Posts Tagged ‘decision’


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 was Friday, June 10th, graduation day for my ERP group.  At about 8:30 am we all went down into the dayroom to setup the chairs for everyone to sit along with 9 or 10 chairs on the left side for whatever people that were not inmates that would attend.  They put the Transformer image up on the board used at the last ERP graduation.  They’ve been working on this as part of our graduation project.  Then of course we put 10 chairs up front for us.  John Lloyd, of course, served as the MC.  He read an opening statement but the problem was the same as it was for every person who spoke thereafter.  We really couldn’t be heard beyond the first couple of seats but we didn’t know that at the time.  The unit manager then gave a statement congratulating us.  We then each read a quote each of us chose along with saying what it meant to us.  My quote was “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” by Derek Bok.  The gist of what I had to say about revolved around was that getting to know me, about why I think the way I do, recognizing the errors in how I think and how my changes are a result of a decision to change, not the product of the prison staff or programs.  I’m pretty sure, though I have a deeper voice that carries pretty well, I’m sure they didn’t hear me very well.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, clearly was unhappy with my comments.  Oh well.  If you’ve been following this blog, especially prior to my arrival at MSDF you’ve known this to be true.  Afterwards Ms. Grey spoke and handed out ERP completion certificates.  These were actually pretty impressive.  In order to get my license back I’ll need to do an alcohol assessment and this certificate will show I’ve completed a program.  That was followed with a closing statement by ERP group member Scott Bunker.  Lest I forget, intern Nikita also made some nice comments while Ms. Carr and Ms. Presley both declined to say anything.  After it was over, they handed out cookies to everybody after which we put the chairs away.  We went back to our cells to await lunch.  News of the carry conceal law came over the news.  Cellie Malcolm Johnson said this was great news for criminals like himself because they would just take the guns away from the white people carrying them.  And with that he forcefully put his hand at my side to demonstrate.  I wanted to say something but I decided to wait until we were alone.  About that time Ms. Grey showed up and wanted our Phase I , Phase II, and Phase III tests we had done.  It took me a minute but I found them.  After lunch, when Malcolm was in the room alone with me.  I told him in the future not to put his hands on me.  He said alright but didn’t apologize which is fine.  It wouldn’t have been sincere anyway.  Fortunately 1 pm arrived and since I’m now a graduate I went to our former group room and played ping pong and took a shower.  It’s starting to actually set it.  It’s over!  It’s not so much joy as it is relief.  I said a thank you prayer to God.  I called my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin and Charles got the phone line in for my bracelet but didn’t have the internet in yet.  I also called one of this blogs’ sponsors and they are still planning on getting me at the bus station once I’m released.  The next step   is for the judge to sign my amended judgment of conviction and send it back to Ms. Grey.  Ms. Grey will let my parole officer (PO) Hellen Gaither know who will send a C15 form telling MSDF to release me.  This process should take 10 to 14 days.  Piece of cake considering what we’ve been through.  Don’t you think?

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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).  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey started off the day finishing up the workbook The Price of Freedom is Living Free. Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack. D. Cooper and the video that goes along with it.  She pointed out the entry on the last page (52) entitled “The Beginning” really sums up the choices before us, to live free or to live in bondage.  I wish I had the space to share it but I sent my copy to the blog sponsors and they can link or post it per their choice. Here is the excerpt:

“The Beginning – Those of use who have made the choice to live free understand that the choices we make will always have a price tag.  We just need to be clear on what price we are going to pay:  the price for freedom or the price for bondage.  Both choices in living are available to us.  The pay-off for our old values in living are consistent and predictable…standing for count, random strip searches, the constant roar of inmates, correction officers, concrete and steel or waiting for that letter that won’t come.  What price are you going to pay?  In making your decision, you might ask yourself, “Am I prepared to spend another month, decade or lifetime locked up for a few hours of excitement here on the street?”  If your answer is yes, the system will gladly refund your misery. The choice rests with you.

