Posts Tagged ‘difference’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Sometimes I’m not so bright.  In fact, I can make just stupid decisions.  When I was a child my arm was broken.  The arm was never set properly and as a result the arm has always given me some discomfort.  The last few months however; the pain has steadily grown where I have to work around it for such tasks as putting on a shirt.  So I put in a medical request form. I suggested that perhaps the lack of exercise is causing the pain, as up until a year ago I was being treated for cancer and I didn’t exercise much and since then I’ve done very little.  But with my impending release on Wednesday, I didn’t make a  good choice ignoring the pain.  To my surprise, I was actually seen on Sunday by a nurse right here on the unit.  The nurse decided to see me because of my history of cancer.  She determined the kind of bone issue I described shouldn’t be ignored.  Just another example of the usually positive experience I’ve had with health practitioners while I’ve been in prison.  She decided to refer me to the doctor without performing tests.  But she did take a history of how it happened, asking why I didn’t address this years ago when I had insurance and why I waited until now.  Truth was I didn’t want to answer the questions people would have asked related to how it happened, my usual honesty and shame issues.  Hopefully, I don’t continue that pattern.  One nice thing about all my family and friends knowing I went to prison is all pretense is gone.  The truth will be revealed eventually whether you want it to or not.  The fact I had problems is now known to them.  How will they react to me?  How will I react to them?  I am going to try, despite the loss of family, possessions, career, and money, to hold my head high.  The difference between disgrace and shame would be failing to learn the lessons shame has taught.  It will be a struggle, make no mistake about that.  Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents, have his retirement celebration coming up July 17th where family friends and acquaintances from years gone by will be in attendance.  We’ll see then if my words here mean anything.  The rest of the weekend was uneventful.  ERP group member Scott Dietz had his paperwork signed by a Milwaukee County judge on a weekend.  He also inquired about me building websites for his businesses.  I’m suspicious of any contact with people from here or promises made but I said sure I’m interested but I’ll need a couple of months to get my feet on the ground.  But I almost believe him.  I talked to my adoptive parents on Sunday as well.  They have the bed I slept on as a kid setup in the basement and some simple foodstuffs put up for me there.  The internet will be turned on June 25th so I can get to catching up on my Information Technology and programming skills.  They gave my parole officer (PO) Helen Gaither the house key which I can get from her on Wednesday but left a door open in the event by the time I get to Menasha, WI after business hours.  Of course this tells me the PO and my adoptive parents have been meeting and talking.  That makes me a little nervous.  But everything seems set.  Wednesday can’t get here soon enough!

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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).  If I thought Monday was bad temperature wise, Tuesday made it look like a walk in the park in comparison.  For the outside world in Milwaukee it was another record breaking day at a high of 97 degrees.  The difference here was unlike yesterday, from the moment we woke up, it was unbelievably hot and humid.  The day started off normal.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we reviewed the Phase 3 self evaluations assigned weeks ago.  Nothing really all that interesting there.  There was a distinct sense of hurry up and get this done so we can get out of this room with no air movement at all.  After everyone had gone, ERP group member Russ Johnson gave Ms. Grey the disc with the letters that need to be printed for the graduation project.  He was excellent for stepping up the way he did.  Again I thought that this was the end for my involvement on this project.  After lunch it was decided to call off anything program related.  Ms. Grey came by and brought the disc back. It seems when the graduation project program was printed on both sides it went from the gold color to a reddish blue mixture.  I’ve seen this before when printer ink runs low but she wanted the colors changed.  I complied, only to make her happy and be done with it.  Again she approached me later on wanting the time of the graduation ceremony put on the program which I did.  Shortly before she had done that, they announced all ERP program activities were cancelled for the day because of the heat.  After she was done with me, she went into the rec room and got everybody out of there who were working out or playing ping pong.  She had a point but she didn’t make these guys very happy.  Guard Art Coleman reluctantly told them to get out as well.  Meanwhile, cellie Larry Sands came up with an interesting idea to beat the heat.  The vent in our cell that streams this hot and humid air was a source of aggravation.   Sands came up with the idea of taping up the vent.  We waited to see if it would change the temp in our cell at all.  It appeared to at first, perhaps it was our minds playing tricks on us.  But by evening it became apparent to me it wasn’t helping.  I stuck newspaper under the door reasoning that perhaps the hot humid air in the dayroom was still coming in that way.  Still no affect.  In fact, it actually felt hotter.  I said something but nobody wanted to take the tape off the vent.  Still, all things considered, I’ve got it pretty good.  I’m almost out of prison.  I’ve got a fan.  I’ve got a TV.  Most guys in this building don’t have any of those things and they’re just starting their bit (time in prison).  The loss of joy in the fact I’m getting out soon is directly connected to my lack of gratitude for what God has gotten me through and has give me.  Tomorrow will be another day similar to this one.  