Posts Tagged ‘English’


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 actually ventured out this weekend and socialized a bit, playing ping pong on the table in the rec room that doubles as the location where our ERP group meets.  I always thought the smell of body odor was strong when our group met during the day but when the rec room weight machines are in use its almost overwhelming.  But like most things you adjust.  I lost every single ping pong game, including two to cellie Brian Whalen and one to cellie Larry Sands.  I used to be pretty good years ago but ping pong is all about touch and if you don’t have it your going to lose.  I spoke with my adoptive parents about initially staying with them when I get out or trying to find a way to make it at a shelter or finding a way to find a halfway house but we really didn’t resolve anything.  Come Monday shortly after 9:30 am, our ERP leader Ms. Grey and intern Nikita came in.  We are again doing the previously abandoned breathing exercises, but now its voluntary to participate.  Afterwards, we got into the evils of sugar and The Harmful Effects of Sugar on Mind and Body (squar is right!) followed by materials on The Harmful Effects of Caffeine and on Caffeine and your Adrenals – could they be paying dearly?, which targets women.  Since we’re all men, this confused us a bit.  Quite frankly, we were all wondering why we were looking at sugar and caffeine issues.  After lunch the next topic wasn’t much better – tobacco.  Most of us had previously smoked cigarettes, but this topic drew a lot of annoyed looks.  I have to  admit I was pretty restless too.  The video targeted junior high kids and said cigarettes cost $23 a carton.  Ok, probably in 1987 that might have been true!  At the end we took a test which I did ok on.  But no worries on me smoking.  Its too expensive now and it would be very bad for my health.  After supper though, I got something that made my day.  At mail call, my sponsors had sent me a letter.  There was a note from 3 high school students who are doing an English paper on prison efficiency and effectiveness and were using this blog as a reference.  I wrote back saying I’d love to help and read their paper when they’re done.  Maybe I’ll even publish it here.  It made me feel good this blog has helped others as it has for the past 15 months.  But mostly it’s helped me.  I wish every inmate has had the opportunity my sponsors provided me.  


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After the events on Wednesday, I decided to talk to ERP group members John Lloyd and Larry Sands about how I should handle it.  Should I bring it up in the ERP group, bring it up to my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, in private or not bring it up at all?  Lloyd was adamant I should leave it alone with his reasoning nothing good would come out of it.  Sands said I should bring it up in group, that if private journal contents which are supposed to only be between the inmate and his ERP group leader could be divulged to another ERP group leader who then divulges it to another inmate supposedly mentioned in the journal (I always used shorthand only known to me to identify another inmate in the journal but the problems with cellie Andre Charles that I and many other inmates had with him were well known) was a clear breach of trust which was a group issue that needed to be addressed.  Sands was right of course but for the wrong reasons.  His relationship with Ms. Grey is strained at this point in time.  After our group did its breathing exercises it became evident she’d been reading complaints about this way of starting group as she asked for a vote on whether to continue it.  Eight of us voted no.  In the ensuing feedback, I pointed out this wasn’t a democracy and others echoed that sentiment.  After she prepared to move on I raised my hand and said I had an issue.  I started from the beginning, about how important confidentiality was and how I had shared things in my autobiography, in other materials and had this not been there I couldn’t have done it.  I then asked if contents of these materials were divulged to others.  She reminded the group and I about the limited confidentiality that exists between us, that other ERP group leaders and her supervisor may be consulted about our cases and should we confess to another crime.  I agreed that’s what we’d been told but asked how it was that another inmate would come by information that had only been in my journal knowing full well what the answer was as Andre had told me yesterday that his ERP group leader had told him.  I was hoping she would connect the dots herself but that was a no go.  She asked me to explain so I did in plain English.  Andre’s group leader asked him about it, told him not to worry about it after his denial, accused me of just trying to get him in trouble and to keep it to himself.  Ms. Grey’s disposition noticeably changed.  She asked me to confirm that another social worker had brought this up to Andre without I or Ms. Grey being present?  I replied yes.  She was furious.  The rest of the group, largely silent, began to speak up on my behalf, saying this process obviously couldn’t be trusted, particularly Sands.  Others tried to bring up their own issues, smelling blood in the water but Ms. Grey shut that down.  Ms. Grey said she wanted to bring all 4 of us together at this point but I argued the point.  Andre is leaving in 3 or 4 days as he’s graduated.  It’s just going to make matters worse in my cell.  The problem will be gone ten.  But she seemed to insist. S he also told me I’d not be allowed to have Sands move in when Andre leaves.  Ms. Grey apologized for the breach that had occurred with the journal.  We’ve suspected there was friction between the various ERP group leaders but now we know it. She was clearly angry as she said she’d be addressing this with them.  I sank in my chair not looking forward to this possible meeting.  The guys in the group came up to me, especially Lloyd, saying I should have left it alone.  Perhaps they are right.  Maybe in a “normal” treatment environment I did the right thing bringing it up.  But not here, that’s for sure.  Two things are clear.  I’ll never put anything important in their journal again.  And I’ll bet Ms. Grey will start reading them more often from now on. 


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.