Posts Tagged ‘Earned Release Program’


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 was marked by arguments and in fighting amongst inmates over stupid things.  Most of it of course involved Scott Dietz, revolving around rec room issues.  I’ve just noticed the courtesy between inmates in the laundry procedure and the order for showers is breaking down.  People skipping each other to use laundry or the shower causes friction.  I got to talk to Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents this weekend.  They’re going to send the glasses I sent away at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) to the sponsor of this blog who is picking me up.  They also will have cable which means I’ll be able to have internet access which is critical for my job search and getting up to speed on the technology and software I’ve missed the last two years.  Speaking of which, Sunday, May 8th marked the 2 year date of my incarceration.  Sixteen of those months this blog has run.  Not an anniversary I look at fondly but assured I won’t forget it. But I’ve been talking like it’s a foregone conclusion that I’m going to graduate June 10th.  Not if I keep acting the way I did Monday.  Now the last graduating class has a high number of guys who are busying themselves by starting trouble, including former swamper and cellie Malik Pearl joined by one of his cellies.  They took aim at me because on occasion I don’t wear a hat (not a hairnet mind you but a paper hat) when serving food as a swamper.  There is not rule that I’m aware of that says I have to and I’ve told you previously, I shave my head, so there’s really not a need.  But they started yelling at me to wear a hat.  I was visibly angered.  I put it on and asked them if they were happy now.  Afterwards, it was time to start our ERP group.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey took us through the entire Living With Others workbook that day.  In the middle of the morning we observed through the window to the dayroom that the guards on 1st shift had been joined by several others.  They began to shakedown every single cell even taking the extra clothing the inmates had acquired which usually is ignored.   Group got interrupted several times as we observed them taking things out of the cells critical to our graduation project.  At the end of the morning session, I went out to clean tables and put out napkins to get ready for lunch service.  I came right back and didn’t touch anything else an inmate egged on by Pearl’s cellie, demanded I change my gloves.  I refused.  This was just harassment.  We exchanged words across the dayroom.  My reaction was so out of character for me.  Lunch got served.  We had Swiss Rolls, which are a pretty hot item around here.  I observed that same inmate shoving some down his shirt to smuggle them to his cell.  I asked him if he wanted me to play this game he had started.  He quickly got back to his cell.  I wasn’t going to tell but I was mad!  Afterwards, I was told Pearl and his cellie were going to try to get me fired as a swamper.  Initially, I didn’t care. I don’t need the extra food and who needs this aggravation?  But after I calmed down, I remembered why I took this job to begin with.  I went to the inmate who took issue with the gloves and apologized for my reaction.  But more importantly, what is going on with me?  Is it just a simple chase of the “shirts”, where inmates near release get irritable and melancholy?  Whatever it is, I resolved to get a hole of myself and stay in today instead of thinking about my release in June.  We turned in our goals and objectives for Phase 3 in the afternoon session.  She approved them on the spot and told us to have our presentations ready for the following Monday (May 16th).  Mine are ironically, to improve my social skills here and being more patient.  Clearly, these goals are appropriate and necessary. 


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 couldn’t believe it but on Friday evening the Koss headphones I bought off the Jack & Marcus catalog cracked over the right ear piece.  Cellie Corey Ball had tape and managed to make them useable for the short term.  He and cellie Brian Whalen are graduating May 6th, over over 2 weeks away so they each tried to get me to buy their headphones or ear buds.  I had to say no because in the event of an inspection that could be trouble for me.  But these plastic clear headphones are frustrating.  They appear to have no more than a 4 to 6 month life span before they break and doubly so because I’m 2 months away from release.  I bit the bullet and put in an order for a new pair of headphones.  After Ball and Whalen leave I’m going to have 2 new cellies come in for my last 45 days or so and no telling what they might be like. Headphones are an essential piece from going crazy at times.  Guard Roscoe Peters was very professional in signing the disbursement form and such even if he was distant.  Since this blog was discovered, professional but distant, would be the way to describe how most of the staff treats me.  No joking around and such, but that’s ok.  Many ask me about specific blog entries, especially the identify of the guard who had a drug problem.  I’ve taken to saying its all made up just to avoid the questions even though of course it isn’t.  Nobody buys it anyway as they all think they know who it is.  Anyway, one thing I haven’t covered here are the visits we get, mostly because since my arrival I haven’t had any.  