Posts Tagged ‘Lunch’

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 past weekend was marked by arguments and in fighting amongst inmates over stupid things.  Most of it of course involved Scott Dietz, revolving around rec room issues.  I’ve just noticed the courtesy between inmates in the laundry procedure and the order for showers is breaking down.  People skipping each other to use laundry or the shower causes friction.  I got to talk to Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents this weekend.  They’re going to send the glasses I sent away at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) to the sponsor of this blog who is picking me up.  They also will have cable which means I’ll be able to have internet access which is critical for my job search and getting up to speed on the technology and software I’ve missed the last two years.  Speaking of which, Sunday, May 8th marked the 2 year date of my incarceration.  Sixteen of those months this blog has run.  Not an anniversary I look at fondly but assured I won’t forget it. But I’ve been talking like it’s a foregone conclusion that I’m going to graduate June 10th.  Not if I keep acting the way I did Monday.  Now the last graduating class has a high number of guys who are busying themselves by starting trouble, including former swamper and cellie Malik Pearl joined by one of his cellies.  They took aim at me because on occasion I don’t wear a hat (not a hairnet mind you but a paper hat) when serving food as a swamper.  There is not rule that I’m aware of that says I have to and I’ve told you previously, I shave my head, so there’s really not a need.  But they started yelling at me to wear a hat.  I was visibly angered.  I put it on and asked them if they were happy now.  Afterwards, it was time to start our ERP group.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey took us through the entire Living With Others workbook that day.  In the middle of the morning we observed through the window to the dayroom that the guards on 1st shift had been joined by several others.  They began to shakedown every single cell even taking the extra clothing the inmates had acquired which usually is ignored.   Group got interrupted several times as we observed them taking things out of the cells critical to our graduation project.  At the end of the morning session, I went out to clean tables and put out napkins to get ready for lunch service.  I came right back and didn’t touch anything else an inmate egged on by Pearl’s cellie, demanded I change my gloves.  I refused.  This was just harassment.  We exchanged words across the dayroom.  My reaction was so out of character for me.  Lunch got served.  We had Swiss Rolls, which are a pretty hot item around here.  I observed that same inmate shoving some down his shirt to smuggle them to his cell.  I asked him if he wanted me to play this game he had started.  He quickly got back to his cell.  I wasn’t going to tell but I was mad!  Afterwards, I was told Pearl and his cellie were going to try to get me fired as a swamper.  Initially, I didn’t care. I don’t need the extra food and who needs this aggravation?  But after I calmed down, I remembered why I took this job to begin with.  I went to the inmate who took issue with the gloves and apologized for my reaction.  But more importantly, what is going on with me?  Is it just a simple chase of the “shirts”, where inmates near release get irritable and melancholy?  Whatever it is, I resolved to get a hole of myself and stay in today instead of thinking about my release in June.  We turned in our goals and objectives for Phase 3 in the afternoon session.  She approved them on the spot and told us to have our presentations ready for the following Monday (May 16th).  Mine are ironically, to improve my social skills here and being more patient.  Clearly, these goals are appropriate and necessary. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Cocaine and crack was the topic of our ERP group morning session. Again this wasn’t my thing but it was largely informative.  The first video we watched was Cocaine and Crack Back From the Abyss, another Hazelden production.  It described the hell cocaine addicts go through in the first part, the process of recovery in the second, and continued growth in the third.  We followed that with another Hazleden video called Cocaine Beyond the Looking Glass.  Though it appears quite old, the video effectively told the same story, with a particularly compelling story told by a man who lost his hand to cocaine psychosis.  We then took the cocaine/crack test.  As it turned out though, the literature contained factual errors.  It called cocaine a Schedule III drug and described cocaine being present in Coca Cola until 1904  though our ERP group leader Ms. Grey claimed it was between the 1940-1960 era.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in a third rate mail order correspondence course.  I try to present the facts to you and let you draw your own conclusions but sometimes my frustrations boil over.  Sorry.  Anyway, after the test was corrected, we had time for discussion.  The question of when our next parole officer (PO) phone call came up.  Many of us aren’t staying in the county of where our offense was committed upon release which requires a transfer, which will possibly include me.  For many that work isn’t complete yet.  Ms. Grey told group member Mark Hogan, who is trying to get to another county, he’d just have to talk to the PO in Milwaukee County if the work wasn’t complete.  He usually acts goofy and keeps everyone loose with his humor.  But he went off on Ms. Grey.  He told her if they were going to keep him in this county they may as well send him back in front of the Program Review Committee (PRC) and have him taken out of ERP.  The tone he took in the ensuing discussion was menacing, almost threatening.  It was so out of character, at least in what we had seen up to this point for him.  Ms. grey reacted very calm, almost coming across as if she was afraid of him, as she used a very soothing tone.  In conversations among us later, we were amazed Hogan was still in the group after that exchange.  After that she announced we all had to review our Phase II goals and objectives again to verify they were compliant with SMART – that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely.  I had gotten min approved yesterday so I thought I was good.  But then she also announced she didn’t have everybody else’s goals and objective sheets even though everyone had turned them in.  This, of course, made everybody unhappy as people argued the point.  She had been referring to mine as not being SMART.  So now I approached her and asked what was wrong now.  The bottom line is it has to be rewritten.  Lunch was interesting, as the guys in the group just were freaking on Ms. Grey and how she appears to be not at all wanting us to succeed.  After lunch we saw the movie 28 Days starring Sandra Bullock and were assigned to a discussion sheet to fill out this weekend.  That night the theme of frustration continued as the new people coming in were trying to get in on the exercise bike and machines in the room that is our group room, that doubles as the rec room.  I’d seen fights nearly break out over the amount of time certain people spend on the machines so I stay away.  It’s not worth it.  But the new folks don’t know how it works and complained to guard Ruth Barthowski who tried to enforce the 30 minute limit on the machines that’s never followed.  This just ticked everybody off at the “snitches” though no one really knew who they were but that didn’t stop them from guessing.  Week 15 is over, but signs of stress, fatigue, with the environment and frustration are showing.  I suppose this is normal and was inevitable. 

