Posts Tagged ‘possessions’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Sometimes I’m not so bright.  In fact, I can make just stupid decisions.  When I was a child my arm was broken.  The arm was never set properly and as a result the arm has always given me some discomfort.  The last few months however; the pain has steadily grown where I have to work around it for such tasks as putting on a shirt.  So I put in a medical request form. I suggested that perhaps the lack of exercise is causing the pain, as up until a year ago I was being treated for cancer and I didn’t exercise much and since then I’ve done very little.  But with my impending release on Wednesday, I didn’t make a  good choice ignoring the pain.  To my surprise, I was actually seen on Sunday by a nurse right here on the unit.  The nurse decided to see me because of my history of cancer.  She determined the kind of bone issue I described shouldn’t be ignored.  Just another example of the usually positive experience I’ve had with health practitioners while I’ve been in prison.  She decided to refer me to the doctor without performing tests.  But she did take a history of how it happened, asking why I didn’t address this years ago when I had insurance and why I waited until now.  Truth was I didn’t want to answer the questions people would have asked related to how it happened, my usual honesty and shame issues.  Hopefully, I don’t continue that pattern.  One nice thing about all my family and friends knowing I went to prison is all pretense is gone.  The truth will be revealed eventually whether you want it to or not.  The fact I had problems is now known to them.  How will they react to me?  How will I react to them?  I am going to try, despite the loss of family, possessions, career, and money, to hold my head high.  The difference between disgrace and shame would be failing to learn the lessons shame has taught.  It will be a struggle, make no mistake about that.  Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents, have his retirement celebration coming up July 17th where family friends and acquaintances from years gone by will be in attendance.  We’ll see then if my words here mean anything.  The rest of the weekend was uneventful.  ERP group member Scott Dietz had his paperwork signed by a Milwaukee County judge on a weekend.  He also inquired about me building websites for his businesses.  I’m suspicious of any contact with people from here or promises made but I said sure I’m interested but I’ll need a couple of months to get my feet on the ground.  But I almost believe him.  I talked to my adoptive parents on Sunday as well.  They have the bed I slept on as a kid setup in the basement and some simple foodstuffs put up for me there.  The internet will be turned on June 25th so I can get to catching up on my Information Technology and programming skills.  They gave my parole officer (PO) Helen Gaither the house key which I can get from her on Wednesday but left a door open in the event by the time I get to Menasha, WI after business hours.  Of course this tells me the PO and my adoptive parents have been meeting and talking.  That makes me a little nervous.  But everything seems set.  Wednesday can’t get here soon enough!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Out ERP social worker Ms. Grey collected our journals and handed out self evaluations.  Our last evaluation occurred just 3 weeks ago but with our graduation on June 10th, less than a month away and all of the things we need to do yet, I’m guessing she doesn’t have a lot of choice.  I spent most of the weekend working on our graduation project.  Ms. Grey had provided what looks like thumbnail images you’d find on a search engine of Optimus Prime to represent the Transformer concept.  Largely useless, but others such as John Lloyd and Scott Bunker felt the stretched distorted image would represent well.  So I kept it.  As an Information Technology professional, it felt good to be on a computer again and listening to project requirements.  I’ve asked the blog sponsors by the way to put out word to these I know on Facebook and other agencies I’ll be available for work in July.   So keeping my fingers crossed.  Anyway, I saved all the information and documents that will be needed for the graduation project to a disc and will give that to Ms. Grey on Monday.  I also finished my essay due Monday on socialization for my ERP group.  It doesn’t really reveal anything you don’t already know about me.  It focused on my experience as a swamper, the good things along with the bad.  I’ve had lots of guys ask me why I quit. At the end of the day I just didn’t want the hassle of dealing with the schoolyard antics of several inmates, whose goal it is to make other inmates time more difficult thereby jeopardizing my goal of graduating especially with how my attitude has been lately.  Cellie Brian Whalen continues his preparations for his release on Monday.  He gave his fan to cellie Larry Sands along with his mirror among other items.  He did the usual divvying up of possessions inmates do prior to departure, promising this to one guy, that to another.  Of course, all of those folks became Whalen’s close friend this weekend hoping to get their share!  I had no such interest.  I spoke with my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin, and they’re putting in high speed internet which is necessary for my job search and getting my .NET framework programming skills up to speed.  I so can’t wait!  I’ve missed working so much.  They’re busy getting their home ready to move into after his retirement in July.  It is, of course, where I’ll be initially, after release.  So we will all be adjusting in a major way this summer, to a new home and to each other.  The ground is shifting beneath my feet, but I feel it is in a positive fashion, unlike the earthquake and ensuing destruction I rained down on my own life two years ago, by my failure to seek help.  Ironically, I now have to ask for help to get started.


