Posts Tagged ‘relationship’


My name is Jake Martin and I am on parole from the state of Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) currently now living in Ames, Iowa. I write this from my own laptop in an efficiency apartment at a complex dominated by Iowa State University college students. How did I get here? More on that in a minute.

At the risk of sounding corny but what a LONG, STRANGE trip it has been both being in prison and since getting out. The day I was released it was Wednesday June 23rd.  Today is January 16th, 2012. In the roughly 7 months since my release so much has happened. I spent July through August largely glued to my cell phone and laptop while hunting for work, with the assistance of friends and the sponsors of this blog.. My parents grew concerned enough to tell me I might have to take work at a fast food operation or something similar. I had no problem with that. In fact I figured that was what would happen. While all this was going on my parents, whom my father is a minister though he retired in July, received a retirement call to serve a church in Juneau, Alaska. My PO, Helen Gaither, it turned out was very cool to me. Though the walks from the bus to her in Appleton WI were not! Because I had no car and often my parents weren’t available it was necessary to walk. But that’s ok. It just didn’t bother me. These things just don’t bother me anymore.

In about August, my efforts finally began to pay off. A major corporation hired me as a temporary software developer for a project they were working on through an agency I had worked with before and was unaware that I had been in prison the last 25 months. During that time I brushed the rust off my skills, got used to the grind that a software developer will have again and learned to deal with people again. About that time, a company based in Ames IA interviewed me for a position as a software engineer. They hired me. However I was given enough time to finish the contract I had started in with this company in Neenah WI. My parents were still in Alaska when I left in October. Needless to say I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I was fortunate on one aspect regarding work. I had largely lost the last two years and in technology circles that is as much as a lifetime. But this company was on older technology, technology I was well suited for. It was a perfect fit. Meanwhile I continue to upgrade my skills now. But anyway on October 8th I made the move. My first weekend didn’t go well. Furniture I had purchased for the apartment prior to my arrival had accidentally been tossed my a maintenance worker for the complex, as well as two tires going flat. Oh yes, my parents had sold me their old car and I had also managed to get insurance and a license during that time. But needless to say, I got things under control and my employer was extremely understanding as I missed my first day of work getting the car fixed. Things were pretty normal until about a month ago when weight loss and the familiar night sweats had returned – all symptoms I have become very familiar with. Testing revealed that my cancer had returned. Now before you become too concerned, just know, again I am going to be fine. I am doing chemotherapy again. But this time at least, I can control my diet though fatigue and nausea are now my main problems. See though I have insurance they don’t cover preexisting conditions unless you had proof of insurance before which of course I did not have in WPS. So medications I used for nausea and such are not covered either. But it is ok. It’s the same type of cancer as before and because they caught it earlier this time it is even more assured I will be fine. So don’t worry!

But what can I say about being free? My first day out my sponsors took me to a Mexican restaurant where I had chicken and steak fajitas. My mouth and stomach were on fire as they loved what I ate – but they didn’t so much later as they rebellled against the rich food I was not used to. I will spare you the details. Television, the Green Bay Packers and dear friends I have missed. All of it really is about choices of which we had very little in prison.

I still deal with the anxieity junkie. I still am largely alone or at least it looks that way. I am still single. My previous family contacts me to be sure but it is usually only when one of them is in trouble or needs money. My adopted siblings and family remain an awkward relationship. But yet I count myself as one of the lucky ones, one who found a way to be successful on release. I call it luck because things fell together in a way that I can’t really take credit for. Yes it is God and there are others to thank. Friends like Jennifer, Natalie, Mike, Bill, and Rebecca I couldn’t have done it without them. I owe them more than I have life left to repay. I simply can say no more than I am gratefully free. It has been so long and such a hard road, much of it self inflicted, that I can’t bring myself to complain. What right do I have to have such a good life? The answer is I do have that right as long as I do not forfeit that right with my choices I make in life.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank those of you who faithfully followed this blog, especially Jill, Karen, Kelly and Lori. You really kept me looking forward to mail call and such wondering what might be there today. Again, so grateful. How many others wait for even one piece of mail in prison only never to get any! And the rest of you, since my release I have watched your reaction from afar, really wanting to burst out and say hey its me! I’m free! But we all thought it best I keep a low profile until the entries were finished. I hope you understand. That said the future of this blog will be sporadic entries regarding what is happening with me and how it relates to being on parole. I am not going to do an entry every day. There just isn’t time like I used to have. But know this. If any of you want to reach out to me please feel free. I have always felt a closeness to many of you who suffered with your loved ones in prison right along with me.

