Posts Tagged ‘conscience’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  My routine has been adjusted thanks to my swamper role.  I’m getting up at 5 am every morning, mostly because with my release 37 to 47 days away, I want to get accustomed to getting up early like I did in my days as an Information Technology professional.  After getting the rags we use to clean all over the pod out of the washer and putting them in the dryer I take down the 40 chairs stacked on the tables in the dayroom from the night before so the floor can be cleaned.  Then I read my bible for about a half hour until about 6 am.  Then I get ready for 6:15 am count.  After count I  return to the dayroom and get the breakfast cart.  Fellow swamper David Sussex counts the cereals and I count the milks and juices making sure there are 40 for our pod and 34 for the pod on the other side.  This particular day both our counts were off which mean the pod on the other side were short.  Guard Roscoe Peters let us know that annoyed him.  Then breakfast is called and we hand out the food.  Inmates will try anything than can to get extra food out of us but both of us are pretty firm mostly because we each have ideas of what to do with the extras!  At the end, the extras are split in half between us.  I give some to my cellies and some to the guys at my table.  Once breakfast is complete, I  wipe the tables, take out the trash and clean the counters while Sussex cleans the trays they’re served on and gets the cart back so we can load the trash.  I get back to my cell about 7 am where I write a blog entry, do homework and a journal entry.  I had been going back to bed about 7 am till 8 am when program starts but I’ve decided to stop doing that as I can’t do that after release.  I continue working on things until 9 am, or when ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, comes by usually shortly after.  Today our ERP group got into part 5 and 6 From the Inside Out video series by Earnie Larson.  After watching the videos (quite good), we did the evaluations in the accompanying workbook in section 5-1 and then went around the room to reveal our scores.  It didn’t start out too well as ERP group member Scott Dietz nearly had a meltdown as Ms. Grey and others challenged how he scored himself on several points.  He did this early in group too but fortunately he pulled back before it was too late.  I have to say though this was the first group session where we freely provided each other with constructive feedback, challenging what the other person said about himself when needed.  When they got to me, people expressed shock at my taking the swamper job as I had stepped out of my comfort zone.  They did say I’m hypersensitive to some things though.  I won’t argue with that.  At lunch, as well as supper, I go clean the tables and put out napkins.  Once the trays arrive, I count out milk and open bread while Sussex counts out trays.  He has really struggled with this.  While waiting, we have time to talk.  Talking to him makes me very conscience of how my language has deteriorated while I’ve been locked up.  I didn’t cuss and swear like that before prison.  You can’t around kids and at work.  I’m going to have to work on that.  Once we serve, I clean the tables, change the trash and help Sussex keep the trays steady while he’s stacking them.  At ERP group in the afternoon, we finished the evaluations.  But the highlight was when Ms. Grey let us know the huge workload in store for us until graduation on June 10.  Most groups took it easy on Phase III but not Ms. Grey.  We scrambled in the evening hours to get the goals and objectives plan for Phase III done by Friday, pages 1-31 of the Living With Others workbook series from The Change Companies.  We found out cellie Corey Ball will most likely be gone by Monday.  He and his fellow cellie Brian Whalen graduate this Friday because he’s done so much of his time.  He’s already planning on how and where he’s going to get drunk.  It’s too bad too because he’s a very good guy.  But that’s not the point is it?  At about 8:45 pm, when dayroom closes, Sussex and I go to put up the chairs, take out the trash, sweep and mop the dayroom floor, and wash the rags.  Peters, who worked a double shift, let me take a shower after count.  Clearly he doesn’t trust me but he is professional, courteous, and kind.  I still have nightmares but I’m out pretty hard now when I sleep with this schedule.

