Posts Tagged ‘lesson’


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 Memorial Day, a day we remember and thank those who served and especially those who were killed or wounded.  Both my biological family  and my adoptive family have had family members serve in the Armed Forces.  My biological father served in Vietnam as a military policeman.   His father served as well, I’m told as an infantryman.  Other relation in that family served, though I’m still getting to know them, so I’m not sure how.  In my adoptive family, my grandmother and grandfather both on my adoptive father’s side served in World War II in the medical corps as nurses which is how they met.  If you’ve been following along, you now know, as I have been finding out, a lot happened to my biological father that led to the events that involved me.  We’ve learned his issues began before his involvement in the Vietnam war.  For my adoptive family, it’s been no cakewalk either.  Grandfather, along with his daughter they all have fought life long battles with mental illness.  My uncles Frankie and Gary, served seem to have been the most severely affected.  Frankie’s life ended in suicide.  For Gary, he’s spent virtually his entire life in a VA mental hospital in Tomah, WI.  With mental illness present in the family, being part of the military embellished on tendencies and impacted family members.  So, the point of all this of course is that war has accelerated the existing wounds for those who fought, followed by the collateral damage inflicted on those around them, damage that is multigenerational.  I have seen signs of progress.  Years ago if a soldier acted out, there was little help, certainly no recognition of the problem.  Now I see commercials telling soldiers there is help out there and implying it’s their duty to seek it out if needed.  America has learned this lesson of war, to not neglect those who fought after the battle is over.  It’s unfortunate it took so long and so many suffered directly or indirectly.  But today, I tip my hat to all the veterans in my families and in my country.  I’m proud of them all.

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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).  One part of the ERP program is we are required to do a detailed report on our drug of choice.  I’m told other ERP programs in WPS had access to a lot of resources to do these reports that we don’t have here at MSDF.  That combined with the fact that this is an OWI group which meant that everyone’s drug of choice was alcohol meant that all of the reports sounded the same and contained identical statistical information.  So yeah it was a little boring but we had to go through the motions.  Even our ERP group leader Ms. Grey has acknowledged that the lack of resources limits the ability for her to provide a productive group experience.  Anyway, after these reports were read we proceeded to our self evaluations for Phase II, like we had done for Phase I.  Group members Dean Stark and Russ Johnson had learned their lesson to not rate themselves too highly with Johnson probably going overboard the other way.  I had rated myself a 4 on a scale of 1 to 15 on being social with peers and the group said I should mark it down to a 3.  They were right of course.  On interaction with staff I rated myself a 4 but ERP group member Scott Dietz said sarcastically I’d had a lot of staff interaction lately referring to my trip to the hole.  The rating stood.  Dietz has been making a lot of snide remarks since my return from the hole.  It might be because of this blog but as Johnson put it to me when he said not to take it personally as this is just the way he is.  That is true.  In the afternoon session we started out with wearing “beer goggles” which are supposed to simulate different levels of intoxication.  We went out into the dayroom where we pulled the tables and chairs aside and put tape on the floor and attempted to do the heel to toe walk police do for a DUI test.  And who should be running all of this but intern Nikita!  She has been very quiet and reserved for the most part.  But she conducted herself quite well for the most part.  While the exercise was funny, it reminded me of the failed tests I’d had my previous arrest.  ERP group member Mark Hogan pretended to accidentally run into Nikita but she didn’t let it phase her.  The group was testing her which was pretty clear.  After Ms. Grey, who had taken a couple group members on parole officer (PO) calls, we did more tests.  We setup the chairs as an obstacle course, tried to balance a ruler on a fingertip, and threw a ball back and forth between us.  All of them demonstrated our lack of coordination and muscle/eye cooperation.  Though the goggles really weren’t realistic it made the point at least for me.  We had time left over so then we watched what Ms. Grey said was the last movie we had to watch called First Time Felon.  This movie was about a younger man (Omar Epps) involved in gang life who gets a second chance by going through boot camp, the struggles he has after getting out and his eventual realization of his goal to be an inner city youth counselor.  It was a good movie.  We were given a reaction paper to write due for Monday.  This weekend is Easter so Monday is a furlough day but none of us knew that until later.  But the bottom line is another week is done, which is 19 of 26.  I thank God for getting me through another one.


