Posts Tagged ‘relationships’


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.

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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).  Continuing to deal with the ripple effects of having been sent to the hole.  I told ERP group leader Ms. Grey about the loss of my journal and she said I should send an information request to Captain Nickelaus to get it back.  That night it was returned to me before he saw my request along with letters I’d gotten and my autobiography.  I was upset they’d read that as part of their investigation but with me having put large parts of it on this blog there really wasn’t any reason to be.  But the captain responded saying he didn’t know why Ms. Grey would tell him that as he wasn’t the “Property problem solver”.  I am still awaiting word from property to get my boxes back to get my stuff off the floor and have something to pack them in when I leave.  On Wednesday, no groups are scheduled and it was a training day.  Guard Roscoe Peters has returned to work.  Inmates reported to me that he was telling everyone how hard a time he was going to give me because of the name of “Roscoe” he’d been assigned on this blog.  Apparently other guards and inmates alike had been giving him a hard time about it, implying the inspiration behind it had been the sheriff on the Dukes of Hazard television show.  Though I could see why they might draw that conclusion it was erroneous.  A name like “Roscoe” implies to me a character with personality and is unique which is why I gave him that alias.  If you’ve followed along, you have seen that too.  But nothing from Peters has been directed to me.  Probably inmate exaggerations as usual.  I had a good talk with soon to be retired guard Ruth Barthowski relating to spiritual matters.  It turns out she is an atheist.  She shared where her beliefs come from and I tried to show another view of Christ not so wrapped up in what humans do.  I didn’t get anywhere but we’d agreed we’d meet for coffee once I was out.  I hope to be able to reach her.  On Thursday, we presented our Phase II Goals and Objectives.  My first goal was to explore the possibility of my having some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder by writing an essay on the book Stop Obsessing How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions by Edna Foa and Reid Wilson.  Ms. Grey though I might.  I didn’t see it other than I like routine in my life but not entirely sure that isn’t normal.  But it was informative.  My second goal was to write a paper on how I’ve used alcohol to avoid relationships.  I came to the conclusion that I used alcohol to avoid honesty about me to others in my life as I was afraid for them to know there was anything wrong.  Not earth shattering like the Phase I Goals and Objectives but good.  Perhaps the most obvious and profound change has occurred in Scott Bunker.  He has gone from being a self pitying intolerant person to being very in tune with himself and obviously happy.  He still has that catheter by the way after more than 3 weeks!  They’ve just got to get that scheduled to be taken out.  One bump in the road occurred when ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands , when he read his essay on abandonment and Ms. Grey challenged him on why he hadn’t kept a log like some others had on things related to this issue.  Sands hadn’t been assigned to on his goal sheet and explained that which didn’t appease Ms. Grey.  He was told to do so.  Sands pulled her aside and would tell me later Ms. Grey said she was hard on him because she was tired of seeing black men come back to prison.  But he doesn’t believe that, he believes it’s a personal dislike.  However at the community meeting and at the end of group, Ms. Grey told us all how good we were doing and how we obviously are working the program.  None of us can figure out why this positive vibe has been coming from her.  But its really remarkable.  At the community meeting I was assigned the defensive mechanism skit for next week which everyone has to do once.  We were told then we had to have our alcohol report done by Friday (tomorrow), 3 pages long.  I’ll tell you more about this report next time as it’s kind of a messed up situation.  I got it done.  Those few days in the hold put me behind a bit but I’ve now recovered. 


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).  This weekend was the Super Bowl where Wisconsin’s own Green Bay Packers were taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  All week the usual trash talk has been going on but not nearly the level it was at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  Still you had your haters, who dislike the Packers just to get under people’s skin, and of course those genuinely rooting for the Steelers such as one of my cellies, Andre Charles.  Events such as these draw more than the normal gambling going on and it also means the stakes are higher.  During the season it was common to see meal trays as the object of the wagers.  Not this time though.  People bet canteen dollar amounts, paid for at the next order of canteen by the inmate who lost.  Of course this is entirely against the rules.  But that’s not why I don’t do it.  You have a way of knowing if the inmate your betting with hasn’t made so many bets he’s in over his head and now he might react if he’s unable to pay everyone.  Of course, keep in mind, it’s me we’re talking about.  I’ve been pretty risk averse during my time in prison.  But cellie Brian Whalen almost did find himself in a situation.  He bet with others $10 of canteen (a large sum around here) the Steelers would win with assurances from Andre that he’d help cover his bet if he lost.  Of course, when he lost, Andre didn’t know who he was which upset Whalen.  I’d been enjoying the quiet since he stopped talking to me but now that Whalen and Andre are feuding that’s gone.  I’m just glad it’s not me for a change!  Andre took the Steelers loss much better than expected and we had a good conversation.  I guess he has to talk to me now since I’m all he’s got if Whalen and him are going at it.  The next morning Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, arrived in what appeared to be a bad mood, shutting down all football talk because she’s ‘not a fan’.  We had a surprise this morning as she called on group member Larry Sands to read his autobiography again.  Again, Sands missed the mark on what Ms. Grey wanted but it was improved.  He spoke of his father’s suicide, violence, mental hospitalizations and a woman twice his age taking advantage of him sexually – and all of this as a kid.  As he aged, he engaged in serial relationships – if you can call it that – with woman he manipulates with ease.  At the end, we didn’t have much to say.  But Ms. Grey had a lot to say.  She voiced her concerns that he engaged in bad guy behavior while putting it out there as if he was being a good guy.  The tension between the two was pretty obvious.  I volunteered that perhaps the manipulative serial relationships indicated a fear of desertion and being alone hoping he would talk about where those fears came from.  Ms. Grey challenged me, asking if I was condoning his behavior.  No, but I understood from his background I told her.  The answer seemed to satisfy her.  It should.  It’s the truth.  After lunch we watched more videos from Dr. Samenow focusing on manipulation we do of our loved ones.  Ms. Grey had us write down one time we manipulated someone.  But she returned Sands paper as it wasn’t about him as well as group member  Augie Prescott.  She collected Sands autobiography as well as the autobiography from group member Kevin House who is scheduled to have his read tomorrow.  We’re all talking amongst ourselves just because Ms. Grey isn’t operating as she normally does.  But we’ll see what happens.