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 Thursday it was back to business as normal after the snowstorm.  The morning started off with group member Augie Prescott from our ERP group reading his autobiography.  His relationships were mostly with the various pickup trucks he has owned while touching on his girlfriend he had.  I guess what I took from it mostly was what sacrifices we made for drinking.  Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, didn’t have any questions of significance for him nor did we.  We were done early so we had a  casual conversation in our group about real estate, cars and jobs.  After lunch, I had a good talk with ERP member Scott Dietz about his ideas for multicolored tints for motorcycles and cars.  He’s the idea guy.  He’s got all this going on but he doesn’t have anywhere to go when he gets out either.  So there’s a bit of a disconnect there.  When Ms. Grey returned we watched a movie called “I Don’t Know What To Do Decision Making Skills” by Guidance Associates.  To be honest, it was the worse video I’d seen here.  The dialogue was something where you’d expect Wally and Beaver Cleaver to show up in the next scene.  They lost the room almost immediately.  The whole point was to think through the decisions we made which was quite valid.  Afterwards we got a couple of worksheets for homework weighing the positives and negatives of making or not making a decision.  It wasn’t real clear how to do it but we’ll get there.  Afterwards we had our Weekly Community Meeting.  Callie Andre Charles had the current event, dealing with the bank robberies and its effect on ERP.  He did a very good job on that.  One of the other ERP Coordinators announced that due to lack of participation by some in the meetings we would now have to write down our comments to the quote, word and defense mechanism of the week and turn it in.  Yeah I’m rolling my eyes a bit.  But the good news is tomorrow is Friday, this weekend is the Super Bowl where the Green Bay Packers will be crowned Super Bowl 45 Champions and week 8 of 26 is complete.

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 in our ERP group we started off with a video called Wall of Denial another Jack Cooper video.  It was ok, nothing we haven’t’ already covered on denial.  At 11:15 was my first scheduled phone call with my parole officer (PO) from Waukesha County, Janet Martin.  After I asked the 1st shift guard Roscoe Peters to hold my lunch tray, I went up with my ERP Coordinator, Ms. Grey, for the call.  Ms. Martin didn’t know I ‘d lost my place to stay in Green Bay, WI that I had indicated earlier.  She asked what my plan as.  I told her once I graduate from the ERP program on June 10th, a friend (one of my sponsors) would help me setup an apartment in Green Bay.  Ms. Martin vetoed that saying she wouldn’t have time to approve the address prior to my release.  I said I’d have to get released prior to finding a place in Green Bay.  Ms. Martin then told that things change at that point, I would also have to have a job prior to that point of being allowed to go there.  Of course, I’ll have no way to get to Green Bay to do that.  She cautioned me not to attempt to go without permission.  Ms. Martin told me she’d put me on a waiting list for transitional living placement (TLP) but that sex offenders get first priority on those.  Realistically, due to the numbers, I won’t get into that. The last option is the Salvation Army shelter.  My heart sank.  The realization dawned on me that I was going to be….. homeless.  I’ve been homeless before, many years ago, when I was a much younger man living in Dallas, TX, prior to pulling my life together.  I never thought I’d see this again.  But that’s the reality I’m looking at.  I’ve got a couple of ideas but they are long shots.  Of course, the anxiety junkie in me took over the rest of the day.  After lunch, Ms. Grey couldn’t figure out what part of the Milkman Workbook she wanted to work out of only to conclude the book wasn’t worth the effort.  I wanted to snap at her for not being prepared but fortunately I didn’t.  I’m not really mad at her.  We then did more work on irrational thinking and thinking through your actions.  My cellies of course were no help a tall, knowing I was in an emotional state especially Andre Charles.  I wanted to withdraw into myself until I could make sense of this whole thing but he just went on and on about how things will suck for me on parole.  Then of course supper was Turkey Tetrazzini, the worst meal in the whole WPS!  But one thing I got to get a hold of here is I’ve got to have faith something will work out and not get so worked up.  It’s just easier said than done.

