But I went along with it for the sake of harmony among us.  My contribution would be tortilla shells, refried beans and pepper slices.  A total of $3.74.  I really have to hold back what I truly wanted to say about having a party for Andre.  But its almost like real life isn’t it?  Everyday you have to accommodate people and do things that you don’t necessarily want to for the greater good of a given environment and I suppose this is no different.  Well of course it’s different 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).  This weekend was the Super Bowl where Wisconsin’s own Green Bay Packers were taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  All week the usual trash talk has been going on but not nearly the level it was at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  Still you had your haters, who dislike the Packers just to get under people’s skin, and of course those genuinely rooting for the Steelers such as one of my cellies, Andre Charles.  Events such as these draw more than the normal gambling going on and it also means the stakes are higher.  During the season it was common to see meal trays as the object of the wagers.  Not this time though.  People bet canteen dollar amounts, paid for at the next order of canteen by the inmate who lost.  Of course this is entirely against the rules.  But that’s not why I don’t do it.  You have a way of knowing if the inmate your betting with hasn’t made so many bets he’s in over his head and now he might react if he’s unable to pay everyone.  Of course, keep in mind, it’s me we’re talking about.  I’ve been pretty risk averse during my time in prison.  But cellie Brian Whalen almost did find himself in a situation.  He bet with others $10 of canteen (a large sum around here) the Steelers would win with assurances from Andre that he’d help cover his bet if he lost.  Of course, when he lost, Andre didn’t know who he was which upset Whalen.  I’d been enjoying the quiet since he stopped talking to me but now that Whalen and Andre are feuding that’s gone.  I’m just glad it’s not me for a change!  Andre took the Steelers loss much better than expected and we had a good conversation.  I guess he has to talk to me now since I’m all he’s got if Whalen and him are going at it.  The next morning Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, arrived in what appeared to be a bad mood, shutting down all football talk because she’s ‘not a fan’.  We had a surprise this morning as she called on group member Larry Sands to read his autobiography again.  Again, Sands missed the mark on what Ms. Grey wanted but it was improved.  He spoke of his father’s suicide, violence, mental hospitalizations and a woman twice his age taking advantage of him sexually – and all of this as a kid.  As he aged, he engaged in serial relationships – if you can call it that – with woman he manipulates with ease.  At the end, we didn’t have much to say.  But Ms. Grey had a lot to say.  She voiced her concerns that he engaged in bad guy behavior while putting it out there as if he was being a good guy.  The tension between the two was pretty obvious.  I volunteered that perhaps the manipulative serial relationships indicated a fear of desertion and being alone hoping he would talk about where those fears came from.  Ms. Grey challenged me, asking if I was condoning his behavior.  No, but I understood from his background I told her.  The answer seemed to satisfy her.  It should.  It’s the truth.  After lunch we watched more videos from Dr. Samenow focusing on manipulation we do of our loved ones.  Ms. Grey had us write down one time we manipulated someone.  But she returned Sands paper as it wasn’t about him as well as group member  Augie Prescott.  She collected Sands autobiography as well as the autobiography from group member Kevin House who is scheduled to have his read tomorrow.  We’re all talking amongst ourselves just because Ms. Grey isn’t operating as she normally does.  But we’ll see what happens.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). Due to the snowstorm canteen got pushed back to Thursday night.  It didn’t matter to me though as I had somehow forgot to turn in my canteen order last week.  I’m the type to plan ahead so the only things I will come close to running out of were the prepaid stamped envelopes and single blade razors.  I used to think I couldn’t shave my head without my 4-blade Shick razor.   Now I can do it with a previously used disposable single blade razor.  The secret is just to take your time!  The rest of the night was pretty quiet except cellies Andre Charles and Brian Whalen arguing usually in a good natured way about who owes what to whom.   Today it was my ERP group member Scott Bunker’s turn to read his autobiography.  We were joined by intern Nikita which made all the guys happy. There were a couple of significant things I took from his story.  First, he said he had expected great things of himself as a kid and is saddened he won’t achieve it.  At the end I raised my hand and told him that he shouldn’t lose hope, that at 57, there is still time for him to do great things. I sensed in him a great despair, a beaten spirit.  I had similar thoughts when I was in Waukesha County Jail (WCJ) and occasionally as you’ve read, on this blog.  But we’re 4 months from release and if we don’t start believing now we never will.  Bunker has lost 6 1/2 years in prison to OWI offenses (he has 7) and lost his love of 26 years and another wife of 11 years due to it.  But it was clear he was still mourning the loss of his first wife not even able to look at pictures of her with her new husband or the kids with him.  