Posts Tagged ‘People’


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 two days without any kind of ERP group I was ready to get back at it if only to defeat the boredom.  First item on the agenda was images for our graduation program handout for June 10th.  Previously ERP social worker Ms. Grey gave me what she thought were images but she had accidentally saved the web page instead.  Hopefully these will be right.  I have retained the majority of the color schema of the previous ERP graduation handout.  There just isn’t time to start from scratch.  So then we plowed into the new video and workbook series The Price of Freedom is Living Free Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack Cooper.  We completed the majority of the wordbook through page 41.  It was a simple yet effective way to address these issues.  One interesting point was when the issue of what we fear came up.  I answered honestly that I fear my release from prison.  There is so much I’m going to have to do that it can be overwhelming to think about it.  It also might have something to do with my horrible attitude as of late.  At 3 pm, we went into the dayroom for our weekly community meeting.  These have really gone downhill.  Even guys in our own group aren’t participating.  The quote and word for the week were people that were turned into the butt of a joke.  It ended with the guys who got busted the previous night complaining about it during the time that was supposed to be for “positive reinforcements” at the end.  Ms. Carr ended up telling him he’d go to the hole if he didn’t quiet down, and she didn’t care if he graduated or not.  Supper was interesting for a couple reasons with my swamper job. First, swamper David Sussex had taken some cookies I had gotten as extras for serving.  When I found out he had I felt that familiar burn of anger.  Then he commented that he was messing with me and was just giving me a test.  I’m thinking to myself who the heck are you to give me a test?  Fortunately, it ended okay with no hard feelings.  A quirk about me:  I don’t like me or my stuff messed with.  I know that’s not healthy but it is who I am.  How do you fix it?  Then after supper and when we are supposed to clean, Sussex got a visit which meant I had to do all the jobs.  I didn’t mind at all.  His job essentially was to stack the dirty trays on the cart, tie them down, put the trash I get on the car and put it out in the hall to be collected.  No big deal.  People watched out of their cell windows to see if I’d drop the trays or if I knew what I was doing.  I didn’t care.  Getting back to the cell, I heard cellie Brian Whalen got some good news about his release.  His paperwork had been returned and he expects to get cut loose Monday.  I’m happy for him, even though I know his plans and the danger in store for him.  I do think I’m going to warn him this weekend.


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 seems more had gone on that I didn’t know about on Monday.  As I’ve told you previously, our ERP group leader Ms. Grey was unhappy with guard Ruth Barthowski for having helped inmates with information and advice.  Ms. Grey in full hearing of all inmates in the dayroom told her it wasn’t her place to have helped inmates in any fashion as that’s not her job.  That was followed by a phone call from the unit manager to Barthowski  echoing the same sentiments.  Barthowski disappeared halfway through the shift due to a medical emergency at home.  I hope that wasn’t just a cover story but I also hope everything is ok there.  The next day in the morning began the second week of parole officer (PO) calls.  But Ms. Grey has clearly been embedded in recent events.  People from the last graduating class were working out in the rec room which doubles as our group room and the computer room, which doubles as a visiting room, during ERP program hours.  Historically graduates have been granted a lot of freedom while awaiting their paperwork to be processed.  But Grey went to all these inmates and pointed out that according to the letter of the contract signed when PRC granted us ERP they still have to follow ERP program rules until release, even asserting herself on regular 1st shift guard Roscoe Peters.  I do agree with her that I don’t want to smell the sweat of people working out that morning in our afternoon group session but I wonder if the ERP staff know or care that their very public in fighting is so obvious to us and the damage to their credibility it is doing.  Our afternoon session was devoted to the study of Ecstasy.  We watched the video Ecstasy When the Party’s Over from the Educational Video Network.  It dwelled on the physical consequences of its use.  Then we watched the movie called Crash starring Terrance Howard and Sandra Bullock.  Its storyline revolved around the ripple effect of intolerance and bigotry on its participants.  It was a good movie.  At the end of the session there were a couple of surprises.  As you recall, Ms. Grey had asked me to help group member Mark Hogan do his Phase II Goals and Objectives.  Hogan had let me help with one of his goals but insisted the other one was fine.  Ms. Grey didn’t.  But she gave it back to me to help him which annoyed me.  But then the last thing that was said took me back a bit.  She told us that we are here to work on ourselves and not worry about her and that she gets to go home at night and we don’t.  That was rude but clearly these words were a reaction to something else, possibly cellie Larry Sands stories to the psychiatrist.  Sometimes the days are just a struggle you know?  But that night I got mail from the biological father’s family responding to the last letter where I laid much of what had happened years ago in a letter passed via email.  Much to my surprise they didn’t reject me.  They even confirmed some of the horrors my biological father had done to some of them.  They had  had doubts I was who I claimed to be.  No longer.  I didn’t write back that night.  I’m just drained these days.  But I found some good medicine that night on Milwaukee Public Television watching the series The Civil War A Film by Ken Burns.  Such an excellent production.  It was chicken soup for my soul.


