Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’


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 social worker Ms. Grey started off the day finishing up the workbook The Price of Freedom is Living Free. Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack. D. Cooper and the video that goes along with it.  She pointed out the entry on the last page (52) entitled “The Beginning” really sums up the choices before us, to live free or to live in bondage.  I wish I had the space to share it but I sent my copy to the blog sponsors and they can link or post it per their choice. Here is the excerpt:

“The Beginning – Those of use who have made the choice to live free understand that the choices we make will always have a price tag.  We just need to be clear on what price we are going to pay:  the price for freedom or the price for bondage.  Both choices in living are available to us.  The pay-off for our old values in living are consistent and predictable…standing for count, random strip searches, the constant roar of inmates, correction officers, concrete and steel or waiting for that letter that won’t come.  What price are you going to pay?  In making your decision, you might ask yourself, “Am I prepared to spend another month, decade or lifetime locked up for a few hours of excitement here on the street?”  If your answer is yes, the system will gladly refund your misery. The choice rests with you.

Whether we are locked up or on the streets, we can choose to live free.  As “values” in living are rational, sound and sensible.  We recognize that we possess the ability to feel, appreciate and understand, as we learn to change the internal and external condition of our lives.  We can take care of ourselves while simply caring for others.  We can start living our own lives usefully, respecting other people’s rights to live as they choose.  We will understand that getting is not always better than giving, and that chasing objects and holding attitudes that set us apart from other people are not as important as seeking values that will bring us together.  Finally, we will see that we’ve been brought back into being…living with value and living free.”

For lunch we were having chicken salad, one of the better meals here.  For me as a swamper, what it meant is we would go through more bread than normal.  We’re usually provided 3 loafs of bread for the meal but inmates are accustomed to asking for and getting more than the 2 pieces allotted by the menu, which is okay, considering they cheat us on the quantity on most other things such as potatoes!  But toady I wasn’t going to be able to give more than 2 slices.  Inmates weren’t happy when I wouldn’t give more than 2 slices, but oh well. I treated them all the same, my cellies, guys at my table, everyone.  I told those who gave me a hard time they could come back for anything left over.  As I finished serving I heard a remark made by ERP group member Mark Hogan that since I’d become a swamper I was acting like a cop.  He was talking to someone else but clearly intended for me to hear it.  Like an idiot, I stopped at his table and asked him if he had something on his mind.  Fortunately he said no.  What would I have done if he hadn’t????  Of course, I didn’t let it go at that.  After the meal while I was cleaning up, I went to his cell and asked him what the problem was.  Hogan apologized and I reluctantly tapped his knuckles.  I don’t believe his apology but I’m betting he was smarter than me today knowing nothing good would come from this.  At our afternoon ERP session, Ms. Grey showed a movie I think we’ve seen before called Smoke Signals, a movie showing two Native Americans who attempt to overcome their own issues from their past each for their own perspective.It was obviously effective on some level for Augie Prescott as he was moved to tears.  I thought it was a good movie.  But I decided during the movie that this swamper experiment is going to have to end.  The reasons I took the job weren’t nearly as important to me as graduating.  ERP in 28 days on June 10th.  It had given me the material for my Phase 3 Goals and Objectives on improving socialization and patience so it wasn’t a total bust.  Only thing the guard who’d have to approve the change, Roscoe Peters, wasn’t working so I told the sergeant on duty I wasn’t feeling well.  I got the guy who had the job before me and who still wanted it to take over for me until Peters got back.  Many, including former cellie Malik Pearl who had tried to scheme him out of the job, weren’t happy he was coming back but I just don’t care.  I felt like a huge load was off my shoulders.  I got more good news.  In the mail, blog sponsors let me know my biological relatives had checked in and they were safe.  Also, cellie Brian Whalen who is being released Monday, that though he wishes to to maintain contact with the former swamper who wants to rob him, he is no longer willing to engage Whalen in any kind of business dealing since Whalen has a bit of a tendency to talk too much.  You think????  But Whalen doesn’t have any idea of the kind of bullet he has dodged.  Next week is the third PO call and our presentation of Phase 3 Goals and Objectives, while working on our legacy project.  Let’s keep it simple from here on out.