On that note, its time to close. I have got some studying to do! Talk to you soon….


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 are only one day away from the graduation of our ERP group.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey called us into the rec room that doubles as our group room and asks us if we have any last minute concerns or questions.  She did confirm that records would be sending our paperwork to our judges, who will modify our sentences to allow immediate release since we have completed the ERP program.  She dropped off a sample program for our graduation project.  It really was pretty awful.  But what are you going to do?  Then the title letters for the project that ERP group member Russ Johnson did on the computer weren’t a dark enough yellow that could be read on the black background.  So ERP group member John Lloyd was left to trace letters by hand.  He wasn’t happy.  To be honest, the whole thing looks pretty awful.  But it is what it is and it really doesn’t matter.  Of a more immediate concern was the relationship between cellies Malcolm Johnson and Larry Sands.  Malcolm’s immediate concern was how Sands would use his feet to change the channel (he is on the top bunk, Malcolm is on the bottom) and how if Sands would leave his hands a certain way it would interfere with his TV reception.  Sands interpreted it as Malcolm trying to control him.  Malcolm made the mistake of trashing him to other inmates who were friendly to Sands.  One called Sands over and asked him about what Malcolm said and of course Sands got on his case again.  It just makes the cell tension filled.  But I’m rolling my eyes.  My thoughts are on the world outside of here, of what I need to do and the missing pieces of that puzzle.  I’m excited yet unsure.  At mail call I got another mailing from the court regarding my daughter, Lexi.  She is officially being charged with a misdemeanor disorderly conduct.  It was pretty clear her mother, Barb is up to her old tricks.  Just as she did with me many years ago, she pushes and pushes until the other person breaks.  Then she calls the police.  I’ve got to get myself squared away so I can at least be a place she can go to blow off steam.  I can keep the cycle we have seen happening with my families from happening again.  I’ve got to at least try.  We had our community meeting at 3 as we usually do.  Nothing really went on there either. But I’m ready to graduate.  Let’s do this.  


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 ran out of space in the last entry to tell you something else that happened.  Perhaps you recall me telling you about the guy who came  in some time ago that was extremely medicated and everyone gave him a hard time.  Anyway, apparently he struggled so much with the written assignments that the man who is this groups social worker, Mr. Silver, finally pulled the plug and terminated him from the ERP program.  Silver has a reputation for running the most difficult program here, giving the most work and is known as extremely dedicated.  I didn’t think the guy who got kicked out would last as long as he did.  It is ironic that a man with mental illness that he can’t help and that he is being treated for with medication can’t make it here yet so many that have come here for this ERP program clearly don’t belong here make it.  This isn’t the fault of the staff here or MSDF but is a reflection of the money based culture of rehabilitation and how it relates to mental illness.  But I’ll stay off my soap box.  Again, it was incredibly warm Friday (June 3rd).  Nothing much of anything happened until second shift arrived and when our old friend guard Mike Metcalf reported for duty.  He started off quiet but quickly showed his true colors as he gave warnings to inmates for having fingernails that were too long, how their shirts looked and so forth.  It’s just as well.  The new guys got their introduction to what this guy is about and will hopefully steer clear, as those of us who have been here awhile do.  Another sign I’m mentally checking out of here is how it relates to food.  I’m not interested in accumulating food, even with the good stuff like the cupcakes we got with the fish.  I don’t want to make deals with others.  I’m not the only one.  ERP group member John Lloyd tells everyone he just wants to be left alone by everybody and he’s getting more and more vocal about it every day.  It stayed extremely hot in here through Saturday.  Our group continues to distract themselves with cards and ping pong games despite how hot it is in the dayroom and rec room.  