Posts Tagged ‘lights’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). Who says inmates don’t celebrate New Years Eve?  Neighboring cells got so loud the guard at the desk gave a warning and the second time shut all the power off to the cells.  After giving another warning, the guard turned the power back on.  After resetting my clock, I kept my TV on to watch the ball drop.  According to TMJ4 news it got up to 52 degrees this New Year’s Eve!  I wish I’d been out there with people that love me.  I suppose though I could say that every day.  Cellie Malik Pearl told me the next morning he’d wake me up so we could deal with the cellie Andre Charles problem with 1st shift guard Roscoe Peters.  I said that’d be great.  The lights stayed off until 10:30 am and I didn’t hear from Malik.  Then after I was awake Malik told me he’d already went to Peters and told him and that I should go tell him myself.  I didn’t understand why he had departed from the plan but I was more focused on getting Andre out of this cell.  I went to see Peters and asked if Pearl had been by to see him.  He confirmed and said he knew what it was about and who it was about.  I told him I also wanted to convey how fed up I was.  Peters told me Charles was on his third cell move not including the people who had asked to get out of his cells prior to him being pulled out of each cell.  What Peters was saying is any move would just go and pass this problem onto others and besides the unit manager would be mad if he made any moves.  He wanted us to go to the 2nd shift guard, Ruth Bartkowski.  I don’t think he wanted to deal with it.  I returned to my cell.  Peters and mine conversation must have been overheard as Andre came to the cell and said there was no way I was going to get him put out of that cell, and if I want to leave I should say I want to be with someone from my ERP group.  I told him I’d tell the truth.  He wanted me to go without making things worse for him.  I told him the days of him threatening and intimidating anyone in this cell were over.  I was hot and getting just as loud as he always is.  Then Peters showed up at the door, barking at us to be quiet, do our time, to just get along and he’s tired of hearing us all the way down at the desk from the upper tier.  If he hears it again, he said the two of us are going to the hole.  The conversation continued.  Andre had no idea that Malik had gone to the guard as well as he got on me for “going to the police” until Malik spilled that he had done so as well.  Malik said everything I did – he needs medication, he’s going to kill someone someday and how he keeps people on pins and needles in this room.  He says he’ll change.  Malik wants to give him one more chance.  I reluctantly agreed.  I’m just irritated all of this came to nothing and he’s still in my cell.  But like I said, I’m at the end of my rope with him.  But as usual, now everyone is getting along.  It became pretty clear this isn’t over.  After the Wisconsin Badgers lost the Rose Bowl, Andre started razzing cellie Brian Whalen’s habit of burping from which he took offense.  While Andre was gone, Whalen went on and on about how Andre will never change.  Whalen, your 12 hours too late, I thought.  But I’ve determined, no more threats or intimidation in this cell anymore.  There’s just too much at stake to allow 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 weekends there is no ERP activity.  The lights are turned back off after count at 6:15 am and remain off until 10:30-11:00 am.  I usually try to take advantage and enjoy the silence as close as it gets anyway.  One of our regular 1st shift guards is Roscoe Peters.  He’s late forties, early fifties and is know as a “cool” guard.  He has a booming voice that will rattle you if you screw up but it’s known he’s not out to mess with you just because.  My cellmate, Andre Charles and Peters usually go back and forth with each other on a near every day basis, with Andre talking from the top tier down to Peters who bellows back.  But it’s always done tongue in cheek.  At about 11 am, the swampers brought in our lunch trays and after we had all gotten in line, he announced there would be no trading food between inmates, not even at your own table, because someone had “gone over his head to the unit manager”.  At another point in the meal, after having busted a couple of people for trying to trade, he said the inmate needs to come talk to him to fix this.  After we were finished with lunch a whole parade of inmates went to the desk, including Andre, to find out what was going on.  It seems the swampers had been getting extra food and the inmate who wrote the complaint to the unit manager was unhappy about it.  They seem to do that a lot around here, complain, if another inmate is perceived to get preferential treatment.  My philosophy on this is if someone else has found a way to make their life here a little more bearable more power to them.  It’s none of my business.  I don’t want to use the word “cutthroat” to describe the environment here (bad image) but its an apt description, more so than any prison I’ve been in up until now.  Then Peters announced he’d find out who it was on Monday and it wasn’t going to go well for him.  I’ve never even spoken to Peters but he always made a good impression on me.  I just wish he’d be a little smarter in what he says.  I can’t imagine this not getting back to someone he doesn’t want it to especially if there  is an inmate trying to take him down.  So we probably haven’t heard the end of this one.  But I guess as much as I hate this place, and though the phrase “watch your back” has taken a whole new meaning for me with some of these inmates, I have managed to get into a semblance of a routine which has been key to my survival anywhere I’ve been.  I’ve completed one week of ERP and have 23 to go.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it.

