Posts Tagged ‘Choice’


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 have a lot to cover and not a lot of time to do it.  The rec room issues continued as my ERP group member Russ Johnson didn’t make a lot of friends here when he told those wanting him to share the exercise bike that he couldn’t help it that he had a million dollars and they didn’t.  Some wanted to pound him but what saved him and many others in these situations is everyone is so close to getting out now nobody wants to risk an altercation and get thrown out.  Many such as Johnson knows this to be the case so they are taking their verbal shots and act tough thinking their won’t be consequences.  Sometimes I think people just shouldn’t play with fire because one of these times a stray, irrational spark might burn them.  On Tuesday our ERP group leader Ms. Grey appeared shortly after 9:30 am.  Today was devoted to the study of heroin.  The first videos shown were Heroin, What Am I Going To Do?  A Hazelden production and Heroin and other Opiates again featuring Dr. David Ohlms.  At the end we had time for discussion and ERP group member Augie Prescott inquired about his Interstate Compact to allow him to return to Alabama to allow him to do his extended supervision (ES)/parole there.  An Interstate Compact is an agreement on a process between different states that allows parolees to move across state lines and reside there.  Unfortunately in Prescott’s case, his paperwork remains out of order.  His presentence investigation and criminal complaint is missing.  Without these items, the compact won’t happen at this stage, it’s really too late.  He’s upset because Ms. Grey and his parole officer (PO) here have known about this since he got here and nothings been done.  I don’t blame him for being upset.  I asked again if she had called Sal’s House, the halfway house in Waukesha I’m considering and she said she still hadn’t done so.  She said an agency called the TOP program was coming in to give Waukesha County people a presentation related to a program called Wiser Choice in Milwaukee County.  We just are getting the impression she doesn’t want to do a heck of a lot.  In the afternoon we saw an extremely compelling video entitled Black Tar Heroin The Dark End of the Street that followed the lives of several heroin addicts in the late nineties.  It was brutal in its honesty in describing the horror of heroin addiction.  I’d highly recommend for anyone just getting into trouble with it.  In the middle of the video ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands got called out of the room.  After a brief discussion (heroin wasn’t a big issue in this OWI ERP group) we got out and got our mail from guard Ruth Barthowski who is kind enough to hand it out right away.  I got word from my sponsors that my biological father’s family had emailed again.  We’ve been writing back and forth since they found me but we’ve always danced around any issues up to this point.  Not this time.  They indicated they wanted to know.  I told them most of what I’ve told you.  It seems none of them knew what had gone on as my biological father wasn’t in touch with them at that time.  I feel…. okay with it.  I mean if I can tell it here I can do this.  I am nervous on their reaction.  I won’t lie.  When I saw Sands he told me what was going on.  He had gone to see the psychiatrist here and told them how Ms. Grey had pushed him on his grief issues (when he read his auto) and such.  They weren’t at all happy and told him that was improper.  They’d be talking to the unit manager and that he shouldn’t fear retaliation from Ms. Grey for talking about this.  You’ve got to give Sanders a lot of credit for speaking up, for saying what many have wondered about.  I have no idea on how this will turn out.  She doesn’t like it if you disagree with her much less something challenging her methods. 