I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). The see saw relationships between those of us in this cell continues.  I actually opened up about a period I was homeless while in Dallas, TX before I got myself together many years ago.  I hadn’t even told you all about that mostly because it wasn’t relevant yet.  But the conversation revolved around the fear of being homeless after release.  I relate to that believe me.  It’s a big fear of mine.  But the conversation seemed to ease tensions.  I still don’t trust any of them but such is the nature of the beast.  This morning was dominated by the coverage of the standoff on I94 West which blocked both sides of the freeway. It’s so weird seeing all the cold and snow on TV and not be able to feel it or see it with my own eyes.  No sun, sky, moon, stars or fresh air until I get out.  I better get used to it.  They had another community meeting as is their custom on Friday.  Housecleaning issues were that people blow their noses and spit in the sink and showers.  We’ve seen this before.  What is it about prison that makes people believe in such a gross manner? Another issue, people pee on the toilet seat.  No ladies, prison doesn’t fix that about men.  They moved onto the quote of the week which had been assigned to one of my cellies, Malik Pearl.  His quote was “To stand still is to die.  To move forward is to prosper”.  He did a good job explaining it.  He even had part of the quote tattooed on him.  The word for the week was “receptive”.  Again, the comments were wooden and felt forced but I don’t know maybe that’s how it is here.  Then another inmate shared a news story about how Milwaukee County is developing it’s own style of boot camp for their jail and how it was a good idea.  Everyone stood up and said how great this was – except me of course.  I surprised myself by speaking up even though I don’t start the program until Monday, December 13th. My point was that programs such as these don’t produce results – which is to keep people out of jail.  Plus, the money would be better applied to treatment programs, to address the root causes of why they are in prison.  My cellie, Brian Whalen actually spoke up and agreed with me.  The last piece  of business was to introduce the new social worker, Betty Grey.  She helped with the ERP program at Racine Correctional Institution (RCI) prior to being at MSDF.  Ms. Grey is going to be running my ERP group on Monday.  You’ll be hearing a lot about her over the next few months.  Tried as I may, I couldn’t read anything about her in those few moments.  Group concluded and the school is out feeling came over the entire unit as no ERP stuff until Monday.  Some went to sleep, watch TV, use the phone or as I found out today, they have a movie room.  Lunch came and the people sent to the hole yesterday returned. The guy who was suppose to go home did.  But one of the guys who went was Scott Bunker who came in with me and like me starts ERP Monday.  Poor guy.  It’s been a rough start for him as the first room he was in wasn’t to his ethnic standards and now this.  In fairness to him they were much younger than him but it’s not going to be easy for him here I think.  My cellies kid me I can’t take it easy anymore but I told them I’m ready to get this going.  “Finally” is the word that comes to mind for me as we’ve been trying to get in ERP all of this past year. 

