Posts Tagged ‘crime’


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 waiting for our ERP group leader Ms. Grey, when another ERP group leader told us she wasn’t coming.  Many of us returned to our cells, and we hadn’t been there for a minute when Ms. Grey along with intern Nikita came.  We spent the morning session finishing the book Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain, specifically  Chapter 15.  It portrayed prison as a gift that’s been given to us to allow us the opportunity to effect change in our lives.  Well if you’ve been following this blog at all you know that to be true, that change has been affected, particularity true before my time at MSDF.  But prison as a gift?  There are many words and phrases I’d apply to the concept of prison.  Some aren’t printable.  Gift wasn’t one of them!  But I get the point.  Though I lost everything coming to prison, there is one thing I kept – my life.  Had I not come to prison with the path I was on I very well could have taken my own life by now.  So I guess you could say prison gave me the gift of my life.  Lets just hope prison never gets the chance to give me any more gifts!  But anyway, we have to return this book to Ms. Grey.  I would have kept this one.  Our afternoon session was spent watching a video on addiction that describes how it affects the brain and how scientists are trying to develop a vaccine for addiction, specifically cocaine.  Sorry, I wasn’t close enough to see the DVD case for info on the video.  The evening was full of intrigue, thankfully none of it directly involving me.  Both swampers are now from the cell next door where cellie Larry Sands came from and where former cellie Malik Pearl had moved to earlier.  Sands informed me about how cellie Brian Whalen was planning to sell a lot of cocaine being provided by another inmate from that cell.  Unknown to him, their plan was to rob him once they were all out and Whalen came up with the money.  I told Sands if he knew this we had a responsibility to throw Whalen off this plan somehow, even if he didn’t want to cross those guys.  I just feel bad for Whalen.  I’m afraid he’s going to get himself hurt with his biggest crime being he wants to be liked.  As the day and night progressed more and more people began arriving to take beds for the next ERP group that’s starting.  The problem began when an inmate arrived with a lower bunk restriction and there were no lower bunks to be had at this point.  The guard in charge, not a regular, decided to bump the swamper in that cell next door, that is making this deal with Whalen off his bottom bunk for this guy.  He put him in a cell on top bunk above an inmate when many think this is the nastiest guy here.  But the guys in the swampers cell vehemently protested, wanting instead for them to move Sands out of our cell and move the new guy here.  They tried to convince the guards to do this but no dice.  The female guard got to the point she tossed their cell (inspect for contraband) after they said one of the reasons they couldn’t move him was that they all combine their canteen which is of course a rule violation.  I don’t know how the inspection came out but Sands was mad that they tried to disrupt his situation just because they didn’t like what was happening.  These guys made it clear to Sands once regular second shift Ruth Barthowski returns she’ll make him move as they believe they have influence over her.  I’ve seen it but I don’t think she’ll let them push her into this.  We’ll see.  Through it all, I’m still relaxed which is remarkable for this anxiety junkie.  My thoughts are outside of this place, for a day when I can write you about the positive things out in the world even if I’m struggling. 


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 Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It’s been an interesting last couple of days. It’s February 17th and there are thousands of people in Madison protesting the state worker unions losing the ability to negotiate on behalf of their works on most issues.  Why am I mentioning that here?  Obviously, the people that work here are concerned as it directly impacts them.  Rumors are getting fed around here by conversations overheard, that in the event of this law passes there will be a strike called by their union and that Gov. Walker has lined up the National Guard to come in and replace them.  Of course, then the question follows, what becomes of us in the ERP programs at various stages of completion if that should occur?  Opinions vary from accelerated graduations (unlikely in my opinion), that the time would still count, the graduation date won’t change, or that despite our contracts, we signed when we got ERP from PRC we’d have to start the program over again and be stuck here until it does.  Let’s face it, nobody knows and it isn’t logical to get worked up about such things we can’t control but of course, that doesn’t stop it from happening.  The guys slated to graduate the first week of March (including Andre Charles) are really on edge, but you can’t blame them for that.  Now the Democrats in the Legislature have fled the state, its left the whole thing in limbo with no end in sight.  That’s the worst kind of limbo don’t you think?  But life goes on in spite of the uncertainty for us just as it would for you.  Today’s group focused on Victim impact of crimes.  Ms. Grey, our ERP Coordinator, admitted the presentation was more suited for property or violent crimes than an OWI offender group but still I’d argue the basic concept is the same. My alcoholism has had significant impact on these to write a letter to someone who has been impacted by our drinking asking them to write a letter detailing how we have hurt them by our use of alcohol.  My letter will be going to my ex-wife JoAnn. After it’s written, it gets sent back to Ms. Grey where I’ll have to read it in front of the group.  She’ll be brutal and probably will be unfair at certain points but that’s ok.  Some group members were unhappy and were scheming how to get around doing this.  I don’t know why.  It’s not like we’ll be hanging out together when we get out.  I guess I can be smug.  I laid everything out there with my autobiography.  But it’s the end of Week 11 of ERP with 15 to go. 


