Posts Tagged ‘inspection’


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, June 6th would turn out to be a record breaking day heat wise in the Milwaukee area.  Though we are in an environment where we never see the outside world, we very much feel the effects as the air from the outside world is pumped through the ventilation system.  But the day didn’t begin all that badly.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey returned from vacation having gotten to see the Grand Canyon among other places.  She appeared relaxed, content much more than I’d seen her in the past.  The first thing we did was to go through the relapse trigger assignment.  Ms. Grey surprised us with having the presenting inmate do a skit with other group members reflecting the relapse triggers described.  For mine, she had two inmates play my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin expressing concern about how much isolating and the amount of time I spent on a computer, which I could actually see them doing.  As an IT Infrastructure and .NET Framework programmer, fortunately they know I will be working on the computer a lot, knocking the rust off my skills.  While all this was going on I saw guard Ron Kidd standing at the front door of my cell.  Sure enough he had gone in and was doing a cell inspection.  We had largely been ignored since the big shakedown here but Kidd and cellie Malcolm Johnson have already had several run ins.  He hasn’t gotten the idea yet to stay below the radar which is surprising since he has spent so much time in prison.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands happened to be there and said he saw Kidd go straight to the fan he managed to acquire from a departing inmate (again) and take it which led him to think someone snitched on him, possibly Johnson.  While Johnson has become one who seems to spend a lot of time at the guard desk and time alone with his ERP social worker Ms. Carr, I don’t think Johnsons was the snitch this time.  The bottom line is he took a fan, an extra set of clothes I had and ripped down everything taped to the wall including our antennas for TV.  Reception can be hard here so that was annoying.  But back to group.  I participated in the skit for ERP group member Russ Johnson.  I played his twelve year old daughter, while Sands played his ex-wife, who were making demand if him.  Apparently, I did a good job playing his daughter.  At one point in the skit, mom and dad were fighting and I quipped, “Mom and dad are fighting again.  Oh Well.  More presents for me.”  Everyone laughed at this.  Then we got into the Phase 3 essay test while she reviewed our Plan A and B plan.  It was a simple test.  Afterwards, she made suggestions on how to improve the poster and covered the definition of craving that she hadn’t covered yet but had been on the test.  By now, the heat, a high of 94 degrees outside and high humidity, had descended on us.  In these polyester uniforms it was just miserable.  And Sands, as well as Jose Michaels, have no fans.  I felt bad for them but nothing I could do.  Speaking of Michaels, he really is working hard.  He is thoroughly doing the exercises in the Houses of Healing book by Robin Casarjian.  Just a ton of effort in everything program related.  Malcolm, on the other hand, has made it clear he doesn’t want to do anything.  It’s kind of interesting to watch.  After group, some members called me over.  They want me to create a title for the poster board on the graduation project on the computer.  Of course, I wasn’t happy.  Just poor planning on this all around.  Other groups had their project done months before and here we are 4 days before graduation still planning.  But Russell Johnson volunteered to step up and make it.  I was happy.  Perhaps too, the heat is just making me cranky. Mail call came and along with it, another development with my daughter, Lexi.  She had gone on Facebook and gave me a friend request (Under my real name of course.  If you’d like to befriend Jake on Facebook, go here).  I asked the blog sponsor who watches these things for me to accept her request and let her know I can’t wait to see her and to look around her Facebook page for me and let me know what’s going on with her.  Finally, a window into what is going on!  I settled in for the night with a smile in spite of sweating along with some apprehension. 


