Posts Tagged ‘cells’


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 Friday, June 10th, graduation day for my ERP group.  At about 8:30 am we all went down into the dayroom to setup the chairs for everyone to sit along with 9 or 10 chairs on the left side for whatever people that were not inmates that would attend.  They put the Transformer image up on the board used at the last ERP graduation.  They’ve been working on this as part of our graduation project.  Then of course we put 10 chairs up front for us.  John Lloyd, of course, served as the MC.  He read an opening statement but the problem was the same as it was for every person who spoke thereafter.  We really couldn’t be heard beyond the first couple of seats but we didn’t know that at the time.  The unit manager then gave a statement congratulating us.  We then each read a quote each of us chose along with saying what it meant to us.  My quote was “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” by Derek Bok.  The gist of what I had to say about revolved around was that getting to know me, about why I think the way I do, recognizing the errors in how I think and how my changes are a result of a decision to change, not the product of the prison staff or programs.  I’m pretty sure, though I have a deeper voice that carries pretty well, I’m sure they didn’t hear me very well.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, clearly was unhappy with my comments.  Oh well.  If you’ve been following this blog, especially prior to my arrival at MSDF you’ve known this to be true.  Afterwards Ms. Grey spoke and handed out ERP completion certificates.  These were actually pretty impressive.  In order to get my license back I’ll need to do an alcohol assessment and this certificate will show I’ve completed a program.  That was followed with a closing statement by ERP group member Scott Bunker.  Lest I forget, intern Nikita also made some nice comments while Ms. Carr and Ms. Presley both declined to say anything.  After it was over, they handed out cookies to everybody after which we put the chairs away.  We went back to our cells to await lunch.  News of the carry conceal law came over the news.  Cellie Malcolm Johnson said this was great news for criminals like himself because they would just take the guns away from the white people carrying them.  And with that he forcefully put his hand at my side to demonstrate.  I wanted to say something but I decided to wait until we were alone.  About that time Ms. Grey showed up and wanted our Phase I , Phase II, and Phase III tests we had done.  It took me a minute but I found them.  After lunch, when Malcolm was in the room alone with me.  I told him in the future not to put his hands on me.  He said alright but didn’t apologize which is fine.  It wouldn’t have been sincere anyway.  Fortunately 1 pm arrived and since I’m now a graduate I went to our former group room and played ping pong and took a shower.  It’s starting to actually set it.  It’s over!  It’s not so much joy as it is relief.  I said a thank you prayer to God.  I called my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin and Charles got the phone line in for my bracelet but didn’t have the internet in yet.  I also called one of this blogs’ sponsors and they are still planning on getting me at the bus station once I’m released.  The next step   is for the judge to sign my amended judgment of conviction and send it back to Ms. Grey.  Ms. Grey will let my parole officer (PO) Hellen Gaither know who will send a C15 form telling MSDF to release me.  This process should take 10 to 14 days.  Piece of cake considering what we’ve been through.  Don’t you think?

