Posts Tagged ‘From’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Today is graduation day for another ERP group.  This graduation includes 3 important characters in this blog – Brian Whalen, Corey Ball, along with former cellie Malik Pearl.  About 9:30 am the ceremony started.  They had chosen the name “The Pibts” as their theme in they’re another chance, a one way ticket out of here but if they don’t do what they need to do to stay clean and sober it will be a round trip ticket bat to MSDF or similar place.  The artwork was impressive, with a wall trimmed with gold and blue.  On top were blue circles with a plane inside along with each person’s name.  After the opening remarks, there were comments by the unit manager and the security director who was standing in for the Warden, who couldn’t be there today.  What followed was presentation of quotes by the inmates, who also took the opportunity to thank their ERP social worker Ms. Carr along with a list of others in the room.  Some even took the time to thank the parole officers who took the time to attend, which was a nice gesture.  Then Ms. Carr presented the ERP completion certificates to the inmates as those in attendance clapped.  Like past graduations, cookies were given out.  Since I’m a swamper the guard told me to hand them out, 2 a piece, one chocolate and one ginger.  Of course inmates were trying to get me to give them extras.  One positive thing about me is public opinion of me here isn’t high on my priority list!  So that didn’t happen.  Of course some got seconds before others got their firsts but that’s because they didn’t get in line right away.  Just like first grade right?  Then we got a big surprise.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, showed up for group.  Normally on graduation day we don’t have group in the morning but she decided to have group anyway.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands had had a conversation with her and she revealed the reason she missed the previous day because she had been mugged.  It was good she was ok.  Again we watched videos form the relationship series From the Inside Out featuring Earnie Larson.  These were the last ones.  We did the accompanying workbook sections for the videos.  We flew right through.  This again was another topic (relationships) that we could have spent weeks on.  Larson did an excellent job through the role play depictions of portraying various relationship behaviors that I’m sure if we had the time it would have been beneficial to go into this in depth.  But there isn’t the time left to do that and everything else scheduled prior to June 10th (our graduation).  As we left group for lunch we noticed that the guy who said he’s going to tell on everyone at a community meeting and all his cellies in a rather heated meeting with two social workers.  It seems all his cellies have tired of his bullying tactics in the cell.  No big surprise huh?  At lunch it was one of our better meals, the Baked fish and cupcakes for dessert.  There were no extras because a guard named Albert Payne ate them all!  He’s the same guard that makes us all stand with our hands to our side at count.  We’ve seen guards eat multiple trays of food at FMCI before so its no big revelation.  But doing it, I was looking forward to that extra cupcake I’d have gotten as a swamper! Smile  But no big deal.  more importantly, my relationship with the other swamper, David Sussex isn’t as good as it was.  He just likes to preach at people about their shortcomings in a religious way.  His outlook is just very immature.  I finally told him he talked too much and shared with him what scripture says about zeal without knowledge.  He didn’t like that.  But its okay.  We’ll be fine.  I’ve got 35 days till my ERP group graduates, no more than 45 till departure.  I’m not letting anything here take my focus off of that.

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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).  My routine has been adjusted thanks to my swamper role.  I’m getting up at 5 am every morning, mostly because with my release 37 to 47 days away, I want to get accustomed to getting up early like I did in my days as an Information Technology professional.  After getting the rags we use to clean all over the pod out of the washer and putting them in the dryer I take down the 40 chairs stacked on the tables in the dayroom from the night before so the floor can be cleaned.  Then I read my bible for about a half hour until about 6 am.  Then I get ready for 6:15 am count.  After count I  return to the dayroom and get the breakfast cart.  Fellow swamper David Sussex counts the cereals and I count the milks and juices making sure there are 40 for our pod and 34 for the pod on the other side.  This particular day both our counts were off which mean the pod on the other side were short.  Guard Roscoe Peters let us know that annoyed him.  Then breakfast is called and we hand out the food.  Inmates will try anything than can to get extra food out of us but both of us are pretty firm mostly because we each have ideas of what to do with the extras!  At the end, the extras are split in half between us.  I give some to my cellies and some to the guys at my table.  Once breakfast is complete, I  wipe the tables, take out the trash and clean the counters while Sussex cleans the trays they’re served on and gets the cart back so we can load the trash.  