Posts Tagged ‘discussion’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Wednesday was your usual Wednesday. There are no ERP groups.  We did discuss our graduation project.  ERP group member Scott Dietz is upset he didn’t have a speaking part in the graduation ceremony other than reading his quote.  Nothing really could be done.  I don’t have a speaking part either but I’m not upset.  But that’s me.  On Thursday morning, we had one guard with a really bad comb over and one who looked suspiciously like Drew Carey.  After breakfast while brushing my teeth, the announcement came that we were to immediately return to our cells.  Nobody knew what was going on.  We were then informed we were on emergency lockdown and we were only allowed out if there was a medical emergency.  It wasn’t long before inmates began to voice displeasure with the situation led by an inmate who had already graduated in another ERP group, especially that he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom.  The guards and him continued to argue until the familiar detachment of the guards and a white shirt (supervisor) showed up.  They put him in handcuffs to take him to the hole.  He was supposed to be released that day but most of us felt he would still get cut loose.  Meanwhile, we were trying to figure out why we were locked down.  The idea that his a major shakedown seemed to have credence with all the good traffic.  Finally at about 10 am, they let us out one by one to use the bathroom.  It was then I found out that the lock on the fire escape door had somehow malfunctioned thus locking us down was necessary to prevent our escape.  After lunch, we were returned to lock down status.  Shortly afterwards, we got our 2 new cellmates.  One a tall black man was named Malcolm Johnson and the other, a Puerto Rican was named Jose Michaels.  Jose didn’t have a TV which made me happy because  it freed up an outlet I could use for my fan.  He is a talented artist.  I think him and I will get along fine.  Malcolm has been through hell.  He is on an upper bunk but obviously belongs on a lower.  He has scars everywhere, showing us one on his leg that was caused by an injury he got fleeing from police.  He and I got into an interesting discussion about the terrorist attach on 9/11/2001.  He exposed various conspiracy theories and I pointed out that thousands of people would have to be complicit and silent for any of them to be true.  As usual, people who present such theories make the argument into a personal attack so I just let it go.  But to be honest I enjoyed the conversation.  I haven’t had a good conversation like that since my days at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  We thought we were done for the day but about 2 pm our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, arrived.  We plowed right into the victim impact letters.  Reading it out loud for me to be honest produced feelings of anger and sadness.  Regardless of how I feel it was about how she felt.  Many of the guys who came after me also felt various emotions reading theirs.  We also presented our rippled effect poster assigned back in Phase I.  Then Ms. Grey dropped a bombshell today.  Two of us in our ERP group had warrants for our arrest in the system but she didn’t know who of course.  Later on in the dayroom that night that’s all anybody talked about and how infuriated we were that she could drop a thing like that without knowing who it is.  Of course with us this close to release, it caused anxiety.  Soon it was 3 pm and time for our weekly community meeting.  Once again, the issue of hygiene was raised.  Ms. Carr said she would be talking to the unit manager to see what could be done.  The issue of the soon to be repealed Act 28 early release law.  I’ve shared my opinion on this here and I did in group.  That night my cellies didn’t want to go to sleep when the lights went out.  I think Malcolm knew this annoyed me and he razzed me a bit but that’s ok.  I can deal with anything for the next 22-32 days I have left.  About midnight everyone went to sleep. 

