Posts Tagged ‘church’


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 night was Monday and it happened to be laundry night but it also was Bible study night sponsored by the unknown group that gave us the gifts Saturday.  But I wanted to go learn more.  It seems quite a few had the same idea as they had to move it out of the smaller room it’s normally held in.  There were 2 leaders who I found out later is called “The Church (In Wisconsin)” of West Allis, WI.  But I get the sense they didn’t want to tell us.  The Bible Study itself was more of a sermon than a study, based on Psalm 118 and Acts 3.  My favorite versus were Psalm 118:17-18 “I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  The Lord has chastened me severely but he has not given me over to death”. While I was in the study, Tom Dietz volunteered to watch my laundry.  I knew I liked that guy!  Unfortunately the beach ball that is my cellie, Andre Charles, bounced the other way.  For whatever reason he has tamed again.  He was upset with me for reasons unknown saying we don’t joke around, we have to be serious.  The next morning at count he said there was a “fagg—– who keeps look at him when he sleeps”.  I didn’t have a clue what he was referring to of course, but the more immediate problem was the name he called me in front of everyone.  Another challenge, this one in public.  But I didn’t do anything.  A guard’s watching and the wrong word ends my time in ERP.  But before we’d go back into the cell, a guard walked up to me and said I was going to the hospital and to get ready to go.  I’m sure I was going to get the cancer test results from the PET scan last week.  But before I left, another cellie Malik Pearl, warned me I was about to find out what Andre is going to do and I better get out of this cell.  I hate to say it cause I’m a little..okay a lot on the stubborn side but I may end up getting out of this cell.  Of course, it was time to go, and of course like always on my road trips, the weather was crappy.  I got to the University Hospital and got to the inmate waiting room fully anticipating a good report from the doctor.  The room was a buzz with the rumors of what Gov. elect Scott Walker was going to do to the prisons and DOC staff.  Let’s put it this way, he seems to be following the playbook he followed in Milwaukee County.  If so, state employees are going to be hurting.  But after the blood work, I saw my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook.  The good news is my counts are normal.  The bad news is there area  couple of lymph nodes that are enlarged.  Nothing will be done except to schedule more scans to see if they continue to grow.  I ate my bag lunch in the waiting room while the guards ate their lunches.  After I got back, I sat 3 hours in an empty waiting room, even eating supper there.  Finally I got back to my unit where no one in my cell spoke to me.  But I’m ok with that.  I’ve got bigger fish to fry and I’ve got to deal with my own issues that are much larger in scope than what Andre Charles influences people to do.

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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).  On weekends there is no ERP activity.  The lights are turned back off after count at 6:15 am and remain off until 10:30-11:00 am.  I usually try to take advantage and enjoy the silence as close as it gets anyway.  One of our regular 1st shift guards is Roscoe Peters.  He’s late forties, early fifties and is know as a “cool” guard.  He has a booming voice that will rattle you if you screw up but it’s known he’s not out to mess with you just because.  My cellmate, Andre Charles and Peters usually go back and forth with each other on a near every day basis, with Andre talking from the top tier down to Peters who bellows back.  But it’s always done tongue in cheek.  At about 11 am, the swampers brought in our lunch trays and after we had all gotten in line, he announced there would be no trading food between inmates, not even at your own table, because someone had “gone over his head to the unit manager”.  At another point in the meal, after having busted a couple of people for trying to trade, he said the inmate needs to come talk to him to fix this.  After we were finished with lunch a whole parade of inmates went to the desk, including Andre, to find out what was going on.  It seems the swampers had been getting extra food and the inmate who wrote the complaint to the unit manager was unhappy about it.  They seem to do that a lot around here, complain, if another inmate is perceived to get preferential treatment.  My philosophy on this is if someone else has found a way to make their life here a little more bearable more power to them.  It’s none of my business.  I don’t want to use the word “cutthroat” to describe the environment here (bad image) but its an apt description, more so than any prison I’ve been in up until now.  Then Peters announced he’d find out who it was on Monday and it wasn’t going to go well for him.  I’ve never even spoken to Peters but he always made a good impression on me.  I just wish he’d be a little smarter in what he says.  I can’t imagine this not getting back to someone he doesn’t want it to especially if there  is an inmate trying to take him down.  So we probably haven’t heard the end of this one.  But I guess as much as I hate this place, and though the phrase “watch your back” has taken a whole new meaning for me with some of these inmates, I have managed to get into a semblance of a routine which has been key to my survival anywhere I’ve been.  I’ve completed one week of ERP and have 23 to go.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it.

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Shortly after this was written, about 20-30 people showed up with musical instruments and started singing Christmas carols!  I asked what church they were from and they told me several different ones and they they have a Bible study on Mondays.  They gave us a paper bag with treats and a bag of chocolate chip Chips Ahoy Crunchy cookies.  I’ve never seen anything like this before in prison, nor had my cellies.  And most unexpected in a maximum security facility like MSDF!  Of course, a few cons in us couldn’t just enjoy the rare moment and scammed extra cookies and treats by claiming they were missed.  But really, an awesome event by what I think might be awesome people!


