Posts Tagged ‘friends’


My name is Jake Martin and I am on parole from the state of Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) currently now living in Ames, Iowa. I write this from my own laptop in an efficiency apartment at a complex dominated by Iowa State University college students. How did I get here? More on that in a minute.

At the risk of sounding corny but what a LONG, STRANGE trip it has been both being in prison and since getting out. The day I was released it was Wednesday June 23rd.  Today is January 16th, 2012. In the roughly 7 months since my release so much has happened. I spent July through August largely glued to my cell phone and laptop while hunting for work, with the assistance of friends and the sponsors of this blog.. My parents grew concerned enough to tell me I might have to take work at a fast food operation or something similar. I had no problem with that. In fact I figured that was what would happen. While all this was going on my parents, whom my father is a minister though he retired in July, received a retirement call to serve a church in Juneau, Alaska. My PO, Helen Gaither, it turned out was very cool to me. Though the walks from the bus to her in Appleton WI were not! Because I had no car and often my parents weren’t available it was necessary to walk. But that’s ok. It just didn’t bother me. These things just don’t bother me anymore.

In about August, my efforts finally began to pay off. A major corporation hired me as a temporary software developer for a project they were working on through an agency I had worked with before and was unaware that I had been in prison the last 25 months. During that time I brushed the rust off my skills, got used to the grind that a software developer will have again and learned to deal with people again. About that time, a company based in Ames IA interviewed me for a position as a software engineer. They hired me. However I was given enough time to finish the contract I had started in with this company in Neenah WI. My parents were still in Alaska when I left in October. Needless to say I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I was fortunate on one aspect regarding work. I had largely lost the last two years and in technology circles that is as much as a lifetime. But this company was on older technology, technology I was well suited for. It was a perfect fit. Meanwhile I continue to upgrade my skills now. But anyway on October 8th I made the move. My first weekend didn’t go well. Furniture I had purchased for the apartment prior to my arrival had accidentally been tossed my a maintenance worker for the complex, as well as two tires going flat. Oh yes, my parents had sold me their old car and I had also managed to get insurance and a license during that time. But needless to say, I got things under control and my employer was extremely understanding as I missed my first day of work getting the car fixed. Things were pretty normal until about a month ago when weight loss and the familiar night sweats had returned – all symptoms I have become very familiar with. Testing revealed that my cancer had returned. Now before you become too concerned, just know, again I am going to be fine. I am doing chemotherapy again. But this time at least, I can control my diet though fatigue and nausea are now my main problems. See though I have insurance they don’t cover preexisting conditions unless you had proof of insurance before which of course I did not have in WPS. So medications I used for nausea and such are not covered either. But it is ok. It’s the same type of cancer as before and because they caught it earlier this time it is even more assured I will be fine. So don’t worry!

But what can I say about being free? My first day out my sponsors took me to a Mexican restaurant where I had chicken and steak fajitas. My mouth and stomach were on fire as they loved what I ate – but they didn’t so much later as they rebellled against the rich food I was not used to. I will spare you the details. Television, the Green Bay Packers and dear friends I have missed. All of it really is about choices of which we had very little in prison.

I still deal with the anxieity junkie. I still am largely alone or at least it looks that way. I am still single. My previous family contacts me to be sure but it is usually only when one of them is in trouble or needs money. My adopted siblings and family remain an awkward relationship. But yet I count myself as one of the lucky ones, one who found a way to be successful on release. I call it luck because things fell together in a way that I can’t really take credit for. Yes it is God and there are others to thank. Friends like Jennifer, Natalie, Mike, Bill, and Rebecca I couldn’t have done it without them. I owe them more than I have life left to repay. I simply can say no more than I am gratefully free. It has been so long and such a hard road, much of it self inflicted, that I can’t bring myself to complain. What right do I have to have such a good life? The answer is I do have that right as long as I do not forfeit that right with my choices I make in life.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank those of you who faithfully followed this blog, especially Jill, Karen, Kelly and Lori. You really kept me looking forward to mail call and such wondering what might be there today. Again, so grateful. How many others wait for even one piece of mail in prison only never to get any! And the rest of you, since my release I have watched your reaction from afar, really wanting to burst out and say hey its me! I’m free! But we all thought it best I keep a low profile until the entries were finished. I hope you understand. That said the future of this blog will be sporadic entries regarding what is happening with me and how it relates to being on parole. I am not going to do an entry every day. There just isn’t time like I used to have. But know this. If any of you want to reach out to me please feel free. I have always felt a closeness to many of you who suffered with your loved ones in prison right along with me.

