Posts Tagged ‘couldn’


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 Friday, the end of our 21st of 26 weeks that this program lasts.  In the dayroom prior to our ERP group starting, we learned Augie Prescott still couldn’t get through to his family in Alabama after the devastation caused by the tornadoes there that have killed over 200 in several southern states.  Of course, I didn’t say anything to anyone but my recently reconnected biological family is from that area.  I have no way to reach them since my only way to reach them is through email via my sponsors.  I sent a note but I can’t let myself think about it too much.  It would be so ironic if something happened now that I have finally connected to them.  But lets not go there.  The day started off with us going over proper interview etiquette in the video From Parole to Payroll which was very effective if you have not had experience interviewing before.  We paid special attention though in how to handle disclosure of our criminal offense in the interview and on the application. We’re supposed to answer the question on the application that we’ll explain at the interview.  At the interview when the question comes up what we did we’re to answer truthfully yet answer it with a one word answer or as few words as possible.  Above all, take responsibility and don’t’ lie.  So we learned something, at least I did anyway.  Then we were teamed up two by two by our ERP Social Worker Ms. Grey, where we were to give each other what would be considered a job performance evaluation.  It was of course fun for each of us to pick on the other guy.  I was teamed with John Lloyd, whom I have sat across from in the dayroom and eaten across from the last 5 months.  He identified as my strengths my writing, initiative and thorough.  As weaknesses he said I lacked tack and that I’m not subtle at all.  But when I pressed him for an example he couldn’t give one.  So I didn’t understand that at all, where he saw that in me.  Most I know see me the opposite of these things.  Ms. Grey then handed out our blank Phase III Goals and Objectives sheets and said we should consider what was identified as weaknesses for Phase III short term goals.  We don’t’ have a due date on these goals but lets hope it’s not going to be the struggle for our group it was in Phase 2.  In our afternoon session, we played another game just like UNO and the goggles on another.  This time it was a game where we asked each other random questions that were printed on cards that had been dealt to us.  The questions were such like “What was the biggest mistake you made?” and “What would life be like without computers?”  We all had fun with it, with their being some serious moments.  Even intern Nikita had joined us today and participated. Guess we’re going to be losing her soon as she is returning to school soon.  Heck, we’re all going to be gone soon!  After group, cellie Corey Ball gave guard Ruth Barthowski a card form all of us that said goodbye and thank you for her years of service and for the respect she has shown us.  Tomorrow is her last day on the job.  The ERP Social Workers were aware so there was no risk of fraternization charges.  Supper was interesting tonight because in the middle of one of the worst meals served here, soy based imitation meat for our tacos, an emergency count was called which meant we had to get up in the middle of the meal, go stand and be counted, then wait until count cleared to return to eat. Let’s face it, the food is usually cold when we get it in addition to it sucking so the only problem for us was the disruption of routine.  As for me, I ‘m still out of sorts and my cellies have noticed I’m not as patient as I normally am.  The juvenile humor and acting out I usually just ignore is getting to me more now.  I’m not sure what my problem is except perhaps nerves about getting close to getting out.  I hope my cellies will put up with me while I get my perspective back. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we got started on reading Chapter 13 on forgiveness out loud to each other in Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain.  Of course, I’ve already read this for my phase one Treatment and Goals.  But it’s a deep read and an excellent chapter of a great book so I don’t mind reading it again.  I had to laugh when it talked about practicing forgiveness toward your cellmate (page. 251) on a daily basis.  If you were following the saga of former cellie Andre Charles and I, it certainly tested my limits.  But he’s gone so I can afford to laugh about it now!  It was all pretty quiet.  We had some fireworks in the afternoon.  We did the exercise “Getting Clear” on page 206-208. Basically, your ripping away the layers of emotions and thinking away from a given situation.  I chose the relationship with my former step daughter Lynn and what was behind why we couldn’t have the relationship I wish we had.  What was interesting is many of the problems I did the right thing but often for reasons that were related to my own needs for a close family and love, not for Lynn.  