I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  December 13th is my bed date to begin my ERP program at Milwaukee Secure Detention Center Facility (MSDF).  They could come get me from here any day now.  It’s November 19th, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Ms. Greer showed up today in her #4 Minnesota Vikings jersey, and she is proud to wear it and she’ll let you know that when she hears the topic come up in conversation.  It makes everybody smile though.  She has a rough edge with a good heart.  So overlook her football team preference.  Nobody’s perfect! I always wonder if she feels imprisoned by the system in trying to help inmates or if she has stopped fighting and just picks her spots where she can make a difference.  She certainly hasn’t completely quit trying as many who burn out. I’m hoping I spend Thanksgiving week here as I’m told the food portions are better here.  I won’t lie, I’m nervous about going to MSDF and change is always hard for me.  Other inmates pain a very bleak picture.  You won’t see the outside world until you leave, canteen is small and expensive, its dirty and no electronics.  Still as we’ve seen in the past, inmate information can be unreliable and if I can endure this and succeed, I’ll get out.  Anyway, we’ve had a huge influx of new people in the last week.  There’s no Welcome Wagon here to educate them on how things are done and the unwritten rules.  That becomes most evident in the line for meals.  The customs are really a reversion to grade school tactics.  Of course, the Glee Club is still at the front of the line but after that group, grown men who never care about such things all of a sudden become quite concerned with someone who might step in front of them or others who feel they are popular by being allowed to do so.  I usually greet this whole drill with a yawn and roll of my eyes but for some reason not today.  As I moved toward the cart that holds the trays in front of the guard station,  a new inmate, a young black man with an early Jackson 5 type haircut with his pants down so far his butt was on display darted right in front of me.  Normally I don’t care but today for some reason I did.  As I debated how to handle it, the sergeant yelled at him twice to pull up his pants.  He conveyed his contempt for the sergeant with his half hearted compliance. I decided then wasn’t the time to deal with this.  After lunch, I have to walk past his bunk to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth and I stopped and said to him that I didn’t want to say anything in front of the blue shirts (guards) but you can’t step in front of people in line like that without asking as they will feel disrespected.   His cellie, white and young like him, laughed nervously.  He reacted like he couldn’t believe I said something but finally after a couple of seconds said “ok”.  I went to the bathroom and on my way back he motioned me over and he thanked me for not saying anything in front of the guards.  I replied that they would have taken it wrong.  It ended well, but this was not the way to handle this.  If he had reacted differently, I could have lost everything.  I should have let it go.  I just wonder if I’m subconsciously trying to sabotage myself because I’m about to enter ERP, mostly because my reaction was so out of character for me.  Remember, I’ve been dreaming about my goals eluding me despite doing all I could to achieve them.  Am I trying to set myself up for failure?  I don’t really know the answer just now but I sure hope not. 

I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  As I’d noted earlier, I’m in the middle of a 5 day bunk confinement.  In preparation, another inmate needed laundry soap so I gave him what I had left in exchange for doing my laundry since I couldn’t get off my bunk to monitor it.  Bunk confinement stinks but its not that bad.  It’s harder on my bunkmate(Cellie) than me as he is used to me being gone at least some of the time.  It was Monday and I woke up about 5 am.  I gave my laundry bag to this inmate, then ate breakfast and returned to my bunk.  A couple of hours later Lt. Brodie announced we must all remain on our bunks until further notice as we were having an “area shakedown”.  If we wanted to use the restroom we would need to be strip searched.  Meanwhile, people started pulling out food from the cafeteria they’d stored and started moving it down and what they couldn’t finish they handed out to others and what they couldn’t get rid of there they tossed in the little waste basket by their bunks.  Unauthorized property wasn’t as simple of a problem.  I had two problems here.  Another inmate has both my state clothing and the clothing I bought from the catalogs to do the laundry and because we can’t leave our bunks I can’t get it back.  That means that clothing could get tossed in the shakedown as it won’t be on his property list.  Also, as you might recall, I had a lamp on my bunk I didn’t buy.  I watched others trying to get rid of property.  Some threw it on bunks of guys who were at work, others tossed items in the aisle hoping the guards wouldn’t see it.  Of course, being the anxiety junkie I am, was all freaked about the lamp for awhile.  But the guys most worried were those in possession of alcohol and/or tobacco, one of which was Charlie.  He kept going up and down the aisle trying to find a way to unload it.  Guards came by twice over the next 4 hours to let us use the restroom and get water.  Each time they took us two at a time into the shower area doing the whole strip search procedure they’ve done since Day One.  It seems while we were waiting another unit was having their turn at getting shook down.  Lunch time came and they gave us paper plates with hamburgers and returned us to our bunks.  Finally a little after noon we were told to line up for the bathroom but this time we were each sent to an individual stall.  But not a normal strip search by a blue shirt this time.  They wore red shirts.  They were guard trainees that had been bussed in just for this occasion.  Once we’d been searched and gotten dressed, we walked up to the Multi-purpose Building, the same place as Chapel and orientation.  All the way there, there were at least 20 guards lined up along the road, half on each side, there to verify we didn’t drop or pass anything.  Out in the yard were guards with metal detectors, presumably looking for weapons.  There were guards checking the roof looking for discarded contraband.  This kind of a shakedown happens once a year I’m told.  I sat in that building till about 4 pm.  No books, no electronics and hundreds of people from which there was no where I could go to get away making ear splitting levels of noise.  Just the very definition of hell itself for the anxiety junkie, at least this one.  Finally, Captain Kramer called for 3 inmates to come to the office – Charlie was one of them.  We then were all sent back.  It looked like a hurricane had hit our unit.  Mattresses were everywhere, papers, documents, and photographs on the floor.  We spent hours that night straightening up.  Somehow my clothes and lamp weren’t taken.  There were inmates with items that had been broken or shouldn’t have been taken.  They were told to fill out complaints.  Guess how that will turn out?  But Charlie never returned.  Percy packed his stuff in boxes.  I had watched him go in the office.  I think he knew what was coming.  I felt bad for him on a certain level.  But tonight, I felt a collective sigh of relief from the whole unit, myself included.