Whether we are locked up or on the streets, we can choose to live free.  As “values” in living are rational, sound and sensible.  We recognize that we possess the ability to feel, appreciate and understand, as we learn to change the internal and external condition of our lives.  We can take care of ourselves while simply caring for others.  We can start living our own lives usefully, respecting other people’s rights to live as they choose.  We will understand that getting is not always better than giving, and that chasing objects and holding attitudes that set us apart from other people are not as important as seeking values that will bring us together.  Finally, we will see that we’ve been brought back into being…living with value and living free.”

For lunch we were having chicken salad, one of the better meals here.  For me as a swamper, what it meant is we would go through more bread than normal.  We’re usually provided 3 loafs of bread for the meal but inmates are accustomed to asking for and getting more than the 2 pieces allotted by the menu, which is okay, considering they cheat us on the quantity on most other things such as potatoes!  But toady I wasn’t going to be able to give more than 2 slices.  Inmates weren’t happy when I wouldn’t give more than 2 slices, but oh well. I treated them all the same, my cellies, guys at my table, everyone.  I told those who gave me a hard time they could come back for anything left over.  As I finished serving I heard a remark made by ERP group member Mark Hogan that since I’d become a swamper I was acting like a cop.  He was talking to someone else but clearly intended for me to hear it.  Like an idiot, I stopped at his table and asked him if he had something on his mind.  Fortunately he said no.  What would I have done if he hadn’t????  Of course, I didn’t let it go at that.  After the meal while I was cleaning up, I went to his cell and asked him what the problem was.  Hogan apologized and I reluctantly tapped his knuckles.  I don’t believe his apology but I’m betting he was smarter than me today knowing nothing good would come from this.  At our afternoon ERP session, Ms. Grey showed a movie I think we’ve seen before called Smoke Signals, a movie showing two Native Americans who attempt to overcome their own issues from their past each for their own perspective.It was obviously effective on some level for Augie Prescott as he was moved to tears.  I thought it was a good movie.  But I decided during the movie that this swamper experiment is going to have to end.  The reasons I took the job weren’t nearly as important to me as graduating.  ERP in 28 days on June 10th.  It had given me the material for my Phase 3 Goals and Objectives on improving socialization and patience so it wasn’t a total bust.  Only thing the guard who’d have to approve the change, Roscoe Peters, wasn’t working so I told the sergeant on duty I wasn’t feeling well.  I got the guy who had the job before me and who still wanted it to take over for me until Peters got back.  Many, including former cellie Malik Pearl who had tried to scheme him out of the job, weren’t happy he was coming back but I just don’t care.  I felt like a huge load was off my shoulders.  I got more good news.  In the mail, blog sponsors let me know my biological relatives had checked in and they were safe.  Also, cellie Brian Whalen who is being released Monday, that though he wishes to to maintain contact with the former swamper who wants to rob him, he is no longer willing to engage Whalen in any kind of business dealing since Whalen has a bit of a tendency to talk too much.  You think????  But Whalen doesn’t have any idea of the kind of bullet he has dodged.  Next week is the third PO call and our presentation of Phase 3 Goals and Objectives, while working on our legacy project.  Let’s keep it simple from here on out.