The rec room doesn’t have any air movement at all.  At least the dayroom as 2 large fans to blow the hot humid air around.  The rec room, which will double as our ERP group room next week, has the 2 exercise bikes and 2 weight machines so all these hot sweaty bodies plus no air movement makes for a pretty onerous smell.  Also, the shower procedure put in place by guard Art Coleman isn’t being followed by the other guards.  Though we like that it’s going to create this guessing game when we should follow that procedure.  Sunday came and finally a bit of cool down before sweltering temps are expected to return next week.  Cellie Larry Sands got a visit by his brother and was happy his release clothes will be sent tomorrow.  Release clothes are exactly what they sound like.  The clothes got send to MSDF staff no more than 60 days before your release which you get to wear out the door.  In my case, I’m just going to wear my sweats I got off the catalog.  The blog sponsor getting me is bringing my clothes they got from Waukesha County Jail after I was transferred to prison.  Those were the same clothes I wore 758 days ago when this whole thing began though I doubt the pants still fit!  But at least the shoes will be in better shape than the ones I got off the catalog.  I finished the day by reaching out to Barb via letter about the situation with Lexi.  I want to put my best foot forward with her despite our past relationship.  I’m hoping to get more information about what happened.  It’s all I can do from this cell to positively impact this situation so I’m doing it.  Believe me I know it’s not enough but I’m trying.  Tomorrow (Monday) our ERP social worker Ms. Grey will be back and this will be our final week of the ERP program.  It’s almost over!


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 the shocker from yesterday, I had the opportunity to reflect on what happened and carefully read over the document about trying to change my daughter, Lexi’s current placement from her mother.  They are trying to put her in what appears to be a Foster home.  I have come to the conclusion that this might be a good thing.  Her mother, Barb prevented me from having much contact with her the last several years.  Her potential placement there will hopefully allow me to write, call, and visit her and allow us to rebuild our relationship.  That would do us both a world of good.  Better yet, I’m being released to that area where she is so I’ll be able to pursue this.  So, the point is, God might know what he is doing.  It’s Wednesday and there are no ERP groups but since it’s the first or third Wednesday of the month (June 1st) its “Training day” and also means since guard Roscoe Peters is on duty we do a major cleaning of the unit.  The new guys are still getting used to him.  When you say something to him and he yells “your annoying” or when your doing something and he yells “Holy mother of God” its his way of playing with you while communicating with you.  It also allows him to safely vent.  While the cleaning was going on, Ms. Presley called me over.  She told me she had made contact with the people at the courthouse for Lexi’s hearing, and she would wait until tomorrow for them to call to connect me via phone to her hearing, but she wouldn’t wait more than an hour.  It was much more than I expected from her, considering she isn’t an overly motivated person to begin with and she was doing my ERP social worker Ms. Grey’s job while she is on vacation.  I was happy.  In my mind, I was hoping I’d get the opportunity to at least say Hi to Lexi at the court hearing on the phone.  Probably not likely though.  Things went slowly the rest of the day.  My new cellies Malcolm Johnson and Jose Michaels anxiously awaited canteen as this was their first chance to get canteen since they got here.  That night was my night to shave my head and I was a bloody mess by the time it was over.  I had gotten a razor that was somehow defective.  That night ended with Michaels and cellie Larry Sands watching the show “So You Think You Can Dance” without headphones which annoys me but I can deal with it.  What caught me off guard was the next morning.  Johnson woke up about 5am blowing his nose loudly and leaving the door wide open so that the lights and sounds of the dayroom came in.  Michaels took offence at his attitude and called him on it later.  Johnson and Michaels would nearly come to blows.   Both Sands and I were wanting to stay out of this.  It ended with Michaels warning Johnson to stay away from him.  That’s all I need my final days here huh?


