Posts Tagged ‘custom’


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).  This past weekend noteworthy events surrounded soon to depart cellie Andre Charles.  Late Friday guard Ruth Bartowski, besides finding out she has been a captain and probation officer in the past, confided to our table Andre had come after her with several ICI (Inmate Complaints that go to Madison) forms alleging racism.  They didn’t take but it explains the bitterness between them.  That weekend we experienced why they don’t want us to heat water for coffee or refried beans off of canteen, which is the favorite food of Corey Ball, using water, paper clips, and a power cord.  Someone pulled the cord of out of the water without unplugging it making the breaker go out on our side.  We sat without power on our side for about 2 hours until Saturday Night Live started.  But of course cellie Andre Charles is on edge about leaving and guard Rosco Peters threw him a tidbit of information on when, when he yelled playfully at him during count as is their custom, that he had 2 days left to follow the rules.  On Monday I got up as normal, ate breakfast about 6:30 am and returned to my cell.  Peters called me down about 8 am and let me know I was leaving for my PET scan like last time to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned.  I reminded him I’d eaten (you’re supposed to go without food for 8 hours prior).  No one had told him he said.  When the guards came to get me I told him I’d eaten and asked if we should call to make sure it would be ok.  He wanted to go to Madison and if they said no so be it.  It became clear why as he was the driver and didn’t want to lose the overtime shift.  The ride there was uneventful but it was SO good to see the outside world!  Once there I got to the waiting room.  It was packed and noisy so much so that you couldn’t hear the movie on the wall.  The guys dominating the conversation were mostly lifers, trading war stories and discussing who their “bitches” are present and past.  Of course, I’m the only one in yellow in the sea of green uniforms so people stared.  Most didn’t know I was at MSDF but some did.  I got called to go for the scan at 11:30 am.  I didn’t have a coat to cover me on the wheelchair so the combination of cuffs, chains, and yellow uniform attracted lots of looks.  I can’t wait to come back to the University Hospital in civilian clothes some day.  Of course, never coming here again is an attractive alternative!  The man doing the scan commented that I should leave the cuffs on my feet joking I might try to escape.  I got back to the holding room, eating one of the infamous bag lunches.  We returned to MSDF, getting strip searched once at the hospital then once at MSDF.  I waited at least an hour in a holding cell.  The staff at intake on 2nd shift is just rude and unprofessional unlike their 1st shift counterparts.  I heard them mocking other inmates and were just rude in their tone to me.  I got back to my unit where Andre greeted me with the news he was getting released tomorrow.  I’m sure my test results will come back well and with this news I’m as happy as I can get here.   


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).  Tuesday afternoon came about and the staff and inmates alike were focused on one thing – Gov. Walker was giving his address on the state budget.  Inmates and staff were watching for vastly different reasons however.  Staff were concerned with layoffs, benefit cuts, as well as DOC funding cuts.  Inmates wanted to find out what would happen to the so called early release provisions of Act 28 in the previous two year budget and what, if anything, would happen to ERP or the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP).  ERP is a federally funded program but those running the DOC are said to be opposed to any kind of programs that encourage early inmate release.  So nobody knows what was going to happen.  Truthfully, though, had people been thinking by the time any of this goes into effect we will have all graduated ERP.  So there really isn’t reason to be concerned.  But it makes a good conversational piece.  The social workers even came by the unit though no groups were going to watch it on our TV.  The address got interrupted by the trays being handed out for supper but the news came out under this proposal, Act 28 and any mechanism for early release, such as good time, is dead.  In addition, over 50 million in funding for the DOC is being cut based on lower prisoner population.  It would seem these two things contradict each other.  We shall see.  Nothing was said specifically about ERP but I’m guessing it’s going to be left alone.  Again, we shall see.  The rest of the budget was painful to hear but that didn’t surprise me.  I noted the possible cuts to BadgerCare, especially since I might need help with the cost of the PET scans after I get out until I get a job with insurance to make sure cancer has not returned.  But that’s a down the road concern.  We all went about our business.  The following day held a surprise for me.  It was a Training Day but I was asked along with a swamper to go and clean the social worker’s office.  I got there and they were al in one room with several desks.  Even the intern Nikita was there.  They joked with me about the job sweeping I was doing when I left a dust bunny behind.  It was odd seeing them all together except for one.  Then the unit manager came by, let the social workers know she needed her office cleaned as well and wanting the mop water changed.  The swamper went to get water while I went to her office to sweep.  I’ve never seen a more messy desk.  Having read my face she insisted she knew where everything was on it.  After we were done we returned to the unit where everyone was busy cleaning as is the custom on Training Day.  The guys in my group now kid me more than ever about being Ms. Grey’s favorite.  But that’s ok.  I don’t’ care.  I just don’t know what she sees in me. 


