Posts Tagged ‘institutions’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Nothing much happened the weekend after our ERP Group graduated.  Two minor incidents would have implications later on.  First, cellie Scar Johnson began talking trash about me in the dayroom.  I got word of this from cellie Larry Sands.  I just didn’t care as I’ve come to know the person he is and since I’m almost out of here opinions here matter even less than it did to me before.  Second, cellie Jose Michaels had the occasion to be playing his music louder than normal.  He likes a Puerto Rican style of rap which I don’t care for.  But the way it has worked in our cell up to this point is we use our headphones for electronics.  It’s a respect thing as not everyone likes what another might.  So, I asked him to turn it down which he did.  End of story right?  Not exactly.  Come Monday, it started similar to when I first got to MSDF.  Lots of TV, took a shower and read.  It’s so nice to not have to wait in line for the shower now!  But during the day, our ERP social worker Ms. Grey came by and summoned us to the dayroom.  I hoped against hope she got word our judges had already signed our paperwork, but no such luck.  Though she hadn’t felt the need to go through our Phase III evaluations, she brought our Phase 3 evaluations for our signature.  Glancing through mine, the ratings were generally positive, but the true reflection of how she felt laid in the comments she made.  She mentioned how I went to the hole because of this blog but also mentions that though I never received any kind of discipline for it I seem to always have to have the last word and that I didn’t seem to grasp the basic tenants of the ERP program.  I read this and briefly agreed.  I was helping at her request other inmates with their goals for crying out loud!  But I wasn’t going to make any headway here, certainly not with all those other group members standing around.  It felt vindictive, almost retaliatory on her part.  Of course, this doesn’t change anything about my status as having completed the ERP program.  The only downside is this eval will go to my parole officer (PO), Helen Gaither.  There’s a good chance she won’t even read it.  But at the time I admit to being angry.  I was even more angry when Sands returned and told me Ms. Grey asked him if he regretted moving to this cell.  When he said no, she asked if he was sure.  Again he said no.  I sat there fuming.  I went about my business thinking about all this.  I got in a better mood though when Michaels came around.  He has such a positive attitude, you can’t help but not be down around him.  We got to talking and he told me that he had been unhappy when I asked him to turn down the music and that he can’t wait till Sands and I leave so he can run the show in this cell and they can be bad as they want in there.  He was decent about it and he demonstrated respect by seeing we had a way of doing things before he got here.  But I’ll still be glad I won’t be here for that collision between Scar and Michaels!  But I’ll close with some comments about what Ms. Grey did.  Its good I always wait before I write these entries.  It allows perspective to form.  But to be honest, I’ve been unhappy with my writing for this blog while at MSDF.  I have had one hour a day to write whereas at other institutions I had tons of time.  I’m also unhappy with my time at MSDF.  I grew as a person much more while at DCI, JCI, and FMCI.  Though MSDF and ERP were largely negative influences in my life, ultimately I’m responsible for my own growth or lack thereof.  So I have to accept responsibility for that.  It’s not Ms. Grey, MSDF, cellies or others fault.  But I will say I do look forward to a more positive atmosphere that I will create out in the world.  The proof is in the pudding as they say.  I believe that with God’s help, I will be successful even if it does look overwhelming now. 