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  With ERP social worker Ms. Grey on vacation until June 6th, I anticipated a slow, boring Tuesday after Memorial Day.  It seemed like the biggest challenge we would be dealing with would be the heat.  The holiday weekend had brought summer like weather, with temperatures in the high eighties with extreme humidity.  It makes me grateful I won’t be here in July and August as I graduate this program June 19th and am anticipating release by June 20th.  I busied myself Tuesday morning with the assignments Ms. Grey had left us with.  I did the A and B plan, which lists what our plan is upon release, both a primary and a fallback plan.  I’ve been planning for that in some way almost every day as the blog sponsors will tell you!  As anyone will tell you when getting released, those kind of plans are tough as there are so many variables involved.  One variable changes or complications occur and the whole plan radically changes.  The other assignment was to write a paragraph on possible release triggers that we select from a list in a pamphlet.  I did 7 paragraphs.  Again, it’s obvious common sense stuff.  I know to stay away from bars, be honest, and get out of my head.  The general consensus is this is busy work for while Ms. Grey is gone.  It took me 2 hours to finish it all.  Most of the other guys in the group did theirs last week.  I pulled out the A edition of the encyclopedia and started reading.  Group member Kevin House indicated he wanted to change the quote for the graduation project program I’d worked on.  I felt like this might be an opportunity to fix the errors Ms. Grey made when she made changes to it.  We’ll have to wait and see if there’s time when she gets back.  Otherwise, we spent the day battling the heat and trying to stay occupied.  Cellie Malcolm Johnson as anticipated, is having some difficulty not stating his opinions in a constructive manner in Ms. Carr’s group as he came back upset with how they’re trying to “muzzle him”.  I’m sure  he’ll learn how it works here.  He sees things through the prism of racial bias, which while that is an element, it can’t be your focus.  Otherwise, as with a prism, it distracts your view of everything else.  Mail call was done early tonight.  My heart dropped when I saw an envelope addressed to me from the Winnebago County Courthouse.  Letters from such places are never good news and when you’re this close to release are grounds for a  heart attack.  The news isn’t good but it wasn’t about me.  I have a daughter from the relationship prior to JoAnn.  Her name is Lexi.  Her mother, Barb, through the years did everything she could to prevent Lexi and I from having a relationship.  She was the kind of person that wouldn’t hesitate to call the police and make up a story about you which is actually what let to our breakup.  I focused on JoAnn’s kids after she had begun making untrue allegations against JoAnn and later on against my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin concerning the treatment of her son from another relationship, Eli.  Lexi and I were very close while we were together and she loved JoAnn and the kids when we got to spend time with them.  But this paperwork indicated that Lexi had been removed from the home and they wanted to change her placement because of violence in the home which they were blaming on Lexi.  It was so unlike the loving, sweet, shy girl I’d known.  Eli had been removed from her home for similar reasons a  few years ago.  Since Ms. Grey was on vacation and the hearing is June 2nd (today is May 31st) I went to another ERP social worker Ms. Nell Presley, for help.  I wanted to at least attend the hearing by phone but would need their help to do so.  She didn’t seem motivated at all but said she would try.  She is the same social worker that divulged journal info to former Andre Charles.  Whenever you get legal papers, other inmates see that envelope and immediately know something’s up.  I briefly described it.  I’m just numb.  Why are all my kids following down my path?  And my father’s path?  And his father before him?  I feel extreme guilt and sadness.  I’m powerless to do anything behind these prison doors and I know that.  I just so wish I was there and able to meet her needs.  All I can do is pray and say how sorry I am which of course won’t help anyone at all. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Today is graduation day for another ERP group.  This graduation includes 3 important characters in this blog – Brian Whalen, Corey Ball, along with former cellie Malik Pearl.  About 9:30 am the ceremony started.  They had chosen the name “The Pibts” as their theme in they’re another chance, a one way ticket out of here but if they don’t do what they need to do to stay clean and sober it will be a round trip ticket bat to MSDF or similar place.  The artwork was impressive, with a wall trimmed with gold and blue.  On top were blue circles with a plane inside along with each person’s name.  After the opening remarks, there were comments by the unit manager and the security director who was standing in for the Warden, who couldn’t be there today.  What followed was presentation of quotes by the inmates, who also took the opportunity to thank their ERP social worker Ms. Carr along with a list of others in the room.  Some even took the time to thank the parole officers who took the time to attend, which was a nice gesture.  Then Ms. Carr presented the ERP completion certificates to the inmates as those in attendance clapped.  