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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).  The day started off with a notice from one of the other ERP social workers that our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, would not be in today.  We didn’t know why she wasn’t here but many of us didn’t mind.  With all the assignments piled on us as of late, many of us welcomed the break.  Of course we have another ERP graduation coming tomorrow so cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen are happy and bouncing off the walls as it’s not their turn.  Whalen and Ball both insist they’ll stay in touch.  I don’t put a lot of faith in this but you never know. I’ll be in Menasha, WI and they’ll be in southern Wisconsin so its pretty unlikely.  In light of the direction they both have indicated they’re going, it might not be wise to stay in touch anyway.  I’m happy to report my cravings and dreams have subsided.  A sponsor sent me materials on this and it seems its perfectly normal.  I remain irritable.  This swamper job isn’t helping that at all.  Our excitement for the day was started by members of the graduating ERP class.  They decided they wanted to call out several members of the group at the community meeting for poor hygiene.  Guess who was the focal point of this discussion?  My ERP group member Scott Dietz of course.  Unfortunately it is true as well. Many have complained about his smell.  Somehow, my cellie Larry Sands got roped into this.  They also went around to each room asking them to identify people who have issues with hygiene.  Sands asked me what I thought.  I urged him to make sure if they were going to do this they do it in such a way that doesn’t make the person feel attacked.  I suggested they call them out as a group, not individually.  Sands would eventually consult with another ERP Social worker, Ms. Carr, who would tell them to stand down because she’ll address it in the community meeting (again) and speak with the people involved individually.  So I thought that would be the end of it.  When the time for the community meeting came at 3, the time for issues in the community came up and sure enough Ms. Carr spoke up and said she’d be talking to the people on the list.  It probably would have stopped there had it not been for one guy on the list responded by just going on and on about various reasons why people might smell.  The former swamper who is planning on robbing Whalen and is graduating ERP tomorrow as well, spoke up and specifically called out Dietz for failing to wear deodorant and smelling up the rec room when exercising.  This was very bad.  His reaction is bad enough when he gets put on the spot in group.  How much more will it be in front of a group of 40!  They went at each other back and forth with Ms. Carr stepping in.  Dietz clearly was in a bad way as he made a face and sound of disgust at Ms. Carr that others close to him picked up on.  The other ERP social worker present acted as if she was going to challenge Dietz on that but didn’t.  Mercifully, we moved on.  Once again, community member participation is laughing.  Ms. Carr said we’d have to write down our responses to the quote, word of the week and defense mechanism if it didn’t get better like we did before.  By the way, the word of the week which Sussex provided was “sacrifice” which was explained extremely well.  He reminds me of when I was a new Christian.  Every conversation turns into a sermon on his part on how I should do this or that.  I told him at one point he talked too much, but with a smile on my face indicating no malice was intended.  He’s young and on fire for God.  Life taught me that not everything is as black and white as I thought it should be when I was young in matters of faith or love.  But I’m not going to say anything to him to make that realization come any sooner.  In that mindset people don’t listen well.  The night ended with Dietz working out and using the phones while sweating and smelling and everyone grumbling.  So this whole thing is obviously not over.


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 day started off with the discussion in the dayroom prior to group about our legacy project, which is what we’ll do for our graduation ceremony on June 10th.  I kicked off the discussion simply because I knew if I didn’t no one here would as non of us are all that excited about doing anything for the ceremony.  This project also includes what will put on the program for the ceremony.  I was volunteered due to my computer skills to do that.  I let the guys know I’d come around on Monday to collect the quotes they each want to have under their names on the program which they were okay with, and we decided to use our group mission statements on the back of the program.  Then came the discussion for the name of the group.  I nominated the name “Pyramid” group, as each level on the pyramid represented an attribute in our orientation workbookLarry Sands offered the “Phoenix” group as in out of the ashes of our former lives, we rise up anew, but it was rejected as too complicated to render.  But Russ Johnson offered “The Transformers”, as in us being transformed from MSDF to a new life.  This was accepted.  The drawing was to be of a person half in yellow, half in civilian clothes.  Scott Bunker, who is gifted at drawing, drew up a prototype which pleased the group.  Now he’ll have to draw a much larger rendering for the ceremony.  By the way, Bunker was to finally have that catheter removed today but he has resumed bleeding.  Just not good.  So our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, showed up and we looked at interviewing for jobs.  Though this is old hat for me it was good to cover.  We didn’t have enough handouts of the packet on this so one was passed around.  Then we did role playing.  I volunteered for the interviewer.  The point was to demonstrate a person who was confident or not.  Sands volunteered for the confident role, Augie Prescott volunteered for the not confident role.  It was fun to do and good to brush up on.  By the way, Prescott couldn’t get through to his relatives in Alabama after last nights tornadoes that has killed at least 200 in Alabama, so he’s pretty worried and we all let him know we’re praying for this situation.  We watched a video on interview skills called Why Should I Hire You by J. Michael Farr which was very well done.  