Posts Tagged ‘enemy’


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 left you yesterday where the buzz was about the incoming winter storm and we had a guard who was quite strict.  When second shift came and guard Ruth Bartowski came on, the dayroom greeted her arrival with cheering and clapping.  The only problem is this guard was still there.  She yelled about how she was being disrespected, how she was only going by the manual and we should dare to try doing that again.  No one did, but after she had gone everyone laughed at her.  It’s all in how you enforce the rules if the inmate respects you.  If you make it about you, the inmates won’t respect you.  At mail call, I got a pleasant surprise.  My eldest former step daughter, Lynn, had written me a nice letter.  She is doing so well.  She’s maintaining a relationship, helping her mom out and trying to get her younger sister, Lisa, on track.  She seems like she wants a relationship with me now which is so far away from where we were.  So I’m letting my guard down a little bit.  I woke up today and found Bartowski still on duty as I imagine no one was able to relieve her.  They didn’t have us come out for count and gave us breakfast and lunch by having us come out one cell at a time much like the tornado warning at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI).  Again the sense of all of that with a place that never sees the outside world and the threat is snow escapes me but oh well.  Finally Bartowski got relieved by another unknown guard and she was another strict guard making cellies Andre Charles and Brian Whalen take down the towels they use to keep their faces hidden from view.  No one ever says anything about that normally so it wasn’t received well.  As soon as she left they put the towels right back up.  Again we were happy to see Bartowski come back on duty after less than 8 hours off.  Almost instantly the environment relaxed as she exchanged blankets, laundry, let people use the restroom and get ice.  At supper we came out as normal and Bartowski announced after 6 we would have dayroom as normal and that we were the only unit getting to do that (not have to be locked in our cells) in the whole building.  I told her as I put my tray up I wish we had a hundred guards just like her.  People like her we want to follow.  Does that make sense?  I suppose some might say strict by the letter of the law following of rules is better for us over the long term.  I don’t agree.  How many of us drive 35 in a 25?  Use more water than we should in the summer?  But how about the idea that an authority figure appears to be on your side?  So many guys here have never experienced that ideal.  Authority is not the enemy and does not have to be hated.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). I was asked on Sunday to play keyboard for the choir for the Protestant church service.  After the incident with Charlie, I was glad to turn my attention elsewhere.  I had heard previously there had been quite a bit of drama associated with this particular group but I figured really, how bad could it be?  The guy leaving the group had only been in charge a week and told me to meet the other singers by the basketball court for practice.  Service was 3 hours away but no one knew the song arrangements.  Most of the time was spent on a litany of complaints and backstabbing those not there.  Many made a point of telling me their issues, perhaps because I was new and they wanted me to sway to their way of thinking.  The refrain was basically that we were under attack from the enemy (Satan), thus the problems we were having.  I was told because of guard complaints about the noise, they had taken away the drums and electric guitars.  They claimed the institution didn’t allow sufficient practice time.  Finally as further evidence of the “enemy’s” infiltration, solos had been stepped on and choir members were angered.  I just rolled my eyes.  My focus was solely to get the music down so I didn’t embarrass myself.  The leader tried to get these complicated arrangements put in place with the other vocals.  There just isn’t time.  Finally, we practiced for a half hour at the multi-purpose building and then did the service.  Simply put, it was awful.  Most of the time when you stink as a band in a church environment, people tell you it was good anyway.  Not this time.  Many in attendance let me know how awful it sounded.  My attitude was basically I get to play in a church band again so I want to take advantage.   The following day I was told by the leader that Captain Kramer and Lt. Brodie wanted to see the choir.  Kramer, an attractive middle-aged woman, is Brodie’s boss.  I know if she was there, this wasn’t good.  After we all got there, Kramer got right to the point.  Apparently, inmates in the choir from Unit 10 had been in Unit 9 areas to practice vocals which is a major offense.  Then she told us that due to this and the repeated problems incurred with this choir, that have caused her and Brodie to have to spend time on these issues every week, the choir was to be disbanded.  The only exceptions were the leader, guitar and keyboard player, being sure to point out to the leader that the chaplain had specifically asked for him.  In some ways, if intentional, it was a clever move on their part.  Appeal to the leader’s ego, cause division within the group and confuse who they should be mad at.  The problem with this is in this environment by Kramer singling out who was wanted, those people will feel pressure to not cooperate or be viewed as friendly to staff which you really don’t want here.  So now the band leader was talking like none of use would stay, that they wouldn’t tell us how to run the choir.  