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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).  With Monday night being cellie Andre Charles last night prior to release he was bouncing off the walls and keeping us all up.  Cellie Corey Ball broke out his refried beans and I even broke my no food after 8 pm rule and joined in.  It was quite late before we settled down.  The next morning (Tuesday)  was my laundry and shower day so it means I was up at 5 am so I was pretty tired.  Andre was also up at 5 am which he never does.  But we all were guessing he’d be gone by lunch.  Group began with the ERP group leader telling us she was bringing the breathing exercise back despite our vote to eliminate it but she was making it optional to participate.  After we were done she announced we were going through chapters of the Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian and we had to go slowly because we didn’t have a lot of content left in the ERP program to cover and because we’re at MSDF, a maximum security facility, we can’t do much of what Phase III of the ERP program that inmates at other institutions (usually minimum or medium security) would normally be doing.  That phase at those institutions have a lot of community involvement getting them ready for release.  So we are reading chapters from that book.  Fortunately it’s an excellent book but the guys in the group were clearly bored as we read aloud.  Even Ms. Grey seemed to not be into this.  At lunch, Andre was still here and when count rolled around guard Roscoe Peters announced it was Andre’s last count.  We returned to group at 1 pm.  We went over Chapter 12 and wrote letters to ourselves, acknowledging and forgiving ourselves for the past wrongs we’ve done.  I’d already done this in my Phase I goals and objectives, so I read that aloud when it was my turn.  At about 2 pm, I looked out the window of the group room and saw Andre and his ERP group leader having an extremely animated conversation.  H saw me in the window and threw up his hands in the air in frustration.   I’d find out after group he was told for reasons unknown no transport was available to take him to his parole officer (PO) office so he’d have to stay another night.  The PO herself would come get him at 10:30 am-11:00 am the next day.  Andre was furious.  A “normal” person locked up 2 years as he’s been would be anxious and upset but as we’ve seen with him, he’s not “normal” when it comes to anger.  That night he paced the floor, stressing on the injustice done to him, snapping at everyone in the room at some point.  I just stayed silent.  I’m just as unhappy as he is that he’s still here.  We were assigned to make a list of reasons we are grateful.  I focused on that and prayed for deliverance to come for both of us tomorrow. 


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 evening started off with on of my cellmates, Brian Whalen and I in a disagreement.  Whalen has an issue with boundaries, both establishing them and violating those of others.  Andre Charles, another cellmate constantly plays with him, one moment huddling up to him acting like his friend, then the next using those words to ridicule and criticize him. Andre is always going into his locker to get things like the AIM Dental Floss picks they sell here (which by the way are useless.  Old fashioned dental floss is much more effective and easier to use).  He has weight issues, so Andre tells him what’s good to eat and motivates him to work out, both of which he usually gives good advice for but adds to the impression of a small dog desperately seeking his master’s approval.  While Andre picks on him I often tell them both they’re like husband and wife in the way they argue.  Both Malik Pearl and I just laugh when they get into it because often it is funny.  Andre tries this with me but I upset him as I won’t play.  I told him he’s a teenager (he’s actually 37) looking for attention when he farts (which is a lot), or starts yelling or acting out.  He didn’t like that at all.  Plus it annoys him I care nothing about his opinion.  On the plus side he’d make a heck of a salesman.  But Whalen has the habit being on the lower bunk and I on the upper of grabbing the edges of my bunk while I’m laying on it.  Sounds like nothing but when someone’s knuckles bump your butt you notice.  So I asked him to stop and when he didn’t I started hitting his knuckles when they appeared.  He replied that he didn’t think it was a big deal.  But the nice thing about men as opposed to women who disagree is we usually get over it quickly.  That night, guard Ruth Bartkowski was on duty again.  As I walked pas the desk, I heard her talking with an inmate about his heroin addiction.  The inmate was explaining how tough it was to get out from under and Ruth was engaging him, giving him advice, affirmation and encouragement.  I have not met a finer person I think in the prison system.  She doesn’t have to do what she’s doing.  The demons of cynicism and burnout haven’t gotten her yet unlike so many who work in these institutions.  I hope I get the courage to get to know this blue shirt.  The next morning was not my finest hour at all.  I get up about 5am and went for breakfast.  I found out later that extra cereal containers and raisin boxes are left on the serving table and inmates will grab them.  A guard named Sgt. Tackleberry loudly yelled at an old inmate who took a box of raisins and he returned them.  A while later, John Lloyd who came into MSDF with me and also starts ERP on Monday and sits to my left at mealtime got up and grabbed a plastic cereal container and returned to the table.  I asked if anyone cared if he did that and Lloyd said no.  So despite hearing the warning from earlier I got up and did the same. Tackleberry immediately pounced on me.  I returned it.  It was SO stupid on my part.  I’m pretty sure he wrote my name down and wrote a warning on my card.  It wasn’t fatal this time but I’ve GOT to be smarter, more focused and stop thinking about food.  ER starts for me in two days and I can’t afford to keep screwing up like this.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). This morning we were locked down for unknown reasons at the time.  There is a lot of confusion over the disruption of routine any time it occurs.  Should we go back to sleep?  Watch TV?  What’s going on?  I’ve been around long enough to not even let it bother me one way or another, as have my cellies.  But it came out later.  Apparently,  they were doing some kind of weapons training on the 1st floor so they wanted to keep us locked down.  We finally got out after 1pm.  I and my group resumed work at the tables in the dayroom on the work Ms. Grey had given us.  At my table has been Scott Bunker, John Lloyd, and a guy from Alabama named Augie Prescott.  Prescott is deep south and is not shy with his view on minorities, so Bunker and he became friendly.  I’m quiet and Lloyd usually just sits back and agrees with anything he says.  Prescott has taken to calling black people share of ignorance as well picking on white people’s dress, manners and speaking.  MSDF has the most out in the open racially prejudice I’ve seen in the institutions.  It doesn’t help I’m sure that they divide the ERP groups, one drug offenders, the other OWI offenders.   The OWI group has 1 black man, named Larry Sands, the rest are all white.  But at our table, Bunker and Prescott go back and forth with their comments and jokes.  I threw myself into the assignments.  One was to write in detail about my OWI Offenses.  Another about what I’m hoping the ERP program will do for me.  It is difficult to write this one and Ms. Grey wants 2 pages.  We also had to conduct an interview of another group member, which I did.  I was interviewed by Dean Stark who is a nice enough guy but kind of gives me the creeps.  I had to interview Tom Dietz and he impressed me.  He’s a business owner and very good with people.  We never did see Ms. Grey today.  I’m not sure why.  She has been conducting what is suppose to be in depth interviews of each person.  I’m being told she knows nothing about us beforehand.  I’m real tempted to not be honest about my background because I don’t want other inmates to know any of it.  I’ve decided to be brutally honest about my background.  I just don’t think I have any reason to be ashamed of it and if I truly don’t care what they think I need to just do it.  In fact, in many ways, I could be proud of what I’ve overcome and accomplished – except for not doing what I needed to do to stay healthy.  But they’re handing out canteen, so I better go and listen for my name.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’ll be on my way to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) on Monday to begin my ERP program. Some of you have emailed questions to be answered.  Most are confidential and specific to your situation but some might interest others and are more general so I’ll answer them here.