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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).  This past weekend confirmed what I already knew about a few things.  I knew cellie Larry Sands has a bit of a backstabber in him so it didn’t surprise me when new cellie Jose Michaels let me know he wasn’t my friend.  Sands and cellie Malcolm Johnson had asked me to take a turn to ask Michaels to turn off his radio at night.  I had agreed even though it doesn’t bother me all that much as I’ve been using earplugs.  But it allowed him and I to have a pretty in-depth conversation.  He has been in prison many times since 1990, never being free for more than 90 days at a time.  He’s a skilled mechanic and had gotten busted on drug charges.  But he is a thoughtful person and considers himself a  skilled psychologist and has little time for those who talk behind others backs or so he says.  Sands likes to criticize me when I’m not in the room, his favorite issue being that I think I’m so smart.  I don’t really care to be honest.  Speaking of being out of the cell, I actually played ping pong this weekend and I even actually won a game!  I beat Kevin House one game, but lost 2 others to him as well as to Sands and Michaels.  Les Simon is having trouble adjusting.  His impression is that it feels like a mental hospital.  It’s not too far off to be honest.  I helped him with a bag for his laundry but somehow he got in a tiff over the laundry procedure with others.  He’ll be ok though.  Monday came and it was eventful.  Right off the bat group members John Lloyd and Larry Sands got their rules for community supervision – the rules given by the parole officer (PO) which we will have to live by after our release – given to them.  Being that both were from Milwaukee County, they had a large number of rules, including banning cell phones and being put on the ROPE Program.  It allows police officers to enter your home at night and check for violations of rules or laws.  Lloyd was extremely unhappy with all the hoops as he called it they were making him jump through.  I do believe he is also as crabby as I had been.  Sands took it in stride though clearly he was unhappy too.  I’ll be getting my rules soon so I’ll be going into more detail on those then.  Then I asked if our ERP social worker Ms. Grey, had the printout of the graduation project.  She did not.  She made it clear no work on the board for the ERP graduation ceremony could happen until she got back the week of June 6th.  Of course, the group didn’t like that.  She then went to do PO calls for Sands and Lloyd while we watched Chalk Talk on Alcohol Revised by Father Martin, which incidentally is very informative.  After they returned, she dismissed us for the day, saying there was nothing to do.  She told Sands and I to return to our cells which was fine by us.  But he was unhappy Ms. Grey wouldn’t do anything to help him with his warrant after he had the nerve to ask the PO for help with the situation.  But we figured we’re largely done with group.  Ms. Grey goes on vacation Thursday and PO calls will dominate this week.  The following week she is gone and the next week is graduation.  At the afternoon session, we sat in the dayroom and it got noisy.  Guard Roscoe Peters had told us to quiet down.  Shortly after Ms. Grey returned calling us back into group.  She told us she had been ordered to do something with us during the afternoon session.  Although many groups are left unattended for hours at a time, we figured Peters snitched on her as there had been bad blood between her and the guards and well really everyone else as well which if you’ve been following along you’ve seen.  So back in group we went, this time watching a video from HBO targeting teens, warning them about the dangers of drinking and driving.  It actually wasn’t a bad video.  Meanwhile cellie Malcolm Johnson got back from HSU with a lower bunk restriction.  It meant either Sands or Michaels would have to give up their bunk, as they were on lower bunks.  Neither was happy.  But Sands had volunteered before to do so and now changed his mind which infuriated Michaels.  Peters decided not to do anything as both went down to make their case to him.  Sands and Johnson worked out a deal to switch bunks after next week but didn’t tell Michaels as they were sore at him still over the radio issue.  They want him to stew over losing his bunk.  But this whole thing isn’t about the radio, it’s jockeying to see who is running things in this cell.  It’s not me I’ll tell you that as I’m not getting involved.  I smiled that night after seeing movie advertisements on TV that will be coming out after I’m out.  There are so many things I’ve missed the last two years that I can’t wait to do again.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Wednesday was your usual Wednesday. There are no ERP groups.  We did discuss our graduation project.  ERP group member Scott Dietz is upset he didn’t have a speaking part in the graduation ceremony other than reading his quote.  Nothing really could be done.  I don’t have a speaking part either but I’m not upset.  But that’s me.  On Thursday morning, we had one guard with a really bad comb over and one who looked suspiciously like Drew Carey.  After breakfast while brushing my teeth, the announcement came that we were to immediately return to our cells.  Nobody knew what was going on.  We were then informed we were on emergency lockdown and we were only allowed out if there was a medical emergency.  It wasn’t long before inmates began to voice displeasure with the situation led by an inmate who had already graduated in another ERP group, especially that he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom.  The guards and him continued to argue until the familiar detachment of the guards and a white shirt (supervisor) showed up.  They put him in handcuffs to take him to the hole.  He was supposed to be released that day but most of us felt he would still get cut loose.  Meanwhile, we were trying to figure out why we were locked down.  The idea that his a major shakedown seemed to have credence with all the good traffic.  Finally at about 10 am, they let us out one by one to use the bathroom.  It was then I found out that the lock on the fire escape door had somehow malfunctioned thus locking us down was necessary to prevent our escape.  After lunch, we were returned to lock down status.  Shortly afterwards, we got our 2 new cellmates.  One a tall black man was named Malcolm Johnson and the other, a Puerto Rican was named Jose Michaels.  Jose didn’t have a TV which made me happy because  it freed up an outlet I could use for my fan.  He is a talented artist.  I think him and I will get along fine.  Malcolm has been through hell.  He is on an upper bunk but obviously belongs on a lower.  He has scars everywhere, showing us one on his leg that was caused by an injury he got fleeing from police.  He and I got into an interesting discussion about the terrorist attach on 9/11/2001.  He exposed various conspiracy theories and I pointed out that thousands of people would have to be complicit and silent for any of them to be true.  As usual, people who present such theories make the argument into a personal attack so I just let it go.  But to be honest I enjoyed the conversation.  I haven’t had a good conversation like that since my days at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  We thought we were done for the day but about 2 pm our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, arrived.  We plowed right into the victim impact letters.  Reading it out loud for me to be honest produced feelings of anger and sadness.  Regardless of how I feel it was about how she felt.  Many of the guys who came after me also felt various emotions reading theirs.  We also presented our rippled effect poster assigned back in Phase I.  Then Ms. Grey dropped a bombshell today.  Two of us in our ERP group had warrants for our arrest in the system but she didn’t know who of course.  Later on in the dayroom that night that’s all anybody talked about and how infuriated we were that she could drop a thing like that without knowing who it is.  Of course with us this close to release, it caused anxiety.  Soon it was 3 pm and time for our weekly community meeting.  Once again, the issue of hygiene was raised.  Ms. Carr said she would be talking to the unit manager to see what could be done.  The issue of the soon to be repealed Act 28 early release law.  I’ve shared my opinion on this here and I did in group.  That night my cellies didn’t want to go to sleep when the lights went out.  I think Malcolm knew this annoyed me and he razzed me a bit but that’s ok.  I can deal with anything for the next 22-32 days I have left.  About midnight everyone went to sleep. 