Like past graduations, cookies were given out.  Since I’m a swamper the guard told me to hand them out, 2 a piece, one chocolate and one ginger.  Of course inmates were trying to get me to give them extras.  One positive thing about me is public opinion of me here isn’t high on my priority list!  So that didn’t happen.  Of course some got seconds before others got their firsts but that’s because they didn’t get in line right away.  Just like first grade right?  Then we got a big surprise.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, showed up for group.  Normally on graduation day we don’t have group in the morning but she decided to have group anyway.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands had had a conversation with her and she revealed the reason she missed the previous day because she had been mugged.  It was good she was ok.  Again we watched videos form the relationship series From the Inside Out featuring Earnie Larson.  These were the last ones.  We did the accompanying workbook sections for the videos.  We flew right through.  This again was another topic (relationships) that we could have spent weeks on.  Larson did an excellent job through the role play depictions of portraying various relationship behaviors that I’m sure if we had the time it would have been beneficial to go into this in depth.  But there isn’t the time left to do that and everything else scheduled prior to June 10th (our graduation).  As we left group for lunch we noticed that the guy who said he’s going to tell on everyone at a community meeting and all his cellies in a rather heated meeting with two social workers.  It seems all his cellies have tired of his bullying tactics in the cell.  No big surprise huh?  At lunch it was one of our better meals, the Baked fish and cupcakes for dessert.  There were no extras because a guard named Albert Payne ate them all!  He’s the same guard that makes us all stand with our hands to our side at count.  We’ve seen guards eat multiple trays of food at FMCI before so its no big revelation.  But doing it, I was looking forward to that extra cupcake I’d have gotten as a swamper! Smile  But no big deal.  more importantly, my relationship with the other swamper, David Sussex isn’t as good as it was.  He just likes to preach at people about their shortcomings in a religious way.  His outlook is just very immature.  I finally told him he talked too much and shared with him what scripture says about zeal without knowledge.  He didn’t like that.  But its okay.  We’ll be fine.  I’ve got 35 days till my ERP group graduates, no more than 45 till departure.  I’m not letting anything here take my focus off of that.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  On Saturday, I got a surprise knock on my cell door from former cellie Malik Pearl.  He is to graduate from ERP this coming Friday (May 6th) along with current cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen. The question Pearl passed to me didn’t take but a second for me to respond.  He asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Swamper as he was going to step down.  I said no way.  It would interfere with my routine, force me to interact with more people, upset my TV watching and I’d have to deal with people whining for the extra food that Swampers get as their defector compensation (even though technically we’re not supposed to get that) since I’m told there is no extra pay while in the ERP program.  He left and that was that. A t least so I thought.  As the day went by, I learned the swamper job was probably going to go to ERP group member Mark Hogan who had developed a good relationship with guard Roscoe Peters, who would make the decision.  There were two problems here.  Pearl, along with the other blacks, knew Hogan to be racist.  How you might ask?  As we’ve seen in the past with him, he blurts out inappropriate remarks, not caring who hears.  So that’s how Pearl indicated he’d keep the swamper job rather than letting him have it.  Cellie Larry Sands revealed to Pearl that Hogan had Hepatitis C.  I don’t know how he knew that.  But lets face it, swampers wear gloves and you are not going to get infected from serving food.  But Pearl used this information to turn opinion against Hogan being a swamper in the dayroom.  Later on that day, guard Ruth Barthowski again approached me with the question if I’d be willing to be a swamper.  Now I had had time to reconsider the situation and I had changed my mind.  Why?  Because it will interfere with my routine, force me to interact more with people, upset my TV watching and deal with whiny people.  Kind of like real life!  So against my instincts I said yes to the job knowing I’ll be free in about 50 days so its time to get used to these things again.  The only problem is Pearl had not changed his mind too.  He wanted a guy of his choosing, his cellmate David Sussex, to have the job so he could still have access to the extra food.  So Pearl managed to talk Barthowski into a new policy on swampers which Peters approved.  Swampers would change out every 30 days so more people would have a chance to do it.  From Pearl’s way of thinking, he’ll be long gone by the time the next swamper change occurs so its all good.  The swamper that held the job with him, whom he found annoying anyway, would now have to give up the job as well which would mean his guy, David Sussex, would get the job along with me.  That night was also Barthowski’s final night as a guard.  