Question:  What will happen to the blog when you are released?

Answer:    The blog will continue.  The focus will change to what life is like on parole as some of the biggest battles and such deal with staying out of prison.  My sponsors and I occasionally talk about whether or not what we’re doing here should have exposure elsewhere and how to accomplish that but none of us really know as this concept and how we do it isn’t all that common.  Those of you who’ve made suggestions and helped promote the blog, please know I’m very grateful and the sponsors work on your suggestions as time permits.  So please keep them coming!    

 

Question:  Do you think going to prison was a good thing for you?  Has it helped with the issues that got you there?

Answer:    I think something had to happen, something had to stop the insanity that was going on.  I deserved to go to prison.  As far as helping with my issues, that work was done by me as you’ve watched over the last 19 months.  Up till now, as I’ve said before, it’s up to me to get better, not the institutions or guards. 

 

Question:  What would have been the length of time needed for you to “get it”?

Answer:    Do you feel I’ve “gotten it”?  I feel I “get it” more and more everyday.  Do I feel ready now to go out there?  Yes!  But God will open that door when its time in spite of any whining I might or you might hear me do.

 

Question:  Did prison save your life?

Answer:    No.  I was suicidal when arrested and it wasn’t well into January of this past year (2010) my resolve and faith was renewed and I made a commitment to stay alive.  Dang it, with my background, cancer, teenage life, battle with mental illness, going to prison and such I feel like there’s a plan out there for me to do something.  If not, I should’ve been dead long ago.

 

Question:  What are you in prison for and what were the circumstances surrounding your crime?

