Posts Tagged ‘hell’


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 was your usual Wednesday. There are no ERP groups.  We did discuss our graduation project.  ERP group member Scott Dietz is upset he didn’t have a speaking part in the graduation ceremony other than reading his quote.  Nothing really could be done.  I don’t have a speaking part either but I’m not upset.  But that’s me.  On Thursday morning, we had one guard with a really bad comb over and one who looked suspiciously like Drew Carey.  After breakfast while brushing my teeth, the announcement came that we were to immediately return to our cells.  Nobody knew what was going on.  We were then informed we were on emergency lockdown and we were only allowed out if there was a medical emergency.  It wasn’t long before inmates began to voice displeasure with the situation led by an inmate who had already graduated in another ERP group, especially that he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom.  The guards and him continued to argue until the familiar detachment of the guards and a white shirt (supervisor) showed up.  They put him in handcuffs to take him to the hole.  He was supposed to be released that day but most of us felt he would still get cut loose.  Meanwhile, we were trying to figure out why we were locked down.  The idea that his a major shakedown seemed to have credence with all the good traffic.  Finally at about 10 am, they let us out one by one to use the bathroom.  It was then I found out that the lock on the fire escape door had somehow malfunctioned thus locking us down was necessary to prevent our escape.  After lunch, we were returned to lock down status.  Shortly afterwards, we got our 2 new cellmates.  One a tall black man was named Malcolm Johnson and the other, a Puerto Rican was named Jose Michaels.  Jose didn’t have a TV which made me happy because  it freed up an outlet I could use for my fan.  He is a talented artist.  I think him and I will get along fine.  Malcolm has been through hell.  He is on an upper bunk but obviously belongs on a lower.  He has scars everywhere, showing us one on his leg that was caused by an injury he got fleeing from police.  He and I got into an interesting discussion about the terrorist attach on 9/11/2001.  He exposed various conspiracy theories and I pointed out that thousands of people would have to be complicit and silent for any of them to be true.  As usual, people who present such theories make the argument into a personal attack so I just let it go.  But to be honest I enjoyed the conversation.  I haven’t had a good conversation like that since my days at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  We thought we were done for the day but about 2 pm our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, arrived.  We plowed right into the victim impact letters.  Reading it out loud for me to be honest produced feelings of anger and sadness.  Regardless of how I feel it was about how she felt.  Many of the guys who came after me also felt various emotions reading theirs.  We also presented our rippled effect poster assigned back in Phase I.  Then Ms. Grey dropped a bombshell today.  Two of us in our ERP group had warrants for our arrest in the system but she didn’t know who of course.  Later on in the dayroom that night that’s all anybody talked about and how infuriated we were that she could drop a thing like that without knowing who it is.  Of course with us this close to release, it caused anxiety.  Soon it was 3 pm and time for our weekly community meeting.  Once again, the issue of hygiene was raised.  Ms. Carr said she would be talking to the unit manager to see what could be done.  The issue of the soon to be repealed Act 28 early release law.  I’ve shared my opinion on this here and I did in group.  That night my cellies didn’t want to go to sleep when the lights went out.  I think Malcolm knew this annoyed me and he razzed me a bit but that’s ok.  I can deal with anything for the next 22-32 days I have left.  About midnight everyone went to sleep. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Cocaine and crack was the topic of our ERP group morning session. Again this wasn’t my thing but it was largely informative.  The first video we watched was Cocaine and Crack Back From the Abyss, another Hazelden production.  It described the hell cocaine addicts go through in the first part, the process of recovery in the second, and continued growth in the third.  We followed that with another Hazleden video called Cocaine Beyond the Looking Glass.  Though it appears quite old, the video effectively told the same story, with a particularly compelling story told by a man who lost his hand to cocaine psychosis.  We then took the cocaine/crack test.  As it turned out though, the literature contained factual errors.  It called cocaine a Schedule III drug and described cocaine being present in Coca Cola until 1904  though our ERP group leader Ms. Grey claimed it was between the 1940-1960 era.