But once you are called for a visit, such as Whalen was this weekend by the therapist who sent him the letter. (who by the way are doing quite well) You go into the room that doubles as the computer room on the top floor and as the library on the bottom.  Anyone in the room at the time has to leave.  It’s a video visit more like what you would do over a webcam or in a county jail.  The biggest problem you might have is the inmates walking by and checking out who is visiting with you and what they look like.  And of course, then the comments and catcalls you receive after.  It’s very easy for others to see the person because of the glass walls and the size of the screen.  I’m sure this is designed this way for security reasons though.  When Whalen finished, of course everyone in the room joked about his visit which he enjoyed.  The good thing about this cell is when people joke around with each other it doesn’t get taken too far, unlike some other cells here.  On Sunday I got to speak with my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  After wishing each other a Happy Easter, they let me know my ex-wife had had her father pass away a week prior.  Like many inmates I get annoyed with the time delay in getting news.  But what are you going to do?  I wrote her a condolence letter which considering how angry I used to be with her, is quite remarkable.  In it I shared a memory of her father, expressed hope that her and the kids were okay and told her I looked forward to seeing the family at Charles Martin’s retirement in July even though it also makes me nervous.  Honesty is good and this isn’t something I would have done almost 24 months ago. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  There’s been so much going on I haven’t been able to get it all in the past few entries.  But a couple things to note you should know.  First, regular second shift guard Ruth Barthowski has let everyone know she is retiring as of May 1st (today is April 18th). There’s not a one of us that isn’t sad to see her go.  Simply put, she is the best corrections officer I’ve seen.  They’ll have to break the mold with her gone.  Guard Mike Metcalf is openly campaigning for the job much to our dismay.  Metcalf says he’s going to “clean up our unit”.  Inmates have already filed several inmate complaint forms against him just based on the few days he filled in.  Just not a great start.  We’ll see what happens.  Next we had a new ERP group come in to replace the last graduating class.  At least three members of that class had relatives who had found this blog and told them, even sending printed copies of them of some entries to let them know what was in store for them.  Even had not MSDF or the DOC found out about the blog it would’ve come out anyway.  I’m not mad.  I’m proud.  We’ve done something good her.  Now onto the day.  We started out on the Child Maltreatment module.  First we watched a video called Casey’s Gift For Love of a Child.  Though it was an old video, it communicated effectively the pain and guild people felt over the loss of a child and how they each dealt with it.  Many of us weren’t too sure what it had to do with the theme of Child Maltreatment but it kind of fit.  The packet was gone over in the afternoon. It covered sexual, physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  My comments were directed mostly at resisting the idea that somehow the child or abuse victim, particularly in extreme cases, is capable of walking away or getting help, that outside intervention is almost always required.  People want simplistic answers because it’s easier for them to understand and then blame the victim.  But if you’ve lived that life you know exactly what I’m talking about.  At the end of the day we had time to kill and the topic of this blog came up again.  ERP group leader Ms. Grey again reiterated no confidentiality had been broken.  I talked with the group how its changed my life, helped others and the idea of maybe writing a book someday.  Group member Scott Dietz challenged me saying I must have too much time on my hands.  I was gracious in my response as I explained that it was a choice of what to do with ones time locked up.  I didn’t choose to spend a lot of time working out or playing cards but writing and dealing with my own issues while doing so.  Later on cellie Larry Sands confirmed many felt resentment over what I’ve done, if they’d been mentioned.  They will just have to read it when they get out.  But I’ve decided I won’t discuss this blog with anyone here anymore when they ask about it. My instinct tells me its’ the right way in handling 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).  It was Thursday, which is Community Meeting day.  I volunteered to do the current event for the meeting the previous week and I picked an article involving the events surrounding Charlie Sheen and his very public meltdown in front of the cameras this past week. I chose to relate one of the criminal thinking defense mechanisms to each one of Sheen’s more interesting quotes from the interviews he’d given and then relate his conduct to my own.  Granted, as I’ve noted before, what I did wasn’t entirely what you might think of in the clinical definition of  criminal thinking, there are similarities.  ERP at MSDF heavily incorporates this into the non-OWI related groups so I thought this would relate to everyone.  When it was my turn I could tell the minute I started talking I’d lost the group.  They weren’t paying attention.  At the end, they clapped but id didn’t feel right.  And they never clap on a current event article.  When asked for comments, one or two commented but it was pretty obvious no one seemed to know what to do with it.  