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 Saturday, I got a surprise knock on my cell door from former cellie Malik Pearl.  He is to graduate from ERP this coming Friday (May 6th) along with current cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen. The question Pearl passed to me didn’t take but a second for me to respond.  He asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Swamper as he was going to step down.  I said no way.  It would interfere with my routine, force me to interact with more people, upset my TV watching and I’d have to deal with people whining for the extra food that Swampers get as their defector compensation (even though technically we’re not supposed to get that) since I’m told there is no extra pay while in the ERP program.  He left and that was that. A t least so I thought.  As the day went by, I learned the swamper job was probably going to go to ERP group member Mark Hogan who had developed a good relationship with guard Roscoe Peters, who would make the decision.  There were two problems here.  Pearl, along with the other blacks, knew Hogan to be racist.  How you might ask?  As we’ve seen in the past with him, he blurts out inappropriate remarks, not caring who hears.  So that’s how Pearl indicated he’d keep the swamper job rather than letting him have it.  Cellie Larry Sands revealed to Pearl that Hogan had Hepatitis C.  I don’t know how he knew that.  But lets face it, swampers wear gloves and you are not going to get infected from serving food.  But Pearl used this information to turn opinion against Hogan being a swamper in the dayroom.  Later on that day, guard Ruth Barthowski again approached me with the question if I’d be willing to be a swamper.  Now I had had time to reconsider the situation and I had changed my mind.  Why?  Because it will interfere with my routine, force me to interact more with people, upset my TV watching and deal with whiny people.  Kind of like real life!  So against my instincts I said yes to the job knowing I’ll be free in about 50 days so its time to get used to these things again.  The only problem is Pearl had not changed his mind too.  He wanted a guy of his choosing, his cellmate David Sussex, to have the job so he could still have access to the extra food.  So Pearl managed to talk Barthowski into a new policy on swampers which Peters approved.  Swampers would change out every 30 days so more people would have a chance to do it.  From Pearl’s way of thinking, he’ll be long gone by the time the next swamper change occurs so its all good.  The swamper that held the job with him, whom he found annoying anyway, would now have to give up the job as well which would mean his guy, David Sussex, would get the job along with me.  That night was also Barthowski’s final night as a guard.  She made a nice speech at her final count at 9 pm, followed by us all applauding her.  She is going to be missed, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing from her again!  The next day, the 2 old swampers came out to train us, giving us tips on how to count extras for ourselves.  I’ll give you the swamper routine in a future blog entry.  I was assigned to hand out the liquids and bread while Sussex handed out trays or cereal.  Breakfast went fine but at lunch, when stacking dirty trays on the cart, 7 or 8 fell which caused the inmates in their cells in the dayroom to erupt in applause.  I stayed out to help him clean it up after I was done.  Things largely went fine otherwise.  I returned to my cell more energized, I think simply because I was doing something other than sitting on my butt.  My cellies of course complained I gave too much food away to others and not to them. I I had actually kept very little for myself.  I just smiled.  So this is what its like to be a swamper!  But Sunday night things got put into perspective about 9:30 pm when word came down that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  None of this really matters in comparison, does it?