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I am at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After dealing with the crabby guard, our ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, showed up along with intern Nikita and after our normal breathing exercises and prayer we began Week 13 processing of the ERP goals and objectives that had been decided on.  First up, just like when the autobiographies were read was group member Larry Sands.  His goals and objectives dealt with anger and grief dealing with the deaths of his son and father.  Just like when he read his autobiography, Ms. Grey jumped on him for failing to apply the books he’d been given to read to himself.  To be honest she was right.  He really hadn’t.  Next up was John Lloyd.  Lloyd has had something kind of odd go on with him as he’s lost partial muscle control in his left eye, unable to move his left eye all the way to the left.  I became alarmed over the possibility that a minor stroke might be taking place so I encouraged him to submit a blue form to the Heath Services Unit (HSU) on Sunday.  Plus his color is ashen.  I hope I’m wrong.  Anyway, it was kind of interesting, Lloyd read his essay on grief over the death of his father copying a poem from his book and essentially doing a book report as well but Ms. Grey complimented his efforts.  Then he read the letter to his deceased father and broke down in tears several times throughout.  Where Ms. Grey and Nikita were sitting they couldn’t see it but group members Russ Johnson and Kevin House sat and mocked him for doing so.  At the end she motioned group member Scott Bunker to go up and give him a hug.  The people in the room, already silent, shifted their eyes downward and everyone was uncomfortable.  He did give him the hug startling Lloyd.  There was little follow up to the reading of the letter.  We broke for lunch.  Sands caught up with me going on and on about how Ms. Grey was targeting him.  He clearly wanted my agreement.  I just told him she’s trying to reach you, trying not to take the bite.  Prior to the group starting after lunch the topic was the hug given by Bunker to Lloyd.  To Bunker’s credit, he said he didn’t mind.  But Lloyd and the rest just ripped on Bunker and Ms. Grey for it.  As is my custom I sat and listened.  But I knew on one level they were right.  You don’t hug in prison period and that includes MSDF.  If we were in a treatment group outside here I suspect it would be a different situation.  After lunch it was my turn.  First I read my essay on forgiveness based in part on the book Houses of Healing where I told of my path to forgive my biological father for the things that happened.  I read my second essay on the book of Anger Is a Choice by Tim Lahaye.  I also read my letter forgiving my father which came out more confrontational than forgiving.  Ms. Grey seemed ok with what I’d done and there wasn’t much feedback just like with everyone else except Sands.  I noted at the end that the nightmares and aversions to socializing I deal with are still there.  Later that day at mail call, I received a letter from my ex JoAnn.  She wrote she’s been dating a new guy who has been helpful to my former step-daughter Lisa.  I’m not the first guy in prison whose family’s needs are being met by a new guy.  Doesn’t make it any less painful of course.  I spent a good portion of the night unable to sleep.  I, like most of us guys in prison with families, know in the back of our mind this was going to happen.  But when faced with the reality it still hurts.  The next morning after a couple hours of sleep I prayed for their happiness and asked for the strength to put it behind me and to look forward.  After all, what else can I do?


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 I completed the assignments given to me this past week.  They were the self-evaluation, the review of the movie Gracie’s Choice, and addressing the envelope for the letter going to my former wife to be sent by our ERP group leader, Ms. Grey.  I’d had the actual letter written some time ago.  Many in the group are struggling with this or have devised plans to control the response Ms. Grey gets.  I did not do so, not because I’m some sort of moral giant but I’m not willing to risk anything at this juncture.  It just isn’t worth it with 97 days to go until graduation.  Anyway, I’ve mentioned to you before our bathroom setup, how the toilets are open air and only a piece of cloth covers the entrance.  Often the men will run water to prevent the noise of doing their business from echoing in this cavernous environment and it’s a courtesy appreciated by those in the dayroom.  Also, at night those on lower bunks will often put towels up using the bunk above them to hold them in to block light but mostly for some privacy.  Normally the guards say nothing about such things but last night wasn’t normal.  The refried beans from cellie Andre Charles graduation party were/are still killing me.  The guard on duty made me get up though I wasn’t done and shut the water off.  I finished and went back to my cell.  Shortly after he was there barking at my cellies to take the towels off their bunks in drill sergeant type of fashion.  The next morning at 5 am, it was my shower and laundry day (with 3 changes of clothes I shower every other day doing laundry every other shower day) and I wondered if he’d give me any grief about anything.  Once laundry started, this guard complained about how other guards don’t enforce the rules so it makes his job harder and it confuses us.  I was surprised he knocked other guards to me but I just told him since I’d been in prison I’d learned it is really up to the guard on duty and we as inmates learn how the rules will be enforced.  He replied that was exactly the problem and he’ll throw guys in program real quick if they give him an attitude as they’re supposed to be on a higher level.  I told him he wouldn’t likely see an attitude from anyone here.    Soon he got distracted and my laundry was dry but I thought to myself this guy was wound so tight he might snap.  I returned to my cell to make sure that person wouldn’t be me!  But I think while he has a point that its good for us to have uniformity in expectations I also think its good for us to deal with differing expectations or interpretations as we get ready to be released as that is a much more realistic view of the world than the sometimes orderly  world of MSDF. 


