Posts Tagged ‘racism’

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 past weekend noteworthy events surrounded soon to depart cellie Andre Charles.  Late Friday guard Ruth Bartowski, besides finding out she has been a captain and probation officer in the past, confided to our table Andre had come after her with several ICI (Inmate Complaints that go to Madison) forms alleging racism.  They didn’t take but it explains the bitterness between them.  That weekend we experienced why they don’t want us to heat water for coffee or refried beans off of canteen, which is the favorite food of Corey Ball, using water, paper clips, and a power cord.  Someone pulled the cord of out of the water without unplugging it making the breaker go out on our side.  We sat without power on our side for about 2 hours until Saturday Night Live started.  But of course cellie Andre Charles is on edge about leaving and guard Rosco Peters threw him a tidbit of information on when, when he yelled playfully at him during count as is their custom, that he had 2 days left to follow the rules.  On Monday I got up as normal, ate breakfast about 6:30 am and returned to my cell.  Peters called me down about 8 am and let me know I was leaving for my PET scan like last time to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned.  I reminded him I’d eaten (you’re supposed to go without food for 8 hours prior).  No one had told him he said.  When the guards came to get me I told him I’d eaten and asked if we should call to make sure it would be ok.  He wanted to go to Madison and if they said no so be it.  It became clear why as he was the driver and didn’t want to lose the overtime shift.  The ride there was uneventful but it was SO good to see the outside world!  Once there I got to the waiting room.  It was packed and noisy so much so that you couldn’t hear the movie on the wall.  The guys dominating the conversation were mostly lifers, trading war stories and discussing who their “bitches” are present and past.  Of course, I’m the only one in yellow in the sea of green uniforms so people stared.  Most didn’t know I was at MSDF but some did.  I got called to go for the scan at 11:30 am.  I didn’t have a coat to cover me on the wheelchair so the combination of cuffs, chains, and yellow uniform attracted lots of looks.  I can’t wait to come back to the University Hospital in civilian clothes some day.  Of course, never coming here again is an attractive alternative!  The man doing the scan commented that I should leave the cuffs on my feet joking I might try to escape.  I got back to the holding room, eating one of the infamous bag lunches.  We returned to MSDF, getting strip searched once at the hospital then once at MSDF.  I waited at least an hour in a holding cell.  The staff at intake on 2nd shift is just rude and unprofessional unlike their 1st shift counterparts.  I heard them mocking other inmates and were just rude in their tone to me.  I got back to my unit where Andre greeted me with the news he was getting released tomorrow.  I’m sure my test results will come back well and with this news I’m as happy as I can get here.   

I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I’m standing in line waiting for lunch about 10:30 am and a black inmate standing next to me said “I hate all white people.” He hadn’t intended for me to hear it as he didn’t know I was there.  We made eye contact and he tried to backtrack, saying he meant “some white people”.  I laughed, I joked that no he didn’t, he hated us all.  With the ice broken, he explained to me what was going on, without me asking for an explanation.  It seems Lt. Brodie had told someone something different that what he told someone else, concerning some issue and had basically blown him off when he complained.  Having had some experience with Brodie and the others on first and second shift I sympathized.  My new friend commented that he’d guarantee he’d go to the hole the day before he got out in 4 months because he would let them know what he thought of them.  I shared my theory, as I’ve shared with all of you.  The guards and Brodie see us as less than human, like animals in a cage, and if they didn’t meet the needs or wants of the caged animal, so what?  Besides, at the end of the day, what could we do about it really?  There’s no immediate redress of grievances available to us.  I’m not sure its the guards fault entirely.  Day in and day out they do what they’ve been trained to do – keep the inmates down.   The only caution I throw in is that its the same attitude that allowed an entire nation to approve of and/or look the other way while ten million people were murdered.  When you dehumanize people, conscience is rendered useless.  But the point to my friend is that it wasn’t so much racism at play as he thought but rather extreme apathy on the guards part – to tell whoever whatever they want to hear just to get them to go away.  It really isn’t personal on their part.  Their apathy is applied on an equal opportunity basis regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.  Furthermore, I encouraged him to be careful in what he says or does in his remaining time.  Don’t sabotage yourself.  Privately, I thought the fact you are so focused on getting revenge on those that disrespect you 4 months from your release is worrisome.  There are so many other things to be thinking about.  Finally, I told him, no matter what you do, you won’t change anything in what the guards or Brodie do or think.  It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn here.  What i have been working on is to learn to be content regardless of the circumstances.  Often you have read where I’m upset when I’m not happy with what is happening.  Even leading up to my arrest, when everything was falling apart around me.  If I’ve learned that lesson, I’m not in prison.  I can be content regardless of my circumstances as long as I have made changes to the things I can control.  My friend told me he doesn’t think that way, that he can’t not just let it go.  I get it.  But I don’t want to live that way and make those same mistakes.