Posts Tagged ‘faith’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Monday started off just weird.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey had us all assemble in our former group room which doubles as the rec room.  There she informed us we need to be patient while awaiting our release paperwork to be processed and to stop having people on the outside contact the clerks for the judges involved.  The problem is none of us have any faith in her or the process involved.  It doesn’t help that the perception of Ms. Grey’s attitude has been one that seems to enjoy seeing the people in our group twist in the wind as they wait and not forthcoming with information.  As for me, I was fortunate enough not to be involved with Milwaukee County and that my parole officer (PO) had already faxed my C15 form authorizing my release for Wednesday.  I thought I was done with Ms. Grey, not quite.  I was called to come see her in the dayroom from my cell.  She wanted to know how I was getting transported from the bus station and if the PO had approved my plans.  Of course, this had been done months ago.  Then I was called down again because she had lost the Socrates assessment I had done way back at the beginning of this ERP group.  She gave me a new one to fill out.  At 1 pm she returned to collect it.  I had thought about it and decided to ask if there was some sort of problem with my release plan.  She said no. She then asked me if I was the group member that drank Everclear.  I replied no I wasn’t.  I was the guy who liked to drink alone at night.  She nodded and went away.  I’m sure she’s trying to write my case summary for my PO, Helen Gaither and her memory has failed her again.  I thought social workers would keep notes on such things.  But my problems are nothing compared to what 3 of my fellow ERP group members are dealing with.  Cellie Larry Sands has somehow had his release paperwork get lost between when records sent it the Thursday before our graduation from ERP.  Scott Bunker has had his release paperwork get put on the wrong desk because his judge had retired.  John Lloyd has had his judge involved in a murder trial so nothing was getting done.  Interestingly enough Lloyd and Bunker are Waukesha County cases.  But neither Bunker or Sands find out what is happening without the assistance of the sister of ERP group member Scott Dietz who is kind enough to follow up on their cases with phone calls and inquiries.  Lloyd had his girlfriend following up for him or he wouldn’t have found out.  They were fortunate to not have heeded Ms. Grey’s acclamation this morning.  The rest of the guys have no had their release paperwork signed.  Now they are just waiting their PO to release them.  One, Augie Prescott is getting released tomorrow (Tues, June 21st), his PO having been quick with the turn around.  Bunker did get some good news.  That ear plug that had gotten stuck worked itself out after fluid build up and pushed it out enough to where he could get it.  He still can’t hear as he feels like he’s underwater but hopefully he’ll be ok now.  I just watched TV that night.  I had figured today to be my release date almost since I got here.  But I’m not complaining, I’m grateful.  I could be going through what Sands, Bunker, or Lloyd are going through.  It really is almost over. 

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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).  It’s Friday and most everyone in our group is on edge awaiting news that their release paperwork has been returned by their judge having graduated the ERP.  It’s been 7 days since then.  Past groups that have graduated have always had more progress on getting people their paperwork than we have.  In addition, Milwaukee County has always been the slowest in processing this paperwork for past groups even though the courthouse is literally across the street.  My paperwork returned from Winnebago County on Wednesday and it’s a couple hours from here.  ERP group member Dean Stark became the first of the 10 of us to be released.  He left with no boxes just some papers in a bag.  I would be the next to get some news.  My C15 form authorizing MSDF to release me was sent by my parole officer (PO) Helen Gaither.  But the order was postdated for Wednesday June 22nd.  As our ERP social worker Ms. Grey informed me I admit to feeling disappointment at first.  I was hoping against hope to get released today or since Monday isn’t possible, Tuesday at the latest.  But as Ms. Grey walked away from me, I realized though I’m not getting out when I want, the fact the guesswork when I’m being released has been eliminated which rarely happens in this program.  As she left me, ERP group member Kevin House inquired if there was any news.  She told him “not to worry about it, you’re not going anywhere”.  You may as well have kicked him in the stomach because those words didn’t hurt any less.  What is she thinking?  This seems humorous to her, how the rats in the cage keep trying to find the way out.  We spent the rest of the day talking amongst ourselves off and on about what might be happening that is preventing the rest of the guys in our group paperwork from being processed.  At supper I again noticed the guard on duty reading my Green Bay Press Gazette before I got it.  Oh well.  At mail call I was delighted to again hear from my biological family.  My cousin expressed concern that I stay in touch after my release.  Are you kidding me?  I wrote back.  I’ve spent years looking for them.  No way am I going to stop talking to them. They like the idea of me visiting over Thanksgiving if I can arrange it.  They also want my phone number too which I should get when I pick up a cell phone on my way to my new home for the moment in Menasha, Wi.  I also heard from my friend Jill who has been following this blog almost since it started.  She is from Australia and has become a good friend.  She invited me to Sydney, Australia!  Of course, I suspect this would violate my parole!  