Posts Tagged ‘ceremony’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  If I thought Monday was bad temperature wise, Tuesday made it look like a walk in the park in comparison.  For the outside world in Milwaukee it was another record breaking day at a high of 97 degrees.  The difference here was unlike yesterday, from the moment we woke up, it was unbelievably hot and humid.  The day started off normal.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we reviewed the Phase 3 self evaluations assigned weeks ago.  Nothing really all that interesting there.  There was a distinct sense of hurry up and get this done so we can get out of this room with no air movement at all.  After everyone had gone, ERP group member Russ Johnson gave Ms. Grey the disc with the letters that need to be printed for the graduation project.  He was excellent for stepping up the way he did.  Again I thought that this was the end for my involvement on this project.  After lunch it was decided to call off anything program related.  Ms. Grey came by and brought the disc back. It seems when the graduation project program was printed on both sides it went from the gold color to a reddish blue mixture.  I’ve seen this before when printer ink runs low but she wanted the colors changed.  I complied, only to make her happy and be done with it.  Again she approached me later on wanting the time of the graduation ceremony put on the program which I did.  Shortly before she had done that, they announced all ERP program activities were cancelled for the day because of the heat.  After she was done with me, she went into the rec room and got everybody out of there who were working out or playing ping pong.  She had a point but she didn’t make these guys very happy.  Guard Art Coleman reluctantly told them to get out as well.  Meanwhile, cellie Larry Sands came up with an interesting idea to beat the heat.  The vent in our cell that streams this hot and humid air was a source of aggravation.   Sands came up with the idea of taping up the vent.  We waited to see if it would change the temp in our cell at all.  It appeared to at first, perhaps it was our minds playing tricks on us.  But by evening it became apparent to me it wasn’t helping.  I stuck newspaper under the door reasoning that perhaps the hot humid air in the dayroom was still coming in that way.  Still no affect.  In fact, it actually felt hotter.  I said something but nobody wanted to take the tape off the vent.  Still, all things considered, I’ve got it pretty good.  I’m almost out of prison.  I’ve got a fan.  I’ve got a TV.  Most guys in this building don’t have any of those things and they’re just starting their bit (time in prison).  The loss of joy in the fact I’m getting out soon is directly connected to my lack of gratitude for what God has gotten me through and has give me.  Tomorrow will be another day similar to this one.  Let’s hope my attitude improves. 

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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).  We were supposed to start our ERP group morning session with the remaining Phase 3 goal and objectives presentation but group member Augie Prescott was absent due to a medical issue so our ERP social worker Ms. Grey, decided to review each victim impact letter with us prior to their presentation to the group on Thursday. Speaking of Augie, we found out his interstate compact which would allow him to move to Alabama upon release, was approved.  Some more good news was that Scott Bunker has had his catheter removed and has been cleared of serious medical issues.  So this was all good to hear.  I was the first one to have my victim impact letter reviewed with Ms. Grey.  It was from my ex-wife JoAnn.  She described hating being alone during our marriage, the disastrous effect on my stepdaughters, being left with the mortgage, accused me of being unfaithful (which isn’t true) while admitting she had not been a saint either.  Though it was biased, there was a lot of truth in what she said.  I’m not nervous about reading it to the group though.  There was nothing there I haven’t talked about or have been dishonest about with my ERP group.  After I was done, I went up to the computer room to work on our graduation project handout for the ceremony.  It wasn’t long before I was joined by just about everybody in the group all giving their input on what it should look like while standing behind me.  Every time I did something that didn’t work out they were of course quick to point that out.  I patiently explained about the Undo function in Microsoft Word.  Ms. Grey sent word when she saw everyone up in the computer room with me that I wasn’t allowed to talk about the letter from JoAnn.  She needn’t have worried.  I still don’t volunteer information about myself unnecessarily.  But the good news on the graduation project handout is that the images Ms. Grey gave me this time – the bumblebee transformer – worked out well this time.  Not only that, but since everyone was waiting they all had the chance to sign off on its design.  So I put it on the disc and would give it to Ms. Grey at the afternoon session.  Let’s hope it’s done.  The afternoon session started off with Ms. Grey telling us she would not share how she evaluated us in Phase 2 and if we wanted to see it we would have to ask our parole officer (PO) after we got out.  When we asked why, she just flat out said she didn’t want to.  We were pretty mystified and annoyed.  Wouldn’t she want us to know how we were evaluated?  We want to see it if the PO does, though these guys who have been locked up before say the PO doesn’t care about such things.  So that caused a bit of a stir after group.  The rest of the day was spent listening to the goals and objectives of the rest of the group members.  Tomorrow is Wednesday, a Training Day, which means there are no groups.  She has the disc with our graduation project program on it.  I don’t anticipate an eventful rest of the week.  I’ll probably end up regretting I said that!