On that note, its time to close. I have got some studying to do! Talk to you soon….

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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 the debacle the previous day, I dreaded the following morning.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, the meeting between cellie Andre Charles, his ERP group leader, my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, and myself.  I imagined the fireworks that probably had gone off in their office as a result of all this.  Perhaps I’d get lucky and with Andre leaving soon maybe they’ll leave it alone.  I just doubt it.  To make matters worse, Andre had relaxed and the cell was returning to normal.  Opening this up again will just make things worse.  But I doubt Ms. Grey will see it that way.  The day started off with us all assembled in the dayroom.  We were scheduled to finish ERP group member John Lloyd and mine presentation to the group of our self-evaluations.  I have largely skipped writing about this as a lot has gone on the last few days and space/time constraints dictated some choices had to be made.  But the self-evaluation consisted of some questions of what has changed since we started our group, what we need to work on in Phase II of the program, and what we need to work on when we get out.  On the other side were questions on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 the best rating.  We evaluated openness, honesty, participation, program expectations, unit tasks, interactions with peers and staff and written assignments.  Most everybody agreed with the person’s evaluation of themselves and rarely did anyone challenge anything and this morning we spent until the dayroom closed from 8 am to 11:45 am.  We wondered if Ms. Grey had gone to Madison to protest as today the bill scrapping most collective rights for the state employee unions had become law.  But after lunch she showed up along with intern Nikita.  I was the last one to present the self-evaluation.  After my autobiography, I became much more honest and open.  I needed to work on my social skills in Phase II.  And after I get out I need to remember to ask for help when I need it before I get into trouble.  I rated myself a 4 on honesty, openness, program expectations, unit tasks, and on interactions with peers and staff and a 4 on my written assignments.  My peers in the group kept trying to bump my scores higher which I suppose I feel good about.  But Ms. Grey focused on my social interaction.  I shared I’m comfortable in situations where I’m in control or have an escape route, which is why I had success in my Christian Rock band and in my work as an Information Technology professional.  She deserved that in her opinion I exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders.  First time I’ve ever heard that but I suppose its possible.  I’ve always believed it was part of my post traumatic delayed stress disorder and related anxiety issues.  Anyway, again I was the only one that gave any kind of substantial feedback.  She then announced she wanted us to turn in all the work we had done the last 13 weeks.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t told us to keep the material and much of it though she had assigned it we had never gone through it especially the movie reviews.  Some had very little of the material but everyone was missing some of it including me.  A mini panic gripped the room as we started to go back to our cells trying to find missing work.  After we’d all returned and handed in what we had prepared for our Phase I test.  We were expecting a multiple choice test but no, it was an essay test with 5 questions.  Again, we all sweated this test including me.  But it turned out it was ok or we’re going to go over the answers Monday.  Finally group was over.  That night a new guy came in for the next ERP group that will start when Andre’s group gets cleared out of here.  I felt a mixture of sympathy for him and relief that that isn’t me.  Boy, am I thankful that  isn’t me!  Week 13 of 26 down and 12 to go. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). Last night we got canteen a day early (Tuesday) than normal because of the upcoming Christmas break.  I went a little nuts this time because its Christmas and anticipating time off I’ll want to snack on something.  I also ordered one of the generic Christmas cards they sell and sent it to Lisa.  I was incarcerated in the Waukesha County Jail (WCJ) at this time last year and I so went to pieces missing my former family.  I rarely hear from Lisa now, usually only when she is mad at her mom and she figures writing to me will upset her.  Such is the way of teenage girls.  But I wanted to let her know I haven’t forgotten.  They have moved on and have forgotten me.  I still think of them everyday, praying that they are ok and succeeding.  