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 started out the morning working on my autobiography, getting up to the point of my arrival in Wisconsin, separation from my biological mother, and living with my foster parents in Waupaca, WI.  Ms. Grey, our ERP coordinator, arrived and had us assemble in our group room.  She introduced another thing to do to begin our group.  She played a recording from India Arie off the CD Testimony Vol 1 Life and Relationships that sang the Serenity prayer. It had an African type beat.  We then did our breathing exercises.  Then we went over the last part of orientation workbook explaining what we’d come to learn.  Surprisingly, I’ve been quite vocal in group.  She asked for more reflection on the quantum discussion.  I rendered my opinion, she was not so concerned with getting us to change the world around us but to be open minded enough about alternative ideas.  I could tell Ms. Grey was disappointed not a one of us seemed more open to the specific ideals she had presented.  We then moved onto a group reading of Chapters 1-2 of Houses of healing.  We ended the day with being assigned Chapters 3, “The Long and Winding Road; From Childhood to Prison” and Chapter 4, “The Fallout from Childhood Wounding…. and How to Start Recovery”.  Chapter 3 deals largely with inner child issues and Chapter 4 deals with more of the same issues.  We were suppose to do the “Pause and Reflect” sections but mostly dealt with imaging things as opposed to writing things down.  We called an impromptu meeting without the group leader and all decided we’d put nothing on paper as it wasn’t asked for.  But yet I know I need this stuff, but not a thing we’re going to spend a day or two on.  It’ll open a huge can of worms and I’m not sure its safe to do that here.  But lets just see what happens. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). The see saw relationships between those of us in this cell continues.  I actually opened up about a period I was homeless while in Dallas, TX before I got myself together many years ago.  I hadn’t even told you all about that mostly because it wasn’t relevant yet.  But the conversation revolved around the fear of being homeless after release.  I relate to that believe me.  It’s a big fear of mine.  But the conversation seemed to ease tensions.  I still don’t trust any of them but such is the nature of the beast.  This morning was dominated by the coverage of the standoff on I94 West which blocked both sides of the freeway. It’s so weird seeing all the cold and snow on TV and not be able to feel it or see it with my own eyes.  No sun, sky, moon, stars or fresh air until I get out.  I better get used to it.  They had another community meeting as is their custom on Friday.  Housecleaning issues were that people blow their noses and spit in the sink and showers.  We’ve seen this before.  What is it about prison that makes people believe in such a gross manner? Another issue, people pee on the toilet seat.  No ladies, prison doesn’t fix that about men.  They moved onto the quote of the week which had been assigned to one of my cellies, Malik Pearl.  His quote was “To stand still is to die.  To move forward is to prosper”.  He did a good job explaining it.  He even had part of the quote tattooed on him.  The word for the week was “receptive”.  Again, the comments were wooden and felt forced but I don’t know maybe that’s how it is here.  Then another inmate shared a news story about how Milwaukee County is developing it’s own style of boot camp for their jail and how it was a good idea.  Everyone stood up and said how great this was – except me of course.  I surprised myself by speaking up even though I don’t start the program until Monday, December 13th. My point was that programs such as these don’t produce results – which is to keep people out of jail.  Plus, the money would be better applied to treatment programs, to address the root causes of why they are in prison.  My cellie, Brian Whalen actually spoke up and agreed with me.  The last piece  of business was to introduce the new social worker, Betty Grey.  She helped with the ERP program at Racine Correctional Institution (RCI) prior to being at MSDF.  Ms. Grey is going to be running my ERP group on Monday.  You’ll be hearing a lot about her over the next few months.  Tried as I may, I couldn’t read anything about her in those few moments.  Group concluded and the school is out feeling came over the entire unit as no ERP stuff until Monday.  Some went to sleep, watch TV, use the phone or as I found out today, they have a movie room.  Lunch came and the people sent to the hole yesterday returned. The guy who was suppose to go home did.  But one of the guys who went was Scott Bunker who came in with me and like me starts ERP Monday.  Poor guy.  It’s been a rough start for him as the first room he was in wasn’t to his ethnic standards and now this.  In fairness to him they were much younger than him but it’s not going to be easy for him here I think.  My cellies kid me I can’t take it easy anymore but I told them I’m ready to get this going.  “Finally” is the word that comes to mind for me as we’ve been trying to get in ERP all of this past year.