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Shortly after this was written, about 20-30 people showed up with musical instruments and started singing Christmas carols!  I asked what church they were from and they told me several different ones and they they have a Bible study on Mondays.  They gave us a paper bag with treats and a bag of chocolate chip Chips Ahoy Crunchy cookies.  I’ve never seen anything like this before in prison, nor had my cellies.  And most unexpected in a maximum security facility like MSDF!  Of course, a few cons in us couldn’t just enjoy the rare moment and scammed extra cookies and treats by claiming they were missed.  But really, an awesome event by what I think might be awesome people!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). They handed out canteen last night which was unremarkable except for the fact I met the regular second shift guard, a sweet older lady by the name of Ruth Bartkowski.  Ruth actually sincerely inquired how I was doing in my adjustment to MSDF.  We talked about what a shock it is to the system for those of us coming from medium or minimum security environments.  I think I genuinely smiled for the first time since my arrival here while talking to her. And if that wasn’t enough, after I had returned to my cell I was well into a bag of BBQ chips being so hungry and my cellmate Malik Pearl appeared to be sleeping on his bunk with his headphones on, her partner tonight, a guard in his mid-twenties, who looks like he could be in a band, named Peter Thorn, came to our cell to inspect it.  I said that was fine.  But he saw Malik sleeping, inquired with me about it and I replied he was.  Then Thorn shocked me with what he said.  He didn’t want to wake Malik up so he’d inspect us another time.  Are you kidding me?  Between Bartkowski and Thorn, the laws of the universe are being turned upside down!  So, I’m in a good mood until time to lock in for the night when Andre Charles and Brian Whalen were talking and appearing to try to shield their conversation from me.  I don’t really care what they are saying.  I’m more annoyed by it and I find it disrespectful.  But I’m in prison so I shouldn’t expect politeness.  The next morning after we ate breakfast and had returned to our cell all of a sudden the power in the cell went out but the lights remained on.  We heard yelling ordering us to come out of our cell.  I was pretty sure it was a shakedown.  I felt pretty confident about not having anything considered contraband.  My cellies scrambled to throw various things in our little wastebasket, but I made sure I was the last one out to make sure they didn’t throw anything on my bunk.  Once downstairs, I had a wave of panic hit me.  I had used newspapers I’d gotten on my subscription to pad my extremely thin pillow and I also remembered I’d brought a box of raisins from breakfast a few days ago and it was on top of my locker.  Ok it isn’t major contraband but I don’t know their attitudes here.  So we were taken to another pod and crammed in a room to await them to complete their task.  We were there about an hour.  I heard they’ve had more searches in the last month than the rest of the year.  My previous institution, Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), was also doing this.  Some say its a budget thing as that whole process in the State of Wisconsin is beginning.  I don’t know.  We were then brought out into the dayroom of the pod we were in to be strip searched prior to returning to our pod.  Even the social workers were locked in clearly upsetting them.  It was there we learned that the canine unit of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office had been here.  In addition to the normal strip search procedure, we had to endure the indignity of bending over so they could see up there.  Other guys report they had to spread their toes for the guard.  We then returned to the same room and then we all assembled in the room next to our pod as our cell number was called.  Finally one cell was left and instead of joining us they were locked in that pod.  What they had had in their cell is unknown but one person among them was scheduled to be released today.  But all 4 were taken to the hole.  I can just imagine what’s going on in that guy’s head.  After 6 months of ERP, putting up with this place and then this.  I don’t know and probably wont’ get to find out what happened to him.  I got back to my cell, the box of raisins still there and newspapers undisturbed but while I’m thankful I realize how truly thin the line between success and failure will be for me at MSDF.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Do you remember when I told you about back pain from the foam I sleep on?  Well at breakfast this morning word got around that the juice carton called “Suncup”, 4 ounces distributed by Gregory Packaging, Inc., PO Box 5188 of Newark, NJ 02105, had mold inside the cartons.  The guard at the desk finally announced that we should not drink it.  MSDF is supposed to use it within 10 days of being unfrozen so who knows how it got moldy.  But this wasn’t the first time.  In addition to the lower back pain I’d had some physical symptoms.  I’m going to spare you the details but safe to say it’s related to output.  But as I talked with others it seems they too had similar symptoms.  I think MSDF is lucky this didn’t cause a serious health issue.  I returned to my cell.  Weekends are different here.  After count, the lights are turned off again and everyone sleeps again.  I took advantage to shower.  The showers here make the showers at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI) looking sparking clean.  There is grime and mildew built up on the puke green walls that make me feel like I need a tetanus shot, once I came out.  If my immune system keeps me infection free here my oncologist will be impressed. I also shaved my head with a single blade razor, just like I did back at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI).  It’s not fun especially since I’ve gotten used to double blades.  When I got back to my cell, everyone was awake – and feuding.  It seems Malik Pearl was upset when he overheard Brian Whalen and Andre Charles talking about him, which he accused Andre of instigating.  Andrew dose have a bit of an instigator in him.  As usual, I stayed quiet. I’ve learned to be content alone, and not worry about such things.  But after Andre and Brian left Malik told me he wasn’t going to hang with those guys anymore.  But he often isolates like I do anyway.  I’m betting it’ll all be better soon.  The night was pretty uneventful.  We all watched “COPS”.  Ironic, huh?  When I went to sleep, I don’t have a clue why, it was much worse than normal.  I was up and down in various positions on my bunk.  The next morning Malik and Andre were all over wondering why I stare into space for what seems like forever, sitting up every time they looked up.  Andre made the comment I must have a lot on my mind and it got left at that.  But I’m sure they know I’m not completely normal.  It does give me pause.  I mean someday I’ll be free and hope to have a relationship again.  Will I be afraid to allow them to see this side of me or be afraid to explain it?  I wonder if this is why I tried so hard to hang onto my ex-wife and family not wanting to have to go through the process of creating new relationships.  It’s hard just doing that much less adding in our baggage to the equation.  Despite my problems, I believe God will guide me in this area if I trust him and don’t rush it.  Easier said than done I know. 

All 4 of us in my cell are watching the San Francisco 49’ers lose to the Green Bay Packers and I’m going to enjoy the game.