While he was off talking to each now former choir member, others started filling me in.  While it was true they weren’t given adequate practice time (a half hour isn’t adequate to get all this ready), the guitar players and drummers had been repeatedly about the volume level and volunteers and staff complained.  Choir members themselves had been going to the chaplain and Brodie complaining about each other.  At the end of the day, it was just easier to shut it all down.  It wasn’t Satan that was responsible for the group’s demise, it was largely the choir’s own fault.  What’s going to happen now I don’t know.  But sometimes I rather like being the quiet one! 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) Family has got an offer you can’t refuse – especially since they control every aspect of your life, potential release and they know that your financially destitute.  You feel like your not bargaining on an  equal footing, though you had more strength than you knew.  But the deal pleased the “Family”, as they keep the secrets of where the bodies are buried, who killed them and who knew about it safely hidden.  The “Family” will offer that deal and more 8 days a week to keep you silent and feel they got off light.  The past couple days around here the conversation around many has revolved around the media reports (original article entitled “Lawyer: Prison could have stopped alleged assaults” was not found, but was printed Wednesday, November 3, 2010 in the Green Bay Press-Gazette) of the payout to an inmate to not file a lawsuit concerning alleged sexual assaults by a former guard, James Trentin (I’m using his real name – I don’t usually use staff or inmates real names – but I’m using his because he was named in the media) at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution and the at best incompetent and at worst intentionally misleading investigation by “prison officials” who then compounded their failure to protect inmates by returning the alleged predator to work where he had access to the inmates.  It was after this point, with the realization he now could act with impunity, that he allegedly assaulted the victim, acted with the supposed consent with 4 others, while several others rejected his advances.  Lets be clear on a couple things.  ANY sexual activity between staff and inmates is sexual assault by staff.  Inmates cannot consent. They can’t walk away and are largely powerless to stop the activity.  Second, inmates are not above using manipulation over staff actions to get what they want.  Really, it can begin to be a contest between who the bigger predator is and which one appears to have more power at a given moment.  Many inmates have perfected their con game.  But based on my readings of the facts, I use the words “alleged predator” in regards to James Trentin because of the fact he is not viewed as a predator by the legal system.  Why you might ask?  In exchange for guilty please to misdemeanors, 22 counts of second degree sexual assault were dropped.  Trentin didn’t do a day because the prosecutor felt inmates weren’t credible despite video evidence of Trentin giving them contraband, testimony of inmates who refused his advances (thus no crime but a pattern of conduce emerges), and testimony of those who were assaulted.  In light of that, I submit the idea that inmate victims are viewed less than worthy than say a collection of victims of a single predator on the outside world, largely because there is no political group with any kind of base to speak for those victims that anyone will listen to.  If this prosecutor treated a group of victims in this fashion in the outside world, they surely would lose their job.  I challenge anyone to disagree with that statement!  But isn’t it interesting how this whole tragedy resembles the abusive family dynamic?  You’ve got generational teachers who educate the parents that run the institutions that you must protect the family at all costs and the secrets that must stay that way, or the irrational fear of family, and individual destruction is planed.  The older siblings, the guards, all know one of their own is a predator on the powerless younger siblings, inmates, but won’t tell because they know the parents really don’t want to know about it.  Some of the powerless younger siblings see no way out so try to bargain with the predatory older sibling for their silence thus gaining an illusion of power and favor.  But one younger sibling complains to the parents about the abuse.  They ask their predator child about the allegations who of course blames the victims – everyone but himself using negotiations of some of the siblings as proof of his innocence.  The parents running the institution go to the complaining sibling and decide for the good of the family’s image to do something extraordinary for the child – to give him $150,000 and extract a promise that they’ll never get put under oath and have to reveal all the family secrets.  Meanwhile, as with all family secrets, they hold their breath and hope no one else comes forward.  Secrets have become their most treasured possession.  Predators (alleged) like James Trentin almost always have had or will have another victim out there somewhere.  Time is a secret’s enemy.  The question isn’t a matter of if but when it comes out.  When it does, will the predatory older sibling go down himself or will all the dominoes fall threatening the whole family for having kept silent?  Do you know something about this or have a similar secrete no one knows? Call Thomas Hayes (414) 271-9844), a lawyer looking into this, or email this blogs sponsors.  Don’t sit in silence any longer.