After lunch we were awaiting Ms. Grey when it was announced that a tornado warning had been issued.  Guard Ruth Barthowski had us all go to our cells and take the foam mattress off our bunk, sit on the floor and put them over our heads even though we knew it was a drill and threatened to put warnings on the card to anyone who didn’t.  Most took her seriously.  Being that it was Thursday it was time for another Community Meeting.  I did my skit with Johnson’s help.  It went over well once I was told to raise my voice which is easy to forget to do.  That night we worked on a goodbye and birthday card for Barthowski, as she is retiring on Saturday and it also happens to be her birthday soon.  We are sure going to miss her.  As for me, I’m a little uneasy.  I’ve started to crave alcohol and cigarettes lately and I don’t know why.  I’m even having dreams related to it.  Could it be pre-release jitters? Is it stress related to my birth family?  I’m also not as patient with  my cellies as little things are annoying me.  I spent time in prayer prior to bed last night, asking God to ease my mind and renew my faith as I suspect that is at the root of my problem as always. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Wednesday is the day when no ERP groups are held.  Usually it’s a slow day but not for me.  I had my second call with my parole officer scheduled for today at 10:30 am.  This call would introduce me to my new PO from Outagamie County and helps prepare both of us for my release.  Of course, this assumes I go to my adoptive parents Rev. Charles and Victoria Martin, home in WI and not a halfway house in Waukesha County.  To make this even more confusing, their home is actually in a part of a town that is part of Calumet County, while the rest of the city is in Winnebago County.  So, I ‘m being assigned the PO office in Outagamie County because it’s the closest to their house.  Got all that?  I figure that geography lesson might be important to understand later.  Anyway, 10:30 am came and went and no Ms. Grey.  I checked with ERP group member John Lloyd who had his PO call scheduled before me and she hadn’t shown up for his call. After deliberating what to do, I decided to ask regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters to call her.  Clearly he’s had his fill of the trouble on the unit as Ms. Grey is seen as the cause, judging by the things he said about her.  Finally about 10:40 am she showed up but it was too late for the call with Lloyd’s PO as they weren’t available now.  Then it was my turn.  I didn’t ask why she was late.  Nothing good could come from the question.  My new PO was able to take the call.  She identified herself as Helen Gayther.  It was apparent Charles Martin had had discussions with her previously as I was able to quickly secure permission to attend his retirement party in July.  She came across fine to me, a very bottom line type.  I explained my plan as I have to you in my long term goals and objectives.  While doing so, Ms. Grey is nudging me to ask about if any kind of electronic monitoring would be put on me after release.  My philosophy was to let the PO bring it up if it was to be.  But Ms. Grey of course brought it up.  Ms. Gayther than said that yes she would have me wear one for 90 days after I get out.  It’s purpose was to make sure I’m in at a certain time every night.  This didn’t really upset me.  What got to me was my own social worker seemed to be trying to make things more difficult for me.  Then the discussion turned to the day of my release and if I’d have a ride to where my parents residence, which was a couple of hours northeast of Waukesha.  I immediately thought of one of this blog sponsors so I said sure.The call ended with Ms. Grey telling me afterward my PO had to put me on the bracelet so she was just getting that established.  I thought well if that’s true (which I know is at the PO discretion) then why are you concerned about it?  But I kept my mouth shut.  After the call I found out the procedure for release if you don’t have a PO or staff transport.  They take you to the bus station along with your boxes and drop you off there.  Problem is they don’t have a specific time they will do it.  This sponsor that will get me is from Green Bay, WI so how that is going to work isn’t clear.  Release will be between June 10 and June 24th so hopefully it comes into focus.  We’ve got time as its only April 6th.  Later on that day guard Ruth Barthkowski returned to work and she chose to talk to me this day.  She tells me she suffers from fibromyalgia which makes her feet hurt and she is extremely susceptible to stress.  With her having left in the middle of her shift the other day with all the drama going on , it now makes sense.  She is thinking she might retire before the budget repair bill law goes into effect which is real soon.  She is a thirty year veteran of corrections and this law will gut her benefits.  She worries how she’ll make a go of it financially in retirement.  I do feel for her.  These are real world worries I’ll be dealing with myself soon too.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  I have a lot to cover and not a lot of time to do it.  The rec room issues continued as my ERP group member Russ Johnson didn’t make a lot of friends here when he told those wanting him to share the exercise bike that he couldn’t help it that he had a million dollars and they didn’t.  Some wanted to pound him but what saved him and many others in these situations is everyone is so close to getting out now nobody wants to risk an altercation and get thrown out.  Many such as Johnson knows this to be the case so they are taking their verbal shots and act tough thinking their won’t be consequences.  Sometimes I think people just shouldn’t play with fire because one of these times a stray, irrational spark might burn them.  On Tuesday our ERP group leader Ms. Grey appeared shortly after 9:30 am.  Today was devoted to the study of heroin.  The first videos shown were Heroin, What Am I Going To Do?  A Hazelden production and Heroin and other Opiates again featuring Dr. David Ohlms.  At the end we had time for discussion and ERP group member Augie Prescott inquired about his Interstate Compact to allow him to return to Alabama to allow him to do his extended supervision (ES)/parole there.  An Interstate Compact is an agreement on a process between different states that allows parolees to move across state lines and reside there.  