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 is the day when no ERP groups are held.  Usually it’s a slow day but not for me.  I had my second call with my parole officer scheduled for today at 10:30 am.  This call would introduce me to my new PO from Outagamie County and helps prepare both of us for my release.  Of course, this assumes I go to my adoptive parents Rev. Charles and Victoria Martin, home in WI and not a halfway house in Waukesha County.  To make this even more confusing, their home is actually in a part of a town that is part of Calumet County, while the rest of the city is in Winnebago County.  So, I ‘m being assigned the PO office in Outagamie County because it’s the closest to their house.  Got all that?  I figure that geography lesson might be important to understand later.  Anyway, 10:30 am came and went and no Ms. Grey.  I checked with ERP group member John Lloyd who had his PO call scheduled before me and she hadn’t shown up for his call. After deliberating what to do, I decided to ask regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters to call her.  Clearly he’s had his fill of the trouble on the unit as Ms. Grey is seen as the cause, judging by the things he said about her.  Finally about 10:40 am she showed up but it was too late for the call with Lloyd’s PO as they weren’t available now.  Then it was my turn.  I didn’t ask why she was late.  Nothing good could come from the question.  My new PO was able to take the call.  She identified herself as Helen Gayther.  It was apparent Charles Martin had had discussions with her previously as I was able to quickly secure permission to attend his retirement party in July.  She came across fine to me, a very bottom line type.  I explained my plan as I have to you in my long term goals and objectives.  While doing so, Ms. Grey is nudging me to ask about if any kind of electronic monitoring would be put on me after release.  My philosophy was to let the PO bring it up if it was to be.  But Ms. Grey of course brought it up.  Ms. Gayther than said that yes she would have me wear one for 90 days after I get out.  It’s purpose was to make sure I’m in at a certain time every night.  This didn’t really upset me.  What got to me was my own social worker seemed to be trying to make things more difficult for me.  Then the discussion turned to the day of my release and if I’d have a ride to where my parents residence, which was a couple of hours northeast of Waukesha.  I immediately thought of one of this blog sponsors so I said sure.The call ended with Ms. Grey telling me afterward my PO had to put me on the bracelet so she was just getting that established.  I thought well if that’s true (which I know is at the PO discretion) then why are you concerned about it?  But I kept my mouth shut.  After the call I found out the procedure for release if you don’t have a PO or staff transport.  They take you to the bus station along with your boxes and drop you off there.  Problem is they don’t have a specific time they will do it.  This sponsor that will get me is from Green Bay, WI so how that is going to work isn’t clear.  Release will be between June 10 and June 24th so hopefully it comes into focus.  We’ve got time as its only April 6th.  Later on that day guard Ruth Barthkowski returned to work and she chose to talk to me this day.  She tells me she suffers from fibromyalgia which makes her feet hurt and she is extremely susceptible to stress.  With her having left in the middle of her shift the other day with all the drama going on , it now makes sense.  She is thinking she might retire before the budget repair bill law goes into effect which is real soon.  She is a thirty year veteran of corrections and this law will gut her benefits.  She worries how she’ll make a go of it financially in retirement.  I do feel for her.  These are real world worries I’ll be dealing with myself soon too.


