Posts Tagged ‘Nikita’


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 Friday, June 10th, graduation day for my ERP group.  At about 8:30 am we all went down into the dayroom to setup the chairs for everyone to sit along with 9 or 10 chairs on the left side for whatever people that were not inmates that would attend.  They put the Transformer image up on the board used at the last ERP graduation.  They’ve been working on this as part of our graduation project.  Then of course we put 10 chairs up front for us.  John Lloyd, of course, served as the MC.  He read an opening statement but the problem was the same as it was for every person who spoke thereafter.  We really couldn’t be heard beyond the first couple of seats but we didn’t know that at the time.  The unit manager then gave a statement congratulating us.  We then each read a quote each of us chose along with saying what it meant to us.  My quote was “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” by Derek Bok.  The gist of what I had to say about revolved around was that getting to know me, about why I think the way I do, recognizing the errors in how I think and how my changes are a result of a decision to change, not the product of the prison staff or programs.  I’m pretty sure, though I have a deeper voice that carries pretty well, I’m sure they didn’t hear me very well.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, clearly was unhappy with my comments.  Oh well.  If you’ve been following this blog, especially prior to my arrival at MSDF you’ve known this to be true.  Afterwards Ms. Grey spoke and handed out ERP completion certificates.  These were actually pretty impressive.  In order to get my license back I’ll need to do an alcohol assessment and this certificate will show I’ve completed a program.  That was followed with a closing statement by ERP group member Scott Bunker.  Lest I forget, intern Nikita also made some nice comments while Ms. Carr and Ms. Presley both declined to say anything.  After it was over, they handed out cookies to everybody after which we put the chairs away.  We went back to our cells to await lunch.  News of the carry conceal law came over the news.  Cellie Malcolm Johnson said this was great news for criminals like himself because they would just take the guns away from the white people carrying them.  And with that he forcefully put his hand at my side to demonstrate.  I wanted to say something but I decided to wait until we were alone.  About that time Ms. Grey showed up and wanted our Phase I , Phase II, and Phase III tests we had done.  It took me a minute but I found them.  After lunch, when Malcolm was in the room alone with me.  I told him in the future not to put his hands on me.  He said alright but didn’t apologize which is fine.  It wouldn’t have been sincere anyway.  Fortunately 1 pm arrived and since I’m now a graduate I went to our former group room and played ping pong and took a shower.  It’s starting to actually set it.  It’s over!  It’s not so much joy as it is relief.  I said a thank you prayer to God.  I called my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin and Charles got the phone line in for my bracelet but didn’t have the internet in yet.  I also called one of this blogs’ sponsors and they are still planning on getting me at the bus station once I’m released.  The next step   is for the judge to sign my amended judgment of conviction and send it back to Ms. Grey.  Ms. Grey will let my parole officer (PO) Hellen Gaither know who will send a C15 form telling MSDF to release me.  This process should take 10 to 14 days.  Piece of cake considering what we’ve been through.  Don’t you think?

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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).  Today is Friday, the end of our 21st of 26 weeks that this program lasts.  In the dayroom prior to our ERP group starting, we learned Augie Prescott still couldn’t get through to his family in Alabama after the devastation caused by the tornadoes there that have killed over 200 in several southern states.  Of course, I didn’t say anything to anyone but my recently reconnected biological family is from that area.  I have no way to reach them since my only way to reach them is through email via my sponsors.  I sent a note but I can’t let myself think about it too much.  It would be so ironic if something happened now that I have finally connected to them.  But lets not go there.  The day started off with us going over proper interview etiquette in the video From Parole to Payroll which was very effective if you have not had experience interviewing before.  We paid special attention though in how to handle disclosure of our criminal offense in the interview and on the application. We’re supposed to answer the question on the application that we’ll explain at the interview.  At the interview when the question comes up what we did we’re to answer truthfully yet answer it with a one word answer or as few words as possible.  Above all, take responsibility and don’t’ lie.  So we learned something, at least I did anyway.  Then we were teamed up two by two by our ERP Social Worker Ms. Grey, where we were to give each other what would be considered a job performance evaluation.  It was of course fun for each of us to pick on the other guy.  I was teamed with John Lloyd, whom I have sat across from in the dayroom and eaten across from the last 5 months.  He identified as my strengths my writing, initiative and thorough.  As weaknesses he said I lacked tack and that I’m not subtle at all.  But when I pressed him for an example he couldn’t give one.  So I didn’t understand that at all, where he saw that in me.  Most I know see me the opposite of these things.  Ms. Grey then handed out our blank Phase III Goals and Objectives sheets and said we should consider what was identified as weaknesses for Phase III short term goals.  We don’t’ have a due date on these goals but lets hope it’s not going to be the struggle for our group it was in Phase 2.  In our afternoon session, we played another game just like UNO and the goggles on another.  This time it was a game where we asked each other random questions that were printed on cards that had been dealt to us.  The questions were such like “What was the biggest mistake you made?” and “What would life be like without computers?”  We all had fun with it, with their being some serious moments.  Even intern Nikita had joined us today and participated. Guess we’re going to be losing her soon as she is returning to school soon.  Heck, we’re all going to be gone soon!  After group, cellie Corey Ball gave guard Ruth Barthowski a card form all of us that said goodbye and thank you for her years of service and for the respect she has shown us.  Tomorrow is her last day on the job.  The ERP Social Workers were aware so there was no risk of fraternization charges.  Supper was interesting tonight because in the middle of one of the worst meals served here, soy based imitation meat for our tacos, an emergency count was called which meant we had to get up in the middle of the meal, go stand and be counted, then wait until count cleared to return to eat. Let’s face it, the food is usually cold when we get it in addition to it sucking so the only problem for us was the disruption of routine.  As for me, I ‘m still out of sorts and my cellies have noticed I’m not as patient as I normally am.  The juvenile humor and acting out I usually just ignore is getting to me more now.  I’m not sure what my problem is except perhaps nerves about getting close to getting out.  I hope my cellies will put up with me while I get my perspective back. 