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 had the worst meal ever since my incarceration began.  The entree was beef stroganoff.  The smell literally made me want to vomit.  I dared to actually take a bite and then I wished I would vomit.  I’m not the type to complain but this was bad.  Fortunately, I had some canteen left over so I finished that off.  I ran into a hustler on this cell block who wants to trade 2 for 1 on anything if I’m hungry as he knows I’m not used to the food here yet and he thinks I won’t have money to buy canteen.  We place orders on Thursday and they are delivered the following Wednesday.  Fortunately, one of my sponsors sent me a little cash  so we didn’t have the same situation I did when I got to Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  So I declined, but I would’ve anyway.  You don’t want to get involved with people like that.  This just means I have to exist on state food till Wednesday.  Don’t worry, I’ll be fine!  After supper, my cellies finished their group and after returning to the cell, Malik Pearl and I got into a conversation.  First it was about ERP.  Rumors have it Gov. elect Scott Walker is going to try to kill the program and return to truth in sentencing and he expressed doubts as he didn’t think financially the state could.  Then he told me he asked to come here for ERP as its said the ERP at MSDF is considered the easiest of all the prisons and that I should be grateful I came here instead of some of the others.  It is true, especially at Oshkosh, that many don’t get through.  The way he spoke reminded me of a black preacher’s cadence, and he seemed to genuinely believe what he said.  I made the comment he should be a preacher.  Malik looked at me like he was shocked and I asked what was up.  It seems between bits (times) in prison at one point he had become a Christian and was being groomed to take over as a pastor at a church.  His desire to have material possessions led him back to the world of drugs and dealing.  Malik said he wasn’t yet ready to recommit his life  to God but he will eventually.  I told him not to wait too long, you never know what might happen and that God’s gifts and call upon his life is irrevocable.  Someday he could be restored to his former position, and that there is hope.  He said he’s get there, but first he’d go back to the life (dealing) so he could get financially stable.  God would let him know when it was his time he thought.  I replied that God has already spoken.  I suppose one on the outside might not understand the contradiction Malik presents but I do.  The good he wants to do is obfuscated by the falling dominoes chain of bad decisions.  It doesn’t mean the desire to do right is gone.  But the whole conversation about God, by two men who demonstrate feet of clay every day, I sensed was more effective than any preacher’s message could have been then.  But I’ve learned we haven’t lost the credibility to help others even if we’ve made some horrible mistakes.  


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The call had come the previous day letting several inmates know that they should pack up because they were going to be moved.  I was not among them.  One who was included was Saddlebags who himself was headed to a facility in Milwaukee.  Once it became known an inmate is on his way out the vultures come out after their canteen and other possessions.  They use various manipulations or guilt trips on the departing inmate such as lying to them about what they’ll be allowed to have at the next facility or about how pathetic it is to take their canteen with them.  In his case another tactic is employed – theft.  He resides in the aisle next to me and in the early morning hours he discovered the light bulb in his lamp on his bunk had been taken.  Saddlebags tried intimidation and pleading to try to get the light bulb back.  Those in the aisle clearly enjoyed seeing him squirm and gave him replies that only fueled his rage and desperation.  It wasn’t about the light bulb anymore.  They were exposing him as a punk, one who couldn’t protect himself or his things and Saddlebags was attempting to regain a measure of self respect by getting the light bulb back.  What he didn’t understand was the more he tried and failed, the more he put himself on display as the laughing stock of those in his aisle.  I must confess at the time this was going on I was laughing too.  I simply don’t like him, haven’t since the moment I met him.  I tired of listening to his bravado, his disregard for others well being, and how he had hurt others.  But the lesson of why someone shouldn’t laugh at someone else’s misfortune would become evident soon.  Part of the fallout of the first shakedown was that lamps, radios and other electronics that had been altered had either been confiscated, or what had been altered was confiscated often rendering the item useless. Since we’ve had an epidemic of theft of things you wouldn’t consider stealing under normal circumstances.  Wire that is used for an antenna, insulation in a lamp, cardboard and string are such examples.  If it wasn’t part of the device in its original state it got taken.  Inmates often will use materials to enhance or prolong the life of a device.  With much of that material gone, people are scavenging for such.   When I returned from lunch, I found that the insulation in my lamp had been tampered with.  