Posts Tagged ‘prisons’


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 expected Tuesday to be another day of waiting for my ERP social worker Ms. Grey to walk through those steel doors with the word that my judge had signed my amended judgment of conviction permitting my release from prison since I have now graduated the ERP.  Tuesday didn’t disappoint as I did do a lot of waiting.  We did get some weirdness go on though.  Starting with the first count in the morning, cellie Scar Johnson talked right in front of the guard as he was counting us.  The guard was more shocked than anything I think that Scar was so brazen in his disregard for his authority and the procedures for count.  But that was the end of it or so it seems.  Trust me though the guard involved wont’ forget.  A little later the other guard inspected a cell and found a stinger.  A stinger are melted prongs stacked inside an electrical cord which is stuck in water with salt.  The cord the plugs into the wall.  The salt water then heats up soda bottles full of water.  Inmates use those bottles for coffee or refried beans.  Most prisons provide a microwave to inmates so this isn’t necessary.  But not at MSDF.  Supposedly, if you get caught with a stinger, its supposed to be an automatic trip to the hole.  But nothing came out of it thus far for the inmates in that cell.  This guard then went from cell to cell looking at everything that was plugged into a socket checking to see if one of the prongs were removed.  of course, you can make a stinger with any metal you can fit into the electrical cord holes (a radio cord is often used).  Wire from a notebook, paper clips and so on.  So the point of the search was a little lost on cellie Larry Sands and I.  Anyway, a little later on, the lock for the door on the cell next door wouldn’t open for any key.  Maintenance had to be called and the inmates in that cell had to hang out in the dayroom.  Of course, another guard had to stand up their with the worker as he worked on the door to ensure no tools were taken.  But the event we were all waiting for didn’t happen for anyone – getting word from Ms. Grey if our paperwork had been signed by the judge.  ERP group member Scott Dietz called his sister and had her check on all ten of us on CCAP to see if any activity occurred on our cases.  There was some confusion on her part whether or not she was looking in the right place.  I got on the phone and tried to help.  Still, no signs of activity on CCAP.  I’m ok though.  I know it’s going to happen so I’m not going to get worked up.   It’s just a matter of time. 

