Posts Tagged ‘opinion’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Wednesday was your usual Wednesday. There are no ERP groups.  We did discuss our graduation project.  ERP group member Scott Dietz is upset he didn’t have a speaking part in the graduation ceremony other than reading his quote.  Nothing really could be done.  I don’t have a speaking part either but I’m not upset.  But that’s me.  On Thursday morning, we had one guard with a really bad comb over and one who looked suspiciously like Drew Carey.  After breakfast while brushing my teeth, the announcement came that we were to immediately return to our cells.  Nobody knew what was going on.  We were then informed we were on emergency lockdown and we were only allowed out if there was a medical emergency.  It wasn’t long before inmates began to voice displeasure with the situation led by an inmate who had already graduated in another ERP group, especially that he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom.  The guards and him continued to argue until the familiar detachment of the guards and a white shirt (supervisor) showed up.  They put him in handcuffs to take him to the hole.  He was supposed to be released that day but most of us felt he would still get cut loose.  Meanwhile, we were trying to figure out why we were locked down.  The idea that his a major shakedown seemed to have credence with all the good traffic.  Finally at about 10 am, they let us out one by one to use the bathroom.  It was then I found out that the lock on the fire escape door had somehow malfunctioned thus locking us down was necessary to prevent our escape.  After lunch, we were returned to lock down status.  Shortly afterwards, we got our 2 new cellmates.  One a tall black man was named Malcolm Johnson and the other, a Puerto Rican was named Jose Michaels.  Jose didn’t have a TV which made me happy because  it freed up an outlet I could use for my fan.  He is a talented artist.  I think him and I will get along fine.  Malcolm has been through hell.  He is on an upper bunk but obviously belongs on a lower.  He has scars everywhere, showing us one on his leg that was caused by an injury he got fleeing from police.  He and I got into an interesting discussion about the terrorist attach on 9/11/2001.  He exposed various conspiracy theories and I pointed out that thousands of people would have to be complicit and silent for any of them to be true.  As usual, people who present such theories make the argument into a personal attack so I just let it go.  But to be honest I enjoyed the conversation.  I haven’t had a good conversation like that since my days at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  We thought we were done for the day but about 2 pm our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, arrived.  We plowed right into the victim impact letters.  Reading it out loud for me to be honest produced feelings of anger and sadness.  Regardless of how I feel it was about how she felt.  Many of the guys who came after me also felt various emotions reading theirs.  We also presented our rippled effect poster assigned back in Phase I.  Then Ms. Grey dropped a bombshell today.  Two of us in our ERP group had warrants for our arrest in the system but she didn’t know who of course.  Later on in the dayroom that night that’s all anybody talked about and how infuriated we were that she could drop a thing like that without knowing who it is.  Of course with us this close to release, it caused anxiety.  Soon it was 3 pm and time for our weekly community meeting.  Once again, the issue of hygiene was raised.  Ms. Carr said she would be talking to the unit manager to see what could be done.  The issue of the soon to be repealed Act 28 early release law.  I’ve shared my opinion on this here and I did in group.  That night my cellies didn’t want to go to sleep when the lights went out.  I think Malcolm knew this annoyed me and he razzed me a bit but that’s ok.  I can deal with anything for the next 22-32 days I have left.  About midnight everyone went to sleep. 