But whoever had tried to take it had ripped too hard on the socket connecting the light bulb, ripping some of the wiring with it.  The lamp had been rendered useless.  Present were my cellie (bunkmate) and those next to my bunk.  They all looked at me out of the corner of their eye but not saying a word.  They knew, they had seen whomever tampered with the lamp but hadn’t said a word then and weren’t saying a word now.  As I’ve said before, though we all act as friends, there is no loyalty.  I didn’t say a word.  I took the lamp down and locked it up having determined I would destroy it rather than give the pieces to anyone else.  I acted like nothing happened.  It kind of fits.  It wasn’t my lamp to begin with.  I don’t dare act like I own it with any credibility. And I had laughed when  Saddlebag’s light bulb had been stolen though the circumstances were different.  I deserved what had happened here and I resolved not to be so smug in the future. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It may not come as a shock to you that many inmates have problems with boundaries.  The real question for me is whether or not the person violating my boundaries has acted in a malicious manner or is it just the way they are.  Most of the time I have an opportunity to assess the situation or person and methodically make a decision how I’ll react to a violation.  That wasn’t the case today.  This particular situation involved an inmate named Charlie who lives in my row of bunks on Unit 9.  Charlie who has been in many years, goes up and down the aisles, begging coffee, food and it is rumored he is not above taking something left out on a bunk or cupboard.  In fact, it got to the point where inmates in other rows in an effort to defend their row  without having to snitch, joined together and told him he was banned from their aisle.  Policing themselves has mixed success at a minimum security level.  It is more effective in a medium environment where the threat of violence is more prevalent.  Unfortunately, since Charlie lives in my aisle, he can’t be banned here.  The problem for Charlie as I perceive it, is he has nobody to help him financially on the outside.  Neither did I, but I received money for valued possessions which I use for my expenses.  If he did that, how long since it dried up.  Many of us are not without heart.  We gave him coffee and other items.  He promised many he would pay them back in some fashion.  But he repaid very few.  I was one of the few.  You might ask if others expected to be paid back, how are they showing heart or compassion?  Because nothing his ever free, not in the real world but especially here.  When he didn’t pay back the others, fact is no one would do anything about it because Charlie is a physically imposing person.  He is at least 6’8” and at least 300lbs.  But what made people even more angry was he took much of what was given him and traded it for cigarettes.  People felt hustled because they felt they had given to meet his needs.  From his perspective, he had taken what he had gotten to trade to meet his real “need”.  Charlie had misrepresented his intentions to others – again not shocking behavior from some inmates.  The effect of all this was that no one would have anything to do with him.  I thought the situation would improve for him once he got a job in the kitchen.  He would be able to scam food out of the kitchen to trade for his wants or needs, which is exactly what happened.  But for these folks like myself he did pay back, somehow in his mind this represented a bond between him and each individual.  He would come by our bunk areas and want to peer in our cupboards, wanting to know what we had in canteen and trying to propose various deals.  No one was interested and I could see the confusion in his eyes.  But my understanding attitude evaporated yesterday when he came up to me from the side, put his arms around me and whispered he needed food and wanted to trade.  He could have told me he had a pardon from the governor and my reaction would have been the same.  I jabbed my elbow in his rib cage and warned him to step off (back).  Looking surprised he asked me what was with the attitude.  He really didn’t understand this.  Yes, I have issues.  Did I overreact?  I tried unsuccessfully to explain in my agitated state about my space, my boundaries and his need to respect that.  He walked away and it was over.  Normally in these situations one might fear retaliation from others.  Not this time.  Charlie is universally disliked.  But the task before me is to figure out how I can handle a situation like this differently in the future, why I fear people getting in my space so much and what to do about it. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We have an old man here who is from Idaho.  He had been on parole back in the eighties and had tired of the restrictions on him so he absconded (left without permission) to Idaho.  He lived there for years with no issues.  Then when he applied for social security, they wouldn’t give him his benefits after a couple checks because of the warrant from Wisconsin.  Eventually, he found himself back in the WPS.  I might have told you about him previously.  If so, I apologize.  Anyway, he is almost universally liked here.  If you want sports betting tips, this is the guy to go to.  