Advertisements

I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  My first morning as a swamper along with my fellow swamper, David Sussex went without incident.  In the time we await the food I got to know him a little bit.  He proclaims himself a born again Christian, as I consider myself, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt him.  He is very vocal about his faith here while I am, as with everything else I do here, am very quiet.  Every morning he is out there reading his Bible just as I do.  If he irritates me in some fashion, its probably his desire to engage me in conversation about what I’m reading and start “preaching” about anything I might share that I struggle with.  But that probably says more about me than him!  As our ERP group got started that morning our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, took the topics from the resumes and interviews to the in-depth topic of relationships.  She handed out another workbook from The Change Companies designed for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that we had used early in group called Living With Others, and another packet from Earnie Larson.  We have used his materials before as well.  We spent the morning on an exercise where we identified the feelings connected to dating through marriage.  She then erased the words “first date” and replaced it with “addiction” and it followed pretty closely.  Pretty clever.  In the afternoon we watched the first four parts of video From the Inside Out from Hazeldon featuring Earnie Larson.  It’s actually quite good.  The first part got into why relationships are important. It looked at positive and negative relationships in our past lives, the different types of relationships, how love has been taught to us in the past, and principles of building good relationships.  I had difficulty sharing details of what my past impressions of love were like early on and solidified as the years went on.  But everyone knows me now and aren’t shocked by my answers anymore.  Even if they were, I decided long ago I was going to be honest.  I’m also grateful no one calls me a liar here as others have in the past, such as the psychiatrist at my court proceedings did and others did as I was growing up into adulthood.  I’m now able to document most details of my past thanks to my contact with my biological family.  After group ended at 4 pm, we had another fill in guard as they still haven’t yet replaced Ruth Barthowski, named Larry Cable.  Due to differing rules with different guards, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved.  Following customs set by pervious officers or what is considered normal.  But it was pretty clear while Sussex and I waited for the dinner trays he was going to be anything but predictable.  Its customary for inmates to go out in the hall in front of the cell to fart if necessary as a courtesy to their cellies.  However; Cable yelled at cellie Corey Ball for doing so.  Then he had us swampers walk around and make sure cell doors were closed.  Again, not normally done.  Cable then tried to micromanage how many extra trays we’d get and how many we’d try to send away.  Ok, I don’t care.  But then the extra tray I did get I took to my table and gave away all of its contents to the guys sitting there.  Cable said I couldn’t give the extra food away, that it was only for me, even though the rule book clearly says I can.  Problem is technically swampers aren’t supposed to get extra food at all.  So the rulebook doesn’t help either of us.  So as he is yelling at me in front of everyone, he announces he won’t allow extra trays when he works here anymore.  Others would later tell me that I should have quit right there.  But I didn’t.  I was mad though. I would return later before 6 pm count and ask him not to hold the whole unit responsible for something I didn’t know was his rule.  Finally he said he’d consider it.  It was uncomfortable at cleanup before 9:15 pm count.  But I’m just grateful he won’t be here often.  Being a swamper is fine but I’m not going to put myself in jeopardy to do 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 was Monday and it happened to be laundry night but it also was Bible study night sponsored by the unknown group that gave us the gifts Saturday.  But I wanted to go learn more.  It seems quite a few had the same idea as they had to move it out of the smaller room it’s normally held in.  There were 2 leaders who I found out later is called “The Church (In Wisconsin)” of West Allis, WI.  But I get the sense they didn’t want to tell us.  The Bible Study itself was more of a sermon than a study, based on Psalm 118 and Acts 3.  My favorite versus were Psalm 118:17-18 “I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done.  The Lord has chastened me severely but he has not given me over to death”. While I was in the study, Tom Dietz volunteered to watch my laundry.  I knew I liked that guy!  Unfortunately the beach ball that is my cellie, Andre Charles, bounced the other way.  For whatever reason he has tamed again.  He was upset with me for reasons unknown saying we don’t joke around, we have to be serious.  The next morning at count he said there was a “fagg—– who keeps look at him when he sleeps”.  I didn’t have a clue what he was referring to of course, but the more immediate problem was the name he called me in front of everyone.  Another challenge, this one in public.  But I didn’t do anything.  A guard’s watching and the wrong word ends my time in ERP.  But before we’d go back into the cell, a guard walked up to me and said I was going to the hospital and to get ready to go.  I’m sure I was going to get the cancer test results from the PET scan last week.  But before I left, another cellie Malik Pearl, warned me I was about to find out what Andre is going to do and I better get out of this cell.  I hate to say it cause I’m a little..okay a lot on the stubborn side but I may end up getting out of this cell.  Of course, it was time to go, and of course like always on my road trips, the weather was crappy.  I got to the University Hospital and got to the inmate waiting room fully anticipating a good report from the doctor.  The room was a buzz with the rumors of what Gov. elect Scott Walker was going to do to the prisons and DOC staff.  Let’s put it this way, he seems to be following the playbook he followed in Milwaukee County.  If so, state employees are going to be hurting.  But after the blood work, I saw my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook.  The good news is my counts are normal.  The bad news is there area  couple of lymph nodes that are enlarged.  Nothing will be done except to schedule more scans to see if they continue to grow.  I ate my bag lunch in the waiting room while the guards ate their lunches.  After I got back, I sat 3 hours in an empty waiting room, even eating supper there.  Finally I got back to my unit where no one in my cell spoke to me.  But I’m ok with that.  I’ve got bigger fish to fry and I’ve got to deal with my own issues that are much larger in scope than what Andre Charles influences people to do.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Some folks made an issue that the donation of the Chips Ahoy Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies by the group on Saturday were expired and couldn’t be sold to the public.  I think they’re crazy.  I and most are grateful.  My cellie, Andre Charles, opened his bag last night and ate the whole thing but the rest of us have turned it into a game, who’ll be the last to open them.  By the way Andre and I are getting along better but his moods which sing all the time definitely dictate the mood of this room.  I don’t ever trust him either.  But when he’s in a good mood, this room is actually ok.  We all enjoyed the football game (Green Bay vs.. New England) together – certainly better than last time. This morning I started on a workbook in ERP.  They are a series of workbooks from The Change Companies from Carson City, NV (1-888-889-8866).  They were apparently developed in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the U.S. Justice Department which makes sense since ERP is a federally funded program in Wisconsin.  The workbooks are referred to as “Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program Journals”. The one I’m on is “Orientation”, then “Rational Thinking”, “Criminal Lifestyles”, “Living with Others”, “Lifestyle Balance”, “Recovery Maintenance” and “Transition”.  The “Orientation” book chapters are “Looking at Me”, “Preparing for Treatment”, “Keys for Change”, and “My Drug Use”.  If you ever have questions about what we are covering not address in my broad overviews, feel free to ask.  I’m in the middle of the chapter, “Preparing for Treatment” but much requires input from the ERP group to finish so those at my table and myself are kind of stuck.  So I switched gears and worked on my autobiography which appears to be a central component of the ERP program.  Ms. Grey gave me a 30 some page guide which I had to copy the main points to cover in this document than pass it onto others.  The guide is entitled “A New Freedom, copyright 2003 by A.R. Phoenix Resources, Inc. You talk about detailed!  It takes age groups 1-4, 5-7, 8-10, 11-12, 13-14 asking where did you live?  Who did you live with? What are some of the good and bad things that happened?  Who loved you?  Who hurt you?  Were you neglected?  Were you abandoned?  Were you around substance abuse?  Crime?  Gangs?  Did anyone die or leave home?  Sick or badly injured?  Were those traumatic events?  Was home life out of control?  Did you feel safe at home?  Did the child have someone they can trust?  How did people in authority treat you?  Then it goes into substance abuse history and your attempts to control it.  There’s more but if you want the gaudy details email me.  I’m sure you’ll hear more as time goes on.  So I copied down those points and handed the book off but nobody wanted it, thinking a 30 some page guide was a bit too much.  I’m going to use it.  Why?  I like guidelines I guess.  I got called to my assessment with Ms. Grey.  It was about sixty some questions, relatively painless.  We start our evening session soon (6 pm – 7:30 pm) but even that’s about to change after the new year.  It’ll be 8-4 all week.  So I guess its’ going but I don’t think ERP isn’t something I can’t handle anymore.


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.