Posts Tagged ‘pride’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  As I was being returned to my unit from the hole after 6 days for investigation on possible charges related to this blog but for which I’d been cleared.  I looked through the windows and saw regular 2nd shift guard Ruth Barthkowski who smiled at me and tried to work through the paperwork that was deficient with my arrival.  The inmates seated at the tables in the dayroom smiled as I walked in but I couldn’t tell what was behind it.  Barthowski began to give me the lay of the land right away.  Everybody now knew about the blog staff and inmate alike.  She also told me she had worked on people trying to get me out of the hole and I thanked her for it.  My property was still in Segregation and wouldn’t arrive.  I was assigned my old bunk and old cell which I was grateful for.  Barthowski took me up to the linen closet while I got the rest of my yellow outfits.  Guys at the tables in the dayroom welcomed me back but their body language indicated some mistrust.  Once I made it to my cell, ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands gave me the rundown of what had happened in group.  Apparently the night they took me last week the guard on duty, a by the book type named Mike Metcalf had announced I was on a bus back to Dodge Correctional Institution.  Regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters was upset over being named Roscoe.  Guys in my ERP group knew they hadn’t been named but still wanted to know what was said about them.  But probably the most interesting development was what had gone on with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  The week I’d missed she had been smiling, engaging and being kind.  The last while she has seemed distant and combative.  But she had discussed my situation with the group telling them that day I returned that I was not going to return but then telling them something different later in the day.  It seems that yours truly who always sought to avoid attention was the focus of the entire pod this past week.  That and of course this blog.  My main concern wasn’t any of this though.  I was concerned about seeing Peters and Grey the next day.  What would they reveal about me?  I’ve laid myself bare on this blog.  But I also felt a sense of pride and strength, that no matter what might happen I was going to be ok.  That didn’t mean the anxiety about how tomorrow would go in group wouldn’t give me a restless night.  But as it turned out I shouldn’t have worried at all.  Peters wasn’t working on Friday .  And Ms. Grey was engaging and kind throughout the morning.  And then the most surreal thing.  In the afternoon session her and intern Nikita broke us into two groups and had us play Uno!  That’s right, the card game!  Everyone was smiling and had a good time.  Had Ms. Grey read the blog and not liked what she saw and decided to change things up?  Or did something else happen to cause the change?  Whatever it is it’s promising.  On another note, I’d considered asking the sponsors to shut down the blog, much as I did 15 months ago when I got cancer.  After with everyone here knowing about the blog, this may no longer be the typical prison experience.  But I’ve got bigger concerns.  The blog helped me and has helped others.  It’s worked up till now.  I’m going to stick with it.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Last night a little touch of stomach flu took hold.  If I were free, I’d just hang out by the toilet.  In another prison, I’d have had a stall to use.  Here everyone can see and hear you do your business which just makes it so hard for me to conduct my business!  There is a blue nylon cloth that separates you from the folks brushing their teeth or washing their face in the sinks.  So what we do is flush the toilet at the same time when we do our business to cover the noise then again to cover the smell.  If there are others present and you didn’t time it right they’ll let you know.  We even turn the water at the sinks on to prevent the noise.  I got through the night to the usual confrontation that cellie Andre Charles had with someone this morning.  This time the someone was cellie Malik Pearl.  Malik’s offense this time was to wake Andre up for count.  He looked out for him for crying out loud.  But he was having none of this.  I had no clear cut assignment to work on today so I began the autobiography I’d been assigned but was dreading.  Before lunch I completed 4 pages.  It was detailing much of what I summarized for you all early in my life.  It was most difficult to write.  I won’t post the autobiography as its off point to what “Life in the Wisconsin Prison System” is like.  I share with you about my life enough for you to see the prison system through the lens I provide.  But if you do request it, I will post it here.  I’m okay with that as you know me but you don’t know who I am.  Weird huh?  But be warned, I take pride in the fact I bring you what happens here while avoiding the use of unnecessary vulgarity.  Not so in this document.  After lunch, I was getting ready to go back to the dayroom to resume work on the autobiography when I sat up on my bunk and of course Charles flashing an obscene gesture at me.  I walked away to use the restroom and of course I returned shortly to ask him if he was flashing that sign at me.  He denied it but who else could it be?  I walked away and resumed work.  After program, I returned to my cell where Malik told me if he’d been on the street, Charles would have been shot and that there are several guys here who he has talked smack to that if they see him on the street they will take him out.  Apparently they’ve told him to show up in their cell and he backed down as well.  I just don’t want to get involved in any kind of war here.  But it was good to see Malik, myself and cellie Brian Whalen united against Charles.  I just wonder how this is going to play out.  But doing that autobiography, I’m not going to sleep well tonight.  These issues really pale in comparison.  At mail call, I got another Christmas card today.  This one was from my ex-wife.  She is inquiring about visiting, along with her daughters.  If you have been following, you know this family was a big trigger of the stress and anxiety that I failed to get help for that contributed to me being in prison.  The answer is obvious you would think, but I want to give it some thought.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’ll be on my way to Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) on Monday to begin my ERP program. Some of you have emailed questions to be answered.  Most are confidential and specific to your situation but some might interest others and are more general so I’ll answer them here.

