Posts Tagged ‘November’


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this!  It’s November 25, 2010 as I write this.  I realize by the time you read this it will be probably closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving.  Such is the nature of this blog – the delay is intentional.  But I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have read this blog, many of you who have shared and/or expressed support via comment or email and to those of you who have someone inside whom you love and care about and possibly this blog has somehow helped you.  I thank you for not abandoning them, even though this separation is the toughest battle your relationship has endured.  Nobody but you knows how much you silently suffer.  Special thanks goes to Rebecca, Steve and Jill who have followed me almost since my first day, giving encouragement to me and giving a voice to those who aren’t able to be heard.  You all have put into practice the words of the Sermon on the Mount.  Another special thank you to Dr. Rachel Cook, my oncologist at University Hospital who was an awesome advocate for me, very patient, and expertly defeated my cancer. I also thank the few of my friends I had prior to prison who have not forgotten me.  I will always remember you and all I’ve thanked the rest of my life.  This blog and all of you have far helped me more than I have gotten from you, trust me on this. My biggest thank you goes to the sponsors of this blog who have tirelessly typed up the chicken scratch of my handwriting, managed this blog with expertise and dedication, in a pinch have helped me, and even provided a newspaper subscription. Quite frankly, none of this is possible without you and words aren’t adequate to express the amount of gratitude owed to you. Many of you that got involved hadn’t even known or worked with me previously.  That’s simply just awesome!  So thank you!  Finally, I thank God!  It was one year ago this week that my cancer was diagnosed.  It was the culmination of the absolute worst year of my adult life.  Where the loss of my wife, family, career, friends, music and finally my health were realized and just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the isolation and despair of those days at Dodge Correctional Institution of early 2010 occurred.  It seemed you (God) had completely deserted me.  But it became clear that I had deserted him (God), refusing because of my silly pride and being concerned with material things and people I couldn’t control, had refused to seek help to stop the bleeding of my heart, mind and soul.  But you (God) were always there waiting for me to learn that simple yet difficult lesson.  The lesson is I don’t have the answers and I must surrender on a daily basis as I move forward.  This is 1 lesson I’ll continue to learn for the rest of my life.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I was doing my usual routine in the morning of coffee, eating something sweet while reading the Green Bay Press Gazette.  This being Wednesday (November 24th), I also had shaved my head.  Yes, I do that on a routine too (Wednesdays and Saturdays)!  I got called to the desk and I got the long awaited order to pack up my things.  They then let me know that on Monday, November 29th, I would get shipped to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) for my Earned Release Program (ERP), start date of December 13th.  I didn’t move quickly.  I’ve gotten so much contradictory information about what would be allowed at MSDF property wise that I decided to divide things between what I thought they’d let me keep and what they wouldn’t.  This was further complicated by the fact I have 5 days until I leave.  Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, all the things you need I couldn’t pack.  Why so soon?  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Friday is a furlough day and property doesn’t work on weekends.  Everything I didn’t pack I’ll have to throw away on Monday.  No it isn’t fair but that’s life in the Wisconsin Prison System.  Many people decided I had been their best friend, as many had their hand out wanting my canteen.  I just smiled and laughed and said no.  The guard barked at me to get moving so I ate lunch before everyone else and loaded my 3 boxes into the back of a van.  Once I got to property, I realized I shouldn’t have bothered separating things.  The property sergeant had me empty the boxes while he reloaded them.  It was uneventful.  There was a younger guy there coming to FMCI.  He had 11 boxes.  After I signed my release I had to wait about a half hour for him to get inspected.  Once I got back no one was real concerned about me as they were holding hearings on the tickets at the Multipurpose Building.  Soon after, 2 inmates from servery staff (kitchen) got taken to the hole for some kind of scandal that was going on there so I’m not the topic of conversation.  That’s good by me!  But having struggled to get my property for the first 35 some days, I’m sure missing it now as I hear the collection of voices singing, talking smack or just talking with each other to be heard all over again.  Those are the best and worst of times for the anxiety junkies like me, when all things familiar are ripped away, the future both short, and long term are completely unknown and unavailable to be manipulated by our obsessively controlling nature’s.  But it speaks to the progress I’ve made that I’m not nearly as locked up as I was when I first got here and had no escapes available to me just like now.  Let’s hope this progress continues as I move on to MSDF.