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I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’m standing in line waiting for lunch about 10:30 am and a black inmate standing next to me said “I hate all white people.” He hadn’t intended for me to hear it as he didn’t know I was there.  We made eye contact and he tried to backtrack, saying he meant “some white people”.  I laughed, I joked that no he didn’t, he hated us all.  With the ice broken, he explained to me what was going on, without me asking for an explanation.  It seems Lt. Brodie had told someone something different that what he told someone else, concerning some issue and had basically blown him off when he complained.  Having had some experience with Brodie and the others on first and second shift I sympathized.  My new friend commented that he’d guarantee he’d go to the hole the day before he got out in 4 months because he would let them know what he thought of them.  I shared my theory, as I’ve shared with all of you.  The guards and Brodie see us as less than human, like animals in a cage, and if they didn’t meet the needs or wants of the caged animal, so what?  Besides, at the end of the day, what could we do about it really?  There’s no immediate redress of grievances available to us.  I’m not sure its the guards fault entirely.  Day in and day out they do what they’ve been trained to do – keep the inmates down.   The only caution I throw in is that its the same attitude that allowed an entire nation to approve of and/or look the other way while ten million people were murdered.  When you dehumanize people, conscience is rendered useless.  But the point to my friend is that it wasn’t so much racism at play as he thought but rather extreme apathy on the guards part – to tell whoever whatever they want to hear just to get them to go away.  It really isn’t personal on their part.  Their apathy is applied on an equal opportunity basis regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.  Furthermore, I encouraged him to be careful in what he says or does in his remaining time.  Don’t sabotage yourself.  Privately, I thought the fact you are so focused on getting revenge on those that disrespect you 4 months from your release is worrisome.  There are so many other things to be thinking about.  Finally, I told him, no matter what you do, you won’t change anything in what the guards or Brodie do or think.  It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn here.  What i have been working on is to learn to be content regardless of the circumstances.  Often you have read where I’m upset when I’m not happy with what is happening.  Even leading up to my arrest, when everything was falling apart around me.  If I’ve learned that lesson, I’m not in prison.  I can be content regardless of my circumstances as long as I have made changes to the things I can control.  My friend told me he doesn’t think that way, that he can’t not just let it go.  I get it.  But I don’t want to live that way and make those same mistakes.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We have an old man here who is from Idaho.  He had been on parole back in the eighties and had tired of the restrictions on him so he absconded (left without permission) to Idaho.  He lived there for years with no issues.  Then when he applied for social security, they wouldn’t give him his benefits after a couple checks because of the warrant from Wisconsin.  Eventually, he found himself back in the WPS.  I might have told you about him previously.  If so, I apologize.  Anyway, he is almost universally liked here.  If you want sports betting tips, this is the guy to go to.  Thus, for our purposes, he is dubbed the “Gambler”, after the Kenny Rogers song.  The Gambler had one place though where he was not appreciated by all, especially Paul, and that was at the horseshoe pits.  Outside our units front door inside the track are 2 horseshoe pits and a volleyball sand pit.  While the basketball courts to the left are popular with the black guys, the horseshoe pits are popular with the white guys.  There are exceptions but generally that’s the way it is. As usual, with group activities, I stay on the sidelines and watch.  Paul and the Gambler would often get into heated arguments about how things got scored.  The Gambler and Paul are both stubborn people so that didn’t surprise me.  A few days ago, the Gambler came in from horseshoes complaining of a backache.  It didn’t surprise me.  Horseshoes is how he spends a lot of his day.  He laid down for awhile but was up soon thereafter asking the guards to contact Health Services.  The van came and got him soon thereafter.  The following day, word spread around the unit that the Gambler was dead.  Quite a few of us were shocked and saddened.  No one like the Gambler should die in prison, far from family and friends.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to myself as well, vowing I will never die in prison and hopefully not die alone.  A sympathy card that can be ordered off canteen was being distributed around the unit though I never saw it.  Strange enough, though no inmates had turned into vultures on his possessions like they have a habit of doing.  I thought perhaps conscience would stand in the way with these circumstances this time.  Also, I noticed the guards had left his bunk undisturbed, not coming to pack up his belongings.  But I try to mind my own business and just observe, my modus operandi.  Perhaps the guards didn’t come because they hadn’t gotten word to do so yet.  The following day, a new story began to circulate, that an inmate had started the rumor that the Gambler had died.  My first thought was to wonder why anyone would do such a thing. Then I remembered, for many here to do something like that wouldn’t be a stretch at all.  Consciences are like knives.  If you allow them to get dull, they are not as effective as they could be.  They both stay sharp with daily use and maintenance.  But sure enough, later that night, the Gambler appeared.  He, in fact, had had a scare with his heart and was no on Plavix.  I was happy to see him upright and mobile.  I do hope and pray he does get to join his family before his time really does come someday.  Nobody should die alone.