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 is graduation day for another ERP group.  This graduation includes 3 important characters in this blog – Brian Whalen, Corey Ball, along with former cellie Malik Pearl.  About 9:30 am the ceremony started.  They had chosen the name “The Pibts” as their theme in they’re another chance, a one way ticket out of here but if they don’t do what they need to do to stay clean and sober it will be a round trip ticket bat to MSDF or similar place.  The artwork was impressive, with a wall trimmed with gold and blue.  On top were blue circles with a plane inside along with each person’s name.  After the opening remarks, there were comments by the unit manager and the security director who was standing in for the Warden, who couldn’t be there today.  What followed was presentation of quotes by the inmates, who also took the opportunity to thank their ERP social worker Ms. Carr along with a list of others in the room.  Some even took the time to thank the parole officers who took the time to attend, which was a nice gesture.  Then Ms. Carr presented the ERP completion certificates to the inmates as those in attendance clapped.  Like past graduations, cookies were given out.  Since I’m a swamper the guard told me to hand them out, 2 a piece, one chocolate and one ginger.  Of course inmates were trying to get me to give them extras.  One positive thing about me is public opinion of me here isn’t high on my priority list!  So that didn’t happen.  Of course some got seconds before others got their firsts but that’s because they didn’t get in line right away.  Just like first grade right?  Then we got a big surprise.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, showed up for group.  Normally on graduation day we don’t have group in the morning but she decided to have group anyway.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands had had a conversation with her and she revealed the reason she missed the previous day because she had been mugged.  It was good she was ok.  Again we watched videos form the relationship series From the Inside Out featuring Earnie Larson.  These were the last ones.  We did the accompanying workbook sections for the videos.  We flew right through.  This again was another topic (relationships) that we could have spent weeks on.  Larson did an excellent job through the role play depictions of portraying various relationship behaviors that I’m sure if we had the time it would have been beneficial to go into this in depth.  But there isn’t the time left to do that and everything else scheduled prior to June 10th (our graduation).  As we left group for lunch we noticed that the guy who said he’s going to tell on everyone at a community meeting and all his cellies in a rather heated meeting with two social workers.  It seems all his cellies have tired of his bullying tactics in the cell.  No big surprise huh?  At lunch it was one of our better meals, the Baked fish and cupcakes for dessert.  There were no extras because a guard named Albert Payne ate them all!  He’s the same guard that makes us all stand with our hands to our side at count.  We’ve seen guards eat multiple trays of food at FMCI before so its no big revelation.  But doing it, I was looking forward to that extra cupcake I’d have gotten as a swamper! Smile  But no big deal.  more importantly, my relationship with the other swamper, David Sussex isn’t as good as it was.  He just likes to preach at people about their shortcomings in a religious way.  His outlook is just very immature.  I finally told him he talked too much and shared with him what scripture says about zeal without knowledge.  He didn’t like that.  But its okay.  We’ll be fine.  I’ve got 35 days till my ERP group graduates, no more than 45 till departure.  I’m not letting anything here take my focus off of that.


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).  On Thursday afternoon we had our weekly Community Meeting.  Nothing was really remarkable about it until the floor was opened to concerns anyone might have and a new guy stood up and announced he was tired of how cliquey people were, the disrespect shown and how many inmates who have been here for awhile act like they have ownership of things here.  He went on to say from now on he was going to start pointing out people who were doing such things at future community meetings.  Throughout the room was stunned silence.  My ERP group leader Ms. Grey nodded her agreement, the other group leaders looked just as stunned as we were.  I’d find out later he was upset with his cellmates for farting in the cell instead of going outside to do that and for inmates trying to run the rec room.  He finished up his comments about how dedicated he was to this program, and he didn’t want that to have such things going on.  After an uncomfortable silence we moved on.  I did decide that night that with all the negativity going on I was going to pull into my shell even more that I have been.   I just feel like nothing is good is going to come out of hanging around people these days.  Maybe its because I’m 72 days to graduation and I fear all this work and time being for nothing because of some stupid incident.  The next morning began with Scott Bunker being sent to the hospital for his bleeding problem as it hasn’t gotten any better.  Graduation for another ERP group began at 9:30 am.  This was an OWI ERP group like us.  This group called themselves the “Unchained” group.  It was a nice ceremony, followed by cookies being given out.  I’m happy for them but my thoughts are on myself.  I have so little time left.  I’m happy but I’m afraid.  Where I’ll go, what I’ll do, how it will happen, these questions overwhelm the anxiety junkie in me.  I’ve learned to have faith during times like this, to surrender the illusion of control I cling to but I still have my moments of weakness.  After lunch we saw a video about the evils of inhalants (sorry, I didn’t catch the title)and on prescription drugs which was quite good, especially as it focused on elderly addiction.  At the end I brought up that I’d learned  that the TOP program in Waukesha County was applied to aftercare.  No housing was involved like she had said.  She insisted it was true though, and they’d explain it to me when they visited in mid-April.  I asked if I’d hear from them before my next parole officer (PO) call and she said no, that call was coming up next week!  It was like she had remembered herself that this was happening at that moment.  Anyway, around that time Scott Bunker joined us after his hospital visit so it would seem he must be ok.  The guards were unhappy today as they’ve installed electronic stations around the unit they have to check in with a gadget.  It ensures they’ve actually made their rounds.  But it’s okay.  Week 16 of 26 is complete.