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in a third rate mail order correspondence course.  I try to present the facts to you and let you draw your own conclusions but sometimes my frustrations boil over.  Sorry.  Anyway, after the test was corrected, we had time for discussion.  The question of when our next parole officer (PO) phone call came up.  Many of us aren’t staying in the county of where our offense was committed upon release which requires a transfer, which will possibly include me.  For many that work isn’t complete yet.  Ms. Grey told group member Mark Hogan, who is trying to get to another county, he’d just have to talk to the PO in Milwaukee County if the work wasn’t complete.  He usually acts goofy and keeps everyone loose with his humor.  But he went off on Ms. Grey.  He told her if they were going to keep him in this county they may as well send him back in front of the Program Review Committee (PRC) and have him taken out of ERP.  The tone he took in the ensuing discussion was menacing, almost threatening.  It was so out of character, at least in what we had seen up to this point for him.  Ms. grey reacted very calm, almost coming across as if she was afraid of him, as she used a very soothing tone.  In conversations among us later, we were amazed Hogan was still in the group after that exchange.  After that she announced we all had to review our Phase II goals and objectives again to verify they were compliant with SMART – that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely.  I had gotten min approved yesterday so I thought I was good.  But then she also announced she didn’t have everybody else’s goals and objective sheets even though everyone had turned them in.  This, of course, made everybody unhappy as people argued the point.  She had been referring to mine as not being SMART.  So now I approached her and asked what was wrong now.  The bottom line is it has to be rewritten.  Lunch was interesting, as the guys in the group just were freaking on Ms. Grey and how she appears to be not at all wanting us to succeed.  After lunch we saw the movie 28 Days starring Sandra Bullock and were assigned to a discussion sheet to fill out this weekend.  That night the theme of frustration continued as the new people coming in were trying to get in on the exercise bike and machines in the room that is our group room, that doubles as the rec room.  I’d seen fights nearly break out over the amount of time certain people spend on the machines so I stay away.  It’s not worth it.  But the new folks don’t know how it works and complained to guard Ruth Barthowski who tried to enforce the 30 minute limit on the machines that’s never followed.  This just ticked everybody off at the “snitches” though no one really knew who they were but that didn’t stop them from guessing.  Week 15 is over, but signs of stress, fatigue, with the environment and frustration are showing.  I suppose this is normal and was inevitable. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  After I left you last time, we were assembled in the dayroom and the whole place suddenly erupted in catcalls, hooting and hollering.  The reason became evident pretty quick. It seems Kim Murphy from Fox6 News in Milwaukee was on the screen and she had chosen to wear a bright yellow sweater that emphasized…. well let’s just say nobody was looking at her face.  I suspect there has never before or will be again a more informed inmate population that FMCI on current events though I must admit I doubt we remember a thing that she said.  But it’s situations like this that unify men, whether black or white, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, incarcerated or free.  If we only could bottle what boobs do to us, there would never be another war!  Maybe it was something in the air as a result of all this, I’m not sure.  But the guy I told you about yesterday reported he got called into Ms. Greer’s office where Lt. Brodie met with him.  He said Brodie apologized for blowing up at him and didn’t want to see him file a complaint.  What!?  Brodie apologized to an inmate?  Pigs are flying, hell has frozen over and the Pope became Protestant.  I suppose it’s possible it’s true.  People, including Brodie, are complex.  It’s not like TV, where characters are easily pigeon holed into a specific type and that’s all they are.  It can get frustrating when people color outside the lines we’ve drawn for them especially when they use colors we weren’t expecting.  But based on what we know of him I just don’t believe it yet.  I will be open to the possibility Brodie is still capable of treating inmates as human beings as I’ll bet he did once prior to the burnout that can afflict those dealing with people like us inmates over many years.  After supper, I made my way back to my bunk and turned on the radio while I watched the news with closed captioning on.  