Thus, for our purposes, he is dubbed the “Gambler”, after the Kenny Rogers song.  The Gambler had one place though where he was not appreciated by all, especially Paul, and that was at the horseshoe pits.  Outside our units front door inside the track are 2 horseshoe pits and a volleyball sand pit.  While the basketball courts to the left are popular with the black guys, the horseshoe pits are popular with the white guys.  There are exceptions but generally that’s the way it is. As usual, with group activities, I stay on the sidelines and watch.  Paul and the Gambler would often get into heated arguments about how things got scored.  The Gambler and Paul are both stubborn people so that didn’t surprise me.  A few days ago, the Gambler came in from horseshoes complaining of a backache.  It didn’t surprise me.  Horseshoes is how he spends a lot of his day.  He laid down for awhile but was up soon thereafter asking the guards to contact Health Services.  The van came and got him soon thereafter.  The following day, word spread around the unit that the Gambler was dead.  Quite a few of us were shocked and saddened.  No one like the Gambler should die in prison, far from family and friends.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to myself as well, vowing I will never die in prison and hopefully not die alone.  A sympathy card that can be ordered off canteen was being distributed around the unit though I never saw it.  Strange enough, though no inmates had turned into vultures on his possessions like they have a habit of doing.  I thought perhaps conscience would stand in the way with these circumstances this time.  Also, I noticed the guards had left his bunk undisturbed, not coming to pack up his belongings.  But I try to mind my own business and just observe, my modus operandi.  Perhaps the guards didn’t come because they hadn’t gotten word to do so yet.  The following day, a new story began to circulate, that an inmate had started the rumor that the Gambler had died.  My first thought was to wonder why anyone would do such a thing. Then I remembered, for many here to do something like that wouldn’t be a stretch at all.  Consciences are like knives.  If you allow them to get dull, they are not as effective as they could be.  They both stay sharp with daily use and maintenance.  But sure enough, later that night, the Gambler appeared.  He, in fact, had had a scare with his heart and was no on Plavix.  I was happy to see him upright and mobile.  I do hope and pray he does get to join his family before his time really does come someday.  Nobody should die alone.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  My routine is such that I walk on the track in the afternoon.  When I returned to my bunk area I found out that one of the guys near me had been busted for smoking cigarettes outside.  He was a well liked guy around here.  The guards called a van to take him to the hole immediately.  Though he was well liked, it didn’t take but a minute for those same who had been friendly to turn into vultures.  They began going through his things taking what they wanted while keeping an eye out for a guard who might approach.  Finally, a second shift guard rolled a cart down the aisle.  He began to box all his possessions  that they hadn’t taken.  He received assistance from his cellie (bunkmate), who had been one of them going through his things.  It’s different here than other facilities I’ve been at.  Some inmates and guards are friendly and are open about it with each other.  But I’d never seen an inmate help a guard do his job before, much less pack up his own cellie.  The sight of this repulsed me, even made me angry.  Ironically,  before I came to prison, I always would assist those in authority if I could.  Yet now, I know I would not.  What changed?  I’m pretty sure this isn’t a positive change in me.  Has my assimilation as an inmate in the WPS been such that the way I think has been altered, even turned upside down?  That I would side with the criminal against those who represent the system?  I’ve even noticed when I write, I’ve changed in how I refer to inmates, saying “we” as if I’m one of them.  I told you when I wrote this blog, I’m going to be honest.  You’ve seen the ways I’ve grown and the positives.  Part of that honesty is things that don’t necessarily put me in a good light.  I don’t want to overreact either.  But I have recognized how my outlook has changed.  Anyway, after all of this inmates things were packed, they slid the cart down the hall, and loaded it onto a van where it would get taken to property.  He’ll be gone for awhile.  That night, the inmate who helped the guard pack his cellie up approached me and asked if I wanted a lamp.  I asked where it came from and he told me not to ask questions.  A lamp is something every inmate should get from the catalogs but I had not, thinking I could get by without it. But after my arrival at FMCI, and not having a desk, a lamp on your bunk bed is almost a necessity.  I have no doubt where this lamp he wanted to give me came from.  But as I write this in the dark with that lamp fastened to my bunk I have mixed emotions about it.  Again, I would never have accepted it 17 months ago.  But I’m happy I can write any hour of the day and night now.  I just have a little less respect for myself now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you had a little less respect for me too.