It also occurred to me how few active relationships are no in my life.  I had to bring up things from before I was jailed almost 2 years ago.  Anyway,  I wasn’t chosen by Ms. Grey to share mine so I listened as others shared.  The one that stood out was group member Scott Dietz who discussed his relationship with his ex-wife.  He clearly was angry with her for having cheated on him and said he showed progress by not kicking the butts of both of them.  There was no interest in forgiving her.  Ms. Grey tried to push the issue with him and he railed against her for thinking anyone could possibly forgive after that.  We were all pretty shocked at how he spoke to her and was looking around for group members to support him.  No one did.  We began telling him verbalizing threats against his ex was not ok.  This was so obvious we couldn’t sit by and ignore it.  After lunch, Ms. Grey handed out the evaluations she had done on us for Phase one of ERP.  Mine was ok, although she called me a “Super grouper”, a term of derision used by inmates for one who is zealous in a group.  No one ever called me that as Ms. Grey has gotten on me a few times.  I’m sure she didn’t intend to insult me.  Her point was I contribute to group and ask questions when I don’t understand.  Some in the group challenged their evaluation, particularly Dietz and cellie Larry Sands but she held her ground and for once Dietz let it go.  We got done with group and it came time for our community meeting as is now our custom on Thursdays at 3 pm.  Our ERP group got a “positive reinforcement” from the group for almost getting to Phase 2.  Everyone had a good laugh over that as many thought we’d be there last week.  I don’t care about such designations.  I can count and the only numbers that count is 84, the number of days to graduation from this program and 679, the number of days since I was incarcerated and my life was completed upended on May 8, 2009.  If I can do 679 , deal with what I have, learned what I have and grown as I have I can do another 89 standing on my head.  Ok, not literally but you know what I mean.   


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After the events on Wednesday, I decided to talk to ERP group members John Lloyd and Larry Sands about how I should handle it.  Should I bring it up in the ERP group, bring it up to my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, in private or not bring it up at all?  Lloyd was adamant I should leave it alone with his reasoning nothing good would come out of it.  Sands said I should bring it up in group, that if private journal contents which are supposed to only be between the inmate and his ERP group leader could be divulged to another ERP group leader who then divulges it to another inmate supposedly mentioned in the journal (I always used shorthand only known to me to identify another inmate in the journal but the problems with cellie Andre Charles that I and many other inmates had with him were well known) was a clear breach of trust which was a group issue that needed to be addressed.  Sands was right of course but for the wrong reasons.  His relationship with Ms. Grey is strained at this point in time.  After our group did its breathing exercises it became evident she’d been reading complaints about this way of starting group as she asked for a vote on whether to continue it.  Eight of us voted no.  In the ensuing feedback, I pointed out this wasn’t a democracy and others echoed that sentiment.  After she prepared to move on I raised my hand and said I had an issue.  I started from the beginning, about how important confidentiality was and how I had shared things in my autobiography, in other materials and had this not been there I couldn’t have done it.  I then asked if contents of these materials were divulged to others.  She reminded the group and I about the limited confidentiality that exists between us, that other ERP group leaders and her supervisor may be consulted about our cases and should we confess to another crime.  I agreed that’s what we’d been told but asked how it was that another inmate would come by information that had only been in my journal knowing full well what the answer was as Andre had told me yesterday that his ERP group leader had told him.  I was hoping she would connect the dots herself but that was a no go.  She asked me to explain so I did in plain English.  Andre’s group leader asked him about it, told him not to worry about it after his denial, accused me of just trying to get him in trouble and to keep it to himself.  Ms. Grey’s disposition noticeably changed.  She asked me to confirm that another social worker had brought this up to Andre without I or Ms. Grey being present?  I replied yes.  She was furious.  The rest of the group, largely silent, began to speak up on my behalf, saying this process obviously couldn’t be trusted, particularly Sands.  Others tried to bring up their own issues, smelling blood in the water but Ms. Grey shut that down.  Ms. Grey said she wanted to bring all 4 of us together at this point but I argued the point.  Andre is leaving in 3 or 4 days as he’s graduated.  It’s just going to make matters worse in my cell.  