She made a nice speech at her final count at 9 pm, followed by us all applauding her.  She is going to be missed, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing from her again!  The next day, the 2 old swampers came out to train us, giving us tips on how to count extras for ourselves.  I’ll give you the swamper routine in a future blog entry.  I was assigned to hand out the liquids and bread while Sussex handed out trays or cereal.  Breakfast went fine but at lunch, when stacking dirty trays on the cart, 7 or 8 fell which caused the inmates in their cells in the dayroom to erupt in applause.  I stayed out to help him clean it up after I was done.  Things largely went fine otherwise.  I returned to my cell more energized, I think simply because I was doing something other than sitting on my butt.  My cellies of course complained I gave too much food away to others and not to them. I I had actually kept very little for myself.  I just smiled.  So this is what its like to be a swamper!  But Sunday night things got put into perspective about 9:30 pm when word came down that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  None of this really matters in comparison, does 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).  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we got started on reading Chapter 13 on forgiveness out loud to each other in Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain.  Of course, I’ve already read this for my phase one Treatment and Goals.  But it’s a deep read and an excellent chapter of a great book so I don’t mind reading it again.  I had to laugh when it talked about practicing forgiveness toward your cellmate (page. 251) on a daily basis.  If you were following the saga of former cellie Andre Charles and I, it certainly tested my limits.  But he’s gone so I can afford to laugh about it now!  It was all pretty quiet.  We had some fireworks in the afternoon.  We did the exercise “Getting Clear” on page 206-208. Basically, your ripping away the layers of emotions and thinking away from a given situation.  I chose the relationship with my former step daughter Lynn and what was behind why we couldn’t have the relationship I wish we had.  What was interesting is many of the problems I did the right thing but often for reasons that were related to my own needs for a close family and love, not for Lynn.  It also occurred to me how few active relationships are no in my life.  I had to bring up things from before I was jailed almost 2 years ago.  Anyway,  I wasn’t chosen by Ms. Grey to share mine so I listened as others shared.  The one that stood out was group member Scott Dietz who discussed his relationship with his ex-wife.  He clearly was angry with her for having cheated on him and said he showed progress by not kicking the butts of both of them.  There was no interest in forgiving her.  Ms. Grey tried to push the issue with him and he railed against her for thinking anyone could possibly forgive after that.  We were all pretty shocked at how he spoke to her and was looking around for group members to support him.  No one did.  We began telling him verbalizing threats against his ex was not ok.  This was so obvious we couldn’t sit by and ignore it.  After lunch, Ms. Grey handed out the evaluations she had done on us for Phase one of ERP.  Mine was ok, although she called me a “Super grouper”, a term of derision used by inmates for one who is zealous in a group.  No one ever called me that as Ms. Grey has gotten on me a few times.  I’m sure she didn’t intend to insult me.  Her point was I contribute to group and ask questions when I don’t understand.  Some in the group challenged their evaluation, particularly Dietz and cellie Larry Sands but she held her ground and for once Dietz let it go.  We got done with group and it came time for our community meeting as is now our custom on Thursdays at 3 pm.  Our ERP group got a “positive reinforcement” from the group for almost getting to Phase 2.  Everyone had a good laugh over that as many thought we’d be there last week.  I don’t care about such designations.  I can count and the only numbers that count is 84, the number of days to graduation from this program and 679, the number of days since I was incarcerated and my life was completed upended on May 8, 2009.  If I can do 679 , deal with what I have, learned what I have and grown as I have I can do another 89 standing on my head.  Ok, not literally 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).  After the events on Wednesday, I decided to talk to ERP group members John Lloyd and Larry Sands about how I should handle it.  Should I bring it up in the ERP group, bring it up to my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, in private or not bring it up at all?  Lloyd was adamant I should leave it alone with his reasoning nothing good would come out of it.  Sands said I should bring it up in group, that if private journal contents which are supposed to only be between the inmate and his ERP group leader could be divulged to another ERP group leader who then divulges it to another inmate supposedly mentioned in the journal (I always used shorthand only known to me to identify another inmate in the journal but the problems with cellie Andre Charles that I and many other inmates had with him were well known) was a clear breach of trust which was a group issue that needed to be addressed.  Sands was right of course but for the wrong reasons.  His relationship with Ms. Grey is strained at this point in time.  