I understand that pain too.  People we love move on without us and we feel the desperation in our hearts, wanting to cry out that they will wait and not forget.  In many ways, for us its like mourning the death of our loved ones or at least we think it is.  Truth is though, and as it was pointed out with Bunker, the opportunity for a relationship with them is there.  It’s just not the one we might want.  His first wife had reached out to him but he wasn’t receptive to what was offered.  That would have required him to let go of his anger and resentment.  But I think that anger and resentment was there to prevent him from feeling the pain that she is gone produces.  I so understand that.  But you may only make yourself miserable doing this.  I had to accept and extend forgiveness in order to move on.  It’s not an overnight thing or one where those feelings don’t come back some days.  But it gets easier.  I imagine it’s the same for the loved ones out of prison as they try to move on.  Anyway, Nikita struggled in asking questions but did okay.  We were done early again but this time there was no talk of real estate or such as Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, didn’t allow it in front of the intern.  Our afternoon session began with a video called Good Intentions, Bad Choices, Overcoming Errors In Thinking featuring Stanton Samenow Ph.D by EMS Productions.  This video focused on bad intentions and choices then can be done by those newly out of prison or in recovery and unrealistic expectations.  It was far better than the video from yesterday.  We reviewed the worksheets from yesterday as well and then Ms. Grey brought in posters related to recovery or promotion of African American hero’s for ideals.  We taped them to the walls of the rec room that doubles as our group room.  It would have been pretty funny to watch all of us along with Ms. Grey and Nikita, none of us really knew for sure if any of this will actually stick to the wall.  But we’ll see.  We have this thing where we end each group day with reciting the mission statement I had written. In the confusion it’d been forgotten.  Group member Mark Hogan prevailed upon Ms. Grey to pull us all back together so we could do just that.   We were all still smiling as we finished and wished Ms. Grey and Nikita a good weekend.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). In the course of doing laundry and trying to get a break from cellie Andre Charles, I spent some time in the dayroom talking to a few guys on my unit.  First, I got to talk to a guy who is in a similar position to me in that he doesn’t have anywhere to go when he gets out after being paroled to Waukesha County.  He’s written to everyone you can think of inquiring about his situation, neatly organizing the info in a picture album you can order off canteen.  But he’s reached the same impasse as I have.  There appears to be nowhere to go except the shelter in Waukesha, WI, the Salvation Army.  His stepfather won’t allow him at their home.  But he’s come up with another plan.  He’ll get a cheap car and sleep in that since the weather will be warm when he’s released in May.  I argued it isn’t safe and the parole officer (PO) likely wouldn’t approve such a thing.  His argument back was that the PO could provide different accommodations if they didn’t like it.  I suspect the PO won’t take to such tactics.  But the desperation we both feel is pretty evident.  I even found myself thinking about this possibly that really isn’t.  Later I caught up with a guy from my ERP group, Mark Hogan.  He’s really become the class clown of our group, coming up with things to say that are really off the wall.  But he sat down with me at the table.  He’s almost 70, but is as strong as an ox, out lifting  many in the exercise room.  He has a gray Rollie Fingers type moustache and likes his gin.  He claimed to have done 4 years for his 5th offense DUI which is quite harsh so I’m a little doubtful.  Perhaps I telegraph that I’m receptive to such things, but he opened about his own experience with Post Traumatic Delayed Stress Disorder, and his time in Vietnam.  I shared part of my biological father’s experience in return.  I’m’ due to read my autobiography to the ERP group on February 11th (over 2 weeks away) so they all will know this stuff soon.  I’m a little nervous as many indicate they were very general with some indicating they flat out lied.  I’m just really nervous some will use it against me in some fashion outside the ERP group.  It’s not suppose to happen but the reality is it probably will.  Today was the first day our ERP group began reading it’s autobiographies.  But first a newcomer joined our group, an attractive Asian American woman named Nikita Cho who was a student interning under Ms. Grey, our ERP Coordinator.  After the breathing exercises and the introductions we had the first autobiography read, Larry Sands.  Sands had made it clear he wasn’t going to write a lot or be specific back in the beginning and it was pretty obvious.  So much so Ms. Grey made him sit down and write it over and called on the next guy, John Lloyd.   Lloyd had done a good job having lived a pretty normal life.  Grief over his father’s death led Ms. Grey to assign him the book Life is Goodbye Life is Hello by Alla Bozarth.  John and I sit across from each other at mealtime and during program time and we get along well.  In the afternoon session, we went over the stages of change – 1. pre-awareness, 2. Contemplation, 3. Preparation, 4. Taking Action, 5. Avoiding relapse and maintenance.  It was probably Ms. Grey’s best day that I’ve seen so far.  I’m happy to say I’ve been in 3, 4 and 5 since last January.