But maybe someday.  I also want to see Israel and the West Bank someday as there is so much there related to my faith.  But that will have to wait too.  The day ended with ERP group member Scott Dietz again talking to his sister and again the same result.  No action on their cases.  Everyone says it doesn’t bother them but their eyes betray them.  I am grateful that it will soon be 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).  Wednesday typically has little activity but today was an exception.  At 9 am 2 Milwaukee County parole officers (PO) paid a visit to our ERP unit for an orientation to what to expect upon release.  They both were female, heavyset, one was black and the other white.  They let us know that they were designated to work specifically with ERP offenders.  All offenders would be on GPS monitoring or bracelets that monitor alcohol use or possibly both.  Curfew is 8 pm and aftercare is required throughout the time you are on supervision.  They might talk to other family members or friends and neighbors about what it is you are doing if they have questions about it.  This of course drew howls of protests from the inmates.  One after another stood up complaining they hadn’t been told about this when they signed up at their PRC hearing how unfair it is to stand on them like this, how they have no faith in this program and other really asinine comments.  About this time, my ERP social worker Ms. Grey had me go with her for my third and final PO call.  My PO, Helen Gaither, is from the Outagamie County office so things will be a bit different.  Once we got her on the phone it got to the point really quick.  The only question I had was where the PO Office was located and what to do if I got released too late in the day to get there during business hours.  That answer was to come in the next business day.  She also indicated as soon as the amended judgment of conviction came, sometime after completing the program on June 10th and Ms. Grey sends the C15 to Ms. Gaither she will within one business day, unless it is Thursdays when she does home visits, fax the release order back.  If she gets it Thursday, I’ll be stuck here until the following Monday.  The call concluded and Ms. Grey made the comment that she didn’t seem friendly at all.  I thought to myself I don’t care if she’s friendly as long as she is fair.  But Ms. Grey said it with a smile on her face, like she thought this was a good thing.  The PO orientation wrapped up just as we were leaving.  A short while later, Ms. Grey brought the graduation project program sample printout to me.  She had altered the 3 dimensional effect I had achieved with the letters of the word Transformer and the bumble bee transformer image.  In so doing, the layers slipped below the printout line.  She walked away before I could say anything.  I just don’t care, but the others I showed it to did.  But she won’t be back until June 3rd so even if she lets me fix it there may not be time before graduation.  But on a more happy note.  I splurged a bit on canteen this week.  I ordered salsa which when applied to food makes food much more tolerable.  Perhaps too my taste buds have been lulled to sleep for so long by prison food it doesn’t know what to do with salsa!  But it was good.  We’ve got 16 days left until graduation and hopefully a soon exit afterwards. 


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).  My first morning as a swamper along with my fellow swamper, David Sussex went without incident.  In the time we await the food I got to know him a little bit.  He proclaims himself a born again Christian, as I consider myself, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt him.  He is very vocal about his faith here while I am, as with everything else I do here, am very quiet.  Every morning he is out there reading his Bible just as I do.  If he irritates me in some fashion, its probably his desire to engage me in conversation about what I’m reading and start “preaching” about anything I might share that I struggle with.  But that probably says more about me than him!  As our ERP group got started that morning our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, took the topics from the resumes and interviews to the in-depth topic of relationships.  She handed out another workbook from The Change Companies designed for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that we had used early in group called Living With Others, and another packet from Earnie Larson.  We have used his materials before as well.  We spent the morning on an exercise where we identified the feelings connected to dating through marriage.  She then erased the words “first date” and replaced it with “addiction” and it followed pretty closely.  Pretty clever.  In the afternoon we watched the first four parts of video From the Inside Out from Hazeldon featuring Earnie Larson.  It’s actually quite good.  The first part got into why relationships are important. It looked at positive and negative relationships in our past lives, the different types of relationships, how love has been taught to us in the past, and principles of building good relationships.  I had difficulty sharing details of what my past impressions of love were like early on and solidified as the years went on.  But everyone knows me now and aren’t shocked by my answers anymore.  Even if they were, I decided long ago I was going to be honest.  I’m also grateful no one calls me a liar here as others have in the past, such as the psychiatrist at my court proceedings did and others did as I was growing up into adulthood.  I’m now able to document most details of my past thanks to my contact with my biological family.  After group ended at 4 pm, we had another fill in guard as they still haven’t yet replaced Ruth Barthowski, named Larry Cable.  Due to differing rules with different guards, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved.  Following customs set by pervious officers or what is considered normal.  