Posts Tagged ‘luck’


My name is Jake Martin and I am on parole from the state of Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) currently now living in Ames, Iowa. I write this from my own laptop in an efficiency apartment at a complex dominated by Iowa State University college students. How did I get here? More on that in a minute.

At the risk of sounding corny but what a LONG, STRANGE trip it has been both being in prison and since getting out. The day I was released it was Wednesday June 23rd.  Today is January 16th, 2012. In the roughly 7 months since my release so much has happened. I spent July through August largely glued to my cell phone and laptop while hunting for work, with the assistance of friends and the sponsors of this blog.. My parents grew concerned enough to tell me I might have to take work at a fast food operation or something similar. I had no problem with that. In fact I figured that was what would happen. While all this was going on my parents, whom my father is a minister though he retired in July, received a retirement call to serve a church in Juneau, Alaska. My PO, Helen Gaither, it turned out was very cool to me. Though the walks from the bus to her in Appleton WI were not! Because I had no car and often my parents weren’t available it was necessary to walk. But that’s ok. It just didn’t bother me. These things just don’t bother me anymore.

In about August, my efforts finally began to pay off. A major corporation hired me as a temporary software developer for a project they were working on through an agency I had worked with before and was unaware that I had been in prison the last 25 months. During that time I brushed the rust off my skills, got used to the grind that a software developer will have again and learned to deal with people again. About that time, a company based in Ames IA interviewed me for a position as a software engineer. They hired me. However I was given enough time to finish the contract I had started in with this company in Neenah WI. My parents were still in Alaska when I left in October. Needless to say I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I was fortunate on one aspect regarding work. I had largely lost the last two years and in technology circles that is as much as a lifetime. But this company was on older technology, technology I was well suited for. It was a perfect fit. Meanwhile I continue to upgrade my skills now. But anyway on October 8th I made the move. My first weekend didn’t go well. Furniture I had purchased for the apartment prior to my arrival had accidentally been tossed my a maintenance worker for the complex, as well as two tires going flat. Oh yes, my parents had sold me their old car and I had also managed to get insurance and a license during that time. But needless to say, I got things under control and my employer was extremely understanding as I missed my first day of work getting the car fixed. Things were pretty normal until about a month ago when weight loss and the familiar night sweats had returned – all symptoms I have become very familiar with. Testing revealed that my cancer had returned. Now before you become too concerned, just know, again I am going to be fine. I am doing chemotherapy again. But this time at least, I can control my diet though fatigue and nausea are now my main problems. See though I have insurance they don’t cover preexisting conditions unless you had proof of insurance before which of course I did not have in WPS. So medications I used for nausea and such are not covered either. But it is ok. It’s the same type of cancer as before and because they caught it earlier this time it is even more assured I will be fine. So don’t worry!

But what can I say about being free? My first day out my sponsors took me to a Mexican restaurant where I had chicken and steak fajitas. My mouth and stomach were on fire as they loved what I ate – but they didn’t so much later as they rebellled against the rich food I was not used to. I will spare you the details. Television, the Green Bay Packers and dear friends I have missed. All of it really is about choices of which we had very little in prison.

I still deal with the anxieity junkie. I still am largely alone or at least it looks that way. I am still single. My previous family contacts me to be sure but it is usually only when one of them is in trouble or needs money. My adopted siblings and family remain an awkward relationship. But yet I count myself as one of the lucky ones, one who found a way to be successful on release. I call it luck because things fell together in a way that I can’t really take credit for. Yes it is God and there are others to thank. Friends like Jennifer, Natalie, Mike, Bill, and Rebecca I couldn’t have done it without them. I owe them more than I have life left to repay. I simply can say no more than I am gratefully free. It has been so long and such a hard road, much of it self inflicted, that I can’t bring myself to complain. What right do I have to have such a good life? The answer is I do have that right as long as I do not forfeit that right with my choices I make in life.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank those of you who faithfully followed this blog, especially Jill, Karen, Kelly and Lori. You really kept me looking forward to mail call and such wondering what might be there today. Again, so grateful. How many others wait for even one piece of mail in prison only never to get any! And the rest of you, since my release I have watched your reaction from afar, really wanting to burst out and say hey its me! I’m free! But we all thought it best I keep a low profile until the entries were finished. I hope you understand. That said the future of this blog will be sporadic entries regarding what is happening with me and how it relates to being on parole. I am not going to do an entry every day. There just isn’t time like I used to have. But know this. If any of you want to reach out to me please feel free. I have always felt a closeness to many of you who suffered with your loved ones in prison right along with me.

On that note, its time to close. I have got some studying to do! Talk to you soon….


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. 