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 coordinator, Betty Grey is really struggling.  We didn’t see her at all yesterday and today she pulled us together in that same dimly lit exercise room.  She was clearly frustrated with the situation.  Having come from Racine Correctional Institution (RCI), I’m sure she was far more supported than she is here.  Questions inmates in the group had that are especially centered around visitation with the holiday coming up, questions regarding interstate compacts (which permit inmates to move across state lines) and other MSDF procedures.  Ms. Grey just had no answer.  Larry Sands, a group member, suggested we ask the other group coordinators those questions which made Ms. Grey uncomfortable.  Throughout the rest of the day she handed out paperwork that we should have been given at the time homework was given that gave us direction on how to do it.  It was just a sense of general disorganization, something someone new in a job might very well have.  I feel bad for her to be honest.  We had our community meeting today, my first while in the ERP program.  The phrase today was “Always do what you are afraid to do” and the word today was “grim” as in “No man ever understands his own artful dodges to escape the grim shadow of reality” talking about how we practice denial and don’t even see the depth of our own self deception.  Then a skit was done about how we pursue the easier short sighted self gratification instead of working for a better future.  We provided comments on each as they occurred.  Then one man stood up with the news article for the week and it focused on Brett Favre’s streak ending.  He tied it to what we’re doing here by saying Favre was in recovery and accomplished his streak while in recovery from his Vicodin addition.  The only problem is Favre is not in “recovery” at least not in the traditional sense.  But nothing was said.  The announcement was made we wouldn’t have this meeting the next 2 Fridays because of the holidays.  My cellie, Frank Whalen, then stood up to read something but the coordinator told him not to which was odd.  The meeting broke and we all went to clean our cells as is the custom on Fridays.  Whalen came and got me and asked me to read what he had.  HIs girlfriend, a 60 year old therapist (he’s 44) had written him an amazing letter describing him as a Narcissistic but that he was an awesome, terrific person to her.  Turns out he hadn’t even read it and he was going to read it to the whole group.  I told him this was a bad idea as she went into detail on his failure and sex life and I felt that some inmates would use that info to torture him.  Whalen asked me what was in it and I told him his girlfriend loved him very much but had some things to tell him and he should sit down by himself to read it.  I was envious of him for a minute, having such a lady who stood by him despite his crimes.  But I was happy he’s not alone in this world.  I got a letter saying Lucy had changed her mind and decided I couldn’t stay there when I get out due to personal reasons.  It’s her right to change her mind and I can’t really blame her.  I’m a felon and a burden at this point.  Of course, I’d already turned in my paperwork on this so I don’t know what will happen.  I’ve got 23 weeks to go but Ms. Grey wants to know now to do her job.  I appreciate your prayers and I’ll keep working on this. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  What an intense 24 hours it has been since my last entry!  Shortly after the Green Bay Packers lost to the Detroit Lions, my cellie (cellmate), Andre Charles was going on and on about how great it was the Packers lost.  I asked the question with a smile if he was the kind of person that would go on and on just to annoy others.  He responded by asking if I was “getting all up in my chest” which means to get upset.  It came across to me by virtue of his body language and tone that he was challenging me.  I replied that if I was “getting up in my chest” he would know it.  We both got pretty hot.  I told him to leave me alone and went to the bathroom to shave my head as is my custom on Sundays.  He, of course, followed where the argument continued.  Andre told me he’s going to leave me alone.  I said that was fine and as I walked away he said he’d “punch me in the mouth”. Twice more, once that night and again the next morning he threatened me.  I stood toe to toe with him being careful not to threaten but not back down.  Charles historically has a violent temper with charges in the past reflecting that so this wasn’t an idle threat.  