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).  After I left you last time, we were assembled in the dayroom and the whole place suddenly erupted in catcalls, hooting and hollering.  The reason became evident pretty quick. It seems Kim Murphy from Fox6 News in Milwaukee was on the screen and she had chosen to wear a bright yellow sweater that emphasized…. well let’s just say nobody was looking at her face.  I suspect there has never before or will be again a more informed inmate population that FMCI on current events though I must admit I doubt we remember a thing that she said.  But it’s situations like this that unify men, whether black or white, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, incarcerated or free.  If we only could bottle what boobs do to us, there would never be another war!  Maybe it was something in the air as a result of all this, I’m not sure.  But the guy I told you about yesterday reported he got called into Ms. Greer’s office where Lt. Brodie met with him.  He said Brodie apologized for blowing up at him and didn’t want to see him file a complaint.  What!?  Brodie apologized to an inmate?  Pigs are flying, hell has frozen over and the Pope became Protestant.  I suppose it’s possible it’s true.  People, including Brodie, are complex.  It’s not like TV, where characters are easily pigeon holed into a specific type and that’s all they are.  It can get frustrating when people color outside the lines we’ve drawn for them especially when they use colors we weren’t expecting.  But based on what we know of him I just don’t believe it yet.  I will be open to the possibility Brodie is still capable of treating inmates as human beings as I’ll bet he did once prior to the burnout that can afflict those dealing with people like us inmates over many years.  After supper, I made my way back to my bunk and turned on the radio while I watched the news with closed captioning on.  For the record, I usually watch Milwaukee based WTMJ out of habit and because Brian Gotter is the funniest meteorologist I’ve ever known.  Coincidentally, Kim Murphy used to work there!  But as I rotated radio stations, I found on that, in mid-November, that had apparently picked this week to begin playing an all Christmas Music format.  Back when I was in the real world, I would’ve railed against this horrible exploitation of us consumers, and there would have been some truth in what I was saying.  But I’m thankful for it here.  It reminds me of the kids, of a less dreary place and making plans that I know would make others happy.  But holiday music isn’t the preferred choice around here and I’d get a lot of strange looks not to mention assumptions made of what a fruitcake I must be.  So as something played from the Mariah Carey Christmas CD (Yes, I admit to liking it.  You know you do too!) I reached down to the headphone jack and made sure the plug-in for my headphones was firmly connected and no one was staring in my direction.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). The following day after the institution wide shakedown I got to the showers right after count cleared around 7:50 am.  It was good that I did because shortly thereafter all the hot water was turned off on the unit with some saying the hot water heater had failed. This certainly didn’t help the mood on our unit which was already sour due to yesterday’s events.  Then to top it of, we ran out of liquid soap though later in the day we got a new supply.  The repercussions of the shakedown continued. An unconfirmed number of 9 people were sent to the hole with more expected the following day.  In addition new regulations were put in place regarding kitchen food.  Seconds were banned.  Only one piece of fruit allowed in your bunk (not including canteen).  A note was posted on the whiteboard saying if you had any property confiscated you were going to get a ticket for unauthorized transfer of property or similar offense and that the days to come Lt. Brodie and Capt. Bramer would hold hearings on the tickets. This is going to be literally dozens of tickets. Some inmates began making noises that it was an illegal shakedown because according to the rules an inmate must be present when their area was tossed even during an emergency and they were going to fill out complaints about this.  They will lose.  You can’t fight city hall you know?  But all of these new restrictions on food and such came about because so many had abused the situation.  This had been a long time coming.  People working in the kitchen were okay with it though as there was more food for them.  But truthfully these were the kind of rules we had at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a medium security institution.  One upside – perhaps they won’t have so many flies during the summer.  I won’t be here to see that though.  Tomorrow I get off bunk restriction.  We are having a stretch of 60 degree November days so I’ll hit the track hard.  We finished off the night with canteen distribution a day late due to yesterday’s fun.  Another inmate made “cake” with some of his canteen and gave me some.  It simply was some of the finest food I’ve had in the last 18 months.  Oh and a side note.  Percy actually spoke to me like a human being with no sarcasm and a genuine smile.  Will wonders never cease?  I settled in for the night comfortable in my Tuesday night routine on my top bunk.  I watched TV shoes NCIS and Parenthood while eating a microwave bag of plain popcorn.  I then flossed and brushed.  Then I laid down and did the same thing I do every night.  I fantasize of life in the real world, of a family of my own, interacting with friends, playing in a Christian band and having my happy ending to all this.  That fantasy can become reality but we’ve got a lot more work to do to get there.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Weekends are my least favorite time here mostly because it seems time moves the slowest.  But of course as soon as I say that it changes.  My usual routine has me down for good by 10 pm, but on this night it didn’t happen that way.  As I walked toward the bathroom, I saw a group of guys around one bunk, doing what appeared to be sit-ups and others rooting him on.  I didn’t think much of it as I do these myself but on my bunk by myself.  Usually, I wake up several times a night because of things I’ve told you about before, but I don’t get off my bunk.  This time I did.  I wish I hadn’t.  There are two types of people who walk late at night.  They either pick up their feet as they walk or they don’t.  Those that don’t you can hear every step they make in the unit.  I am one who picks up my feet.  That same group of guys were together.   They were startled by my presence but didn’t have adequate time to cover up what they were doing.  I guess you could call it exercise but it was more of the push up variety done from a kneeling position.  