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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 graduation day for another ERP group.  This graduation includes 3 important characters in this blog – Brian Whalen, Corey Ball, along with former cellie Malik Pearl.  About 9:30 am the ceremony started.  They had chosen the name “The Pibts” as their theme in they’re another chance, a one way ticket out of here but if they don’t do what they need to do to stay clean and sober it will be a round trip ticket bat to MSDF or similar place.  The artwork was impressive, with a wall trimmed with gold and blue.  On top were blue circles with a plane inside along with each person’s name.  After the opening remarks, there were comments by the unit manager and the security director who was standing in for the Warden, who couldn’t be there today.  What followed was presentation of quotes by the inmates, who also took the opportunity to thank their ERP social worker Ms. Carr along with a list of others in the room.  Some even took the time to thank the parole officers who took the time to attend, which was a nice gesture.  Then Ms. Carr presented the ERP completion certificates to the inmates as those in attendance clapped.  Like past graduations, cookies were given out.  Since I’m a swamper the guard told me to hand them out, 2 a piece, one chocolate and one ginger.  Of course inmates were trying to get me to give them extras.  One positive thing about me is public opinion of me here isn’t high on my priority list!  So that didn’t happen.  Of course some got seconds before others got their firsts but that’s because they didn’t get in line right away.  Just like first grade right?  Then we got a big surprise.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, showed up for group.  Normally on graduation day we don’t have group in the morning but she decided to have group anyway.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands had had a conversation with her and she revealed the reason she missed the previous day because she had been mugged.  It was good she was ok.  Again we watched videos form the relationship series From the Inside Out featuring Earnie Larson.  These were the last ones.  We did the accompanying workbook sections for the videos.  We flew right through.  This again was another topic (relationships) that we could have spent weeks on.  Larson did an excellent job through the role play depictions of portraying various relationship behaviors that I’m sure if we had the time it would have been beneficial to go into this in depth.  But there isn’t the time left to do that and everything else scheduled prior to June 10th (our graduation).  As we left group for lunch we noticed that the guy who said he’s going to tell on everyone at a community meeting and all his cellies in a rather heated meeting with two social workers.  It seems all his cellies have tired of his bullying tactics in the cell.  No big surprise huh?  At lunch it was one of our better meals, the Baked fish and cupcakes for dessert.  There were no extras because a guard named Albert Payne ate them all!  He’s the same guard that makes us all stand with our hands to our side at count.  We’ve seen guards eat multiple trays of food at FMCI before so its no big revelation.  But doing it, I was looking forward to that extra cupcake I’d have gotten as a swamper! Smile  But no big deal.  more importantly, my relationship with the other swamper, David Sussex isn’t as good as it was.  He just likes to preach at people about their shortcomings in a religious way.  His outlook is just very immature.  I finally told him he talked too much and shared with him what scripture says about zeal without knowledge.  He didn’t like that.  But its okay.  We’ll be fine.  I’ve got 35 days till my ERP group graduates, no more than 45 till departure.  I’m not letting anything here take my focus off of that.


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 Saturday, I got a surprise knock on my cell door from former cellie Malik Pearl.  He is to graduate from ERP this coming Friday (May 6th) along with current cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen. The question Pearl passed to me didn’t take but a second for me to respond.  He asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Swamper as he was going to step down.  I said no way.  It would interfere with my routine, force me to interact with more people, upset my TV watching and I’d have to deal with people whining for the extra food that Swampers get as their defector compensation (even though technically we’re not supposed to get that) since I’m told there is no extra pay while in the ERP program.  He left and that was that. A t least so I thought.  As the day went by, I learned the swamper job was probably going to go to ERP group member Mark Hogan who had developed a good relationship with guard Roscoe Peters, who would make the decision.  There were two problems here.  Pearl, along with the other blacks, knew Hogan to be racist.  How you might ask?  As we’ve seen in the past with him, he blurts out inappropriate remarks, not caring who hears.  So that’s how Pearl indicated he’d keep the swamper job rather than letting him have it.  Cellie Larry Sands revealed to Pearl that Hogan had Hepatitis C.  I don’t know how he knew that.  But lets face it, swampers wear gloves and you are not going to get infected from serving food.  But Pearl used this information to turn opinion against Hogan being a swamper in the dayroom.  Later on that day, guard Ruth Barthowski again approached me with the question if I’d be willing to be a swamper.  Now I had had time to reconsider the situation and I had changed my mind.  Why?  Because it will interfere with my routine, force me to interact more with people, upset my TV watching and deal with whiny people.  Kind of like real life!  So against my instincts I said yes to the job knowing I’ll be free in about 50 days so its time to get used to these things again.  The only problem is Pearl had not changed his mind too.  He wanted a guy of his choosing, his cellmate David Sussex, to have the job so he could still have access to the extra food.  So Pearl managed to talk Barthowski into a new policy on swampers which Peters approved.  Swampers would change out every 30 days so more people would have a chance to do it.  