But finally he walked away and returned an hour later, saying he didn’t want to live like this.  My other two cellies, Malik Pearl and Brian Whalen, had watched this whole thing and wouldn’t say anything to offend Andre.  So they were happy I’m sure this was getting patched just in time.  We both apologized and I was off to being ERP.  Truth is I was incredibly stupid to say anything at all.  Ms. Grey, our ERP coordinator, had us assemble in the weight room which wasn’t real well lit.  She hadn’t thought ahead on that.  She handed out folders.  It was just your usual consent forms, agreements, and Intake information.  But one of my worst fears was realized.  We have to do an autobiography and timeline and read it to the group.  There’s a lot of things you know and other things you don’t that I feel like in the hands of other inmates regardless of how many confidentiality agreements they sign.  But here is the thing.  The stakes are so high for me right now.  If I should fail ERP, my mandatory release date is January 1, 2013.  That’s over 2 years from now, 8 months if I complete “ERP”.  I’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes to pass.  And who knows, maybe it’ll be useful and my fear might be baseless.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). The see saw relationships between those of us in this cell continues.  I actually opened up about a period I was homeless while in Dallas, TX before I got myself together many years ago.  I hadn’t even told you all about that mostly because it wasn’t relevant yet.  But the conversation revolved around the fear of being homeless after release.  I relate to that believe me.  It’s a big fear of mine.  But the conversation seemed to ease tensions.  I still don’t trust any of them but such is the nature of the beast.  This morning was dominated by the coverage of the standoff on I94 West which blocked both sides of the freeway. It’s so weird seeing all the cold and snow on TV and not be able to feel it or see it with my own eyes.  No sun, sky, moon, stars or fresh air until I get out.  I better get used to it.  They had another community meeting as is their custom on Friday.  Housecleaning issues were that people blow their noses and spit in the sink and showers.  We’ve seen this before.  What is it about prison that makes people believe in such a gross manner? Another issue, people pee on the toilet seat.  No ladies, prison doesn’t fix that about men.  They moved onto the quote of the week which had been assigned to one of my cellies, Malik Pearl.  His quote was “To stand still is to die.  To move forward is to prosper”.  He did a good job explaining it.  He even had part of the quote tattooed on him.  The word for the week was “receptive”.  Again, the comments were wooden and felt forced but I don’t know maybe that’s how it is here.  Then another inmate shared a news story about how Milwaukee County is developing it’s own style of boot camp for their jail and how it was a good idea.  Everyone stood up and said how great this was – except me of course.  I surprised myself by speaking up even though I don’t start the program until Monday, December 13th. My point was that programs such as these don’t produce results – which is to keep people out of jail.  Plus, the money would be better applied to treatment programs, to address the root causes of why they are in prison.  My cellie, Brian Whalen actually spoke up and agreed with me.  The last piece  of business was to introduce the new social worker, Betty Grey.  She helped with the ERP program at Racine Correctional Institution (RCI) prior to being at MSDF.  Ms. Grey is going to be running my ERP group on Monday.  You’ll be hearing a lot about her over the next few months.  Tried as I may, I couldn’t read anything about her in those few moments.  Group concluded and the school is out feeling came over the entire unit as no ERP stuff until Monday.  Some went to sleep, watch TV, use the phone or as I found out today, they have a movie room.  Lunch came and the people sent to the hole yesterday returned. The guy who was suppose to go home did.  But one of the guys who went was Scott Bunker who came in with me and like me starts ERP Monday.  Poor guy.  It’s been a rough start for him as the first room he was in wasn’t to his ethnic standards and now this.  In fairness to him they were much younger than him but it’s not going to be easy for him here I think.  My cellies kid me I can’t take it easy anymore but I told them I’m ready to get this going.  “Finally” is the word that comes to mind for me as we’ve been trying to get in ERP all of this past year.