I even pray for Lynn, even though she wronged me so.  I occasionally catch a wave of resentment washing over me but I quickly remember that the most loving thing I can do is to let them go, pray they forgive me for the wrong I’ve done, and let go of the anger and resentment I felt.  It serves no purpose other than to make me miserable.  It won’t bring them back that’s for sure.  It’s one of the reasons I’d hoped not to be in Waukesha, WI after release so as not cross paths with them.  It would be hard on me and awkward for everybody.  I don’t think I’m going to get a choice though as no plan is coming together so far.  After canteen was handed out, I sat down with an Angus Meat Stick and actually ate real meat, not the soy WPS hands out as a substitute!  I changed the direction I sleep to see if that calms my irrational cellmate, Andre Charles, and it must have worked as he’s calm so far today.  We were all assembled in the dayroom studying our ERP materials when another ERP coordinator stood up and announced that you no longer could just get up and go to the bathroom when you like, and there were designated times to do so.  Also, unless our ERP facilitator assigned us to the dayroom while working on program materials, we were to stay in our designated area, which is the exercise room.  We moved and our new work area was a ping pong table.  Ms. Grey, our ERP Coordinator, showed up around 10 am and got us in a group and told us she’d fix this.  Since I missed yesterday they had me read the assignments we were given to have due this week.  It was my reaction to getting ERP, drug and alcohol use and my OWI arrest history.  It was in the OWI arrest history that the mental illness part came out as well as the suicide attempt and the other inmates reacted surprised yet supportive.  That surprised me.  Then we sped through the Orientation workbook up to “Keys for Change” with us as a group filling in the answers for the “Positive attitudes for successful treatment’ section – Honesty, Responsibility, Willingness, Open Mindedness, Humility, Caring, Objectivity and Gratitude, defining each with one word answers (or as close as we could) and some questions on each.  Again if you want details, email me.  Then we got an assignment for while Ms. Grey was on vacation – to finish the workbook, come up with a mission statement using our one word attitude definitions, and a ripple effect of drug and alcohol use design.  Pretty straightforward.  This is my first impatient treatment so its interesting and informative.  I’ve done a lot of this work in the past year but it has names for everything I was describing, but doesn’t address some of the things.  I got back to my cell and Andre wants to be friends again.  Oh what the heck…. its almost Christmas.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this!  It’s November 25, 2010 as I write this.  I realize by the time you read this it will be probably closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving.  Such is the nature of this blog – the delay is intentional.  But I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have read this blog, many of you who have shared and/or expressed support via comment or email and to those of you who have someone inside whom you love and care about and possibly this blog has somehow helped you.  I thank you for not abandoning them, even though this separation is the toughest battle your relationship has endured.  Nobody but you knows how much you silently suffer.  Special thanks goes to Rebecca, Steve and Jill who have followed me almost since my first day, giving encouragement to me and giving a voice to those who aren’t able to be heard.  You all have put into practice the words of the Sermon on the Mount.  Another special thank you to Dr. Rachel Cook, my oncologist at University Hospital who was an awesome advocate for me, very patient, and expertly defeated my cancer. I also thank the few of my friends I had prior to prison who have not forgotten me.  I will always remember you and all I’ve thanked the rest of my life.  This blog and all of you have far helped me more than I have gotten from you, trust me on this. My biggest thank you goes to the sponsors of this blog who have tirelessly typed up the chicken scratch of my handwriting, managed this blog with expertise and dedication, in a pinch have helped me, and even provided a newspaper subscription. Quite frankly, none of this is possible without you and words aren’t adequate to express the amount of gratitude owed to you. Many of you that got involved hadn’t even known or worked with me previously.  That’s simply just awesome!  So thank you!  Finally, I thank God!  It was one year ago this week that my cancer was diagnosed.  It was the culmination of the absolute worst year of my adult life.  