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 morning started off with Kevin House’s autobiography. Again, his story was very general, portraying himself as the good old boy gone bad, that if he had only not drank any alcohol he wouldn’t be in prison.  Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, questioned him extensively trying to pull specifics out of him.  At the end, not having gotten the specifics she wanted, told him he was going to have to make additions, like she had done to group member Larry Sands but he didn’t interpret it that way.  He was clearly frustrated with her as well.  After he was done and their conflict passed, Ms. Grey started in on Scott Dietz about how he might get an intervention if he didn’t clean up his attitude and temper with her  An intervention is when you are assigned extra work by the group coordinator to correct problems you might be having in the treatment process.  You are then required to disclose what has occurred at the next community meeting.  Dietz didn’t take well to this at all.  I of course for some reason raised my hand and defended him, reasoning that I had thought she was taking what he was saying personally. This was a mistake on my part and she let me know that.  Dietz had more arguments of course.  His cellies report that my suspicions that his autobiography may complain some problems as he seems to contradict himself when telling stories of his businesses and travels to them.  Obviously, he wants to impress us.  The question is why?   Ms. Grey gave him a huge book on self-esteem to work through so maybe she senses it too.  That afternoon we watched another video from Dr. Samenow.  This one dealt with the offenders crime on its victims.  I’ve been real impressed with his video series.  We shut down a little early but Ms. Grey and Larry Sands stayed behind in the group/rec room putting the posters back up that had fallen over the weekend.  They spent a good amount of time talking.  Of course we had to give him a hard time when he was done talking to her, but all meant in good fun.  He reported they’d had a good talk and came to an understanding of each other.  I hope that’s a good thing.  The next day (Wednesday) we had no program at all in the morning and in the afternoon it was group member Dean Stark’s turn to read his autobiography.  It was very general too and we were all pretty amazed Ms. Grey let it slide.  But I’m just more nervous as it’s my turn on Friday.  I’ve been very upfront about everything.  But it’ll be ok. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Some folks made an issue that the donation of the Chips Ahoy Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies by the group on Saturday were expired and couldn’t be sold to the public.  I think they’re crazy.  I and most are grateful.  My cellie, Andre Charles, opened his bag last night and ate the whole thing but the rest of us have turned it into a game, who’ll be the last to open them.  By the way Andre and I are getting along better but his moods which sing all the time definitely dictate the mood of this room.  I don’t ever trust him either.  But when he’s in a good mood, this room is actually ok.  We all enjoyed the football game (Green Bay vs.. New England) together – certainly better than last time. This morning I started on a workbook in ERP.  They are a series of workbooks from The Change Companies from Carson City, NV (1-888-889-8866).  They were apparently developed in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the U.S. Justice Department which makes sense since ERP is a federally funded program in Wisconsin.  The workbooks are referred to as “Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program Journals”. The one I’m on is “Orientation”, then “Rational Thinking”, “Criminal Lifestyles”, “Living with Others”, “Lifestyle Balance”, “Recovery Maintenance” and “Transition”.  The “Orientation” book chapters are “Looking at Me”, “Preparing for Treatment”, “Keys for Change”, and “My Drug Use”.  If you ever have questions about what we are covering not address in my broad overviews, feel free to ask.  I’m in the middle of the chapter, “Preparing for Treatment” but much requires input from the ERP group to finish so those at my table and myself are kind of stuck.  So I switched gears and worked on my autobiography which appears to be a central component of the ERP program.  Ms. Grey gave me a 30 some page guide which I had to copy the main points to cover in this document than pass it onto others.  The guide is entitled “A New Freedom, copyright 2003 by A.R. Phoenix Resources, Inc. You talk about detailed!  It takes age groups 1-4, 5-7, 8-10, 11-12, 13-14 asking where did you live?  Who did you live with? What are some of the good and bad things that happened?  Who loved you?  Who hurt you?  Were you neglected?  Were you abandoned?  Were you around substance abuse?  Crime?  Gangs?  Did anyone die or leave home?  Sick or badly injured?  Were those traumatic events?  Was home life out of control?  Did you feel safe at home?  Did the child have someone they can trust?  How did people in authority treat you?  Then it goes into substance abuse history and your attempts to control it.  There’s more but if you want the gaudy details email me.  I’m sure you’ll hear more as time goes on.  So I copied down those points and handed the book off but nobody wanted it, thinking a 30 some page guide was a bit too much.  I’m going to use it.  Why?  I like guidelines I guess.  I got called to my assessment with Ms. Grey.  It was about sixty some questions, relatively painless.  We start our evening session soon (6 pm – 7:30 pm) but even that’s about to change after the new year.  It’ll be 8-4 all week.  So I guess its’ going but I don’t think ERP isn’t something I can’t handle anymore.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’ll be on my way to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) on Monday to begin my ERP program. Some of you have emailed questions to be answered.  Most are confidential and specific to your situation but some might interest others and are more general so I’ll answer them here.

Question:  What will happen to the blog when you are released?

Answer:    The blog will continue.  The focus will change to what life is like on parole as some of the biggest battles and such deal with staying out of prison.  My sponsors and I occasionally talk about whether or not what we’re doing here should have exposure elsewhere and how to accomplish that but none of us really know as this concept and how we do it isn’t all that common.  Those of you who’ve made suggestions and helped promote the blog, please know I’m very grateful and the sponsors work on your suggestions as time permits.  So please keep them coming!    