I get back to my cell about 7 am where I write a blog entry, do homework and a journal entry.  I had been going back to bed about 7 am till 8 am when program starts but I’ve decided to stop doing that as I can’t do that after release.  I continue working on things until 9 am, or when ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, comes by usually shortly after.  Today our ERP group got into part 5 and 6 From the Inside Out video series by Earnie Larson.  After watching the videos (quite good), we did the evaluations in the accompanying workbook in section 5-1 and then went around the room to reveal our scores.  It didn’t start out too well as ERP group member Scott Dietz nearly had a meltdown as Ms. Grey and others challenged how he scored himself on several points.  He did this early in group too but fortunately he pulled back before it was too late.  I have to say though this was the first group session where we freely provided each other with constructive feedback, challenging what the other person said about himself when needed.  When they got to me, people expressed shock at my taking the swamper job as I had stepped out of my comfort zone.  They did say I’m hypersensitive to some things though.  I won’t argue with that.  At lunch, as well as supper, I go clean the tables and put out napkins.  Once the trays arrive, I count out milk and open bread while Sussex counts out trays.  He has really struggled with this.  While waiting, we have time to talk.  Talking to him makes me very conscience of how my language has deteriorated while I’ve been locked up.  I didn’t cuss and swear like that before prison.  You can’t around kids and at work.  I’m going to have to work on that.  Once we serve, I clean the tables, change the trash and help Sussex keep the trays steady while he’s stacking them.  At ERP group in the afternoon, we finished the evaluations.  But the highlight was when Ms. Grey let us know the huge workload in store for us until graduation on June 10.  Most groups took it easy on Phase III but not Ms. Grey.  We scrambled in the evening hours to get the goals and objectives plan for Phase III done by Friday, pages 1-31 of the Living With Others workbook series from The Change Companies.  We found out cellie Corey Ball will most likely be gone by Monday.  He and his fellow cellie Brian Whalen graduate this Friday because he’s done so much of his time.  He’s already planning on how and where he’s going to get drunk.  It’s too bad too because he’s a very good guy.  But that’s not the point is it?  At about 8:45 pm, when dayroom closes, Sussex and I go to put up the chairs, take out the trash, sweep and mop the dayroom floor, and wash the rags.  Peters, who worked a double shift, let me take a shower after count.  Clearly he doesn’t trust me but he is professional, courteous, and kind.  I still have nightmares but I’m out pretty hard now when I sleep with this schedule.


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).  On Saturday, I got a surprise knock on my cell door from former cellie Malik Pearl.  He is to graduate from ERP this coming Friday (May 6th) along with current cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen. The question Pearl passed to me didn’t take but a second for me to respond.  He asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Swamper as he was going to step down.  I said no way.  It would interfere with my routine, force me to interact with more people, upset my TV watching and I’d have to deal with people whining for the extra food that Swampers get as their defector compensation (even though technically we’re not supposed to get that) since I’m told there is no extra pay while in the ERP program.  He left and that was that. A t least so I thought.  As the day went by, I learned the swamper job was probably going to go to ERP group member Mark Hogan who had developed a good relationship with guard Roscoe Peters, who would make the decision.  There were two problems here.  Pearl, along with the other blacks, knew Hogan to be racist.  How you might ask?  As we’ve seen in the past with him, he blurts out inappropriate remarks, not caring who hears.  So that’s how Pearl indicated he’d keep the swamper job rather than letting him have it.  Cellie Larry Sands revealed to Pearl that Hogan had Hepatitis C.  I don’t know how he knew that.  But lets face it, swampers wear gloves and you are not going to get infected from serving food.  But Pearl used this information to turn opinion against Hogan being a swamper in the dayroom.  Later on that day, guard Ruth Barthowski again approached me with the question if I’d be willing to be a swamper.  Now I had had time to reconsider the situation and I had changed my mind.  Why?  Because it will interfere with my routine, force me to interact more with people, upset my TV watching and deal with whiny people.  Kind of like real life!  So against my instincts I said yes to the job knowing I’ll be free in about 50 days so its time to get used to these things again.  The only problem is Pearl had not changed his mind too.  He wanted a guy of his choosing, his cellmate David Sussex, to have the job so he could still have access to the extra food.  So Pearl managed to talk Barthowski into a new policy on swampers which Peters approved.  Swampers would change out every 30 days so more people would have a chance to do it.  From Pearl’s way of thinking, he’ll be long gone by the time the next swamper change occurs so its all good.  