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 new cellie, Corey Ball, is settled in but cellie Andre Charles won’t act out in front of him.  He went off on me about supposedly looking at him again.  But he waited until Ball left the room.  What followed was the usual shouts and threats and finally I caved.  I told him I’d leave him alone in the cell from 8 to 9 am instead of staying in our cell like we’re allowed to do prior to ERP group.  In exchange, for the remainder of his time, the complaints will stop.  Like I believe that’s going to happen!  Afterwards, Andre left the cell and I’m told others asked about the noise and he snapped on them to mind their own business.  One inmate told him to go ahead and get in his face and to watch what happens.  Charles backed off.  Good thing too.  I know the one who confronted him and he is every bit as unstable as he is.  There is no ERP group on Wednesday mornings.  On Wednesday afternoon our ERP group leader Ms. Grey had us watch the movie Pay It Forward starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.  I’ve seen it before and its one of the best I would say.  There was no time for discussion so she handed out a worksheet to fill out.  She also handed out a schedule for the week and it indicated Thursday and Friday would be a “Paperwork Day”, that is time to allow us to get some of the work on our ERP Goals and Objectives done.  Once group was complete I returned to my cell and all the cellies were there.  I helped Ball with his antenna for his TV. He had ordered one of the pricey Digital televisions off the catalogs but it didn’t help his reception any.  Andre joked I couldn’t fix mine so  how could I fix his?  Just like everything was back to normal or at least if it was suppose to be.  We all were still trying to be on our best behavior in front of the new guy.  We had canteen that night and talk turned to the graduation party for Andre next Friday. I stayed out of the conversation but I knew I’d get asked to contribute.  Ball is good at making “hookups” which is to combine several items into one dish.  I don’t care for doing that because it can get pretty expensive.  But I went along with it for the sake of harmony among us.  My contribution would be tortilla shells, refried beans and pepper slices.  A total of $3.74.  I really have to hold back what I truly wanted to say about having a party for Andre.  But its almost like real life isn’t it?  Everyday you have to accommodate people and do things that you don’t necessarily want to for the greater good of a given environment and I suppose this is no different.  Well of course it’s different but you know what I mean.


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 my towel and washcloth third in line on the chairs in front of the disgusting shower and was happy about that.  It was also laundry night so I was plenty busy.  The next morning cellie, Brian Whalen, agreed we would pull all our cords out of the tangled mess on our outlet and I would try to get it so that the wires and cables weren’t interfering with the reception of our antenna’s for our televisions.  Though we don’t have cable we do pick up 31 television stations, which is amazing considering all the granite and steel here.  But electrical cables seem to interfere with the antennas.  But I decided to wait until lunch to do this as we were having the worst meal here, beef stroganoff.  I went to my ERP group where our group leader, inmate Larry Sands, decided on his own to show a movie called Gracie’s Choice , an excellent movie of a young girl with several brothers and sisters whose mother was an addict.  After it was finished I returned to my cell and when lunch was called, I began to work on the cords and antennas.  Cellie Andre Charles was the only one left in the room, his fan blaring on high, and having just banged around at his locker.  As I experimented with antenna positions he challenged me in a threatening manner on the amount of noise I was making.  This coming from a guy who plays his TV and radio loud all the time and no one says a word.  I just looked at him and left.  I saw Whalen coming up the steps and told him after he inquired of whether I was finished that no I wasn’t and he should ask Andre why.  After I returned, everyone was quiet and Andre was pacing the floor saying he’s not going to put up with this sh—anymore.  I showed no fear or concern, but I didn’t answer.  The other cellie Malik Pearl, confided once Roscoe Peters, our regular first shift guard, returned from vacation he would ask to be transferred.  I told him I probably would after he did.  His reasoning is he can’t handle it.  But I don’t put it beyond Malik to be playing games either.  I just don’t know for sure.  Our ERP group resumed and after doing a couple assigned crossword puzzles on the Body System and Neurotransmitters, we watched another movie, “When a Man Loves a Woman” starring Meg Ryan.  It’s a story about how a woman gets help for her drinking problem but as a result of getting healthy as a person, her marriage suffers.  I avoided this movie in the real world as I heard it was a ‘chick flick’ but it was actually pretty good.  Afterwards I returned to my cell.  Andre wasn’t saying a word now.  But right before supper was served, Malik drew my attention to the cell window.  There was Peter Thorn, the guard who liked like he belonged in a punk band, on  a chair head in hands with a white shirt (a supervisor) encouraging him to come with him.  He hadn’t looked right before and he displayed the eyes of heroin use.  Some inmates laughed, some cheered, but not me.  Addiction can take down a guard, an IT Specialist/programmer like myself or anyone else really.  People are fighting for their lives in here on several different levels and not all of them are inmates.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Green Bay Packers beat the stuffing out of the Minnesota Vikings 31-3.  Normally its a real loud environment around here on game day but it was so bad nobody  had anything to say.  It appears that I’m no longer part of the worship team since I got off bunk confinement.  I haven’t been approached about it for the last two weeks.  I’m okay with that.  If you were following along you understand why.  Oh and if you were wondering, saddlebags and Bill  “Made up”.  That’s Bills words, not mine.  I just didn’t want to know anything beyond that so you fill in the blanks!  But its been a relatively quiet weekend.  Normally early Monday morning I’ll wake up real early and do my laundry, especially since we now only have one washer and dryer to serve 200 plus inmates thanks to an inmate putting a bar of soap in the washer instead of the laundry soap we’re supposed to purchase.  But as luck would have it I walked by the washer around 7 pm and saw it was available so I hurried and got to it before others did.  The downside is I had to hang around the dayroom instead of hanging out by my bunk and watching TV like I like to at night.  Many saw my departure from routine and came up to me to talk.  We get used to each others routines.  Most of the conversation revolved around the game and why I was in the dayroom at that hour.  But Paul came by to chat.  He’s getting out next month and is having a particularly hard time. They didn’t offer him a job while he was here until the very end, has no money saved up and as a result must live in housing called a transitional living placement (TLP) with other parolees for 60-90 days.  Those in such placements often must wear electronic monitoring ankle bracelets which Paul doesn’t want to do.  In addition, prior to your release you get the “rules” your parole officer (PO) has determined you must live by.  Some are standard, but then after those are listed the PO lists rules specific to you.  You’re suppose to sign you rules prior to release from prison.  The problem here is that the PO listed as a rule that he must agree to any kind of treatment or counseling the PO believes is appropriate.  Paul felt the rule was too vague and wouldn’t agree to it.  Ms. Greer tried to arrange a phone conference which resulted in him hanging up on the PO.  He’s now in the process of filling out paperwork to get a new PO.  Paul’s problems have always gone back to his anger, even when I knew him in the group home 25 years before.  He doesn’t want the PO to have so much power over him as she could order him to complete any kind of treatment they want he reasons.  It surprises me as this is the 4th time in prison.  I’ve heard they have life or death power over you so I wonder why he’s fighting the PO so much.  He should know this.  I do know he’s really against any kind of anger management.  He had lost his mom to cancer back when I knew him as a kid and that the aunt that cared for him since had also died.  He’s all alone.  People like him, I get them.  I tried explaining since the beginning of all this his life has been a series of tumbling dominoes where though responsible for his actions, the likelihood of bad decisions being made continued to escalate as each domino fell.  The weight of the past dominoes that had fallen were such to make impossible for the current domino to stand on its own without a lot of intervention and change.  Paul indicated he “totally understood” what I was saying, but I got the sense he just wasn’t ready to trust this PO because they may make decisions that might force him to face things he was afraid to.  Again, I get that.  It’s a rebellion born of fear that resembles defiance.  I see that.  Will his PO?  For now, at this point, I’m not that hopeful he is going to make it when he gets out.