Let’s hope my attitude improves. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Late Friday we got some great news.  The family and home of ERP group member Augie Prescott is safe after the devastating tornadoes down south.  Of course, I’ll have no word from my recently reconnected biological family for some time as my only means of communication is by email through the blog sponsors.  But I’m not thinking about that because it would be counterproductive to my mental health.  Kind of like some of you worrying continually about your loved ones who are locked away will only serve to make you insane.  You’ve got to go on, be able to function, which you can’t do it your always in your own prison of paralysis.  Some of you out there are in so much pain over what has happened to the inmate you love and what is happening to your and your family as a result you’ll turn to the likes of me.  Perhaps you know I’ll understand like no one on the outside will.  Be honest, compassionate, and actually answer your correspondence unlike many men who are locked up who seem reluctant or unable to respond.  For many of us inmates we are consumed by shame, guilt, fear, insecurity, and doubt so much so that we’re unable to even know where or how to begin an honest discourse with those that we love on the outside.  Let me say that again.  Those that we love!  Be assured their hearts are still with you and though your inmate may not communicate well at times, its not because they don’t’ want to.  They just don’t know how.  That becomes evident in the inmates silence or communication that seems trivial, sexual, controlling, or angry.  Please keep in mind when you write me, I’m not trained as a counselor (though I’ve though about it but don’t have the first clue how to achieve that).  I was an Information Technology (IT) guy prior to prison.  I don’t claim any special insight nor am I going  to have a solution to all your problems.  Heck, I’m not aware of the solution to all of my problems yet.  What I do have to share with you has not been something I’ve done on my own but it is part of who I am today and it’s something you’ve seen played out on these blog entries over the last 723 days.  And that is the battle for my soul and mind.  It’s the same exact battle your loved ones in prison fight with varying degrees of effort and success, just like me.  What I tell all of you is your inmate is so blessed you stand by him and have not forgotten him.  Until the last 6 months, I largely had no one except for the blog sponsors and those through this blog I now call friends.  But I feel blessed and am happy that I’ve made a difference for some of you and wish I could do better for many others.  Thank you for reaching out to me and telling me your stories.  When my answers aren’t adequate there is always prayer, which I do for many of you often.  If I could end your pain I would but prison is not a place of magical solutions, but lessons learned through tears, honesty, and perseverance by inmate and their loved ones alike even though our loves ones didn’t deserve this.  Be strong, ask for help and know that you are not alone!


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 little sleep the previous night I wasn’t looking forward to hearing the essays from other group members for their ERP Goals and Objectives as I thought I’d fall asleep.  Of course I was wrong.  I’m not going to go into the rest of the readings except for one person because to a large degree many just plagiarized, almost word for word in some cases, what they read to the group.  Once you get to know a person you know when the words that come out aren’t their own. And of course several told me they did copy outright.  It may not be an entirely bad thing.  If you copy material, it still has to travel through the hand to the brain and back again.  The mission may be accomplished despite the unorthodox delivery.  Granted I’m reaching here but trying to put the best construction on the situation.  The last person to stand up and read was ERP Group member Scott Dietz.  Dietz has kind of become the one in the group whom everyone doesn’t like too much.  As noted before he tells what would be considered wild stories about his success in business and his travels.  Plus he has the annoying habit of always trying to top whatever story is being told particularly with his cell mates.  That won’t make you a lot of friends.  Dietz has also become known for registering uninformed opinions in group on what other members would say or do and do so in a manner that was unfriendly.  It was perceived he would do this to gain favor with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  If that was the case it didn’t work.  Ms. Grey and Dietz would clash every couple weeks or so over some issue and she gave him a huge workbook on self-esteem for a treatment goal as she saw through his stories too I’m sure.  When he finished reviewing his materials for the group. Where they had been laid back in questioning others, now picked up the pace and the questions were more pointed.  Clearly there was some retaliation going on, though the questions weren’t appropriate.  I’ve learned that its not what you ask but how you ask it that makes all the difference.  My question was “Why was our opinion of you so important in that you share all these things about your life?”  I didn’t accuse him of lying and made the subject of the question about the value you place on our opinion of you. The response I got floored me as it had nothing to do with the question.  Dietz went on a rant about how certain people get away with everything, how he has been physically attacked with guards and inmates and nothing was done about it and how he has been mistreated by Ms. Grey.  I was just shocked as I think the rest of the room was too.  We found out why soon.  It seems last week an inmate who was cleaning the bathroom asked Dietz not to use the facilities after lunch though its commonly accepted practice here you have to clean around people.  Dietz insisted so the inmate took a swing at him in full view of Peters who is the regular 1st shift guard and the other unit manager.  