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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).  After two days without any kind of ERP group I was ready to get back at it if only to defeat the boredom.  First item on the agenda was images for our graduation program handout for June 10th.  Previously ERP social worker Ms. Grey gave me what she thought were images but she had accidentally saved the web page instead.  Hopefully these will be right.  I have retained the majority of the color schema of the previous ERP graduation handout.  There just isn’t time to start from scratch.  So then we plowed into the new video and workbook series The Price of Freedom is Living Free Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack Cooper.  We completed the majority of the wordbook through page 41.  It was a simple yet effective way to address these issues.  One interesting point was when the issue of what we fear came up.  I answered honestly that I fear my release from prison.  There is so much I’m going to have to do that it can be overwhelming to think about it.  It also might have something to do with my horrible attitude as of late.  At 3 pm, we went into the dayroom for our weekly community meeting.  These have really gone downhill.  Even guys in our own group aren’t participating.  The quote and word for the week were people that were turned into the butt of a joke.  It ended with the guys who got busted the previous night complaining about it during the time that was supposed to be for “positive reinforcements” at the end.  Ms. Carr ended up telling him he’d go to the hole if he didn’t quiet down, and she didn’t care if he graduated or not.  Supper was interesting for a couple reasons with my swamper job. First, swamper David Sussex had taken some cookies I had gotten as extras for serving.  When I found out he had I felt that familiar burn of anger.  Then he commented that he was messing with me and was just giving me a test.  I’m thinking to myself who the heck are you to give me a test?  Fortunately, it ended okay with no hard feelings.  A quirk about me:  I don’t like me or my stuff messed with.  I know that’s not healthy but it is who I am.  How do you fix it?  Then after supper and when we are supposed to clean, Sussex got a visit which meant I had to do all the jobs.  I didn’t mind at all.  His job essentially was to stack the dirty trays on the cart, tie them down, put the trash I get on the car and put it out in the hall to be collected.  No big deal.  People watched out of their cell windows to see if I’d drop the trays or if I knew what I was doing.  I didn’t care.  Getting back to the cell, I heard cellie Brian Whalen got some good news about his release.  His paperwork had been returned and he expects to get cut loose Monday.  I’m happy for him, even though I know his plans and the danger in store for him.  I do think I’m going to warn him this weekend.


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 seems more had gone on that I didn’t know about on Monday.  As I’ve told you previously, our ERP group leader Ms. Grey was unhappy with guard Ruth Barthowski for having helped inmates with information and advice.  Ms. Grey in full hearing of all inmates in the dayroom told her it wasn’t her place to have helped inmates in any fashion as that’s not her job.  That was followed by a phone call from the unit manager to Barthowski  echoing the same sentiments.  Barthowski disappeared halfway through the shift due to a medical emergency at home.  I hope that wasn’t just a cover story but I also hope everything is ok there.  The next day in the morning began the second week of parole officer (PO) calls.  But Ms. Grey has clearly been embedded in recent events.  People from the last graduating class were working out in the rec room which doubles as our group room and the computer room, which doubles as a visiting room, during ERP program hours.  Historically graduates have been granted a lot of freedom while awaiting their paperwork to be processed.  But Grey went to all these inmates and pointed out that according to the letter of the contract signed when PRC granted us ERP they still have to follow ERP program rules until release, even asserting herself on regular 1st shift guard Roscoe Peters.  I do agree with her that I don’t want to smell the sweat of people working out that morning in our afternoon group session but I wonder if the ERP staff know or care that their very public in fighting is so obvious to us and the damage to their credibility it is doing.  Our afternoon session was devoted to the study of Ecstasy.  We watched the video Ecstasy When the Party’s Over from the Educational Video Network.  It dwelled on the physical consequences of its use.  Then we watched the movie called Crash starring Terrance Howard and Sandra Bullock.  Its storyline revolved around the ripple effect of intolerance and bigotry on its participants.  It was a good movie.  At the end of the session there were a couple of surprises.  As you recall, Ms. Grey had asked me to help group member Mark Hogan do his Phase II Goals and Objectives.  Hogan had let me help with one of his goals but insisted the other one was fine.  Ms. Grey didn’t.  But she gave it back to me to help him which annoyed me.  But then the last thing that was said took me back a bit.  She told us that we are here to work on ourselves and not worry about her and that she gets to go home at night and we don’t.  That was rude but clearly these words were a reaction to something else, possibly cellie Larry Sands stories to the psychiatrist.  Sometimes the days are just a struggle you know?  But that night I got mail from the biological father’s family responding to the last letter where I laid much of what had happened years ago in a letter passed via email.  Much to my surprise they didn’t reject me.  They even confirmed some of the horrors my biological father had done to some of them.  They had  had doubts I was who I claimed to be.  No longer.  I didn’t write back that night.  I’m just drained these days.  But I found some good medicine that night on Milwaukee Public Television watching the series The Civil War A Film by Ken Burns.  Such an excellent production.  It was chicken soup for my soul.