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).  As I was being returned to my unit from the hole after 6 days for investigation on possible charges related to this blog but for which I’d been cleared.  I looked through the windows and saw regular 2nd shift guard Ruth Barthkowski who smiled at me and tried to work through the paperwork that was deficient with my arrival.  The inmates seated at the tables in the dayroom smiled as I walked in but I couldn’t tell what was behind it.  Barthowski began to give me the lay of the land right away.  Everybody now knew about the blog staff and inmate alike.  She also told me she had worked on people trying to get me out of the hole and I thanked her for it.  My property was still in Segregation and wouldn’t arrive.  I was assigned my old bunk and old cell which I was grateful for.  Barthowski took me up to the linen closet while I got the rest of my yellow outfits.  Guys at the tables in the dayroom welcomed me back but their body language indicated some mistrust.  Once I made it to my cell, ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands gave me the rundown of what had happened in group.  Apparently the night they took me last week the guard on duty, a by the book type named Mike Metcalf had announced I was on a bus back to Dodge Correctional Institution.  Regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters was upset over being named Roscoe.  Guys in my ERP group knew they hadn’t been named but still wanted to know what was said about them.  But probably the most interesting development was what had gone on with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  The week I’d missed she had been smiling, engaging and being kind.  The last while she has seemed distant and combative.  But she had discussed my situation with the group telling them that day I returned that I was not going to return but then telling them something different later in the day.  It seems that yours truly who always sought to avoid attention was the focus of the entire pod this past week.  That and of course this blog.  My main concern wasn’t any of this though.  I was concerned about seeing Peters and Grey the next day.  What would they reveal about me?  I’ve laid myself bare on this blog.  But I also felt a sense of pride and strength, that no matter what might happen I was going to be ok.  That didn’t mean the anxiety about how tomorrow would go in group wouldn’t give me a restless night.  But as it turned out I shouldn’t have worried at all.  Peters wasn’t working on Friday .  And Ms. Grey was engaging and kind throughout the morning.  And then the most surreal thing.  In the afternoon session her and intern Nikita broke us into two groups and had us play Uno!  That’s right, the card game!  Everyone was smiling and had a good time.  Had Ms. Grey read the blog and not liked what she saw and decided to change things up?  Or did something else happen to cause the change?  Whatever it is it’s promising.  On another note, I’d considered asking the sponsors to shut down the blog, much as I did 15 months ago when I got cancer.  After with everyone here knowing about the blog, this may no longer be the typical prison experience.  But I’ve got bigger concerns.  The blog helped me and has helped others.  It’s worked up till now.  I’m going to stick with 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).  I actually ventured out this weekend and socialized a bit, playing ping pong on the table in the rec room that doubles as the location where our ERP group meets.  I always thought the smell of body odor was strong when our group met during the day but when the rec room weight machines are in use its almost overwhelming.  But like most things you adjust.  I lost every single ping pong game, including two to cellie Brian Whalen and one to cellie Larry Sands.  I used to be pretty good years ago but ping pong is all about touch and if you don’t have it your going to lose.  I spoke with my adoptive parents about initially staying with them when I get out or trying to find a way to make it at a shelter or finding a way to find a halfway house but we really didn’t resolve anything.  Come Monday shortly after 9:30 am, our ERP leader Ms. Grey and intern Nikita came in.  We are again doing the previously abandoned breathing exercises, but now its voluntary to participate.  Afterwards, we got into the evils of sugar and The Harmful Effects of Sugar on Mind and Body (squar is right!) followed by materials on The Harmful Effects of Caffeine and on Caffeine and your Adrenals – could they be paying dearly?, which targets women.  Since we’re all men, this confused us a bit.  Quite frankly, we were all wondering why we were looking at sugar and caffeine issues.  After lunch the next topic wasn’t much better – tobacco.  Most of us had previously smoked cigarettes, but this topic drew a lot of annoyed looks.  I have to  admit I was pretty restless too.  The video targeted junior high kids and said cigarettes cost $23 a carton.  Ok, probably in 1987 that might have been true!  At the end we took a test which I did ok on.  But no worries on me smoking.  Its too expensive now and it would be very bad for my health.  After supper though, I got something that made my day.  At mail call, my sponsors had sent me a letter.  There was a note from 3 high school students who are doing an English paper on prison efficiency and effectiveness and were using this blog as a reference.  I wrote back saying I’d love to help and read their paper when they’re done.  Maybe I’ll even publish it here.  It made me feel good this blog has helped others as it has for the past 15 months.  But mostly it’s helped me.  I wish every inmate has had the opportunity my sponsors provided me.  