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 had the worst meal ever since my incarceration began.  The entree was beef stroganoff.  The smell literally made me want to vomit.  I dared to actually take a bite and then I wished I would vomit.  I’m not the type to complain but this was bad.  Fortunately, I had some canteen left over so I finished that off.  I ran into a hustler on this cell block who wants to trade 2 for 1 on anything if I’m hungry as he knows I’m not used to the food here yet and he thinks I won’t have money to buy canteen.  We place orders on Thursday and they are delivered the following Wednesday.  Fortunately, one of my sponsors sent me a little cash  so we didn’t have the same situation I did when I got to Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  So I declined, but I would’ve anyway.  You don’t want to get involved with people like that.  This just means I have to exist on state food till Wednesday.  Don’t worry, I’ll be fine!  After supper, my cellies finished their group and after returning to the cell, Malik Pearl and I got into a conversation.  First it was about ERP.  Rumors have it Gov. elect Scott Walker is going to try to kill the program and return to truth in sentencing and he expressed doubts as he didn’t think financially the state could.  Then he told me he asked to come here for ERP as its said the ERP at MSDF is considered the easiest of all the prisons and that I should be grateful I came here instead of some of the others.  It is true, especially at Oshkosh, that many don’t get through.  The way he spoke reminded me of a black preacher’s cadence, and he seemed to genuinely believe what he said.  I made the comment he should be a preacher.  Malik looked at me like he was shocked and I asked what was up.  It seems between bits (times) in prison at one point he had become a Christian and was being groomed to take over as a pastor at a church.  His desire to have material possessions led him back to the world of drugs and dealing.  Malik said he wasn’t yet ready to recommit his life  to God but he will eventually.  I told him not to wait too long, you never know what might happen and that God’s gifts and call upon his life is irrevocable.  Someday he could be restored to his former position, and that there is hope.  He said he’s get there, but first he’d go back to the life (dealing) so he could get financially stable.  God would let him know when it was his time he thought.  I replied that God has already spoken.  I suppose one on the outside might not understand the contradiction Malik presents but I do.  The good he wants to do is obfuscated by the falling dominoes chain of bad decisions.  It doesn’t mean the desire to do right is gone.  But the whole conversation about God, by two men who demonstrate feet of clay every day, I sensed was more effective than any preacher’s message could have been then.  But I’ve learned we haven’t lost the credibility to help others even if we’ve made some horrible mistakes.  


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The fallout from the institution wide shakedown has continued. Several times a day people are paged to report to the social worker’s office from the guard desk.  When the page comes from the guard desk and not from Ms. Greer you know this isn’t going to be a visit to that office that will end well.  People are going there for ticket hearings and are being told to bring property receipts with them that prove the confiscated property belonged to them.  Bunk confinement of varying length is the normal punishment.  Every once in awhile someone actually wins a hearing.  You know they did as they celebrate like they scored a touchdown.  Slowly but surely life is returning to normal. Somehow the smokers managed successfully to hide tobacco though I hear the asking price for a rolled cigarette has gone up to four to five dollars of canteen from two to three dollars.  Clothing bought from the catalogs that was lost is the biggest issue for folks as buyers and sellers are trying to get together on a price.  Where am I at on this?  My little routines I hang onto to preserve some organization from the chaos around me at at times my mind can sink into serve me well here. Additional clothing or property just for luxury sake would disrupt the routines I’ve developed.  I know that sounds weird but if you’ve been reading awhile you’re used to it by now.  Occasionally the guys laugh at me because for many things I do everyday I do them like clockwork. I don’t care if they laugh.  Their opinions matter little. It’s usually good natured.  One of the guys I’d call one of the winners around here is being released Monday.  A strong Christian who was liked by all he is one of those guys that has a personality that can light up a room.  He’s headed to Texas where he has a wife and church to support him.  Originally FMCI would have taken him via bus to Fond Du Lac, WI (thirty miles away) and let him off at a bus station as they do all who are released and have no one to come get them or some other arrangement through a Parole Officer or something like that.  He wrote to a church in the area just out of the blue and someone responded indicated a willingness to pick him up here and give him a ride to the airport.  How cool is that?  That’s the kind of courage I need to learn.  We also got a new guy in who opened up to me out of the blue.  It seems he was approved for Act 28 release but the judge in his case had denied him.  They have to let him go in February, and when I pointed out to him he most likely would have been on electronic monitoring for 6 months had he gotten early release, he indicated he didn’t care.  He’d been down for eight years and the only thing that mattered was getting home to his kids. Inwardly I smiled. I so understand that desperation and desire.  Finally, congratulations to Chris Tomlin, one of my favorite Christian artists, on finally getting married this week.  I wish the very best to him and his new wife!