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!


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).  The day started off with the discussion in the dayroom prior to group about our legacy project, which is what we’ll do for our graduation ceremony on June 10th.  I kicked off the discussion simply because I knew if I didn’t no one here would as non of us are all that excited about doing anything for the ceremony.  This project also includes what will put on the program for the ceremony.  I was volunteered due to my computer skills to do that.  I let the guys know I’d come around on Monday to collect the quotes they each want to have under their names on the program which they were okay with, and we decided to use our group mission statements on the back of the program.  Then came the discussion for the name of the group.  I nominated the name “Pyramid” group, as each level on the pyramid represented an attribute in our orientation workbookLarry Sands offered the “Phoenix” group as in out of the ashes of our former lives, we rise up anew, but it was rejected as too complicated to render.  But Russ Johnson offered “The Transformers”, as in us being transformed from MSDF to a new life.  This was accepted.  The drawing was to be of a person half in yellow, half in civilian clothes.  Scott Bunker, who is gifted at drawing, drew up a prototype which pleased the group.  Now he’ll have to draw a much larger rendering for the ceremony.  By the way, Bunker was to finally have that catheter removed today but he has resumed bleeding.  Just not good.  So our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, showed up and we looked at interviewing for jobs.  Though this is old hat for me it was good to cover.  We didn’t have enough handouts of the packet on this so one was passed around.  Then we did role playing.  I volunteered for the interviewer.  The point was to demonstrate a person who was confident or not.  Sands volunteered for the confident role, Augie Prescott volunteered for the not confident role.  It was fun to do and good to brush up on.  By the way, Prescott couldn’t get through to his relatives in Alabama after last nights tornadoes that has killed at least 200 in Alabama, so he’s pretty worried and we all let him know we’re praying for this situation.  We watched a video on interview skills called Why Should I Hire You by J. Michael Farr which was very well done.  After lunch we were awaiting Ms. Grey when it was announced that a tornado warning had been issued.  Guard Ruth Barthowski had us all go to our cells and take the foam mattress off our bunk, sit on the floor and put them over our heads even though we knew it was a drill and threatened to put warnings on the card to anyone who didn’t.  Most took her seriously.  Being that it was Thursday it was time for another Community Meeting.  I did my skit with Johnson’s help.  It went over well once I was told to raise my voice which is easy to forget to do.  That night we worked on a goodbye and birthday card for Barthowski, as she is retiring on Saturday and it also happens to be her birthday soon.  We are sure going to miss her.  As for me, I’m a little uneasy.  I’ve started to crave alcohol and cigarettes lately and I don’t know why.  I’m even having dreams related to it.  Could it be pre-release jitters? Is it stress related to my birth family?  I’m also not as patient with  my cellies as little things are annoying me.  I spent time in prayer prior to bed last night, asking God to ease my mind and renew my faith as I suspect that is at the root of my problem as always. 


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.