Posts Tagged ‘emotions’


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. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we got started on reading Chapter 13 on forgiveness out loud to each other in Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain.  Of course, I’ve already read this for my phase one Treatment and Goals.  But it’s a deep read and an excellent chapter of a great book so I don’t mind reading it again.  I had to laugh when it talked about practicing forgiveness toward your cellmate (page. 251) on a daily basis.  If you were following the saga of former cellie Andre Charles and I, it certainly tested my limits.  But he’s gone so I can afford to laugh about it now!  It was all pretty quiet.  We had some fireworks in the afternoon.  We did the exercise “Getting Clear” on page 206-208. Basically, your ripping away the layers of emotions and thinking away from a given situation.  I chose the relationship with my former step daughter Lynn and what was behind why we couldn’t have the relationship I wish we had.  What was interesting is many of the problems I did the right thing but often for reasons that were related to my own needs for a close family and love, not for Lynn.  It also occurred to me how few active relationships are no in my life.  I had to bring up things from before I was jailed almost 2 years ago.  Anyway,  I wasn’t chosen by Ms. Grey to share mine so I listened as others shared.  The one that stood out was group member Scott Dietz who discussed his relationship with his ex-wife.  He clearly was angry with her for having cheated on him and said he showed progress by not kicking the butts of both of them.  There was no interest in forgiving her.  Ms. Grey tried to push the issue with him and he railed against her for thinking anyone could possibly forgive after that.  We were all pretty shocked at how he spoke to her and was looking around for group members to support him.  No one did.  We began telling him verbalizing threats against his ex was not ok.  This was so obvious we couldn’t sit by and ignore it.  After lunch, Ms. Grey handed out the evaluations she had done on us for Phase one of ERP.  Mine was ok, although she called me a “Super grouper”, a term of derision used by inmates for one who is zealous in a group.  No one ever called me that as Ms. Grey has gotten on me a few times.  I’m sure she didn’t intend to insult me.  Her point was I contribute to group and ask questions when I don’t understand.  Some in the group challenged their evaluation, particularly Dietz and cellie Larry Sands but she held her ground and for once Dietz let it go.  We got done with group and it came time for our community meeting as is now our custom on Thursdays at 3 pm.  Our ERP group got a “positive reinforcement” from the group for almost getting to Phase 2.  Everyone had a good laugh over that as many thought we’d be there last week.  I don’t care about such designations.  I can count and the only numbers that count is 84, the number of days to graduation from this program and 679, the number of days since I was incarcerated and my life was completed upended on May 8, 2009.  If I can do 679 , deal with what I have, learned what I have and grown as I have I can do another 89 standing on my head.  Ok, not literally but you know what I mean.   


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It’s February 1st and we’re suppose to begin the worst snow storm in a decade this afternoon.  As noted when I first got here, we can’t see or hear what’s going on outside.  I have mixed emotions about that.  In years past, I’d have been stocking up on comfort foods like pizza and chips and prepared to enjoy a lot of coffee while having fun with the kids.  There would be lots of shoveling too but even that was ok as you knew hot coffee and blankets awaited you when finished.  I’d have reruns of “House” and “Law and Order: SVU” taped which the wife and I would watch.  There’s no wife or kids, certainly no driveways or sidewalks to shovel and little chance of getting real cold in the climate controlled recycled air of MSDF.  But there’s little sense in thinking like this.  There’s another kind of storm brewing, one which could potentially change the WPS landscape.  A graduate of ERP named Emmit Bankhead robbed several banks in succession and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn again called for an end to the “early release program”. As I’ve told you all before, people often make this mistake when referring to this program.  But Flynn made the assertion that “we all know it doesn’t work” and called for people to serve their full sentences.  This combined with Gov. Scott Walker’s choice to head the Department of Corrections (DOC), former Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin, who is on record for opposing programs such as ERP, and you have to wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the end for ERP.  Please don’t think me selfish for being very happy I’m enrolled now.  Most inmates in my group when discussing it feel it won’t be here next year.  I’ve even heard some staff wonder the same thing.  You’ve got to feel for some of the folks as their jobs might be threatened under Gov. Walker.  He’s definitely on a mission you got to give him that.  Well, today we had strict guards on 3rd and 1st shift.  The third shift guards turned off the water on the sinks which inmates ran to drown out the sounds of the well, bathroom use and then turned off the power twice at around 5 am so everyone’s clock reset to flashing twelve’s.  Of course everyone had to guess if they could come to the dayroom.  The official reason was a generator test but the way the guards carried themselves told the story that they were mean spirited people.  The guard on first shift again not a regular, was strictly enforcing the dress code, specifically our white t-shirts had to be tucked in and that we always had to ask to use the bathroom.  Several got warnings put on their card.  Our ERP group got started with Scott Dietz turn to read his autobiography.  He’s a businessman, a guy who starts or improves existing companies.  When he got bored, he got drunk.  His story of a debilitating accident didn’t pass the smell test. He got an OWI reduced to reckless driving but claims no alcohol was involved and that he had fallen asleep.  No one challenged him on it.  I’m still trying to figure out when its acceptable to do that or if I should at all.  But that’s todays report.  I hope you get shoveled out ok if you live in the area.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  My routine is such that I walk on the track in the afternoon.  When I returned to my bunk area I found out that one of the guys near me had been busted for smoking cigarettes outside.  He was a well liked guy around here.  The guards called a van to take him to the hole immediately.  Though he was well liked, it didn’t take but a minute for those same who had been friendly to turn into vultures.  They began going through his things taking what they wanted while keeping an eye out for a guard who might approach.  Finally, a second shift guard rolled a cart down the aisle.  He began to box all his possessions  that they hadn’t taken.  He received assistance from his cellie (bunkmate), who had been one of them going through his things.  It’s different here than other facilities I’ve been at.  Some inmates and guards are friendly and are open about it with each other.  But I’d never seen an inmate help a guard do his job before, much less pack up his own cellie.  The sight of this repulsed me, even made me angry.  Ironically,  before I came to prison, I always would assist those in authority if I could.  Yet now, I know I would not.  What changed?  I’m pretty sure this isn’t a positive change in me.  Has my assimilation as an inmate in the WPS been such that the way I think has been altered, even turned upside down?  That I would side with the criminal against those who represent the system?  I’ve even noticed when I write, I’ve changed in how I refer to inmates, saying “we” as if I’m one of them.  I told you when I wrote this blog, I’m going to be honest.  You’ve seen the ways I’ve grown and the positives.  Part of that honesty is things that don’t necessarily put me in a good light.  I don’t want to overreact either.  But I have recognized how my outlook has changed.  Anyway, after all of this inmates things were packed, they slid the cart down the hall, and loaded it onto a van where it would get taken to property.  He’ll be gone for awhile.  That night, the inmate who helped the guard pack his cellie up approached me and asked if I wanted a lamp.  I asked where it came from and he told me not to ask questions.  A lamp is something every inmate should get from the catalogs but I had not, thinking I could get by without it. But after my arrival at FMCI, and not having a desk, a lamp on your bunk bed is almost a necessity.  I have no doubt where this lamp he wanted to give me came from.  But as I write this in the dark with that lamp fastened to my bunk I have mixed emotions about it.  Again, I would never have accepted it 17 months ago.  But I’m happy I can write any hour of the day and night now.  I just have a little less respect for myself now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you had a little less respect for me too.