From Pearl’s way of thinking, he’ll be long gone by the time the next swamper change occurs so its all good.  The swamper that held the job with him, whom he found annoying anyway, would now have to give up the job as well which would mean his guy, David Sussex, would get the job along with me.  That night was also Barthowski’s final night as a guard.  She made a nice speech at her final count at 9 pm, followed by us all applauding her.  She is going to be missed, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing from her again!  The next day, the 2 old swampers came out to train us, giving us tips on how to count extras for ourselves.  I’ll give you the swamper routine in a future blog entry.  I was assigned to hand out the liquids and bread while Sussex handed out trays or cereal.  Breakfast went fine but at lunch, when stacking dirty trays on the cart, 7 or 8 fell which caused the inmates in their cells in the dayroom to erupt in applause.  I stayed out to help him clean it up after I was done.  Things largely went fine otherwise.  I returned to my cell more energized, I think simply because I was doing something other than sitting on my butt.  My cellies of course complained I gave too much food away to others and not to them. I I had actually kept very little for myself.  I just smiled.  So this is what its like to be a swamper!  But Sunday night things got put into perspective about 9:30 pm when word came down that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  None of this really matters in comparison, does 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).  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 am at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After little sleep the previous night I wasn’t looking forward to hearing the essays from other group members for their ERP Goals and Objectives as I thought I’d fall asleep.  Of course I was wrong.  I’m not going to go into the rest of the readings except for one person because to a large degree many just plagiarized, almost word for word in some cases, what they read to the group.  Once you get to know a person you know when the words that come out aren’t their own. And of course several told me they did copy outright.  It may not be an entirely bad thing.  If you copy material, it still has to travel through the hand to the brain and back again.  The mission may be accomplished despite the unorthodox delivery.  Granted I’m reaching here but trying to put the best construction on the situation.  The last person to stand up and read was ERP Group member Scott Dietz.  Dietz has kind of become the one in the group whom everyone doesn’t like too much.  As noted before he tells what would be considered wild stories about his success in business and his travels.  Plus he has the annoying habit of always trying to top whatever story is being told particularly with his cell mates.  That won’t make you a lot of friends.  Dietz has also become known for registering uninformed opinions in group on what other members would say or do and do so in a manner that was unfriendly.  It was perceived he would do this to gain favor with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  If that was the case it didn’t work.  Ms. Grey and Dietz would clash every couple weeks or so over some issue and she gave him a huge workbook on self-esteem for a treatment goal as she saw through his stories too I’m sure.  When he finished reviewing his materials for the group. Where they had been laid back in questioning others, now picked up the pace and the questions were more pointed.  Clearly there was some retaliation going on, though the questions weren’t appropriate.  I’ve learned that its not what you ask but how you ask it that makes all the difference.  My question was “Why was our opinion of you so important in that you share all these things about your life?”  I didn’t accuse him of lying and made the subject of the question about the value you place on our opinion of you. The response I got floored me as it had nothing to do with the question.  Dietz went on a rant about how certain people get away with everything, how he has been physically attacked with guards and inmates and nothing was done about it and how he has been mistreated by Ms. Grey.  I was just shocked as I think the rest of the room was too.  We found out why soon.  It seems last week an inmate who was cleaning the bathroom asked Dietz not to use the facilities after lunch though its commonly accepted practice here you have to clean around people.  Dietz insisted so the inmate took a swing at him in full view of Peters who is the regular 1st shift guard and the other unit manager.  The unit manager ordered a meeting between these inmates and their social workers.  That meeting was to take place right after our group and that’s why Dietz’s mind jumped there at my opinion.  After the meeting had begun, everyone in the dayroom in their rooms attention were fixated on the drama that was unfolding.  At first it looked like Dietz was going to get his wish as a witness who was known to be friendly with him came in and gave his version of events.  The accused inmate stormed out of the meeting and was confined to his cell.  We all assumed he’d get kicked out of ERP and go to the hole for sure.  But then a swamper who had just graduated ERP and another came forward and claimed nothing happened even though it was common knowledge  on the cell block it did happen.  That inmate then was summoned to return from his cell.  They were both given interventions which is additional work given by an ERP group leader to address a specific issue which will be shared with the group Thursday at the community meeting.  Things had backfired on Dietz in a big way on this.  He had wanted to get the inmate thrown out but now got extra work, the humiliation of bringing it up to the whole group Thursday, having to say he was wrong even if he doesn’t feel that way and draw the disrespect and of the inmates for “going to the police” on another inmate.  Of course he went around saying this happened because the black inmates stuck together (the inmate who swung and his witnesses are black) and how they’re shown favoritism.  My thought is he is just digging his hole deeper and deeper.  I’m so glad I keep to myself and don’t embrace confrontation here as I don’t think this is going to end well for him. 