 

Question:  Do you think going to prison was a good thing for you?  Has it helped with the issues that got you there?

Answer:    I think something had to happen, something had to stop the insanity that was going on.  I deserved to go to prison.  As far as helping with my issues, that work was done by me as you’ve watched over the last 19 months.  Up till now, as I’ve said before, it’s up to me to get better, not the institutions or guards. 

 

Question:  What would have been the length of time needed for you to “get it”?

Answer:    Do you feel I’ve “gotten it”?  I feel I “get it” more and more everyday.  Do I feel ready now to go out there?  Yes!  But God will open that door when its time in spite of any whining I might or you might hear me do.

 

Question:  Did prison save your life?

Answer:    No.  I was suicidal when arrested and it wasn’t well into January of this past year (2010) my resolve and faith was renewed and I made a commitment to stay alive.  Dang it, with my background, cancer, teenage life, battle with mental illness, going to prison and such I feel like there’s a plan out there for me to do something.  If not, I should’ve been dead long ago.

 

Question:  What are you in prison for and what were the circumstances surrounding your crime?

Answer:    I am in prison for my fifth and sixth drunk driving offenses.  In 1995 I had 3 arrests in one year as all I did was party.  As the years went by, the problems described here got worse and worse.  But even as I continued to drink more and more, I kept on improving professionally. There were long periods of sobriety but as things at home and work escalated, I would go “off the deep end”.  I would come out of it, vow to do better, and then would be ok for awhile.  My fifth offense came when I tried to track my step-daughter down who had gone missing and I tried to calm down by drinking.  While out on bail for that, my sixth offense was my suicide attempt where i combined alcohol and seroquel and was determined to drive into a semi on the highway so it would appear as an accident and my family would get my life insurance.  I passed out before I got to the highway.  Obviously, I’ve summarized a great deal here and haven’t gone into great detail on the mental health issues.  But know this:  It was wrong and I deserve to be here because I didn’t seek help when I knew I had to and couldn’t do it on my own.  My pride prevented me from doing so and as a result I lost everything.  That, in a very brief nutshell, is the answer to your question.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Thanksgiving holiday started off quiet.  Almost all the regular guards have been gone the last 2 days as many of them have gone deer hunting.  The result of that is we had guards unfamiliar with how things really work as opposed to by the book.  This created some tension but most of the time we just laughed.  Early in the morning several inmates began preparing a feast of canteen items, making burritos, cakes, chili and such on the counter we line up by for lunch.  I wasn’t invited as you had to contribute canteen that was needed and since I was packed up to go to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) for my ERP program on Monday I didn’t have anything.  There were those that wanted to participate but others already involved didn’t want them to.  Food made by the inmates is usually pretty good though quite spicy, usually too much so for me.  But to be invited to contribute canteen and eat is usually indicative of the positive social status of the inmate.  The downside of this activity is the microwaves on the unit are occupied for the duration.  I and other inmates had to sneak  over to the other side of the unit to warm up our coffee.  It might surprise you to know that we all were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.  It was a nice memory for me as I had played tuba in the band and marched competitively back in high school, all 140 pounds of me back then.  Boy I feel old at 42 and 195!  Our “Thanksgiving meal” wasn’t until supper so I put on 2 coats, hat, gloves and tied up my hood and walked on the track.  As you might expect, my thoughts were far from FMCI, and not really even about MSDF.  They were more about my future and the focus on what I need to do when I get out.  I waver between rational and anxiety drive trains of thought.  Technically inmates have to go back to the area were they committed their crime (Waukesha county) but if you have a job and a place to go they’ll let you go there.  As I’ve noted before, I’m in Information Technology and a .NET Framework programmer.  My adoptive parents are in Winnebago County so perhaps Green Bay, WI is where I should go which is near them.  There’s few jobs like that in Waukesha County and besides my ex-wife and all those triggers associated with that are there.  How can I pull this off?  The thought process gets tangled between obsession, fantasy and reality.  The thought occurs there is little I can accomplish on my own without help.  I wrote a letter to one of my sponsors expressing all this, pretty scatter brained sounding I’m sure, asking for help with how to do this.  I’m not sure they’ll know what to do but they’re who I have in my corner right now.  I really need to be focusing on finishing ERP at MSDF in the short term.  Supper consisted of turkey loaf, cranberries, stuffing and mixed vegetables.  Though everyone complained, I didn’t see anyone giving their food away.  That’s alright, when I get out, to celebrate, I’m getting a NuWave oven like I used to have and am going to make a huge turkey, peach cobbler, stuffing and fruit salad.  Everyone is invited but please RSVP! 🙂  But back to this reality.  Unfortunately, they ran out of turkey loaf so they had to do something else for the guys at the end of the line and a servery (kitchen) worker fell and shattered his elbow. We all watched the exciting conclusion to the Dallas Cowboys – New Orleans Saints game.  As for me, my stomach did back flips as one of the guys who was cooking canteen earlier in the day offered me a left over burrito. It was good, but man it was spicy!