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 couldn’t believe it but on Friday evening the Koss headphones I bought off the Jack & Marcus catalog cracked over the right ear piece.  Cellie Corey Ball had tape and managed to make them useable for the short term.  He and cellie Brian Whalen are graduating May 6th, over over 2 weeks away so they each tried to get me to buy their headphones or ear buds.  I had to say no because in the event of an inspection that could be trouble for me.  But these plastic clear headphones are frustrating.  They appear to have no more than a 4 to 6 month life span before they break and doubly so because I’m 2 months away from release.  I bit the bullet and put in an order for a new pair of headphones.  After Ball and Whalen leave I’m going to have 2 new cellies come in for my last 45 days or so and no telling what they might be like. Headphones are an essential piece from going crazy at times.  Guard Roscoe Peters was very professional in signing the disbursement form and such even if he was distant.  Since this blog was discovered, professional but distant, would be the way to describe how most of the staff treats me.  No joking around and such, but that’s ok.  Many ask me about specific blog entries, especially the identify of the guard who had a drug problem.  I’ve taken to saying its all made up just to avoid the questions even though of course it isn’t.  Nobody buys it anyway as they all think they know who it is.  Anyway, one thing I haven’t covered here are the visits we get, mostly because since my arrival I haven’t had any.  But once you are called for a visit, such as Whalen was this weekend by the therapist who sent him the letter. (who by the way are doing quite well) You go into the room that doubles as the computer room on the top floor and as the library on the bottom.  Anyone in the room at the time has to leave.  It’s a video visit more like what you would do over a webcam or in a county jail.  The biggest problem you might have is the inmates walking by and checking out who is visiting with you and what they look like.  And of course, then the comments and catcalls you receive after.  It’s very easy for others to see the person because of the glass walls and the size of the screen.  I’m sure this is designed this way for security reasons though.  When Whalen finished, of course everyone in the room joked about his visit which he enjoyed.  The good thing about this cell is when people joke around with each other it doesn’t get taken too far, unlike some other cells here.  On Sunday I got to speak with my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  After wishing each other a Happy Easter, they let me know my ex-wife had had her father pass away a week prior.  Like many inmates I get annoyed with the time delay in getting news.  But what are you going to do?  I wrote her a condolence letter which considering how angry I used to be with her, is quite remarkable.  In it I shared a memory of her father, expressed hope that her and the kids were okay and told her I looked forward to seeing the family at Charles Martin’s retirement in July even though it also makes me nervous.  Honesty is good and this isn’t something I would have done almost 24 months ago. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  We were waiting for our ERP group leader Ms. Grey, when another ERP group leader told us she wasn’t coming.  Many of us returned to our cells, and we hadn’t been there for a minute when Ms. Grey along with intern Nikita came.  We spent the morning session finishing the book Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain, specifically  Chapter 15.  It portrayed prison as a gift that’s been given to us to allow us the opportunity to effect change in our lives.  Well if you’ve been following this blog at all you know that to be true, that change has been affected, particularity true before my time at MSDF.  But prison as a gift?  There are many words and phrases I’d apply to the concept of prison.  Some aren’t printable.  Gift wasn’t one of them!  But I get the point.  Though I lost everything coming to prison, there is one thing I kept – my life.  Had I not come to prison with the path I was on I very well could have taken my own life by now.  So I guess you could say prison gave me the gift of my life.  Lets just hope prison never gets the chance to give me any more gifts!  But anyway, we have to return this book to Ms. Grey.  I would have kept this one.  Our afternoon session was spent watching a video on addiction that describes how it affects the brain and how scientists are trying to develop a vaccine for addiction, specifically cocaine.  Sorry, I wasn’t close enough to see the DVD case for info on the video.  The evening was full of intrigue, thankfully none of it directly involving me.  Both swampers are now from the cell next door where cellie Larry Sands came from and where former cellie Malik Pearl had moved to earlier.  Sands informed me about how cellie Brian Whalen was planning to sell a lot of cocaine being provided by another inmate from that cell.  Unknown to him, their plan was to rob him once they were all out and Whalen came up with the money.  I told Sands if he knew this we had a responsibility to throw Whalen off this plan somehow, even if he didn’t want to cross those guys.  I just feel bad for Whalen.  I’m afraid he’s going to get himself hurt with his biggest crime being he wants to be liked.  