Question:  What will happen to the blog when you are released?

Answer:    The blog will continue.  The focus will change to what life is like on parole as some of the biggest battles and such deal with staying out of prison.  My sponsors and I occasionally talk about whether or not what we’re doing here should have exposure elsewhere and how to accomplish that but none of us really know as this concept and how we do it isn’t all that common.  Those of you who’ve made suggestions and helped promote the blog, please know I’m very grateful and the sponsors work on your suggestions as time permits.  So please keep them coming!    

 

Question:  Do you think going to prison was a good thing for you?  Has it helped with the issues that got you there?

Answer:    I think something had to happen, something had to stop the insanity that was going on.  I deserved to go to prison.  As far as helping with my issues, that work was done by me as you’ve watched over the last 19 months.  Up till now, as I’ve said before, it’s up to me to get better, not the institutions or guards. 

 

Question:  What would have been the length of time needed for you to “get it”?

Answer:    Do you feel I’ve “gotten it”?  I feel I “get it” more and more everyday.  Do I feel ready now to go out there?  Yes!  But God will open that door when its time in spite of any whining I might or you might hear me do.

 

Question:  Did prison save your life?

Answer:    No.  I was suicidal when arrested and it wasn’t well into January of this past year (2010) my resolve and faith was renewed and I made a commitment to stay alive.  Dang it, with my background, cancer, teenage life, battle with mental illness, going to prison and such I feel like there’s a plan out there for me to do something.  If not, I should’ve been dead long ago.

 

Question:  What are you in prison for and what were the circumstances surrounding your crime?

Answer:    I am in prison for my fifth and sixth drunk driving offenses.  In 1995 I had 3 arrests in one year as all I did was party.  As the years went by, the problems described here got worse and worse.  But even as I continued to drink more and more, I kept on improving professionally. There were long periods of sobriety but as things at home and work escalated, I would go “off the deep end”.  I would come out of it, vow to do better, and then would be ok for awhile.  My fifth offense came when I tried to track my step-daughter down who had gone missing and I tried to calm down by drinking.  While out on bail for that, my sixth offense was my suicide attempt where i combined alcohol and seroquel and was determined to drive into a semi on the highway so it would appear as an accident and my family would get my life insurance.  I passed out before I got to the highway.  Obviously, I’ve summarized a great deal here and haven’t gone into great detail on the mental health issues.  But know this:  It was wrong and I deserve to be here because I didn’t seek help when I knew I had to and couldn’t do it on my own.  My pride prevented me from doing so and as a result I lost everything.  That, in a very brief nutshell, is the answer to your question.


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.