The swamper that held the job with him, whom he found annoying anyway, would now have to give up the job as well which would mean his guy, David Sussex, would get the job along with me.  That night was also Barthowski’s final night as a guard.  She made a nice speech at her final count at 9 pm, followed by us all applauding her.  She is going to be missed, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing from her again!  The next day, the 2 old swampers came out to train us, giving us tips on how to count extras for ourselves.  I’ll give you the swamper routine in a future blog entry.  I was assigned to hand out the liquids and bread while Sussex handed out trays or cereal.  Breakfast went fine but at lunch, when stacking dirty trays on the cart, 7 or 8 fell which caused the inmates in their cells in the dayroom to erupt in applause.  I stayed out to help him clean it up after I was done.  Things largely went fine otherwise.  I returned to my cell more energized, I think simply because I was doing something other than sitting on my butt.  My cellies of course complained I gave too much food away to others and not to them. I I had actually kept very little for myself.  I just smiled.  So this is what its like to be a swamper!  But Sunday night things got put into perspective about 9:30 pm when word came down that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  None of this really matters in comparison, does 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).  Today is Friday, the end of our 21st of 26 weeks that this program lasts.  In the dayroom prior to our ERP group starting, we learned Augie Prescott still couldn’t get through to his family in Alabama after the devastation caused by the tornadoes there that have killed over 200 in several southern states.  Of course, I didn’t say anything to anyone but my recently reconnected biological family is from that area.  I have no way to reach them since my only way to reach them is through email via my sponsors.  I sent a note but I can’t let myself think about it too much.  It would be so ironic if something happened now that I have finally connected to them.  But lets not go there.  The day started off with us going over proper interview etiquette in the video From Parole to Payroll which was very effective if you have not had experience interviewing before.  We paid special attention though in how to handle disclosure of our criminal offense in the interview and on the application. We’re supposed to answer the question on the application that we’ll explain at the interview.  At the interview when the question comes up what we did we’re to answer truthfully yet answer it with a one word answer or as few words as possible.  Above all, take responsibility and don’t’ lie.  So we learned something, at least I did anyway.  Then we were teamed up two by two by our ERP Social Worker Ms. Grey, where we were to give each other what would be considered a job performance evaluation.  It was of course fun for each of us to pick on the other guy.  I was teamed with John Lloyd, whom I have sat across from in the dayroom and eaten across from the last 5 months.  He identified as my strengths my writing, initiative and thorough.  As weaknesses he said I lacked tack and that I’m not subtle at all.  But when I pressed him for an example he couldn’t give one.  So I didn’t understand that at all, where he saw that in me.  Most I know see me the opposite of these things.  Ms. Grey then handed out our blank Phase III Goals and Objectives sheets and said we should consider what was identified as weaknesses for Phase III short term goals.  We don’t’ have a due date on these goals but lets hope it’s not going to be the struggle for our group it was in Phase 2.  In our afternoon session, we played another game just like UNO and the goggles on another.  This time it was a game where we asked each other random questions that were printed on cards that had been dealt to us.  The questions were such like “What was the biggest mistake you made?” and “What would life be like without computers?”  We all had fun with it, with their being some serious moments.  Even intern Nikita had joined us today and participated. Guess we’re going to be losing her soon as she is returning to school soon.  Heck, we’re all going to be gone soon!  After group, cellie Corey Ball gave guard Ruth Barthowski a card form all of us that said goodbye and thank you for her years of service and for the respect she has shown us.  Tomorrow is her last day on the job.  The ERP Social Workers were aware so there was no risk of fraternization charges.  Supper was interesting tonight because in the middle of one of the worst meals served here, soy based imitation meat for our tacos, an emergency count was called which meant we had to get up in the middle of the meal, go stand and be counted, then wait until count cleared to return to eat. Let’s face it, the food is usually cold when we get it in addition to it sucking so the only problem for us was the disruption of routine.  As for me, I ‘m still out of sorts and my cellies have noticed I’m not as patient as I normally am.  The juvenile humor and acting out I usually just ignore is getting to me more now.  I’m not sure what my problem is except perhaps nerves about getting close to getting out.  I hope my cellies will put up with me while I get my perspective back. 