As the day and night progressed more and more people began arriving to take beds for the next ERP group that’s starting.  The problem began when an inmate arrived with a lower bunk restriction and there were no lower bunks to be had at this point.  The guard in charge, not a regular, decided to bump the swamper in that cell next door, that is making this deal with Whalen off his bottom bunk for this guy.  He put him in a cell on top bunk above an inmate when many think this is the nastiest guy here.  But the guys in the swampers cell vehemently protested, wanting instead for them to move Sands out of our cell and move the new guy here.  They tried to convince the guards to do this but no dice.  The female guard got to the point she tossed their cell (inspect for contraband) after they said one of the reasons they couldn’t move him was that they all combine their canteen which is of course a rule violation.  I don’t know how the inspection came out but Sands was mad that they tried to disrupt his situation just because they didn’t like what was happening.  These guys made it clear to Sands once regular second shift Ruth Barthowski returns she’ll make him move as they believe they have influence over her.  I’ve seen it but I don’t think she’ll let them push her into this.  We’ll see.  Through it all, I’m still relaxed which is remarkable for this anxiety junkie.  My thoughts are outside of this place, for a day when I can write you about the positive things out in the world even if I’m struggling. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  While laying on my bunk, a guard accompanied by Lt. Brodie woke me up. I’m sure they figure me for a freak for the startled reaction.  You know better.  They were conducting an inspection and told me that I wasn’t allowed to have my box on my bed and that it had to be broken down.  I of course complied.  Every facility has a handbook describing rules and regulations that govern it and I went to consult it to see if this was in fact a rule violation.  Section 11.2 covered what you could have on your bunk and a box wasn’t forbidden.  But even though the 303 code prohibits arbitrary rule creation by guards or white shirts (supervisors) in practice it happens all the time.  If the inmate refuses to cooperate, the guard or white shirt will discipline them for failure to follow an order, thus the inmate has no immediate vehicle with which to address their grievance or perceived injustice.  The inmates’ only recourse is to comply and then to fill out an inmate complaint form and in several weeks some bureaucrat from the Department of Corrections (DOC) in Madison, who doesn’t have the benefit of context and whose supposed impartiality isn’t fooling anyone, makes a ruling.  The effect of a relationship where one side has all the power is to embitter the other party and this is no different.  Inmates can easily get in deep trouble over what started out as a minor problem because they perceive disrespect from the officer involved.   In my case, I began the first step of the complaint process which was to send an information request to Lt. Brodie to allow him an opportunity to address my grievance without the complaint process.  He has never answered my information requests in the past or from others I’ve talked to.  He was still there so I handed it to him personally and after reviewing it he replied that I’d better comply (getting rid of the box) and if I don’t like it, to fill out an inmate complaint form.  His attitude towards me was how one might react to a tiny dog, powerless as the animal is as he nips at your heels while being ridiculed, ignored and who only inspires annoyance.  I told him I planned on doing so but I needed a written response to my information request to demonstrate I’d completed the first step.  He replied he had just responded.  I emphasized the word “written”.  Brodie waved me off.  I don’t think I’ll ever get a written response.  The thing is, if Brodie demonstrates basic people handling skills, this problem would most likely go away.  But as I’ve noted previously, he doesn’t see us as human.  In all honesty, I’ve probably got a month to go here before going to ERP, have got the choir, conflict going on involving Brodie and I am the type to avoid problems unless absolutely necessary.  The last thing I want is to get in a tussle over a minor issue.  But I’m sure Lt. Brodie counts on this, that inmates won’t follow through. I haven’t decided what to do.  I am happy though with how I conducted myself in this, doing what I’m suppose to do and dealing with Brodie in a manner that is adult, even if he didn’t return the courtesy.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It was quite the day.  Pops went to the hole after the put off inspection took place.  No one is quite sure how or why they happened to pick him to have his bunk inspected.  But as it turned out he had every kind of contraband he could get his hands on – hooch, tobacco, etc.  when they tore apart his bunk.  In fact, 3 hours after inspection the guards were still going through his things and getting them boxed up.  Everyone has long known he was engaged in things but we turned a blind eye.  I did get called to see the doctor today and I asked them to make sure he had blankets.  When I was in chemotherapy I remembered how cold I got.  They were noncommittal.  I thought if these are the compassionate ones he’s in trouble.  But in all fairness to them, it sounds like his problems predate my arrival by a considerable amount.