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 night at the final standing count a rumor circulated among the inmates that an inmate on another floor had committed suicide by ingesting the cleaning solution we use to clean the tier.  I didn’t really believe it.  If I told you folks every crazy rumor that inmates report this blog wouldn’t have space for anything else.  I actually slept pretty well for a change that night.  The next morning a sure sign there is a problem is when the procedure for count is disrupted.  Normally we stand outside our door on the tier while the guard counts us.  Afterwards people may pass freely to the bathroom and back to their cell.  Up to that point during the night only one person after having been cleared by the guard may go to the bathroom.  It may not sound like a big deal to you but if you have to go and aren’t allowed to it can become one.  But anyway, after count was done by the guard manually going to each room to verify the number, we remained on lockdown, and when anyone tried to go to the bathroom, it wasn’t allowed.  Finally, for breakfast, we were allowed out and then as breakfast gave way to lunch, it was confirmed it was in fact a suicide.  No announcement mind you but those who talk to guards confirmed it.  I didn’t expect an outpouring of emotion or introspection from inmates or guards but it was greeted with a shrug of the shoulders type attitude, as if they had heard it on the news and that took me back a little.  I’d seen a suicide attempt before since I was locked up, in the Waukesha County Jail, but the reaction to that was heartless and they actually encouraged him to go through with it.  (He jumped from the upper tier intending to go head first into the floor but at the last second bailed and landed on his leg.  He suffered minor injuries)  The only acknowledgement from the guards was to post a note to all saying cleaning fluids must be returned to the desk.  I don’t know why he did it, if this place pushed him over the edge, if he had his proper medication, or if he was being returned to prison because his parole had been revoked and that combined with everything else was simply too much for him to bear.  There was nothing in the media about him so I’m just writing this to acknowledge what happened and if his family happens to find this, to express my sympathies to you for your loss.  I suspect that you’ll not see anything like that from the cold, unfeeling institution but that is their nature.  My regular readers know I’ve been there and it is only by sheer luck I am not dead.  I didn’t use the phrase God’s grace because it would imply that I am special.  Would it mean your loved one who died was not?  No, of course not.  What id does mean is God’s hands and feet, us human beings, were unable to get to your loved one in time to make a difference.  It isn’t God’s fault and it doesn’t mean your loved one lost the war they were in.  He’s a soldier that’s fallen in battle and the good they have done won’t be forgotten.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Green Bay Packers beat the stuffing out of the Minnesota Vikings 31-3.  Normally its a real loud environment around here on game day but it was so bad nobody  had anything to say.  It appears that I’m no longer part of the worship team since I got off bunk confinement.  I haven’t been approached about it for the last two weeks.  I’m okay with that.  If you were following along you understand why.  Oh and if you were wondering, saddlebags and Bill  “Made up”.  That’s Bills words, not mine.  I just didn’t want to know anything beyond that so you fill in the blanks!  But its been a relatively quiet weekend.  Normally early Monday morning I’ll wake up real early and do my laundry, especially since we now only have one washer and dryer to serve 200 plus inmates thanks to an inmate putting a bar of soap in the washer instead of the laundry soap we’re supposed to purchase.  But as luck would have it I walked by the washer around 7 pm and saw it was available so I hurried and got to it before others did.  The downside is I had to hang around the dayroom instead of hanging out by my bunk and watching TV like I like to at night.  Many saw my departure from routine and came up to me to talk.  We get used to each others routines.  Most of the conversation revolved around the game and why I was in the dayroom at that hour.  But Paul came by to chat.  He’s getting out next month and is having a particularly hard time. They didn’t offer him a job while he was here until the very end, has no money saved up and as a result must live in housing called a transitional living placement (TLP) with other parolees for 60-90 days.  Those in such placements often must wear electronic monitoring ankle bracelets which Paul doesn’t want to do.  In addition, prior to your release you get the “rules” your parole officer (PO) has determined you must live by.  Some are standard, but then after those are listed the PO lists rules specific to you.  You’re suppose to sign you rules prior to release from prison.  The problem here is that the PO listed as a rule that he must agree to any kind of treatment or counseling the PO believes is appropriate.  Paul felt the rule was too vague and wouldn’t agree to it.  Ms. Greer tried to arrange a phone conference which resulted in him hanging up on the PO.  He’s now in the process of filling out paperwork to get a new PO.  Paul’s problems have always gone back to his anger, even when I knew him in the group home 25 years before.  He doesn’t want the PO to have so much power over him as she could order him to complete any kind of treatment they want he reasons.  It surprises me as this is the 4th time in prison.  I’ve heard they have life or death power over you so I wonder why he’s fighting the PO so much.  He should know this.  I do know he’s really against any kind of anger management.  He had lost his mom to cancer back when I knew him as a kid and that the aunt that cared for him since had also died.  He’s all alone.  People like him, I get them.  I tried explaining since the beginning of all this his life has been a series of tumbling dominoes where though responsible for his actions, the likelihood of bad decisions being made continued to escalate as each domino fell.  The weight of the past dominoes that had fallen were such to make impossible for the current domino to stand on its own without a lot of intervention and change.  Paul indicated he “totally understood” what I was saying, but I got the sense he just wasn’t ready to trust this PO because they may make decisions that might force him to face things he was afraid to.  Again, I get that.  It’s a rebellion born of fear that resembles defiance.  I see that.  Will his PO?  For now, at this point, I’m not that hopeful he is going to make it when he gets out.