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 Wednesday which is a no group day and we’re supposed to be working on something ERP program related.  Work is pretty thin for us at this stage called Phase III.  But I found something to do.  I wrote the outline for the skit that I volunteered to do at the last community meeting and ERP group member Russ Johnson agreed to assist me with.  It will be on the topic of pretentiousness, focusing on how you can suffer from alcoholism despite having money, friends, and a good family.  You might ask if asking Johnson to help was done on purpose especially in light of the kind of person he is.  Not entirely would be my answer. He asked for my assistance on his skit so I thought it okay to ask for his help on mine.  But the thought did cross my mind when preparing the skit.  So Wednesday is spent largely in the cell by choice. My cellies also now spend the majority of their time in the cell as I do, especially ERP group member Larry Sands.  And yes him and Brian Whalen still tell their raunchy stories but not as much as they used to.  Cellie Corey Ball makes comments about teenage girls because he figured out this really gets under my skin.  He means to tease, please don’t think he’s a predator. He’s become the go to guy for making hot water for other folks, using metal prongs in a radio cord, then sticking it in a trash can with saltwater, then plugging it in and waiting for it to nearly boil.  This  leads to a parade of people coming to the door with soda bottles full of water for Ball to put in this trash can.  Inmates make decaf coffee, refried beans and other such things through this.  He usually gets little for his efforts and takes on all the risk.  But he’s indicated he is going to stop doing it now, especially since his graduation is so close.  If you get caught doing this, you will go to the hole and you are putting your whole program at risk so his decision makes sense.  He hasn’t blown the electricity yet like others did so that’s good.  Though my cellies can be annoying at times, I generally like all 3.  I’m going to get 2 new ones after Whalen and Ball leave in mid-May so I pray that goes well.  No one like Andre Charles please!  I started a new book today courtesy of Johnson called Decision Points by former President George W. Bush.  It’s a good read.  At mail call I did get an interesting letter from my biological father’s sister.  As you might recall we have been going back and forth with e-mails through my sponsors now that we have found each other, along with a cousin.  She revealed what I suspected.  She and my father were horribly abused by their father and stepfather, physically and sexually, for years.  I hadn’t know about the stepfather.  But the sick person he became, I completely now get why he did what he did.  It’s not ok, but I understand.  I replied by apologizing for being angry at their family for so many years for not protecting me and thanked her for sharing.  She says this information can never be shared.  I’ll respect that.  She also said she loved me and I told her the same.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It may not come as a shock to you that many inmates have problems with boundaries.  The real question for me is whether or not the person violating my boundaries has acted in a malicious manner or is it just the way they are.  Most of the time I have an opportunity to assess the situation or person and methodically make a decision how I’ll react to a violation.  That wasn’t the case today.  This particular situation involved an inmate named Charlie who lives in my row of bunks on Unit 9.  Charlie who has been in many years, goes up and down the aisles, begging coffee, food and it is rumored he is not above taking something left out on a bunk or cupboard.  In fact, it got to the point where inmates in other rows in an effort to defend their row  without having to snitch, joined together and told him he was banned from their aisle.  Policing themselves has mixed success at a minimum security level.  It is more effective in a medium environment where the threat of violence is more prevalent.  Unfortunately, since Charlie lives in my aisle, he can’t be banned here.  The problem for Charlie as I perceive it, is he has nobody to help him financially on the outside.  Neither did I, but I received money for valued possessions which I use for my expenses.  If he did that, how long since it dried up.  Many of us are not without heart.  We gave him coffee and other items.  He promised many he would pay them back in some fashion.  But he repaid very few.  I was one of the few.  You might ask if others expected to be paid back, how are they showing heart or compassion?  Because nothing his ever free, not in the real world but especially here.  When he didn’t pay back the others, fact is no one would do anything about it because Charlie is a physically imposing person.  He is at least 6’8” and at least 300lbs.  But what made people even more angry was he took much of what was given him and traded it for cigarettes.  People felt hustled because they felt they had given to meet his needs.  From his perspective, he had taken what he had gotten to trade to meet his real “need”.  Charlie had misrepresented his intentions to others – again not shocking behavior from some inmates.  The effect of all this was that no one would have anything to do with him.  I thought the situation would improve for him once he got a job in the kitchen.  He would be able to scam food out of the kitchen to trade for his wants or needs, which is exactly what happened.  But for these folks like myself he did pay back, somehow in his mind this represented a bond between him and each individual.  He would come by our bunk areas and want to peer in our cupboards, wanting to know what we had in canteen and trying to propose various deals.  No one was interested and I could see the confusion in his eyes.  But my understanding attitude evaporated yesterday when he came up to me from the side, put his arms around me and whispered he needed food and wanted to trade.  He could have told me he had a pardon from the governor and my reaction would have been the same.  I jabbed my elbow in his rib cage and warned him to step off (back).  Looking surprised he asked me what was with the attitude.  He really didn’t understand this.  Yes, I have issues.  Did I overreact?  I tried unsuccessfully to explain in my agitated state about my space, my boundaries and his need to respect that.  He walked away and it was over.  Normally in these situations one might fear retaliation from others.  Not this time.  Charlie is universally disliked.  But the task before me is to figure out how I can handle a situation like this differently in the future, why I fear people getting in my space so much and what to do about it.