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 started out slow as our ERP social worker Ms. Grey was off for the morning session for some kind of training.  In the afternoon session, we began the Phase III work related to employment.  First Ms. Grey asked how many of us needed to work on our resumes.  Not a single hand went up.  Typically, inmates often have nothing like a resume coming out of prison. I was in Information Technology for almost 20 years prior to me going to prison so I am pretty well versed in resumes, job searches and how to conduct myself in a workplace.  But many do not so I’m sure it’s a good idea to offer it.  Ms. Grey handed out a packet on employability called “Introduction and Motivational”.  The first exercises were related to following directions.  Basically it told you to make sure you read it all the way through, then gave you steps to follow that made you jump through all sorts of hoops and then get to the final step that told you, that had you read through everything you would know you wouldn’t have to do any of this.  It got me.  I’m so accustomed to just mind numbing work I just plowed through the first 4 of the 16 steps before catching on.  So it made its point.  Then we had to split into 3 groups and make up a list of 10 things important to being employed and then narrow them down to the top 5.  In my group were myself, cellie Larry Sands, John Lloyd, and Russ Johnson.  Our top 5 came out as positive mental attitudes, good communication skills, good listening skills, reliability, and good problem solving skills.  I was suckered (nominated) by the other 3 to present the list to the other groups as they did too.  I surprised myself at how comfortable I was doing so.  Ms. Grey seemed pleased with our effort.  We then watched a video called "From Parole to Employment that offered tips on your job hunt and was motivational.  It was a good video. Afterwards, Sands brought up getting State ID cards which we’ve been told we could get before we got out and Ms. Grey said she’d look into it.  Then the conversation turned to computer access, which the inmates can use to access JobNet and the law library.  Some thought they’d need their own ID, which isn’t true at MSDF.  But if its all the same, I think I’ll avoid computer use here!  Besides, unlike other ERP programs, we have no community access in Phase III so we can’t contact or follow up any leads.  But such is the situation.  I had dug up a copy of my resume I had here along with a news article written about a software program using the .NET framework for a plumbing and electrical distributor.  Russ Johnson got a hold of it and commended he had extensive contacts and would help me with my job search.  I’m not really believing it but hey I’ll take any help I can!  So we’ll see.  So as usual we’ll see what happens.  I spoke with my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin, and we’re having discussions on cell phones and internet access which I’ll need to get employment when I get out.  It’s good to actually be planning the details for my release. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  As I was being returned to my unit from the hole after 6 days for investigation on possible charges related to this blog but for which I’d been cleared.  I looked through the windows and saw regular 2nd shift guard Ruth Barthkowski who smiled at me and tried to work through the paperwork that was deficient with my arrival.  The inmates seated at the tables in the dayroom smiled as I walked in but I couldn’t tell what was behind it.  Barthowski began to give me the lay of the land right away.  Everybody now knew about the blog staff and inmate alike.  She also told me she had worked on people trying to get me out of the hole and I thanked her for it.  My property was still in Segregation and wouldn’t arrive.  I was assigned my old bunk and old cell which I was grateful for.  Barthowski took me up to the linen closet while I got the rest of my yellow outfits.  Guys at the tables in the dayroom welcomed me back but their body language indicated some mistrust.  Once I made it to my cell, ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands gave me the rundown of what had happened in group.  Apparently the night they took me last week the guard on duty, a by the book type named Mike Metcalf had announced I was on a bus back to Dodge Correctional Institution.  Regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters was upset over being named Roscoe.  Guys in my ERP group knew they hadn’t been named but still wanted to know what was said about them.  But probably the most interesting development was what had gone on with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  The week I’d missed she had been smiling, engaging and being kind.  The last while she has seemed distant and combative.  But she had discussed my situation with the group telling them that day I returned that I was not going to return but then telling them something different later in the day.  It seems that yours truly who always sought to avoid attention was the focus of the entire pod this past week.  That and of course this blog.  My main concern wasn’t any of this though.  I was concerned about seeing Peters and Grey the next day.  What would they reveal about me?  I’ve laid myself bare on this blog.  But I also felt a sense of pride and strength, that no matter what might happen I was going to be ok.  That didn’t mean the anxiety about how tomorrow would go in group wouldn’t give me a restless night.  But as it turned out I shouldn’t have worried at all.  Peters wasn’t working on Friday .  And Ms. Grey was engaging and kind throughout the morning.  And then the most surreal thing.  In the afternoon session her and intern Nikita broke us into two groups and had us play Uno!  That’s right, the card game!  Everyone was smiling and had a good time.  Had Ms. Grey read the blog and not liked what she saw and decided to change things up?  Or did something else happen to cause the change?  Whatever it is it’s promising.  On another note, I’d considered asking the sponsors to shut down the blog, much as I did 15 months ago when I got cancer.  After with everyone here knowing about the blog, this may no longer be the typical prison experience.  But I’ve got bigger concerns.  The blog helped me and has helped others.  It’s worked up till now.  I’m going to stick with it.