Mercifully, another social worker stepped in and began a discussion on how everyone saw Sheen’s rehabilitation attempts in light of the chronic abuse depicted in the show 2 1/2 Men.  This got the conversation going, with many commenting on this thread.  One of the things about prison you won’t get patronizing comments about how good you were if you sucked.  After the community meeting ended, this held true.  Cellie Andre Charles told me I was talking over people’s heads.  He was absolutely right.  Plus I identified 10 defensive mechanisms for the 10 Sheen quotes I read so it is a lot to process and it was too long.  So it was a learning experience.  Andre himself was bouncing off the walls.  He would graduate the next day and his on again off again girl was throwing curves at him, keeping him off balance with rules of how things will work when he gets out.  Plus he’s going to a transitional living placement (TLP) in Milwaukee County, which is a short term (90 days usually) placement designed for parolees with no place to go, where he’s not sure what he’ll encounter and doesn’t even know where it’ll be located.  They have such things like a TLP in Waukesha County where I’m suppose to go but they are usually reserved for sex offenders.  So I wonder if this will be me in 90 days or even worse, if I’ll end up in a shelter.  But I can’t focus on that just now.  The next day’s graduation ceremony saw the warden, unit manager, and all the social workers show up, and be seated off to the side while all the rest of us sat in front of the graduating ERP class.  The had constructed a door using colored paper that signified them walking through to a changed life.  They each read a quote significant to them in some fashion while the warden, unit manager, and their social workers made comments encouraging them to do well on the outside.  Then they received a certification of completion.  At the conclusion, we were all given a couple of cookies to celebrate.  But for us in our cell we all chipped in some refried beans, cheese, tortilla shells, jalapeno peppers and sodas off canteen and had our own little celebration.  We made so much we felt so sick and ended up giving a lot away.  We got so loud we even drew a warning from guard Ruth Bartowski.  I congratulated Andre and wished him the best and despite everything that happened I really meant it.  Don’t get me wrong.  He’ll be gone in 7-10 working days here and I’ll be glad about that.  But I really do hope he makes 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).  We started Week 12 of the ERP program watching a video called Beyond Conviction, a video focused on Restorative Justice between a crime victim and the perpetrator.  The first case involved a man who had raped his sister.  She sat down and though he thought he was remorseful I just didn’t buy it.  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey questioned me on the intensity of my reaction to the sex offender so I explained my reasoning.  His so called tears were fake, he described his actions as if “he was in a movie” clearly trying to distance himself from this actions and said at the end how he just wants to forget the whole experience (Prison) in such a way it screamed he was a victim.  Perhaps my background influences my feelings but one of my skills is reading people and I’m usually right.  But I suppose its possible.  The second case involved a man who had killed another man while in prison for allegedly being a snitch.  He met with his mother who wanted him to assure her that the ideal view she had of her son was true.  The perpetrator denied doing the deed but admitted to knowing about it beforehand.  He couldn’t be forthcoming due to pending appeals which made me wonder if this was too early to try restorative justice with him.  The last case was a man who killed a woman he said he loved because she didn’t want to be with him.  The victim was the daughter of the woman who had been killed and whom this inmate had cared for early in her life.  This was genuine.  It’s really all I can say.  You’ll have to see the video.  Ms. Grey handed out the week schedule.  After today (Monday), no group was scheduled so we could work on our ERP Treatment Goals and Objectives and a “ripple effect poster”.  This poster is suppose to describe what we have lost as a result of our crime.  If you’ve been following along you know I’m well aware of this.  That night I set to work on my poster.  I came up with the idea of the Domino Effect to depict what has happened with me.  It was simple and to the point.  The following day I finished all my objectives for my goals.  The last item was the five page essay on the book, Anger Is A Choice by Tim Lattaye and Bob Phillips.  It was a good book particularly on the spiritual end.  Ms. Grey surprised us and showed up for group for abut 15 minutes.   She handed out envelopes with slips of paper, then those who didn’t get them were asked how they felt.  It was different.  The The consensus was among us that she had to get group at some point that day according to some directive.  The bad news is the rest of the week it looks like I won’t have a lot of work to do.  That’s ok.  I’ve got letters to write and books to read.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  With Ms. Grey having declared Thursday and Friday as “paperwork days”, I spent 8 am to 9 am in the dayroom and the rest of the day in my cell working on ERP program materials.  Some guys enjoy hanging out with everyone while talking and such.  I’ve never been one to do so especially with this bunch, not even with the guys in my own ERP group.  