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  We were waiting for our ERP group leader Ms. Grey, when another ERP group leader told us she wasn’t coming.  Many of us returned to our cells, and we hadn’t been there for a minute when Ms. Grey along with intern Nikita came.  We spent the morning session finishing the book Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain, specifically  Chapter 15.  It portrayed prison as a gift that’s been given to us to allow us the opportunity to effect change in our lives.  Well if you’ve been following this blog at all you know that to be true, that change has been affected, particularity true before my time at MSDF.  But prison as a gift?  There are many words and phrases I’d apply to the concept of prison.  Some aren’t printable.  Gift wasn’t one of them!  But I get the point.  Though I lost everything coming to prison, there is one thing I kept – my life.  Had I not come to prison with the path I was on I very well could have taken my own life by now.  So I guess you could say prison gave me the gift of my life.  Lets just hope prison never gets the chance to give me any more gifts!  But anyway, we have to return this book to Ms. Grey.  I would have kept this one.  Our afternoon session was spent watching a video on addiction that describes how it affects the brain and how scientists are trying to develop a vaccine for addiction, specifically cocaine.  Sorry, I wasn’t close enough to see the DVD case for info on the video.  The evening was full of intrigue, thankfully none of it directly involving me.  Both swampers are now from the cell next door where cellie Larry Sands came from and where former cellie Malik Pearl had moved to earlier.  Sands informed me about how cellie Brian Whalen was planning to sell a lot of cocaine being provided by another inmate from that cell.  Unknown to him, their plan was to rob him once they were all out and Whalen came up with the money.  I told Sands if he knew this we had a responsibility to throw Whalen off this plan somehow, even if he didn’t want to cross those guys.  I just feel bad for Whalen.  I’m afraid he’s going to get himself hurt with his biggest crime being he wants to be liked.  As the day and night progressed more and more people began arriving to take beds for the next ERP group that’s starting.  The problem began when an inmate arrived with a lower bunk restriction and there were no lower bunks to be had at this point.  The guard in charge, not a regular, decided to bump the swamper in that cell next door, that is making this deal with Whalen off his bottom bunk for this guy.  He put him in a cell on top bunk above an inmate when many think this is the nastiest guy here.  But the guys in the swampers cell vehemently protested, wanting instead for them to move Sands out of our cell and move the new guy here.  They tried to convince the guards to do this but no dice.  The female guard got to the point she tossed their cell (inspect for contraband) after they said one of the reasons they couldn’t move him was that they all combine their canteen which is of course a rule violation.  I don’t know how the inspection came out but Sands was mad that they tried to disrupt his situation just because they didn’t like what was happening.  These guys made it clear to Sands once regular second shift Ruth Barthowski returns she’ll make him move as they believe they have influence over her.  I’ve seen it but I don’t think she’ll let them push her into this.  We’ll see.  Through it all, I’m still relaxed which is remarkable for this anxiety junkie.  My thoughts are outside of this place, for a day when I can write you about the positive things out in the world even if I’m struggling. 


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.