The unit manager ordered a meeting between these inmates and their social workers.  That meeting was to take place right after our group and that’s why Dietz’s mind jumped there at my opinion.  After the meeting had begun, everyone in the dayroom in their rooms attention were fixated on the drama that was unfolding.  At first it looked like Dietz was going to get his wish as a witness who was known to be friendly with him came in and gave his version of events.  The accused inmate stormed out of the meeting and was confined to his cell.  We all assumed he’d get kicked out of ERP and go to the hole for sure.  But then a swamper who had just graduated ERP and another came forward and claimed nothing happened even though it was common knowledge  on the cell block it did happen.  That inmate then was summoned to return from his cell.  They were both given interventions which is additional work given by an ERP group leader to address a specific issue which will be shared with the group Thursday at the community meeting.  Things had backfired on Dietz in a big way on this.  He had wanted to get the inmate thrown out but now got extra work, the humiliation of bringing it up to the whole group Thursday, having to say he was wrong even if he doesn’t feel that way and draw the disrespect and of the inmates for “going to the police” on another inmate.  Of course he went around saying this happened because the black inmates stuck together (the inmate who swung and his witnesses are black) and how they’re shown favoritism.  My thought is he is just digging his hole deeper and deeper.  I’m so glad I keep to myself and don’t embrace confrontation here as I don’t think this is going to end well for him. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Last night at the final standing count a rumor circulated among the inmates that an inmate on another floor had committed suicide by ingesting the cleaning solution we use to clean the tier.  I didn’t really believe it.  If I told you folks every crazy rumor that inmates report this blog wouldn’t have space for anything else.  I actually slept pretty well for a change that night.  The next morning a sure sign there is a problem is when the procedure for count is disrupted.  Normally we stand outside our door on the tier while the guard counts us.  Afterwards people may pass freely to the bathroom and back to their cell.  Up to that point during the night only one person after having been cleared by the guard may go to the bathroom.  It may not sound like a big deal to you but if you have to go and aren’t allowed to it can become one.  But anyway, after count was done by the guard manually going to each room to verify the number, we remained on lockdown, and when anyone tried to go to the bathroom, it wasn’t allowed.  Finally, for breakfast, we were allowed out and then as breakfast gave way to lunch, it was confirmed it was in fact a suicide.  No announcement mind you but those who talk to guards confirmed it.  I didn’t expect an outpouring of emotion or introspection from inmates or guards but it was greeted with a shrug of the shoulders type attitude, as if they had heard it on the news and that took me back a little.  I’d seen a suicide attempt before since I was locked up, in the Waukesha County Jail, but the reaction to that was heartless and they actually encouraged him to go through with it.  (He jumped from the upper tier intending to go head first into the floor but at the last second bailed and landed on his leg.  He suffered minor injuries)  The only acknowledgement from the guards was to post a note to all saying cleaning fluids must be returned to the desk.  I don’t know why he did it, if this place pushed him over the edge, if he had his proper medication, or if he was being returned to prison because his parole had been revoked and that combined with everything else was simply too much for him to bear.  There was nothing in the media about him so I’m just writing this to acknowledge what happened and if his family happens to find this, to express my sympathies to you for your loss.  I suspect that you’ll not see anything like that from the cold, unfeeling institution but that is their nature.  My regular readers know I’ve been there and it is only by sheer luck I am not dead.  I didn’t use the phrase God’s grace because it would imply that I am special.  Would it mean your loved one who died was not?  No, of course not.  What id does mean is God’s hands and feet, us human beings, were unable to get to your loved one in time to make a difference.  It isn’t God’s fault and it doesn’t mean your loved one lost the war they were in.  He’s a soldier that’s fallen in battle and the good they have done won’t be forgotten.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Fridays are a short day in the ERP program here.  They have something called “Community” at 10 am and then they’re done for the day.  Everyone was already seated when someone came and got me to join which surprised me since I don’t start ERP until December 13th.  They went through an airing of unit grievances (there were none) and housekeeping issues (there were some).  It was at this point that I was called to the guard desk and told to get ready to go to Heath Services Unit (HSU).  They have something where an inmate picks a quote and they explain why they picked it.  The quote was “Bad things happen in life so that someday something good can come.”  It was put on a big poster and hung from the top tier.  Then the inmate coming up with the quote talked of why he picked that quote.  The group was then to provide comments on what the quote meant to them.  The social worker running the group reminded them that if we didn’t participate enough she would hand out paper and make us all write something down.  Personally, I would have preferred that but that’s just me.  Then the inmate assigned the word of the day or week, I’m not sure which.  The word was “oppressed” with the quote “difficult to bear substance abuse made my life aggressive”, which was placed on a white poster on the upper tier next to the other one.  Then my cellmate, Brian Whalen, had been assigned to read a current events article and discuss it with comments following.  