 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). I was asked on Sunday to play keyboard for the choir for the Protestant church service.  After the incident with Charlie, I was glad to turn my attention elsewhere.  I had heard previously there had been quite a bit of drama associated with this particular group but I figured really, how bad could it be?  The guy leaving the group had only been in charge a week and told me to meet the other singers by the basketball court for practice.  Service was 3 hours away but no one knew the song arrangements.  Most of the time was spent on a litany of complaints and backstabbing those not there.  Many made a point of telling me their issues, perhaps because I was new and they wanted me to sway to their way of thinking.  The refrain was basically that we were under attack from the enemy (Satan), thus the problems we were having.  I was told because of guard complaints about the noise, they had taken away the drums and electric guitars.  They claimed the institution didn’t allow sufficient practice time.  Finally as further evidence of the “enemy’s” infiltration, solos had been stepped on and choir members were angered.  I just rolled my eyes.  My focus was solely to get the music down so I didn’t embarrass myself.  The leader tried to get these complicated arrangements put in place with the other vocals.  There just isn’t time.  Finally, we practiced for a half hour at the multi-purpose building and then did the service.  Simply put, it was awful.  Most of the time when you stink as a band in a church environment, people tell you it was good anyway.  Not this time.  Many in attendance let me know how awful it sounded.  My attitude was basically I get to play in a church band again so I want to take advantage.   The following day I was told by the leader that Captain Kramer and Lt. Brodie wanted to see the choir.  Kramer, an attractive middle-aged woman, is Brodie’s boss.  I know if she was there, this wasn’t good.  After we all got there, Kramer got right to the point.  Apparently, inmates in the choir from Unit 10 had been in Unit 9 areas to practice vocals which is a major offense.  Then she told us that due to this and the repeated problems incurred with this choir, that have caused her and Brodie to have to spend time on these issues every week, the choir was to be disbanded.  The only exceptions were the leader, guitar and keyboard player, being sure to point out to the leader that the chaplain had specifically asked for him.  In some ways, if intentional, it was a clever move on their part.  Appeal to the leader’s ego, cause division within the group and confuse who they should be mad at.  The problem with this is in this environment by Kramer singling out who was wanted, those people will feel pressure to not cooperate or be viewed as friendly to staff which you really don’t want here.  So now the band leader was talking like none of use would stay, that they wouldn’t tell us how to run the choir.  While he was off talking to each now former choir member, others started filling me in.  While it was true they weren’t given adequate practice time (a half hour isn’t adequate to get all this ready), the guitar players and drummers had been repeatedly about the volume level and volunteers and staff complained.  Choir members themselves had been going to the chaplain and Brodie complaining about each other.  At the end of the day, it was just easier to shut it all down.  It wasn’t Satan that was responsible for the group’s demise, it was largely the choir’s own fault.  What’s going to happen now I don’t know.  But sometimes I rather like being the quiet one! 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Did you know Jake Martin (my pen name) has a Facebook page?  Feel free to send a friend request and post your thoughts or stories.  I’d love to hear from you.  I haven’t mentioned it before despite it having been out there for some time.  My bad.  It’s the same as always, if you post something directed to me or the blog sponsors, you’ll get an answer.  My real identity also has a Facebook and Windows Live presence.  I had a successful .NET Framework and Information Technology blog on Windows Live.  As a result, I developed a rather large network of IT Professionals.  After I’d been arrested, it appeared I had just suddenly vanished and some of those contacts began making inquiries into what had happened to me.  Some of these folks are now “sponsors” of this blog.  One serves as my power of attorney (POA) and several update this blog with what I write, handle the increasing amount of correspondence and try to keep me grounded which can be a trying task.  Isn’t it ironic that those that knew me from the virtual world proved to be there for me much more than anyone from the physical world?  Friends from my church, Christian band, the Fortune 500 company I worked for as a software developer, or other associates, most I never heard from even after it became common knowledge where I was, courtesy of my now ex-wife.  It was human nature to want to befriend a guy on his way up in his profession, making great money, who started a talented Christian rock band and seemed to always have an answer for the problem confided.  But it was also human nature that when the ship of my life was taking on water and sinking to try and get as far away, as fast as possible, lest the suction of the disaster somehow affect them.  So though I got angry, I eventually came to see their reaction as natural, almost intuitive, to the events that had taken place.  I was asked if I forgive them for not standing by me.  I now answer there was nothing to forgive.  They didn’t then or now owe me a thing.  The problem here was my expectations of my relationships with people.  I wanted 100% loyalty not because I loved them, but because that little boy in me was tired of being hurt and abandoned.  I would extend my loyalty, but here’ the thing.  They never asked for that.  The sad fact is I can’t hold those close to me hostage to my issues and call that a relationship.  Perhaps I am the one that should seek forgiveness from them.  I, under my real name, still occasionally have updates posted to Facebook.  My blog still collects 300 hits a day, despite not having been updated in 17 months, mostly .NET and IT guys looking for a particular solution.  Still, I haven’t come up with a way to handle the classmate that pops up on Facebook and such.  I don’t want to tell people I’m in prison.  I’m ashamed.  I don’t have an answer so I’ve been ignoring those friend requests and comments that come in.  I am sure there is a way I’m suppose to handle it.  As always, if I keep an open mind, the answer will come.