Where the loss of my wife, family, career, friends, music and finally my health were realized and just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the isolation and despair of those days at Dodge Correctional Institution of early 2010 occurred.  It seemed you (God) had completely deserted me.  But it became clear that I had deserted him (God), refusing because of my silly pride and being concerned with material things and people I couldn’t control, had refused to seek help to stop the bleeding of my heart, mind and soul.  But you (God) were always there waiting for me to learn that simple yet difficult lesson.  The lesson is I don’t have the answers and I must surrender on a daily basis as I move forward.  This is 1 lesson I’ll continue to learn for the rest of my life.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The call had come the previous day letting several inmates know that they should pack up because they were going to be moved.  I was not among them.  One who was included was Saddlebags who himself was headed to a facility in Milwaukee.  Once it became known an inmate is on his way out the vultures come out after their canteen and other possessions.  They use various manipulations or guilt trips on the departing inmate such as lying to them about what they’ll be allowed to have at the next facility or about how pathetic it is to take their canteen with them.  In his case another tactic is employed – theft.  He resides in the aisle next to me and in the early morning hours he discovered the light bulb in his lamp on his bunk had been taken.  Saddlebags tried intimidation and pleading to try to get the light bulb back.  Those in the aisle clearly enjoyed seeing him squirm and gave him replies that only fueled his rage and desperation.  It wasn’t about the light bulb anymore.  They were exposing him as a punk, one who couldn’t protect himself or his things and Saddlebags was attempting to regain a measure of self respect by getting the light bulb back.  What he didn’t understand was the more he tried and failed, the more he put himself on display as the laughing stock of those in his aisle.  I must confess at the time this was going on I was laughing too.  I simply don’t like him, haven’t since the moment I met him.  I tired of listening to his bravado, his disregard for others well being, and how he had hurt others.  But the lesson of why someone shouldn’t laugh at someone else’s misfortune would become evident soon.  Part of the fallout of the first shakedown was that lamps, radios and other electronics that had been altered had either been confiscated, or what had been altered was confiscated often rendering the item useless. Since we’ve had an epidemic of theft of things you wouldn’t consider stealing under normal circumstances.  Wire that is used for an antenna, insulation in a lamp, cardboard and string are such examples.  If it wasn’t part of the device in its original state it got taken.  Inmates often will use materials to enhance or prolong the life of a device.  With much of that material gone, people are scavenging for such.   When I returned from lunch, I found that the insulation in my lamp had been tampered with.  But whoever had tried to take it had ripped too hard on the socket connecting the light bulb, ripping some of the wiring with it.  The lamp had been rendered useless.  Present were my cellie (bunkmate) and those next to my bunk.  They all looked at me out of the corner of their eye but not saying a word.  They knew, they had seen whomever tampered with the lamp but hadn’t said a word then and weren’t saying a word now.  As I’ve said before, though we all act as friends, there is no loyalty.  I didn’t say a word.  I took the lamp down and locked it up having determined I would destroy it rather than give the pieces to anyone else.  I acted like nothing happened.  It kind of fits.  It wasn’t my lamp to begin with.  I don’t dare act like I own it with any credibility. And I had laughed when  Saddlebag’s light bulb had been stolen though the circumstances were different.  I deserved what had happened here and I resolved not to be so smug in the future. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). The following day after the institution wide shakedown I got to the showers right after count cleared around 7:50 am.  It was good that I did because shortly thereafter all the hot water was turned off on the unit with some saying the hot water heater had failed. This certainly didn’t help the mood on our unit which was already sour due to yesterday’s events.  Then to top it of, we ran out of liquid soap though later in the day we got a new supply.  The repercussions of the shakedown continued. An unconfirmed number of 9 people were sent to the hole with more expected the following day.  In addition new regulations were put in place regarding kitchen food.  Seconds were banned.  Only one piece of fruit allowed in your bunk (not including canteen).  