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 started out the morning working on my autobiography, getting up to the point of my arrival in Wisconsin, separation from my biological mother, and living with my foster parents in Waupaca, WI.  Ms. Grey, our ERP coordinator, arrived and had us assemble in our group room.  She introduced another thing to do to begin our group.  She played a recording from India Arie off the CD Testimony Vol 1 Life and Relationships that sang the Serenity prayer. It had an African type beat.  We then did our breathing exercises.  Then we went over the last part of orientation workbook explaining what we’d come to learn.  Surprisingly, I’ve been quite vocal in group.  She asked for more reflection on the quantum discussion.  I rendered my opinion, she was not so concerned with getting us to change the world around us but to be open minded enough about alternative ideas.  I could tell Ms. Grey was disappointed not a one of us seemed more open to the specific ideals she had presented.  We then moved onto a group reading of Chapters 1-2 of Houses of healing.  We ended the day with being assigned Chapters 3, “The Long and Winding Road; From Childhood to Prison” and Chapter 4, “The Fallout from Childhood Wounding…. and How to Start Recovery”.  Chapter 3 deals largely with inner child issues and Chapter 4 deals with more of the same issues.  We were suppose to do the “Pause and Reflect” sections but mostly dealt with imaging things as opposed to writing things down.  We called an impromptu meeting without the group leader and all decided we’d put nothing on paper as it wasn’t asked for.  But yet I know I need this stuff, but not a thing we’re going to spend a day or two on.  It’ll open a huge can of worms and I’m not sure its safe to do that here.  But lets just see what happens. 


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 cellie Andre Charles and Malik Pearl immediately started in on each other once Malik revealed people talk about Andre’s tendency to snap on people.  Andre didn’t like learning people talked about him though he says he knew they did.  But of course, he was angry that Malik didn’t tell him before.  That’s not what he was really mad about.  But as I talked with him I again tried to make him understand that his rage issue, if he didn’t get a hold of it, with medication or whatever, he’s going to kill someone to no avail.  He keeps wanting my opinion/approval, I don’t know why.  But I’m going to keep telling him the same thing.  After the ERP group began this morning, Ms. Grey, who’d been on vacation all last week, was here.  She asked us our impression of the What the Bleep Do We Know.  We were all pretty skeptical.  Then we did breathing exercises which she wants us to do everyday to start group.  We close one nostril, breathe in, bend our head, then blow out the other nostril.  It’s different.  But we better get used to it.  Then we talked about the assignments in “Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment” by Kenneth Wanberg and Harvey Milkman and Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian.  Everyone completely agreed including Ms. Grey, that the Milkman workbook completely sucks and Casarjian rocks.  But we’re required somehow to do this workbook according to Ms. Grey.  So that’s what we’ll do.  In the afternoon session we managed to get a hold of the remote for the DVD player and were able to watch “Portraits in Addiction” by Bill Moyer, which we hadn’t been able to do last time and wrote a one page essay on it.  It was at least 15 years old so some of the references and people were dated but I thought it showed several types of addiction as well.  They’re telling us much of what we already know.  Yes we are alcoholics.  We don’t need convincing.  But perhaps I speak too quickly.  After the afternoon session, I checked at the desk for mail and to my shock there was a letter from my former step-daughter Lynn.  She sent a Christmas card with a photo of her and her boyfriend, a photo of her and JoAnn, and Lisa and a letter.  In her letter she apologized for how she has treated me and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on with me.  They had even gone to see my adoptive parents this past weekend.  I sense there’s more going on out there in regards to this group of people.  But its the same issue when JoAnn sent me the Christmas card.  To what level can I get involved with these folks?  Should I?  I still haven’t decided.  But I have a letter to write.  I’m excited she reached out to me as I had wanted that for a  long time.