Posts Tagged ‘Madison’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It was about 8:30 am when I heard the announcement to report to the officer’s station.  I knew what it was for.  I was going to Madison to get the results of the PET scans from last week to verify the cancer remains in remission.  It was also the first day we saw guard Roscoe Peters since former cellie Andre Charles left.  After giving him the key to my cell off the string around my neck, I went down to intake and again began the process of being strip searched and being bound with chains on my arms, legs and waist.  The thought occurred to me, this is probably the last time prior to my release in June, that I’ll need to be strip searched.  I hope so anyway.  It’s an indignity I’m still not accustomed to nor do I think I ever will be.  Of course, in keeping with what normally seems to happen on these trips for me it’s not…normal!  It was raining very heavy and about 19 miles from Madison on I94W we encountered a huge traffic back up.  We moved no more than 5 or 6 miles over the next hour.  We finally came up on the accident scene.  Fire had consumed a truck carrying thousands of pounds of beef.  I’d hear later no one died thank God.  We got there and I sat in the inmate waiting room.  Very few were there this time which I was grateful for, as the noise was at a minimum.  There was one inmate there who had 57 days left to release.  He’d suffered a cardiac arrest and been brought back by the staff at Red Granite Correctional Institution.  He was complimentary to them in how they’ve cared for him and the quality of their work.  It was unusual to hear an inmate say such things.  I went up for my blood work and got in to see my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook.  She walked in and something I hadn’t noticed before, she was very pregnant.  I told her I hoped it went well.  She let me know the spots that were seen last time were either gone or ruled out as cancer.  My next appointment for scans will be in 6 months instead of the 3 months that had been done.  In the midst of the happiness I felt, there was a bit of a reality check.  I needed to call her directly before my next appointment if I don’t come up with health insurance as these scans cost several thousand dollars.  Not only would it be nice if I find a job with good health insurance after I’m out its imperative I find health insurance to ensure I see more birthdays.  It shouldn’t be that way but that is the reality of the situation.  But I didn’t dwell on that. I even told Dr. Cook about this blog, saying a friend wrote in her blog, thanking her for her care of me and what terms to Google to find the blog.  I wanted to avoid alerting the ever present guards in the room.  So Doc, if you find this blog, again, thank you!  On the way back not only was it raining heavy, the winds were going crazy blowing pails and such from construction on the highway into us.  But we got back fine.  After another strip-search I actually got back to my cell pretty quickly.  Ironically we shouldn’t have hurried.  We had Turkey Tetrazzini, probably the worst meal here, for supper about 4:30 pm.  If we’d gone slower I probably would have gotten another bag lunch at the hospital.  But nothing would break my good mood, not even the  horrid food.  I’m healthy and I’m going to stay that way!


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 noteworthy events surrounded soon to depart cellie Andre Charles.  Late Friday guard Ruth Bartowski, besides finding out she has been a captain and probation officer in the past, confided to our table Andre had come after her with several ICI (Inmate Complaints that go to Madison) forms alleging racism.  They didn’t take but it explains the bitterness between them.  That weekend we experienced why they don’t want us to heat water for coffee or refried beans off of canteen, which is the favorite food of Corey Ball, using water, paper clips, and a power cord.  Someone pulled the cord of out of the water without unplugging it making the breaker go out on our side.  We sat without power on our side for about 2 hours until Saturday Night Live started.  But of course cellie Andre Charles is on edge about leaving and guard Rosco Peters threw him a tidbit of information on when, when he yelled playfully at him during count as is their custom, that he had 2 days left to follow the rules.  On Monday I got up as normal, ate breakfast about 6:30 am and returned to my cell.  Peters called me down about 8 am and let me know I was leaving for my PET scan like last time to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned.  I reminded him I’d eaten (you’re supposed to go without food for 8 hours prior).  No one had told him he said.  When the guards came to get me I told him I’d eaten and asked if we should call to make sure it would be ok.  He wanted to go to Madison and if they said no so be it.  It became clear why as he was the driver and didn’t want to lose the overtime shift.  The ride there was uneventful but it was SO good to see the outside world!  Once there I got to the waiting room.  It was packed and noisy so much so that you couldn’t hear the movie on the wall.  The guys dominating the conversation were mostly lifers, trading war stories and discussing who their “bitches” are present and past.  Of course, I’m the only one in yellow in the sea of green uniforms so people stared.  Most didn’t know I was at MSDF but some did.  I got called to go for the scan at 11:30 am.  I didn’t have a coat to cover me on the wheelchair so the combination of cuffs, chains, and yellow uniform attracted lots of looks.  I can’t wait to come back to the University Hospital in civilian clothes some day.  Of course, never coming here again is an attractive alternative!  The man doing the scan commented that I should leave the cuffs on my feet joking I might try to escape.  I got back to the holding room, eating one of the infamous bag lunches.  We returned to MSDF, getting strip searched once at the hospital then once at MSDF.  I waited at least an hour in a holding cell.  The staff at intake on 2nd shift is just rude and unprofessional unlike their 1st shift counterparts.  I heard them mocking other inmates and were just rude in their tone to me.  I got back to my unit where Andre greeted me with the news he was getting released tomorrow.  I’m sure my test results will come back well and with this news I’m as happy as I can get here.   