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 February 1st and we’re suppose to begin the worst snow storm in a decade this afternoon.  As noted when I first got here, we can’t see or hear what’s going on outside.  I have mixed emotions about that.  In years past, I’d have been stocking up on comfort foods like pizza and chips and prepared to enjoy a lot of coffee while having fun with the kids.  There would be lots of shoveling too but even that was ok as you knew hot coffee and blankets awaited you when finished.  I’d have reruns of “House” and “Law and Order: SVU” taped which the wife and I would watch.  There’s no wife or kids, certainly no driveways or sidewalks to shovel and little chance of getting real cold in the climate controlled recycled air of MSDF.  But there’s little sense in thinking like this.  There’s another kind of storm brewing, one which could potentially change the WPS landscape.  A graduate of ERP named Emmit Bankhead robbed several banks in succession and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn again called for an end to the “early release program”. As I’ve told you all before, people often make this mistake when referring to this program.  But Flynn made the assertion that “we all know it doesn’t work” and called for people to serve their full sentences.  This combined with Gov. Scott Walker’s choice to head the Department of Corrections (DOC), former Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin, who is on record for opposing programs such as ERP, and you have to wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the end for ERP.  Please don’t think me selfish for being very happy I’m enrolled now.  Most inmates in my group when discussing it feel it won’t be here next year.  I’ve even heard some staff wonder the same thing.  You’ve got to feel for some of the folks as their jobs might be threatened under Gov. Walker.  He’s definitely on a mission you got to give him that.  Well, today we had strict guards on 3rd and 1st shift.  The third shift guards turned off the water on the sinks which inmates ran to drown out the sounds of the well, bathroom use and then turned off the power twice at around 5 am so everyone’s clock reset to flashing twelve’s.  Of course everyone had to guess if they could come to the dayroom.  The official reason was a generator test but the way the guards carried themselves told the story that they were mean spirited people.  The guard on first shift again not a regular, was strictly enforcing the dress code, specifically our white t-shirts had to be tucked in and that we always had to ask to use the bathroom.  Several got warnings put on their card.  Our ERP group got started with Scott Dietz turn to read his autobiography.  He’s a businessman, a guy who starts or improves existing companies.  When he got bored, he got drunk.  His story of a debilitating accident didn’t pass the smell test. He got an OWI reduced to reckless driving but claims no alcohol was involved and that he had fallen asleep.  No one challenged him on it.  I’m still trying to figure out when its acceptable to do that or if I should at all.  But that’s todays report.  I hope you get shoveled out ok if you live in the area.


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 got my towel and washcloth third in line on the chairs in front of the disgusting shower and was happy about that.  It was also laundry night so I was plenty busy.  The next morning cellie, Brian Whalen, agreed we would pull all our cords out of the tangled mess on our outlet and I would try to get it so that the wires and cables weren’t interfering with the reception of our antenna’s for our televisions.  Though we don’t have cable we do pick up 31 television stations, which is amazing considering all the granite and steel here.  But electrical cables seem to interfere with the antennas.  But I decided to wait until lunch to do this as we were having the worst meal here, beef stroganoff.  I went to my ERP group where our group leader, inmate Larry Sands, decided on his own to show a movie called Gracie’s Choice , an excellent movie of a young girl with several brothers and sisters whose mother was an addict.  After it was finished I returned to my cell and when lunch was called, I began to work on the cords and antennas.  Cellie Andre Charles was the only one left in the room, his fan blaring on high, and having just banged around at his locker.  As I experimented with antenna positions he challenged me in a threatening manner on the amount of noise I was making.  This coming from a guy who plays his TV and radio loud all the time and no one says a word.  I just looked at him and left.  I saw Whalen coming up the steps and told him after he inquired of whether I was finished that no I wasn’t and he should ask Andre why.  After I returned, everyone was quiet and Andre was pacing the floor saying he’s not going to put up with this sh—anymore.  I showed no fear or concern, but I didn’t answer.  The other cellie Malik Pearl, confided once Roscoe Peters, our regular first shift guard, returned from vacation he would ask to be transferred.  I told him I probably would after he did.  His reasoning is he can’t handle it.  But I don’t put it beyond Malik to be playing games either.  I just don’t know for sure.  Our ERP group resumed and after doing a couple assigned crossword puzzles on the Body System and Neurotransmitters, we watched another movie, “When a Man Loves a Woman” starring Meg Ryan.  It’s a story about how a woman gets help for her drinking problem but as a result of getting healthy as a person, her marriage suffers.  I avoided this movie in the real world as I heard it was a ‘chick flick’ but it was actually pretty good.  Afterwards I returned to my cell.  Andre wasn’t saying a word now.  But right before supper was served, Malik drew my attention to the cell window.  There was Peter Thorn, the guard who liked like he belonged in a punk band, on  a chair head in hands with a white shirt (a supervisor) encouraging him to come with him.  He hadn’t looked right before and he displayed the eyes of heroin use.  Some inmates laughed, some cheered, but not me.  Addiction can take down a guard, an IT Specialist/programmer like myself or anyone else really.  People are fighting for their lives in here on several different levels and not all of them are inmates.