Then this morning I saw something I’ll probably never see again.  I got up at 4:50 am and as I approached the desk I saw an officer… and an inmate…. singing together!  They were trying to figure out a song title and first she (the officer) would sing, then the inmate, then the two together.  I grinned from ear to ear.  I’ve never seen such a sight!  They must have seen me grinning, because the guard commented that she never sees me sing.  She is correct.  As others will attest, when I sing in the shower the water goes the other way!  They don’t want to hear me sing.  But I said nothing.  I don’t really want, well really its that my default position is to not pursue personal relationships, in general, not just with blue shirts (guards).  So that’s probably a defect in my personality.

Then tonight I got some great news!  They are finally going to let me have my property!  Which includes my electronics like my TV!  Finally!  I’ll be able to NOT watch Maury Povich and Jerry Springer if I choose!  And I’ll get to listen to NPR when I want.

Finally, I got to get canteen after awhile.  Can you imagine the reaction of a  man dying of thirst given lots of water  That’s right, yours truly is on a bit of a sugar buzz!  It’s just because I haven’t had any sweets for a long time.  I’ll settle down tomorrow.  But for now, it’s good to be me. 

Like I said, an eventful day it has been.  I’m going to go bounce off the walls and actually be sociable for awhile.  Now that’s a mood that rarely strikes me here! 

If your wondering about the title to this entry, there was a scene in the production of “West Side Story” that had a cop and a character singing together.  Which after this mornings duet inspired me to name it so. 


I’m at the Fox Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We were suppose to have an inspection today.  Basically a white shirt (Supervisor) comes by and at the minimum security level is basically just looking for obvious rule violations or bunks that are unclean.  But it got cancelled because there was two bags of hooch (homemade alcohol made with yeast, bread and other ingredients) found in Unit 10.  We suspect it really didn’t affect the amount of time available to do the search but its a Friday so it was a good excuse to call it off.  The guards everywhere I’ve been are by no means overworked and this place is no exception.  The guards have a disadvantage here in that they are much more visible in everything they do.  They don’t have a covering over them shielding them from inmate view like they did at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI) or have distance from inmates like they did at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) Admission and Evaluation (A&E) units.  We see when they have two to four times the serving sizes for meals that inmates have or when they spend a lot of time surfing the internet, reading books or being really noisy themselves.  I’m sure other places did this sort of thing but its just not visible to us as much.  The upside for inmates is they largely leave us alone here.  Guards rarely leave their island desk except for the forty foot walk to their bathroom.  The downside is that inmates who are loud, intimidate others or take advantage of others rarely get checked (put in their place).  We do have snitches here, like any other facility and every once in awhile someone goes to the hole based on that information.  But like JCI and DCI, guards don’t want to be bothered as a rule.  But like other places I found exceptions to the rule.  The Property Department Sgt. seemed genuinely interested and wanted to help if he could.  But for the most part, Lt. Brodie, the main white shirt, and the guards, just don’t care about anything that concerns us.  I suspect after they work as guards awhile we become less than human to them.  I’m sure that’s probably true everywhere too.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not out to get the blue shirts (guards), white shirts (supervisors) or the Department of Corrections (DOC).  I’m here to do my time for my crime for which I’m guilty.  I don’t think rehabilitation is the responsibility of the guards or the DOC, but rather the inmate.  If you’ve followed along, you’ve seen how far I’ve come in the time I’ve been incarcerated.  I’ve done it by minding my own business, working on myself and staying focused.  When I slip, I do the very opposite of those things.  This blog, my sponsors and many of you have played a big part in that.  But guards and prison programs can’t do any of that for you.  It would be easy for me to blame guards, the DOC, JCI or DCI for impeding the changes, but needed to be made, but ultimately it really  isn’t their job to make these choices for me.  Can they frustrate or aggravate me?  Oh yeah.  You’ve read about it.  But that won’t stop me from seeing through the obstacles and the possibilities that lay behind them.