Answer:    I am in prison for my fifth and sixth drunk driving offenses.  In 1995 I had 3 arrests in one year as all I did was party.  As the years went by, the problems described here got worse and worse.  But even as I continued to drink more and more, I kept on improving professionally. There were long periods of sobriety but as things at home and work escalated, I would go “off the deep end”.  I would come out of it, vow to do better, and then would be ok for awhile.  My fifth offense came when I tried to track my step-daughter down who had gone missing and I tried to calm down by drinking.  While out on bail for that, my sixth offense was my suicide attempt where i combined alcohol and seroquel and was determined to drive into a semi on the highway so it would appear as an accident and my family would get my life insurance.  I passed out before I got to the highway.  Obviously, I’ve summarized a great deal here and haven’t gone into great detail on the mental health issues.  But know this:  It was wrong and I deserve to be here because I didn’t seek help when I knew I had to and couldn’t do it on my own.  My pride prevented me from doing so and as a result I lost everything.  That, in a very brief nutshell, is the answer to your question.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) Family has got an offer you can’t refuse – especially since they control every aspect of your life, potential release and they know that your financially destitute.  You feel like your not bargaining on an  equal footing, though you had more strength than you knew.  But the deal pleased the “Family”, as they keep the secrets of where the bodies are buried, who killed them and who knew about it safely hidden.  The “Family” will offer that deal and more 8 days a week to keep you silent and feel they got off light.  The past couple days around here the conversation around many has revolved around the media reports (original article entitled “Lawyer: Prison could have stopped alleged assaults” was not found, but was printed Wednesday, November 3, 2010 in the Green Bay Press-Gazette) of the payout to an inmate to not file a lawsuit concerning alleged sexual assaults by a former guard, James Trentin (I’m using his real name – I don’t usually use staff or inmates real names – but I’m using his because he was named in the media) at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution and the at best incompetent and at worst intentionally misleading investigation by “prison officials” who then compounded their failure to protect inmates by returning the alleged predator to work where he had access to the inmates.  It was after this point, with the realization he now could act with impunity, that he allegedly assaulted the victim, acted with the supposed consent with 4 others, while several others rejected his advances.  Lets be clear on a couple things.  ANY sexual activity between staff and inmates is sexual assault by staff.  Inmates cannot consent. They can’t walk away and are largely powerless to stop the activity.  Second, inmates are not above using manipulation over staff actions to get what they want.  Really, it can begin to be a contest between who the bigger predator is and which one appears to have more power at a given moment.  Many inmates have perfected their con game.  But based on my readings of the facts, I use the words “alleged predator” in regards to James Trentin because of the fact he is not viewed as a predator by the legal system.  Why you might ask?  In exchange for guilty please to misdemeanors, 22 counts of second degree sexual assault were dropped.  Trentin didn’t do a day because the prosecutor felt inmates weren’t credible despite video evidence of Trentin giving them contraband, testimony of inmates who refused his advances (thus no crime but a pattern of conduce emerges), and testimony of those who were assaulted.  In light of that, I submit the idea that inmate victims are viewed less than worthy than say a collection of victims of a single predator on the outside world, largely because there is no political group with any kind of base to speak for those victims that anyone will listen to.  If this prosecutor treated a group of victims in this fashion in the outside world, they surely would lose their job.  I challenge anyone to disagree with that statement!  But isn’t it interesting how this whole tragedy resembles the abusive family dynamic?  You’ve got generational teachers who educate the parents that run the institutions that you must protect the family at all costs and the secrets that must stay that way, or the irrational fear of family, and individual destruction is planed.  The older siblings, the guards, all know one of their own is a predator on the powerless younger siblings, inmates, but won’t tell because they know the parents really don’t want to know about it.  Some of the powerless younger siblings see no way out so try to bargain with the predatory older sibling for their silence thus gaining an illusion of power and favor.  But one younger sibling complains to the parents about the abuse.  They ask their predator child about the allegations who of course blames the victims – everyone but himself using negotiations of some of the siblings as proof of his innocence.  The parents running the institution go to the complaining sibling and decide for the good of the family’s image to do something extraordinary for the child – to give him $150,000 and extract a promise that they’ll never get put under oath and have to reveal all the family secrets.  Meanwhile, as with all family secrets, they hold their breath and hope no one else comes forward.  Secrets have become their most treasured possession.  Predators (alleged) like James Trentin almost always have had or will have another victim out there somewhere.  Time is a secret’s enemy.  The question isn’t a matter of if but when it comes out.  When it does, will the predatory older sibling go down himself or will all the dominoes fall threatening the whole family for having kept silent?  Do you know something about this or have a similar secrete no one knows? Call Thomas Hayes (414) 271-9844), a lawyer looking into this, or email this blogs sponsors.  Don’t sit in silence any longer.