But it was pretty clear while Sussex and I waited for the dinner trays he was going to be anything but predictable.  Its customary for inmates to go out in the hall in front of the cell to fart if necessary as a courtesy to their cellies.  However; Cable yelled at cellie Corey Ball for doing so.  Then he had us swampers walk around and make sure cell doors were closed.  Again, not normally done.  Cable then tried to micromanage how many extra trays we’d get and how many we’d try to send away.  Ok, I don’t care.  But then the extra tray I did get I took to my table and gave away all of its contents to the guys sitting there.  Cable said I couldn’t give the extra food away, that it was only for me, even though the rule book clearly says I can.  Problem is technically swampers aren’t supposed to get extra food at all.  So the rulebook doesn’t help either of us.  So as he is yelling at me in front of everyone, he announces he won’t allow extra trays when he works here anymore.  Others would later tell me that I should have quit right there.  But I didn’t.  I was mad though. I would return later before 6 pm count and ask him not to hold the whole unit responsible for something I didn’t know was his rule.  Finally he said he’d consider it.  It was uncomfortable at cleanup before 9:15 pm count.  But I’m just grateful he won’t be here often.  Being a swamper is fine but I’m not going to put myself in jeopardy to do 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).  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).  I woke up in segregation, also known as “The Hole”, with a much different reality than the one I knew less than 10 hours before.  The night had been quiet much to my surprise as the stories I’d heard about seg said it was loud all the time but as you might expect I didn’t sleep well anyway.  New environments and uncertainty are a huge feeding ground for the anxiety junkie in me to gorge on.  But it was different this time.  I had confidence that I’d come out of this okay, mostly because I felt like I’d done nothing wrong writing for this blog.  I’d conducted myself in a reputable manner, never putting staff or inmates at any kind of risk and being truthful to the best of my knowledge without being vulgar in the process.  I’ve grown and learned a lot as a result and a lot of others have found our efforts useful.  I just didn’t want to believe I”d have to do another 18 months because of this.  Breakfast came in a brown paper bag, the same breakfast on my unit.  But here in Seg, the guards are the ones wearing hairnets and hats, stuffing the breakfast bags and distributing meal trays from us through trap doors in our cells.  Often they have no swamper assistance.  My faith everything was going to come out alright was tested later in the day on Saturday when a guard showed up at my cell wanting my signature for my property.  They’d packed up all my stuff out of my unit.  I wondered if they’d gone through all of that if there was a possibility I’d be coming back to ERP.  I signed it despite not knowing if all the stuff is really there.  I’d seen what can happen when someone goes to the hole, how his supposed friends can rip him off.  I expressed my concerns about my losing my bunk on the ERP unit and what it might mean to guard Sam Neville, the regular 2nd shift guard in Seg on 5A.  He assured me this was standard procedure for anyone going to the hole.  Again he put me at ease.  He also told me he was sure the DOC and MSDF simply didn’t know what to do in this situation as it was something they hadn’t encountered before.  So I would spend the next few days sleeping, pacing the floor, reading my Bible and reading the book The Last Disciple by Hangeraaff and Brower, which incidentally are both excellent books!  Surrounding me in the cells were people representing the extremes of violence and insanity.  Every once in awhile, only when the lights were turned on after 11 am and always on 2nd shift someone would do something which would require 5 to 8 guards to come running to intervene shouting of “Stop Resisting!” as they struggled with the offender.  One such incident the inmate tried to pull Neville through the meal slot in the door which was a physical impossibility.  Another situation when he was trying to move an inmate to another cell, the inmate decided to start kicking him.  In trying to subdue him, one guard was injured using the Taser on him.  The inmate ran around his cell naked which of course everyone saw thanks to the fishbowl mirrors on the walls.  The other inmates cheered.  It was funny yet sad.  The supervisor who would visit him told him he was facing a year in the hole for assaulting staff.  Could you imagine a year of this?  You get 4 hours of rec a week.  Rec consisted of going into a cage a quarter of the size of my cell with a TV on the wall which the guard had the remote for.  On the other side was another gate.  I met a man who was suicidal and an avowed racist on different days. It was just good to have conversation that wasn’t through a door.  I finally got to shower on Monday in my cell.  I got a few visitors.  Dr. Raymonds, a psychiatrist, the psychologist who met with ERP group member Larry Sands and Seg social worker Peter Botha.  All came because unnamed people had expressed concern for my well being.  That made me feel good and was surprising considering how little I say.  But Tuesday came and went with no word if I’d be released.  I even said to Neville, hey you said I’d be out of here by now!  But I knew he didn’t know why either.  Finally, on Thursday night the call I’d been waiting for came.  I was told to pack up and return to my unit.  Boy was I happy!  I was pretty sure everyone there knew about the blog by now.  This place can’t keep a secret to save its life.  How would they all react?  I was nervous but what are you going to do?  The important thing was no institutional charges and I’d get to finish my ERP program.  I said a silent prayer thanking God for answering my prayers as they led my back to my unit on 4C.