The problem will be gone ten.  But she seemed to insist. S he also told me I’d not be allowed to have Sands move in when Andre leaves.  Ms. Grey apologized for the breach that had occurred with the journal.  We’ve suspected there was friction between the various ERP group leaders but now we know it. She was clearly angry as she said she’d be addressing this with them.  I sank in my chair not looking forward to this possible meeting.  The guys in the group came up to me, especially Lloyd, saying I should have left it alone.  Perhaps they are right.  Maybe in a “normal” treatment environment I did the right thing bringing it up.  But not here, that’s for sure.  Two things are clear.  I’ll never put anything important in their journal again.  And I’ll bet Ms. Grey will start reading them more often from now on. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this!  It’s November 25, 2010 as I write this.  I realize by the time you read this it will be probably closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving.  Such is the nature of this blog – the delay is intentional.  But I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have read this blog, many of you who have shared and/or expressed support via comment or email and to those of you who have someone inside whom you love and care about and possibly this blog has somehow helped you.  I thank you for not abandoning them, even though this separation is the toughest battle your relationship has endured.  Nobody but you knows how much you silently suffer.  Special thanks goes to Rebecca, Steve and Jill who have followed me almost since my first day, giving encouragement to me and giving a voice to those who aren’t able to be heard.  You all have put into practice the words of the Sermon on the Mount.  Another special thank you to Dr. Rachel Cook, my oncologist at University Hospital who was an awesome advocate for me, very patient, and expertly defeated my cancer. I also thank the few of my friends I had prior to prison who have not forgotten me.  I will always remember you and all I’ve thanked the rest of my life.  This blog and all of you have far helped me more than I have gotten from you, trust me on this. My biggest thank you goes to the sponsors of this blog who have tirelessly typed up the chicken scratch of my handwriting, managed this blog with expertise and dedication, in a pinch have helped me, and even provided a newspaper subscription. Quite frankly, none of this is possible without you and words aren’t adequate to express the amount of gratitude owed to you. Many of you that got involved hadn’t even known or worked with me previously.  That’s simply just awesome!  So thank you!  Finally, I thank God!  It was one year ago this week that my cancer was diagnosed.  It was the culmination of the absolute worst year of my adult life.  Where the loss of my wife, family, career, friends, music and finally my health were realized and just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the isolation and despair of those days at Dodge Correctional Institution of early 2010 occurred.  It seemed you (God) had completely deserted me.  But it became clear that I had deserted him (God), refusing because of my silly pride and being concerned with material things and people I couldn’t control, had refused to seek help to stop the bleeding of my heart, mind and soul.  But you (God) were always there waiting for me to learn that simple yet difficult lesson.  The lesson is I don’t have the answers and I must surrender on a daily basis as I move forward.  This is 1 lesson I’ll continue to learn for the rest of my life.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  As I’d noted earlier, I’m in the middle of a 5 day bunk confinement.  In preparation, another inmate needed laundry soap so I gave him what I had left in exchange for doing my laundry since I couldn’t get off my bunk to monitor it.  Bunk confinement stinks but its not that bad.  It’s harder on my bunkmate(Cellie) than me as he is used to me being gone at least some of the time.  It was Monday and I woke up about 5 am.  I gave my laundry bag to this inmate, then ate breakfast and returned to my bunk.  A couple of hours later Lt. Brodie announced we must all remain on our bunks until further notice as we were having an “area shakedown”.  If we wanted to use the restroom we would need to be strip searched.  Meanwhile, people started pulling out food from the cafeteria they’d stored and started moving it down and what they couldn’t finish they handed out to others and what they couldn’t get rid of there they tossed in the little waste basket by their bunks.  Unauthorized property wasn’t as simple of a problem.  I had two problems here.  Another inmate has both my state clothing and the clothing I bought from the catalogs to do the laundry and because we can’t leave our bunks I can’t get it back.  That means that clothing could get tossed in the shakedown as it won’t be on his property list.  Also, as you might recall, I had a lamp on my bunk I didn’t buy.  I watched others trying to get rid of property.  