For the record, I usually watch Milwaukee based WTMJ out of habit and because Brian Gotter is the funniest meteorologist I’ve ever known.  Coincidentally, Kim Murphy used to work there!  But as I rotated radio stations, I found on that, in mid-November, that had apparently picked this week to begin playing an all Christmas Music format.  Back when I was in the real world, I would’ve railed against this horrible exploitation of us consumers, and there would have been some truth in what I was saying.  But I’m thankful for it here.  It reminds me of the kids, of a less dreary place and making plans that I know would make others happy.  But holiday music isn’t the preferred choice around here and I’d get a lot of strange looks not to mention assumptions made of what a fruitcake I must be.  So as something played from the Mariah Carey Christmas CD (Yes, I admit to liking it.  You know you do too!) I reached down to the headphone jack and made sure the plug-in for my headphones was firmly connected and no one was staring in my direction.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  As I’d noted earlier, I’m in the middle of a 5 day bunk confinement.  In preparation, another inmate needed laundry soap so I gave him what I had left in exchange for doing my laundry since I couldn’t get off my bunk to monitor it.  Bunk confinement stinks but its not that bad.  It’s harder on my bunkmate(Cellie) than me as he is used to me being gone at least some of the time.  It was Monday and I woke up about 5 am.  I gave my laundry bag to this inmate, then ate breakfast and returned to my bunk.  A couple of hours later Lt. Brodie announced we must all remain on our bunks until further notice as we were having an “area shakedown”.  If we wanted to use the restroom we would need to be strip searched.  Meanwhile, people started pulling out food from the cafeteria they’d stored and started moving it down and what they couldn’t finish they handed out to others and what they couldn’t get rid of there they tossed in the little waste basket by their bunks.  Unauthorized property wasn’t as simple of a problem.  I had two problems here.  Another inmate has both my state clothing and the clothing I bought from the catalogs to do the laundry and because we can’t leave our bunks I can’t get it back.  That means that clothing could get tossed in the shakedown as it won’t be on his property list.  Also, as you might recall, I had a lamp on my bunk I didn’t buy.  I watched others trying to get rid of property.  Some threw it on bunks of guys who were at work, others tossed items in the aisle hoping the guards wouldn’t see it.  Of course, being the anxiety junkie I am, was all freaked about the lamp for awhile.  But the guys most worried were those in possession of alcohol and/or tobacco, one of which was Charlie.  He kept going up and down the aisle trying to find a way to unload it.  Guards came by twice over the next 4 hours to let us use the restroom and get water.  Each time they took us two at a time into the shower area doing the whole strip search procedure they’ve done since Day One.  It seems while we were waiting another unit was having their turn at getting shook down.  Lunch time came and they gave us paper plates with hamburgers and returned us to our bunks.  Finally a little after noon we were told to line up for the bathroom but this time we were each sent to an individual stall.  But not a normal strip search by a blue shirt this time.  They wore red shirts.  They were guard trainees that had been bussed in just for this occasion.  Once we’d been searched and gotten dressed, we walked up to the Multi-purpose Building, the same place as Chapel and orientation.  All the way there, there were at least 20 guards lined up along the road, half on each side, there to verify we didn’t drop or pass anything.  Out in the yard were guards with metal detectors, presumably looking for weapons.  There were guards checking the roof looking for discarded contraband.  This kind of a shakedown happens once a year I’m told.  I sat in that building till about 4 pm.  No books, no electronics and hundreds of people from which there was no where I could go to get away making ear splitting levels of noise.  Just the very definition of hell itself for the anxiety junkie, at least this one.  Finally, Captain Kramer called for 3 inmates to come to the office – Charlie was one of them.  We then were all sent back.  It looked like a hurricane had hit our unit.  Mattresses were everywhere, papers, documents, and photographs on the floor.  We spent hours that night straightening up.  Somehow my clothes and lamp weren’t taken.  There were inmates with items that had been broken or shouldn’t have been taken.  They were told to fill out complaints.  Guess how that will turn out?  But Charlie never returned.  Percy packed his stuff in boxes.  I had watched him go in the office.  I think he knew what was coming.  I felt bad for him on a certain level.  But tonight, I felt a collective sigh of relief from the whole unit, myself included.