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 morning in our ERP group we finished the movie “Antwone Fisher” starring Denzel Washington, after which we did a questionnaire on the movie.  But talk about art paralleling life!  I just had biological family relatives finally getting in touch with me recently.  I did share what was going on with me in the ensuing discussion and how I was happy the movie didn’t end with some cheesy glorious ending between his mother and him.  Ok, I’m a little jaded.  I just don’t think it happens that often.  Afterwards we finished up the “Rational Thinking” workbook from The Change Companies.  At the afternoon session, we watched a ten year old movie called “Tough Guise”.  Its premise is basically we as men have been programmed to think as violent creatures in order to prove our manhood.  We were encouraged to not believe that obviously.  We received a new workbook “The Price of Freedom is Living Free – Lifestyles and Values” by Jack D. Cooper, published by Kindred Publishing and Productions, and were assigned the first 10 pages.  We were also given a bunch of handouts on Denial, Defense Systems, the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy model, thinking cycle, core beliefs, irrational thinking, the three R Cycle (resentment, rehearsal, revenge) and Stages of Change.  It took 20 minutes to get all this passed out.  To be honest, I’m under motivated right now.  I was up at 5 am to get a shot at the shower and laundry so I’m tired.  I also know this family stuff is on my mind.  I don’t know if they were aware of the early years.  One of them doesn’t know I know my biological father raped them too (his own sister).  Part of me really wished this hadn’t come along right now but something tells me the timing is no accident.  To make matters worse, I caught Andre Charles in my locker but he didn’t know I was watching.  He’s accustomed to have been doing this with Brian Whalen.  So I got the combination to my lock and moved things around so I can lock up my canteen.  That’s going to create questions but this anxiety junkie doesn’t need another reason to get uptight.  Bottom line it’s just not a great day for me.  You have those too.  Issues are different but the results are the same.  But it’s going to be ok.  At count right after supper, the second shift guard announced we shouldn’t interrupt him while he was eating because “dieting makes you crazy” and it must be obvious to us he was a bodybuilder.  We all laughed.  Nobody cared what he does or what his problems were.  But it made me smile so that was a good thing.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). Shortly after count last night, the Koss headphones I bought off the catalogs, a plastic piece by the right ear just fell off making the ear piece unable to stay connected (Jack L. Marcus catalog #2168).  I got them while at JCI several months ago and they take a considerable pounding since I never listen to TV or radio without them.  I spent the rest of the night after shaving my head wearing those headphones being careful not to touch them once I got them on my head lest I cause the headphone to fall.  It’s unfortunate it happened right before Christmas break where TV viewing will be a major pastime.  With Christmas right around the corner (today is December 23rd) guard and staff vacations have started which means we have staff unfamiliar to us.  I asked them for an order form and catalog so I could order the headphones but were refused.  While waiting for lunch, my cellies, Malik Pearl, Andre Charles, and Brian Whalen had a long but productive conversation.  Andre went on and on about how those in his ERP group upset him with how they act.  He finally came at me and wanted to know what I thought.  I took a deep breath and told him the problem was him.  His expectations of how these people act is what has created this problem.  In addition, I told him his anger management isn’t the problem but he has a rage issue, and that he needed medication for mood stabilization and impulse control.  Finally, I told him I worry someday he will kill someone before he was even aware of what he’s done.  Everyone in the room was stunned by what I said but Andre said I was dead on accurate and thanked me.  But he asked why Whalen never had issues with him.  It’s because Whalen does everything he can to appease him while Malik and I would not.  Whalen even agreed with this opinion.  For once I thought I handled this situation well.  We had count after lunch and Andre came out without his ID or yellow smock.  