It took me all of a second to see, put the pieces together and then avert my eyes.  I knew this went on but there is a huge difference between knowing and seeing, one I had been grateful for.  I used the restroom feeling disgust but mostly dread at the idea of having to walk back.  Why oh why don’t those geniuses turn off the stupid lamp?  Do they really need to see what they are doing??  When I returned I became one of those annoying people that dragged their feet when they walked.  I’m a convert, at least late at night!  But I figured they’d scatter before I got there, not wanting to see me anymore than I them.  I was wrong.  They saw me and one of them whispered, “Hey Jake!  What’s up?””  They were laughing.  I just replied that not much was going on in as casual sounding voice as I could muster.  They continued to laugh.  I got back to my bunk and tried to put it out of my mind without a whole lot of success.  Of course, the anxiety junkie in me came out.  How am I going to handle these folks tomorrow?  How should I react to them if they should bring it up in a conversation?  Should I go out of my way to shun them?  Or not?  Behind every anxiety attack, is the process of realization that the victim is not in control of others or things.  I eventually calmed down.  The next day the problem that wasn’t was handled the way most men handle things.  We ignore it.  To discuss it like adults would require courage and honesty none of us possess or desire. I am sure at some point down the road – way down the road – one of them will approach me about it.  Secrets have a tendency to require discussion by the conspirators.   Perhaps not.  After all by the end of November I won’t be here.  And if they don’t approach me, I’m also more than ok with that. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) Family has got an offer you can’t refuse – especially since they control every aspect of your life, potential release and they know that your financially destitute.  You feel like your not bargaining on an  equal footing, though you had more strength than you knew.  But the deal pleased the “Family”, as they keep the secrets of where the bodies are buried, who killed them and who knew about it safely hidden.  The “Family” will offer that deal and more 8 days a week to keep you silent and feel they got off light.  The past couple days around here the conversation around many has revolved around the media reports (original article entitled “Lawyer: Prison could have stopped alleged assaults” was not found, but was printed Wednesday, November 3, 2010 in the Green Bay Press-Gazette) of the payout to an inmate to not file a lawsuit concerning alleged sexual assaults by a former guard, James Trentin (I’m using his real name – I don’t usually use staff or inmates real names – but I’m using his because he was named in the media) at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution and the at best incompetent and at worst intentionally misleading investigation by “prison officials” who then compounded their failure to protect inmates by returning the alleged predator to work where he had access to the inmates.  It was after this point, with the realization he now could act with impunity, that he allegedly assaulted the victim, acted with the supposed consent with 4 others, while several others rejected his advances.  Lets be clear on a couple things.  ANY sexual activity between staff and inmates is sexual assault by staff.  Inmates cannot consent. They can’t walk away and are largely powerless to stop the activity.  Second, inmates are not above using manipulation over staff actions to get what they want.  Really, it can begin to be a contest between who the bigger predator is and which one appears to have more power at a given moment.  Many inmates have perfected their con game.  But based on my readings of the facts, I use the words “alleged predator” in regards to James Trentin because of the fact he is not viewed as a predator by the legal system.  Why you might ask?  In exchange for guilty please to misdemeanors, 22 counts of second degree sexual assault were dropped.  Trentin didn’t do a day because the prosecutor felt inmates weren’t credible despite video evidence of Trentin giving them contraband, testimony of inmates who refused his advances (thus no crime but a pattern of conduce emerges), and testimony of those who were assaulted.  In light of that, I submit the idea that inmate victims are viewed less than worthy than say a collection of victims of a single predator on the outside world, largely because there is no political group with any kind of base to speak for those victims that anyone will listen to.  If this prosecutor treated a group of victims in this fashion in the outside world, they surely would lose their job.  I challenge anyone to disagree with that statement!  But isn’t it interesting how this whole tragedy resembles the abusive family dynamic?  You’ve got generational teachers who educate the parents that run the institutions that you must protect the family at all costs and the secrets that must stay that way, or the irrational fear of family, and individual destruction is planed.  The older siblings, the guards, all know one of their own is a predator on the powerless younger siblings, inmates, but won’t tell because they know the parents really don’t want to know about it.  Some of the powerless younger siblings see no way out so try to bargain with the predatory older sibling for their silence thus gaining an illusion of power and favor.  But one younger sibling complains to the parents about the abuse.  They ask their predator child about the allegations who of course blames the victims – everyone but himself using negotiations of some of the siblings as proof of his innocence.  The parents running the institution go to the complaining sibling and decide for the good of the family’s image to do something extraordinary for the child – to give him $150,000 and extract a promise that they’ll never get put under oath and have to reveal all the family secrets.  Meanwhile, as with all family secrets, they hold their breath and hope no one else comes forward.  Secrets have become their most treasured possession.  Predators (alleged) like James Trentin almost always have had or will have another victim out there somewhere.  Time is a secret’s enemy.  The question isn’t a matter of if but when it comes out.  When it does, will the predatory older sibling go down himself or will all the dominoes fall threatening the whole family for having kept silent?  Do you know something about this or have a similar secrete no one knows? Call Thomas Hayes (414) 271-9844), a lawyer looking into this, or email this blogs sponsors.  Don’t sit in silence any longer.


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.