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).  I’m standing in line waiting for lunch about 10:30 am and a black inmate standing next to me said “I hate all white people.” He hadn’t intended for me to hear it as he didn’t know I was there.  We made eye contact and he tried to backtrack, saying he meant “some white people”.  I laughed, I joked that no he didn’t, he hated us all.  With the ice broken, he explained to me what was going on, without me asking for an explanation.  It seems Lt. Brodie had told someone something different that what he told someone else, concerning some issue and had basically blown him off when he complained.  Having had some experience with Brodie and the others on first and second shift I sympathized.  My new friend commented that he’d guarantee he’d go to the hole the day before he got out in 4 months because he would let them know what he thought of them.  I shared my theory, as I’ve shared with all of you.  The guards and Brodie see us as less than human, like animals in a cage, and if they didn’t meet the needs or wants of the caged animal, so what?  Besides, at the end of the day, what could we do about it really?  There’s no immediate redress of grievances available to us.  I’m not sure its the guards fault entirely.  Day in and day out they do what they’ve been trained to do – keep the inmates down.   The only caution I throw in is that its the same attitude that allowed an entire nation to approve of and/or look the other way while ten million people were murdered.  When you dehumanize people, conscience is rendered useless.  But the point to my friend is that it wasn’t so much racism at play as he thought but rather extreme apathy on the guards part – to tell whoever whatever they want to hear just to get them to go away.  It really isn’t personal on their part.  Their apathy is applied on an equal opportunity basis regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.  Furthermore, I encouraged him to be careful in what he says or does in his remaining time.  Don’t sabotage yourself.  Privately, I thought the fact you are so focused on getting revenge on those that disrespect you 4 months from your release is worrisome.  There are so many other things to be thinking about.  Finally, I told him, no matter what you do, you won’t change anything in what the guards or Brodie do or think.  It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn here.  What i have been working on is to learn to be content regardless of the circumstances.  Often you have read where I’m upset when I’m not happy with what is happening.  Even leading up to my arrest, when everything was falling apart around me.  If I’ve learned that lesson, I’m not in prison.  I can be content regardless of my circumstances as long as I have made changes to the things I can control.  My friend told me he doesn’t think that way, that he can’t not just let it go.  I get it.  But I don’t want to live that way and make those same mistakes.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The laundry procedure is quite different here than it was at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) or at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI). Here we accumulate clothes and wash it with the clothes we buy from the catalogs, as well as the sheets we put on top of the foam padding we lay on.  You can also choose to turn it all in except what you personally buy and pick up clean stuff after count around 6 pm.  The only problem with that is its a crapshoot what you’ll get.  You can tell them what sizes you need but much like DCI or JCI, it may or may not resemble that, or it’s really stretched out.  Here you learn to hang onto good laundry and bigger sheets and wash it yourself with laundry soap you can buy off canteen.  With only 2 old washers and dryers, inmates try to keep them running all the time.  If you aren’t there when the washer or dryer completes, other inmates yell real loud, “Washer!” or “Dryer!” with a voice that indicates annoyance.  If you still don’t get your laundry, it gets piled by the guard station which I’m sure annoys them.  I’m not willing to let my laundry out of my sight so that hasn’t been a problem for me.  I don’t have a trust issue here.  I trust people here to repeat previous patterns of behavior and that for many, includes theft.  Once done, I brought my laundry back to my bunk.  Since I’m on top bunk, my cellie leaves while i make it up.  Speaking of my cellie, his parole hearing was rescheduled and he actually got the Act 28 early release which was surprising especially since he got kicked out of his ERP program at Oshkosh Correctional Institution (OCI).  Now he has to go through the approval process.  He has handled me being around more ok. At least I think so.  Neither of us are the type to talk a lot so its hard to tell.

Well, I’ll close with some updates.  I told you previously I had lost a lot of weight during chemotherapy and I was trying to gain the weight back. Mission accomplished and then some!  All of a sudden, it just appeared.  I’m not 6’1”  and 195 pounds.  I’m heavier now than I’ve ever been.  It feels good but now I wonder if I’m going to get fat.  Of course, when I go to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) for my ERP program, I’m told the portion sizes for meals are smaller and there’s little canteen to get.  So, I’ll be dieting one way or another.  Next, I’m told my sponsors are now mirroring this blog on WordPress. They have more tools they can use like statistics, then Windows Live I’m told.  So feel free to check it out and tell them or me what you think.  Finally, I was told on the last scan, they found an abscessed tooth.  I’m not sure what that is but the doc asked them to take care of it.  It explains the pain a bit.   They asked why I didn’t say something.  I guess its because, as usual, I’m the last one to admit I have a problem.  One of these days, I’m going to learn that lesson, and in the process, spare myself and others the unnecessary pain that only gets worse with the lack of honesty.