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 fallout from the institution wide shakedown has continued. Several times a day people are paged to report to the social worker’s office from the guard desk.  When the page comes from the guard desk and not from Ms. Greer you know this isn’t going to be a visit to that office that will end well.  People are going there for ticket hearings and are being told to bring property receipts with them that prove the confiscated property belonged to them.  Bunk confinement of varying length is the normal punishment.  Every once in awhile someone actually wins a hearing.  You know they did as they celebrate like they scored a touchdown.  Slowly but surely life is returning to normal. Somehow the smokers managed successfully to hide tobacco though I hear the asking price for a rolled cigarette has gone up to four to five dollars of canteen from two to three dollars.  Clothing bought from the catalogs that was lost is the biggest issue for folks as buyers and sellers are trying to get together on a price.  Where am I at on this?  My little routines I hang onto to preserve some organization from the chaos around me at at times my mind can sink into serve me well here. Additional clothing or property just for luxury sake would disrupt the routines I’ve developed.  I know that sounds weird but if you’ve been reading awhile you’re used to it by now.  Occasionally the guys laugh at me because for many things I do everyday I do them like clockwork. I don’t care if they laugh.  Their opinions matter little. It’s usually good natured.  One of the guys I’d call one of the winners around here is being released Monday.  A strong Christian who was liked by all he is one of those guys that has a personality that can light up a room.  He’s headed to Texas where he has a wife and church to support him.  Originally FMCI would have taken him via bus to Fond Du Lac, WI (thirty miles away) and let him off at a bus station as they do all who are released and have no one to come get them or some other arrangement through a Parole Officer or something like that.  He wrote to a church in the area just out of the blue and someone responded indicated a willingness to pick him up here and give him a ride to the airport.  How cool is that?  That’s the kind of courage I need to learn.  We also got a new guy in who opened up to me out of the blue.  It seems he was approved for Act 28 release but the judge in his case had denied him.  They have to let him go in February, and when I pointed out to him he most likely would have been on electronic monitoring for 6 months had he gotten early release, he indicated he didn’t care.  He’d been down for eight years and the only thing that mattered was getting home to his kids. Inwardly I smiled. I so understand that desperation and desire.  Finally, congratulations to Chris Tomlin, one of my favorite Christian artists, on finally getting married this week.  I wish the very best to him and his new wife!