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After the debacle the previous day, I dreaded the following morning.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, the meeting between cellie Andre Charles, his ERP group leader, my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, and myself.  I imagined the fireworks that probably had gone off in their office as a result of all this.  Perhaps I’d get lucky and with Andre leaving soon maybe they’ll leave it alone.  I just doubt it.  To make matters worse, Andre had relaxed and the cell was returning to normal.  Opening this up again will just make things worse.  But I doubt Ms. Grey will see it that way.  The day started off with us all assembled in the dayroom.  We were scheduled to finish ERP group member John Lloyd and mine presentation to the group of our self-evaluations.  I have largely skipped writing about this as a lot has gone on the last few days and space/time constraints dictated some choices had to be made.  But the self-evaluation consisted of some questions of what has changed since we started our group, what we need to work on in Phase II of the program, and what we need to work on when we get out.  On the other side were questions on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 the best rating.  We evaluated openness, honesty, participation, program expectations, unit tasks, interactions with peers and staff and written assignments.  Most everybody agreed with the person’s evaluation of themselves and rarely did anyone challenge anything and this morning we spent until the dayroom closed from 8 am to 11:45 am.  We wondered if Ms. Grey had gone to Madison to protest as today the bill scrapping most collective rights for the state employee unions had become law.  But after lunch she showed up along with intern Nikita.  I was the last one to present the self-evaluation.  After my autobiography, I became much more honest and open.  I needed to work on my social skills in Phase II.  And after I get out I need to remember to ask for help when I need it before I get into trouble.  I rated myself a 4 on honesty, openness, program expectations, unit tasks, and on interactions with peers and staff and a 4 on my written assignments.  My peers in the group kept trying to bump my scores higher which I suppose I feel good about.  But Ms. Grey focused on my social interaction.  I shared I’m comfortable in situations where I’m in control or have an escape route, which is why I had success in my Christian Rock band and in my work as an Information Technology professional.  She deserved that in her opinion I exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders.  First time I’ve ever heard that but I suppose its possible.  I’ve always believed it was part of my post traumatic delayed stress disorder and related anxiety issues.  Anyway, again I was the only one that gave any kind of substantial feedback.  She then announced she wanted us to turn in all the work we had done the last 13 weeks.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t told us to keep the material and much of it though she had assigned it we had never gone through it especially the movie reviews.  Some had very little of the material but everyone was missing some of it including me.  A mini panic gripped the room as we started to go back to our cells trying to find missing work.  After we’d all returned and handed in what we had prepared for our Phase I test.  We were expecting a multiple choice test but no, it was an essay test with 5 questions.  Again, we all sweated this test including me.  But it turned out it was ok or we’re going to go over the answers Monday.  Finally group was over.  That night a new guy came in for the next ERP group that will start when Andre’s group gets cleared out of here.  I felt a mixture of sympathy for him and relief that that isn’t me.  Boy, am I thankful that  isn’t me!  Week 13 of 26 down and 12 to go. 