A note was posted on the whiteboard saying if you had any property confiscated you were going to get a ticket for unauthorized transfer of property or similar offense and that the days to come Lt. Brodie and Capt. Bramer would hold hearings on the tickets. This is going to be literally dozens of tickets. Some inmates began making noises that it was an illegal shakedown because according to the rules an inmate must be present when their area was tossed even during an emergency and they were going to fill out complaints about this.  They will lose.  You can’t fight city hall you know?  But all of these new restrictions on food and such came about because so many had abused the situation.  This had been a long time coming.  People working in the kitchen were okay with it though as there was more food for them.  But truthfully these were the kind of rules we had at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a medium security institution.  One upside – perhaps they won’t have so many flies during the summer.  I won’t be here to see that though.  Tomorrow I get off bunk restriction.  We are having a stretch of 60 degree November days so I’ll hit the track hard.  We finished off the night with canteen distribution a day late due to yesterday’s fun.  Another inmate made “cake” with some of his canteen and gave me some.  It simply was some of the finest food I’ve had in the last 18 months.  Oh and a side note.  Percy actually spoke to me like a human being with no sarcasm and a genuine smile.  Will wonders never cease?  I settled in for the night comfortable in my Tuesday night routine on my top bunk.  I watched TV shoes NCIS and Parenthood while eating a microwave bag of plain popcorn.  I then flossed and brushed.  Then I laid down and did the same thing I do every night.  I fantasize of life in the real world, of a family of my own, interacting with friends, playing in a Christian band and having my happy ending to all this.  That fantasy can become reality but we’ve got a lot more work to do to get there.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Weekends are my least favorite time here mostly because it seems time moves the slowest.  But of course as soon as I say that it changes.  My usual routine has me down for good by 10 pm, but on this night it didn’t happen that way.  As I walked toward the bathroom, I saw a group of guys around one bunk, doing what appeared to be sit-ups and others rooting him on.  I didn’t think much of it as I do these myself but on my bunk by myself.  Usually, I wake up several times a night because of things I’ve told you about before, but I don’t get off my bunk.  This time I did.  I wish I hadn’t.  There are two types of people who walk late at night.  They either pick up their feet as they walk or they don’t.  Those that don’t you can hear every step they make in the unit.  I am one who picks up my feet.  That same group of guys were together.   They were startled by my presence but didn’t have adequate time to cover up what they were doing.  I guess you could call it exercise but it was more of the push up variety done from a kneeling position.  It took me all of a second to see, put the pieces together and then avert my eyes.  I knew this went on but there is a huge difference between knowing and seeing, one I had been grateful for.  I used the restroom feeling disgust but mostly dread at the idea of having to walk back.  Why oh why don’t those geniuses turn off the stupid lamp?  Do they really need to see what they are doing??  When I returned I became one of those annoying people that dragged their feet when they walked.  I’m a convert, at least late at night!  But I figured they’d scatter before I got there, not wanting to see me anymore than I them.  I was wrong.  They saw me and one of them whispered, “Hey Jake!  What’s up?””  They were laughing.  I just replied that not much was going on in as casual sounding voice as I could muster.  They continued to laugh.  I got back to my bunk and tried to put it out of my mind without a whole lot of success.  Of course, the anxiety junkie in me came out.  How am I going to handle these folks tomorrow?  How should I react to them if they should bring it up in a conversation?  Should I go out of my way to shun them?  Or not?  Behind every anxiety attack, is the process of realization that the victim is not in control of others or things.  I eventually calmed down.  The next day the problem that wasn’t was handled the way most men handle things.  We ignore it.  To discuss it like adults would require courage and honesty none of us possess or desire. I am sure at some point down the road – way down the road – one of them will approach me about it.  Secrets have a tendency to require discussion by the conspirators.   Perhaps not.  After all by the end of November I won’t be here.  And if they don’t approach me, I’m also more than ok with that.