I do tolerate it more with them.  First, I ‘m not overly social to begin with and then add to that I now if anything goes wrong, it could cost me another 18 months in prison.  Let’s face it, I don’t have a lot of trust in most of them.  The only one I’d say I have any kind of friendship is John Lloyd and that’s a result of him sitting at meals with me.  Our last conversation revolved around the DNA surcharge applied by judges when defendants are sentenced.  Unless DNA played a part in getting your conviction, inmates are getting that money refunded by citing State of Wisconsin vs. Cherry.  Lloyd managed to get that $250 returned like this.  I haven’t had enough sent in to have that deducted so its not been an issue for me. I suppose I’ll need to address that someday while on parole as payment of fees and fines are part of my sentence.  But we’ll see.  On Friday things went pretty much the same in the morning with one major exception.  I had gotten in the habit of locking my locker because things had turned up missing.  There are 2 locks on the locker with one lock locked to the other and that one bolted to the locker to prevent you from using it as a weapon.  I opened my locker to find a previously un-opened Jolly Rancher bag opened and my dental floss packs bag virtually emptied.  The only one in the cell had been Andre proving is is impossible.  But opening an un-opened bag makes the statement he thinks I won’t do anything about it.  While pondering on this Lloyd showed up at my door and told me Ms. Grey was in the dayroom and wanted to speak to me.  She told me that a group of students were touring MSDF and wanted me to speak to them about how I ended up in prison.  Of course I agreed.  I’ve always felt my story and my perspective might mean something, maybe help someone someday.  Of course Lloyd heard this and told some and they told others.  Pretty soon I had people giving me a hard time in a good natured way, about how I was the teachers pet.  But the afternoon came and went and no students showed up.  Ms. Grey came by about 4:30 pm and asked if anyone showed up and apologized and to have a good weekend.  I told her its no problem.  Hey, I’d been willing to do it and for this anxiety junkie that’s what its all about.  I still had to deal with the other problem.  The lock on the lockers are Masterlocks and inmates have figured out how to open them without the combination.  By rapidly turning the knob, a person can open the lock.  But I approached the guard on duty and got the combination to the second lock.  I don’t think he was suppose to give me that combination because opening that one allowed one of the locks to come free which as previously  noted that could be used as a weapon.  But with Andre having 2 or 3 weeks before his departure, I wanted to communicate to him I was aware of what he was doing.  Confronting him is a bad idea as well as marking myself as a snitch.  So lets see how it turns 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).  The new cellie, Corey Ball, is settled in but cellie Andre Charles won’t act out in front of him.  He went off on me about supposedly looking at him again.  But he waited until Ball left the room.  What followed was the usual shouts and threats and finally I caved.  I told him I’d leave him alone in the cell from 8 to 9 am instead of staying in our cell like we’re allowed to do prior to ERP group.  In exchange, for the remainder of his time, the complaints will stop.  Like I believe that’s going to happen!  Afterwards, Andre left the cell and I’m told others asked about the noise and he snapped on them to mind their own business.  One inmate told him to go ahead and get in his face and to watch what happens.  Charles backed off.  Good thing too.  I know the one who confronted him and he is every bit as unstable as he is.  There is no ERP group on Wednesday mornings.  On Wednesday afternoon our ERP group leader Ms. Grey had us watch the movie Pay It Forward starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.  I’ve seen it before and its one of the best I would say.  There was no time for discussion so she handed out a worksheet to fill out.  She also handed out a schedule for the week and it indicated Thursday and Friday would be a “Paperwork Day”, that is time to allow us to get some of the work on our ERP Goals and Objectives done.  Once group was complete I returned to my cell and all the cellies were there.  I helped Ball with his antenna for his TV. He had ordered one of the pricey Digital televisions off the catalogs but it didn’t help his reception any.  Andre joked I couldn’t fix mine so  how could I fix his?  Just like everything was back to normal or at least if it was suppose to be.  We all were still trying to be on our best behavior in front of the new guy.  We had canteen that night and talk turned to the graduation party for Andre next Friday. I stayed out of the conversation but I knew I’d get asked to contribute.  Ball is good at making “hookups” which is to combine several items into one dish.  I don’t care for doing that because it can get pretty expensive.  But I went along with it for the sake of harmony among us.  My contribution would be tortilla shells, refried beans and pepper slices.  A total of $3.74.  I really have to hold back what I truly wanted to say about having a party for Andre.  But its almost like real life isn’t it?  Everyday you have to accommodate people and do things that you don’t necessarily want to for the greater good of a given environment and I suppose this is no different.  Well of course it’s different but you know what I mean.