Normally, they let this go but these new guards did not.  After count cleared, one of the guards showed up and told him to pack up as he was doing to the hole for these violations.  He was patted down, and Andre was clearly getting angry.  After going through his things, the guard announced he was “fu—– with him as he had them by not following the rules”.    Relieved he didn’t go to the hole he returned to his usual loud self.  But this guard had played a very dangerous game.  What if Ander had flipped out over losing his ERP over his trick?  Getting kicked out of ERP can mean additional years an inmate may have to sit in prison.  I believe Andre to be fairly dangerous and this guard was by himself and didn’t know Malik or I.  Fortunately, it ended ok …this time.  At 1 pm, Ms. Grey joined us and gave us new books.  On was “Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom, 5th Edition”, 2008, by Robin Casarjian and another workbook, “Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment.  Strategies for Self Improvement and Change” by Kenneth W. Wanberg and Harvey B. Milkman, 2006, Sage Publications.   We will begin assignments in this next week while she is gone on vacation.  Ms. Grey also gave us a whole bunch of worksheets.  The load is getting heavier no doubt.  But I am confident I’ll keep up.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Some folks made an issue that the donation of the Chips Ahoy Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies by the group on Saturday were expired and couldn’t be sold to the public.  I think they’re crazy.  I and most are grateful.  My cellie, Andre Charles, opened his bag last night and ate the whole thing but the rest of us have turned it into a game, who’ll be the last to open them.  By the way Andre and I are getting along better but his moods which sing all the time definitely dictate the mood of this room.  I don’t ever trust him either.  But when he’s in a good mood, this room is actually ok.  We all enjoyed the football game (Green Bay vs.. New England) together – certainly better than last time. This morning I started on a workbook in ERP.  They are a series of workbooks from The Change Companies from Carson City, NV (1-888-889-8866).  They were apparently developed in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the U.S. Justice Department which makes sense since ERP is a federally funded program in Wisconsin.  The workbooks are referred to as “Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program Journals”. The one I’m on is “Orientation”, then “Rational Thinking”, “Criminal Lifestyles”, “Living with Others”, “Lifestyle Balance”, “Recovery Maintenance” and “Transition”.  The “Orientation” book chapters are “Looking at Me”, “Preparing for Treatment”, “Keys for Change”, and “My Drug Use”.  If you ever have questions about what we are covering not address in my broad overviews, feel free to ask.  I’m in the middle of the chapter, “Preparing for Treatment” but much requires input from the ERP group to finish so those at my table and myself are kind of stuck.  So I switched gears and worked on my autobiography which appears to be a central component of the ERP program.  Ms. Grey gave me a 30 some page guide which I had to copy the main points to cover in this document than pass it onto others.  The guide is entitled “A New Freedom, copyright 2003 by A.R. Phoenix Resources, Inc. You talk about detailed!  It takes age groups 1-4, 5-7, 8-10, 11-12, 13-14 asking where did you live?  Who did you live with? What are some of the good and bad things that happened?  Who loved you?  Who hurt you?  Were you neglected?  Were you abandoned?  Were you around substance abuse?  Crime?  Gangs?  Did anyone die or leave home?  Sick or badly injured?  Were those traumatic events?  Was home life out of control?  Did you feel safe at home?  Did the child have someone they can trust?  How did people in authority treat you?  Then it goes into substance abuse history and your attempts to control it.  There’s more but if you want the gaudy details email me.  I’m sure you’ll hear more as time goes on.  So I copied down those points and handed the book off but nobody wanted it, thinking a 30 some page guide was a bit too much.  I’m going to use it.  Why?  I like guidelines I guess.  I got called to my assessment with Ms. Grey.  It was about sixty some questions, relatively painless.  We start our evening session soon (6 pm – 7:30 pm) but even that’s about to change after the new year.  It’ll be 8-4 all week.  So I guess its’ going but I don’t think ERP isn’t something I can’t handle anymore.