After our group did its breathing exercises it became evident she’d been reading complaints about this way of starting group as she asked for a vote on whether to continue it.  Eight of us voted no.  In the ensuing feedback, I pointed out this wasn’t a democracy and others echoed that sentiment.  After she prepared to move on I raised my hand and said I had an issue.  I started from the beginning, about how important confidentiality was and how I had shared things in my autobiography, in other materials and had this not been there I couldn’t have done it.  I then asked if contents of these materials were divulged to others.  She reminded the group and I about the limited confidentiality that exists between us, that other ERP group leaders and her supervisor may be consulted about our cases and should we confess to another crime.  I agreed that’s what we’d been told but asked how it was that another inmate would come by information that had only been in my journal knowing full well what the answer was as Andre had told me yesterday that his ERP group leader had told him.  I was hoping she would connect the dots herself but that was a no go.  She asked me to explain so I did in plain English.  Andre’s group leader asked him about it, told him not to worry about it after his denial, accused me of just trying to get him in trouble and to keep it to himself.  Ms. Grey’s disposition noticeably changed.  She asked me to confirm that another social worker had brought this up to Andre without I or Ms. Grey being present?  I replied yes.  She was furious.  The rest of the group, largely silent, began to speak up on my behalf, saying this process obviously couldn’t be trusted, particularly Sands.  Others tried to bring up their own issues, smelling blood in the water but Ms. Grey shut that down.  Ms. Grey said she wanted to bring all 4 of us together at this point but I argued the point.  Andre is leaving in 3 or 4 days as he’s graduated.  It’s just going to make matters worse in my cell.  The problem will be gone ten.  But she seemed to insist. S he also told me I’d not be allowed to have Sands move in when Andre leaves.  Ms. Grey apologized for the breach that had occurred with the journal.  We’ve suspected there was friction between the various ERP group leaders but now we know it. She was clearly angry as she said she’d be addressing this with them.  I sank in my chair not looking forward to this possible meeting.  The guys in the group came up to me, especially Lloyd, saying I should have left it alone.  Perhaps they are right.  Maybe in a “normal” treatment environment I did the right thing bringing it up.  But not here, that’s for sure.  Two things are clear.  I’ll never put anything important in their journal again.  And I’ll bet Ms. Grey will start reading them more often from now on. 


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 left you yesterday where the buzz was about the incoming winter storm and we had a guard who was quite strict.  When second shift came and guard Ruth Bartowski came on, the dayroom greeted her arrival with cheering and clapping.  The only problem is this guard was still there.  She yelled about how she was being disrespected, how she was only going by the manual and we should dare to try doing that again.  No one did, but after she had gone everyone laughed at her.  It’s all in how you enforce the rules if the inmate respects you.  If you make it about you, the inmates won’t respect you.  At mail call, I got a pleasant surprise.  My eldest former step daughter, Lynn, had written me a nice letter.  She is doing so well.  She’s maintaining a relationship, helping her mom out and trying to get her younger sister, Lisa, on track.  She seems like she wants a relationship with me now which is so far away from where we were.  So I’m letting my guard down a little bit.  I woke up today and found Bartowski still on duty as I imagine no one was able to relieve her.  They didn’t have us come out for count and gave us breakfast and lunch by having us come out one cell at a time much like the tornado warning at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI).  Again the sense of all of that with a place that never sees the outside world and the threat is snow escapes me but oh well.  Finally Bartowski got relieved by another unknown guard and she was another strict guard making cellies Andre Charles and Brian Whalen take down the towels they use to keep their faces hidden from view.  No one ever says anything about that normally so it wasn’t received well.  As soon as she left they put the towels right back up.  Again we were happy to see Bartowski come back on duty after less than 8 hours off.  Almost instantly the environment relaxed as she exchanged blankets, laundry, let people use the restroom and get ice.  At supper we came out as normal and Bartowski announced after 6 we would have dayroom as normal and that we were the only unit getting to do that (not have to be locked in our cells) in the whole building.  I told her as I put my tray up I wish we had a hundred guards just like her.  People like her we want to follow.  Does that make sense?  I suppose some might say strict by the letter of the law following of rules is better for us over the long term.  I don’t agree.  How many of us drive 35 in a 25?  Use more water than we should in the summer?  But how about the idea that an authority figure appears to be on your side?  So many guys here have never experienced that ideal.  Authority is not the enemy and does not have to be hated.