Some threw it on bunks of guys who were at work, others tossed items in the aisle hoping the guards wouldn’t see it.  Of course, being the anxiety junkie I am, was all freaked about the lamp for awhile.  But the guys most worried were those in possession of alcohol and/or tobacco, one of which was Charlie.  He kept going up and down the aisle trying to find a way to unload it.  Guards came by twice over the next 4 hours to let us use the restroom and get water.  Each time they took us two at a time into the shower area doing the whole strip search procedure they’ve done since Day One.  It seems while we were waiting another unit was having their turn at getting shook down.  Lunch time came and they gave us paper plates with hamburgers and returned us to our bunks.  Finally a little after noon we were told to line up for the bathroom but this time we were each sent to an individual stall.  But not a normal strip search by a blue shirt this time.  They wore red shirts.  They were guard trainees that had been bussed in just for this occasion.  Once we’d been searched and gotten dressed, we walked up to the Multi-purpose Building, the same place as Chapel and orientation.  All the way there, there were at least 20 guards lined up along the road, half on each side, there to verify we didn’t drop or pass anything.  Out in the yard were guards with metal detectors, presumably looking for weapons.  There were guards checking the roof looking for discarded contraband.  This kind of a shakedown happens once a year I’m told.  I sat in that building till about 4 pm.  No books, no electronics and hundreds of people from which there was no where I could go to get away making ear splitting levels of noise.  Just the very definition of hell itself for the anxiety junkie, at least this one.  Finally, Captain Kramer called for 3 inmates to come to the office – Charlie was one of them.  We then were all sent back.  It looked like a hurricane had hit our unit.  Mattresses were everywhere, papers, documents, and photographs on the floor.  We spent hours that night straightening up.  Somehow my clothes and lamp weren’t taken.  There were inmates with items that had been broken or shouldn’t have been taken.  They were told to fill out complaints.  Guess how that will turn out?  But Charlie never returned.  Percy packed his stuff in boxes.  I had watched him go in the office.  I think he knew what was coming.  I felt bad for him on a certain level.  But tonight, I felt a collective sigh of relief from the whole unit, myself included.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I woke up expecting Lt. Brodie to call me at any point to hear the ticket that Percy gave me.  The day started off with Ms. Greer reporting the follow up she did with Waukesha County on them trying to charge me for medical treatment provided while I was in their custody.  It seems it is their “policy” not to pay for medical treatment while in custody.  Of course, if they had told me that at the time, I would’ve refused any treatment until I got to prison.  I know I would have.  I know me.  Why they told me they’d pay for it when they really wouldn’t is a mystery to me.  But Ms. Greer suggested I get a lawyer and returned to me all documentation I had provided to her.  It was her way of ending any involvement on this.  She also knows I have no way of getting a lawyer and fighting this while I’m here.  Still, Ms. Greer made a phone call on my behalf.  It’s not much but it’s more than I’d seen anyone do on my behalf while in the WPS.  So I’ll giver her props for that.  Still, it isn’t good news.  I have no idea what to do on this now.  I think I have little I can do while I’m here.  A little later, I finally received a coat. It’s ironic because I’m probably going to be put on bunk restriction and not able to walk the track anyway.  What’s more is I don’t really feel like it anyway.  Adding that to the lack of sleep and the skipping of meals I’ve been doing and I’m pretty sure I’m in a bad place.  Funny thing is if I hadn’t been writing I wouldn’t have connected the pieces.  I just don’t know what to do about it.  If I say anything, if they put me on meds, or they say I’m not suitable, I’ll lose my ERP program start date (Dec 13th).  Anyway, Brodie didn’t show up all day.  They were to hand out canteen in the evening.  I didn’t think anything of it.  But shortly after canteen got handed out, my cellie told me it was coming around.  I asked what he meant.  He then explained Charlie was surrounded by several guys at his bunk and they were all yelling and getting at him in a real aggressive manner.  Listening in, it seems Charlie had borrowed so much canteen from so many people to pay for his cigarette habit that he couldn’t possibly pay everyone back.  His size couldn’t save him and he couldn’t hide.  His victims pursued him into the dayroom, getting in his face and he kept alternating between threatening and pleading with his accusers.  As a rule, I have a good heart and don’t want to see anyone hurt.  I don’t want to see Charlie hurt.  But it was justice inmate style for once I was ok with it.  I wonder if his behavior will change.