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 big news for me is I got a new cellie.  His name is Corey Ball.  He’ll be taking the upper bunk above cellie Andre Charles. As the graduation date nears (March 4th) for Andre’s ERP group, people are scrambling to get or line up people for their cells who they think will be a good match instead of taking the chance on whomever might get assigned to them from the incoming ERP group.  We’re no different.  Cellie Brian Whalen and I discussed Ball and his quiet demeanor and the lack of drama surrounding him definitely impressed us.  So we encouraged him to make the move now before people started coming in.  At first he declined because he didn’t want to be in the same cell as Andre, as he has a bit of a reputation here.  But he finally agreed.  Andre, true to form, told Ball he had to ask his permission before coming over.  They all laughed it off but he clearly had communicated his message to him.  We had to wait till Tuesday to actually make the move because the only guard that does is Ruth Bartowski and she wouldn’t come in until then.  During the weekend I completed several objectives of my ERP Treatment Plan.  I wrote the 5 page essay on forgiveness based on the readings from Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian, and the letter forgiving my biological father, through the letter came out more confrontational than forgiving but it ended on that note.  I also wrote the letter forgiving myself focusing on the loss of my family and my role in that.  It was a complicated matter lacking in solid lines of separation of fault from each person but I focused on things I was clearly at fault for.  I also wrote the letter to JoAnn asking her to write a letter detailing how my alcoholism affected her.  Our ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, will review and send it out.  On weekends around here, I’ll tell you I sure miss football.  Ms. Grey had indicated she would be again joining the protests over the loss of collective bargaining in Madison this weekend so it didn’t surprise me on Tuesday (Monday was President’s Day) when our ERP group was told she wasn’t coming in.  So Tuesday was just like Monday in addition to a holiday, it was a furlough day which meant all we did was study existing program materials or at least that’s what we’re suppose to be doing.  Finally, Ball got to move to our cell Tuesday night.  Some things were present I didn’t expect.  He hung up posters of scantily clad women and of spider webs.  He explained to me the spider webs were tattoo designs that white supremacists often wore.  Perhaps my shaved head and goatee made him think it was ok to approach me with that.  Well it wasn’t.  I told him no way would that fly.  The posters are fine.  I just don’t get why you would want to pour gas on that fire.  I gave him the 411 on Andre, to act like using the chair when he got off his bunk so you didn’t make noise and disturb him was your idea.  And most of all, be cool, he’ll graduate ERP soon and you wont’ have to put up with him much longer.  Believe me I tell myself this every day.  Ball got settled in and for the moment there is peace. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). I got called out to the guard station right after the first count, and right before breakfast.  The guard told me to hurry up and eat because they were coming to take me for some reason.  I suspected I was having another PET scan to verify my cancer remains in remission. I asked the guard if he was sure he wanted me to eat as I knew they needed my stomach empty.  He said he didn’t know and put it up for me.  They came and got me and again asked me if I’d eaten.  Again I told them I shouldn’t.  They were suppose to tell me the previous evening but fortunately I hadn’t ate a thing after 8 pm.  The short black guard who strip searched me in a cage verified I should not eat was friendly enough.  Unlike last time, I had to wear the chains and bracelets which nicely accessorized my banana yellow uniform.  And of course, we seem to always pick the best weather days for my trips.  Today was the coldest of the winter so far.  It was 0 degrees and 14 below wind-chill.  It was good to see the outside world even if it had frozen.  We took Highway 16W and stopped at the PDQ gas station in Hartland, WI – less than a mile from my former home, family still lives and where I used to stop for gas and cigarettes on or on my way back to or from work.  It felt like a moment from the Twilight Zone TV show.  There was enough frost on the windows to obscure their view in the van which I was grateful for.  The ride there was cold, as the guards kept turning the heat down but it was my fault for not speaking up.  I have a habit of doing that. They took all sorts of side roads doing what many guards do – milking the clock.  When we got there I got to go to the prison at UW Madison.  No minimum lockup this time.  It was ok though as I saw guys I knew from Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), where I was March through August of this year.  Things are the same there except for the large amounts of snow fallen on the LaCrosse area.  There are many horror stories from the medical cases of how they are being handled I was told about but I’m not going to repeat what I don’t have any way of documenting.  I am sorry to those looking for it, if that disappoints you.  But you know you’ve been around awhile when hospital staff greet you by name.  It was uneventful from there.  But the bag lunch I used to despise was better and more filling than the food at MSDF.  When I got back I got strip searched again and returned to my unit.  They actually saved my breakfast tray so I ate my cocoa roos (like cocoa puffs), and joined my group working on yesterday’s assignments.  But it occurred to me I need to stop thinking of this area as home to successfully move on.  But just where will home be?