Unfortunately in Prescott’s case, his paperwork remains out of order.  His presentence investigation and criminal complaint is missing.  Without these items, the compact won’t happen at this stage, it’s really too late.  He’s upset because Ms. Grey and his parole officer (PO) here have known about this since he got here and nothings been done.  I don’t blame him for being upset.  I asked again if she had called Sal’s House, the halfway house in Waukesha I’m considering and she said she still hadn’t done so.  She said an agency called the TOP program was coming in to give Waukesha County people a presentation related to a program called Wiser Choice in Milwaukee County.  We just are getting the impression she doesn’t want to do a heck of a lot.  In the afternoon we saw an extremely compelling video entitled Black Tar Heroin The Dark End of the Street that followed the lives of several heroin addicts in the late nineties.  It was brutal in its honesty in describing the horror of heroin addiction.  I’d highly recommend for anyone just getting into trouble with it.  In the middle of the video ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands got called out of the room.  After a brief discussion (heroin wasn’t a big issue in this OWI ERP group) we got out and got our mail from guard Ruth Barthowski who is kind enough to hand it out right away.  I got word from my sponsors that my biological father’s family had emailed again.  We’ve been writing back and forth since they found me but we’ve always danced around any issues up to this point.  Not this time.  They indicated they wanted to know.  I told them most of what I’ve told you.  It seems none of them knew what had gone on as my biological father wasn’t in touch with them at that time.  I feel…. okay with it.  I mean if I can tell it here I can do this.  I am nervous on their reaction.  I won’t lie.  When I saw Sands he told me what was going on.  He had gone to see the psychiatrist here and told them how Ms. Grey had pushed him on his grief issues (when he read his auto) and such.  They weren’t at all happy and told him that was improper.  They’d be talking to the unit manager and that he shouldn’t fear retaliation from Ms. Grey for talking about this.  You’ve got to give Sanders a lot of credit for speaking up, for saying what many have wondered about.  I have no idea on how this will turn out.  She doesn’t like it if you disagree with her much less something challenging her methods. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Cocaine and crack was the topic of our ERP group morning session. Again this wasn’t my thing but it was largely informative.  The first video we watched was Cocaine and Crack Back From the Abyss, another Hazelden production.  It described the hell cocaine addicts go through in the first part, the process of recovery in the second, and continued growth in the third.  We followed that with another Hazleden video called Cocaine Beyond the Looking Glass.  Though it appears quite old, the video effectively told the same story, with a particularly compelling story told by a man who lost his hand to cocaine psychosis.  We then took the cocaine/crack test.  As it turned out though, the literature contained factual errors.  It called cocaine a Schedule III drug and described cocaine being present in Coca Cola until 1904  though our ERP group leader Ms. Grey claimed it was between the 1940-1960 era.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in a third rate mail order correspondence course.  I try to present the facts to you and let you draw your own conclusions but sometimes my frustrations boil over.  Sorry.  Anyway, after the test was corrected, we had time for discussion.  The question of when our next parole officer (PO) phone call came up.  Many of us aren’t staying in the county of where our offense was committed upon release which requires a transfer, which will possibly include me.  For many that work isn’t complete yet.  Ms. Grey told group member Mark Hogan, who is trying to get to another county, he’d just have to talk to the PO in Milwaukee County if the work wasn’t complete.  He usually acts goofy and keeps everyone loose with his humor.  But he went off on Ms. Grey.  He told her if they were going to keep him in this county they may as well send him back in front of the Program Review Committee (PRC) and have him taken out of ERP.  The tone he took in the ensuing discussion was menacing, almost threatening.  It was so out of character, at least in what we had seen up to this point for him.  Ms. grey reacted very calm, almost coming across as if she was afraid of him, as she used a very soothing tone.  In conversations among us later, we were amazed Hogan was still in the group after that exchange.  After that she announced we all had to review our Phase II goals and objectives again to verify they were compliant with SMART – that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely.  I had gotten min approved yesterday so I thought I was good.  But then she also announced she didn’t have everybody else’s goals and objective sheets even though everyone had turned them in.  This, of course, made everybody unhappy as people argued the point.  She had been referring to mine as not being SMART.  So now I approached her and asked what was wrong now.  The bottom line is it has to be rewritten.  Lunch was interesting, as the guys in the group just were freaking on Ms. Grey and how she appears to be not at all wanting us to succeed.  After lunch we saw the movie 28 Days starring Sandra Bullock and were assigned to a discussion sheet to fill out this weekend.  That night the theme of frustration continued as the new people coming in were trying to get in on the exercise bike and machines in the room that is our group room, that doubles as the rec room.  I’d seen fights nearly break out over the amount of time certain people spend on the machines so I stay away.  It’s not worth it.  But the new folks don’t know how it works and complained to guard Ruth Barthowski who tried to enforce the 30 minute limit on the machines that’s never followed.  This just ticked everybody off at the “snitches” though no one really knew who they were but that didn’t stop them from guessing.  Week 15 is over, but signs of stress, fatigue, with the environment and frustration are showing.  I suppose this is normal and was inevitable.