He did well I thought.  Overall, the comments being made felt forced to me but I could be wrong.  At that point a female guard showed up to escort me and another inmate to HSU.  We got on an elevator (another difference of any prison I’ve seen – there were no elevators) and we had to face the wall away from the guard sharing space with carts of food trays being delivered for lunch.  I go to our next stop where we were directed to stand with our backs to the wall while another inmate joined us and we continued on.  We got to HSU which has a hall for a waiting room with the wall lined by chairs then inside a desk manned by a guard.  He called out names to go in.  I was seated next to a man of 65 with a long white beard who couldn’t stop jabbering.  He was on paper for his 5th DUI and was here for rule violations (using pot) and his parole officer (PO) was trying to revoke him.  A lot of the other inmates were discussing Act 28 and the mistaken idea that once they got to Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) the time they thought they’d be saving under Act 28 would be taken right off the top of their sentence. It reminded me much of my time in Waukesha County Jail (WCJ) where inmates would cling to such fairy tales out of sense of desperation and looking for a reason to hope.  I tried to interject and correct the information but one inmate in particular would have none of it, insisting I was wrong.  I let it go.  I understand the need to hold onto hope.  I think false hope actually helped me at times.  Weird, isn’t it?  Mercifully, I got called to see the doctor.  He was of Indian descent and spoke good English.  I waited 10 minutes before a word was said while he reviewed my file.  He then let me know another PET scan would be scheduled soon to make sure the cancer had not returned and made sure I was still on my antiviral.  I returned to my seat in the hall to await transport back to my unit.  The man I was next to had grown impatient and started repeatedly asking when he’d be seen because he didn’t want to miss lunch.  The guard who brought me to HSU returned to take me back but the guard at the desk lost patience and told her to take him back too without being seen.  He knew what that meant.  He was getting a major conduct report for being disruptive.  The entire way back he argued with this guard almost assuming an intimidating stance towards her.  She argued back which was pointless with this guy.  Finally, I got back to my unit having a cold pizza burger for lunch and very glad I’m not that loud inmate and looking forward to getting this ERP program going week after next. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  December 13th is my bed date to begin my ERP program at Milwaukee Secure Detention Center Facility (MSDF).  They could come get me from here any day now.  It’s November 19th, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Ms. Greer showed up today in her #4 Minnesota Vikings jersey, and she is proud to wear it and she’ll let you know that when she hears the topic come up in conversation.  It makes everybody smile though.  She has a rough edge with a good heart.  So overlook her football team preference.  Nobody’s perfect! I always wonder if she feels imprisoned by the system in trying to help inmates or if she has stopped fighting and just picks her spots where she can make a difference.  She certainly hasn’t completely quit trying as many who burn out. I’m hoping I spend Thanksgiving week here as I’m told the food portions are better here.  I won’t lie, I’m nervous about going to MSDF and change is always hard for me.  Other inmates pain a very bleak picture.  You won’t see the outside world until you leave, canteen is small and expensive, its dirty and no electronics.  Still as we’ve seen in the past, inmate information can be unreliable and if I can endure this and succeed, I’ll get out.  Anyway, we’ve had a huge influx of new people in the last week.  There’s no Welcome Wagon here to educate them on how things are done and the unwritten rules.  That becomes most evident in the line for meals.  The customs are really a reversion to grade school tactics.  Of course, the Glee Club is still at the front of the line but after that group, grown men who never care about such things all of a sudden become quite concerned with someone who might step in front of them or others who feel they are popular by being allowed to do so.  I usually greet this whole drill with a yawn and roll of my eyes but for some reason not today.  As I moved toward the cart that holds the trays in front of the guard station,  a new inmate, a young black man with an early Jackson 5 type haircut with his pants down so far his butt was on display darted right in front of me.  Normally I don’t care but today for some reason I did.  As I debated how to handle it, the sergeant yelled at him twice to pull up his pants.  He conveyed his contempt for the sergeant with his half hearted compliance. I decided then wasn’t the time to deal with this.  After lunch, I have to walk past his bunk to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth and I stopped and said to him that I didn’t want to say anything in front of the blue shirts (guards) but you can’t step in front of people in line like that without asking as they will feel disrespected.   His cellie, white and young like him, laughed nervously.  He reacted like he couldn’t believe I said something but finally after a couple of seconds said “ok”.  I went to the bathroom and on my way back he motioned me over and he thanked me for not saying anything in front of the guards.  I replied that they would have taken it wrong.  It ended well, but this was not the way to handle this.  If he had reacted differently, I could have lost everything.  I should have let it go.  I just wonder if I’m subconsciously trying to sabotage myself because I’m about to enter ERP, mostly because my reaction was so out of character for me.  Remember, I’ve been dreaming about my goals eluding me despite doing all I could to achieve them.  Am I trying to set myself up for failure?  I don’t really know the answer just now but I sure hope not.