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  While laying on my bunk, a guard accompanied by Lt. Brodie woke me up. I’m sure they figure me for a freak for the startled reaction.  You know better.  They were conducting an inspection and told me that I wasn’t allowed to have my box on my bed and that it had to be broken down.  I of course complied.  Every facility has a handbook describing rules and regulations that govern it and I went to consult it to see if this was in fact a rule violation.  Section 11.2 covered what you could have on your bunk and a box wasn’t forbidden.  But even though the 303 code prohibits arbitrary rule creation by guards or white shirts (supervisors) in practice it happens all the time.  If the inmate refuses to cooperate, the guard or white shirt will discipline them for failure to follow an order, thus the inmate has no immediate vehicle with which to address their grievance or perceived injustice.  The inmates’ only recourse is to comply and then to fill out an inmate complaint form and in several weeks some bureaucrat from the Department of Corrections (DOC) in Madison, who doesn’t have the benefit of context and whose supposed impartiality isn’t fooling anyone, makes a ruling.  The effect of a relationship where one side has all the power is to embitter the other party and this is no different.  Inmates can easily get in deep trouble over what started out as a minor problem because they perceive disrespect from the officer involved.   In my case, I began the first step of the complaint process which was to send an information request to Lt. Brodie to allow him an opportunity to address my grievance without the complaint process.  He has never answered my information requests in the past or from others I’ve talked to.  He was still there so I handed it to him personally and after reviewing it he replied that I’d better comply (getting rid of the box) and if I don’t like it, to fill out an inmate complaint form.  His attitude towards me was how one might react to a tiny dog, powerless as the animal is as he nips at your heels while being ridiculed, ignored and who only inspires annoyance.  I told him I planned on doing so but I needed a written response to my information request to demonstrate I’d completed the first step.  He replied he had just responded.  I emphasized the word “written”.  Brodie waved me off.  I don’t think I’ll ever get a written response.  The thing is, if Brodie demonstrates basic people handling skills, this problem would most likely go away.  But as I’ve noted previously, he doesn’t see us as human.  In all honesty, I’ve probably got a month to go here before going to ERP, have got the choir, conflict going on involving Brodie and I am the type to avoid problems unless absolutely necessary.  The last thing I want is to get in a tussle over a minor issue.  But I’m sure Lt. Brodie counts on this, that inmates won’t follow through. I haven’t decided what to do.  I am happy though with how I conducted myself in this, doing what I’m suppose to do and dealing with Brodie in a manner that is adult, even if he didn’t return the courtesy.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I was notified the night before that I would be taking a medical trip the following day.  It was a far better way than last time when I found out a few minutes before the trip that I was going.  I could swear they read this entry because I was notified 3 more times before the trip this time.  It was pretty much like last time on the way up there, except the guard wasn’t real talkative.  Today I was in Madison to have the port that had been put in me last November removed.  They had used this port to deliver chemotherapy used to treat cancer as veins have a tendency to blow up. This probably was my worst experience at the University Hospital in Madison.  Up till now, my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook, and everyone else has been top notch.  If you ever have cancer, this is the place to go and Dr. Cook is the doctor you want.  But today, students were in charge.  I had an orthopedic resident and was assisted by someone else who was also a student.  They were quite clumsy in applying the local anesthetic, which resulted in some painful moments for your truly as they cut out the port from the left side of my chest.  Once it was done, I went back to the minimum security holding room on 6th floor and there were 2 other inmates there.  In the course of conversation, one inmate revealed he had 88 days to go to release, but he had been diagnosed with the same type of cancer I had, the one difference being he was stage 2 (I had been stage 3).  It was almost surreal listening to him talk about how he was going to get through chemo with no problems (he hadn’t started yet), how he was going to tell the DOC how he should be handled for his placement, and how he believed he would be released early.  The same aura of invincibility I had had was present.  I tried to get him to listen to me.  I explained what it meant to be stage 2.  I explained how important it would be to be in an environment relatively clean as your immune system will be compromised, and how the effects of chemo will be felt more as time goes on.  But I could tell he wasn’t listening.  I have to admit that I was a little envious of him that through the worst of what he is about to go through, he will be with those that love him.  But it happened to me like it was supposed to.  I really believe that.  When it was time to go back to FMCI, I happened to be on a crowded elevator, where there were 2 little girls.  I have always been a guy young kids could connect with, and they quickly engaged me in a conversation about how funny someone else looked.  They didn’t care I was an inmate.  I was smiling when they got off the elevator. My happiness was muted a bit when I saw their parent pull the girls closer to them as they walked.  I didn’t let it bother me though.  I certainly understand the parental impulse, to protect them from the guy dressed in green.  After I returned to FMCI, in mail call that night, was a bill from Waukesha County for the time I was treated prior to coming to prison which wasn’t suppose to happen.  One of my sponsors carries my Power of Attorney (POA) which I’m grateful for, and I turned it over to them via mail.  It was a full day, with more good than bad.