Posts Tagged ‘retirement’


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).  Sometimes I’m not so bright.  In fact, I can make just stupid decisions.  When I was a child my arm was broken.  The arm was never set properly and as a result the arm has always given me some discomfort.  The last few months however; the pain has steadily grown where I have to work around it for such tasks as putting on a shirt.  So I put in a medical request form. I suggested that perhaps the lack of exercise is causing the pain, as up until a year ago I was being treated for cancer and I didn’t exercise much and since then I’ve done very little.  But with my impending release on Wednesday, I didn’t make a  good choice ignoring the pain.  To my surprise, I was actually seen on Sunday by a nurse right here on the unit.  The nurse decided to see me because of my history of cancer.  She determined the kind of bone issue I described shouldn’t be ignored.  Just another example of the usually positive experience I’ve had with health practitioners while I’ve been in prison.  She decided to refer me to the doctor without performing tests.  But she did take a history of how it happened, asking why I didn’t address this years ago when I had insurance and why I waited until now.  Truth was I didn’t want to answer the questions people would have asked related to how it happened, my usual honesty and shame issues.  Hopefully, I don’t continue that pattern.  One nice thing about all my family and friends knowing I went to prison is all pretense is gone.  The truth will be revealed eventually whether you want it to or not.  The fact I had problems is now known to them.  How will they react to me?  How will I react to them?  I am going to try, despite the loss of family, possessions, career, and money, to hold my head high.  The difference between disgrace and shame would be failing to learn the lessons shame has taught.  It will be a struggle, make no mistake about that.  Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents, have his retirement celebration coming up July 17th where family friends and acquaintances from years gone by will be in attendance.  We’ll see then if my words here mean anything.  The rest of the weekend was uneventful.  ERP group member Scott Dietz had his paperwork signed by a Milwaukee County judge on a weekend.  He also inquired about me building websites for his businesses.  I’m suspicious of any contact with people from here or promises made but I said sure I’m interested but I’ll need a couple of months to get my feet on the ground.  But I almost believe him.  I talked to my adoptive parents on Sunday as well.  They have the bed I slept on as a kid setup in the basement and some simple foodstuffs put up for me there.  The internet will be turned on June 25th so I can get to catching up on my Information Technology and programming skills.  They gave my parole officer (PO) Helen Gaither the house key which I can get from her on Wednesday but left a door open in the event by the time I get to Menasha, WI after business hours.  Of course this tells me the PO and my adoptive parents have been meeting and talking.  That makes me a little nervous.  But everything seems set.  Wednesday can’t get here soon enough!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Out ERP social worker Ms. Grey collected our journals and handed out self evaluations.  Our last evaluation occurred just 3 weeks ago but with our graduation on June 10th, less than a month away and all of the things we need to do yet, I’m guessing she doesn’t have a lot of choice.  I spent most of the weekend working on our graduation project.  Ms. Grey had provided what looks like thumbnail images you’d find on a search engine of Optimus Prime to represent the Transformer concept.  Largely useless, but others such as John Lloyd and Scott Bunker felt the stretched distorted image would represent well.  So I kept it.  As an Information Technology professional, it felt good to be on a computer again and listening to project requirements.  I’ve asked the blog sponsors by the way to put out word to these I know on Facebook and other agencies I’ll be available for work in July.   So keeping my fingers crossed.  Anyway, I saved all the information and documents that will be needed for the graduation project to a disc and will give that to Ms. Grey on Monday.  I also finished my essay due Monday on socialization for my ERP group.  It doesn’t really reveal anything you don’t already know about me.  It focused on my experience as a swamper, the good things along with the bad.  I’ve had lots of guys ask me why I quit. At the end of the day I just didn’t want the hassle of dealing with the schoolyard antics of several inmates, whose goal it is to make other inmates time more difficult thereby jeopardizing my goal of graduating especially with how my attitude has been lately.  Cellie Brian Whalen continues his preparations for his release on Monday.  He gave his fan to cellie Larry Sands along with his mirror among other items.  He did the usual divvying up of possessions inmates do prior to departure, promising this to one guy, that to another.  Of course, all of those folks became Whalen’s close friend this weekend hoping to get their share!  I had no such interest.  I spoke with my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin, and they’re putting in high speed internet which is necessary for my job search and getting my .NET framework programming skills up to speed.  I so can’t wait!  I’ve missed working so much.  They’re busy getting their home ready to move into after his retirement in July.  It is, of course, where I’ll be initially, after release.  So we will all be adjusting in a major way this summer, to a new home and to each other.  The ground is shifting beneath my feet, but I feel it is in a positive fashion, unlike the earthquake and ensuing destruction I rained down on my own life two years ago, by my failure to seek help.  Ironically, I now have to ask for help to get started.


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 couldn’t believe it but on Friday evening the Koss headphones I bought off the Jack & Marcus catalog cracked over the right ear piece.  Cellie Corey Ball had tape and managed to make them useable for the short term.  He and cellie Brian Whalen are graduating May 6th, over over 2 weeks away so they each tried to get me to buy their headphones or ear buds.  I had to say no because in the event of an inspection that could be trouble for me.  But these plastic clear headphones are frustrating.  They appear to have no more than a 4 to 6 month life span before they break and doubly so because I’m 2 months away from release.  I bit the bullet and put in an order for a new pair of headphones.  After Ball and Whalen leave I’m going to have 2 new cellies come in for my last 45 days or so and no telling what they might be like. Headphones are an essential piece from going crazy at times.  Guard Roscoe Peters was very professional in signing the disbursement form and such even if he was distant.  Since this blog was discovered, professional but distant, would be the way to describe how most of the staff treats me.  No joking around and such, but that’s ok.  Many ask me about specific blog entries, especially the identify of the guard who had a drug problem.  I’ve taken to saying its all made up just to avoid the questions even though of course it isn’t.  Nobody buys it anyway as they all think they know who it is.  Anyway, one thing I haven’t covered here are the visits we get, mostly because since my arrival I haven’t had any.  But once you are called for a visit, such as Whalen was this weekend by the therapist who sent him the letter. (who by the way are doing quite well) You go into the room that doubles as the computer room on the top floor and as the library on the bottom.  Anyone in the room at the time has to leave.  It’s a video visit more like what you would do over a webcam or in a county jail.  The biggest problem you might have is the inmates walking by and checking out who is visiting with you and what they look like.  And of course, then the comments and catcalls you receive after.  It’s very easy for others to see the person because of the glass walls and the size of the screen.  I’m sure this is designed this way for security reasons though.  When Whalen finished, of course everyone in the room joked about his visit which he enjoyed.  The good thing about this cell is when people joke around with each other it doesn’t get taken too far, unlike some other cells here.  On Sunday I got to speak with my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  After wishing each other a Happy Easter, they let me know my ex-wife had had her father pass away a week prior.  Like many inmates I get annoyed with the time delay in getting news.  But what are you going to do?  I wrote her a condolence letter which considering how angry I used to be with her, is quite remarkable.  In it I shared a memory of her father, expressed hope that her and the kids were okay and told her I looked forward to seeing the family at Charles Martin’s retirement in July even though it also makes me nervous.  Honesty is good and this isn’t something I would have done almost 24 months ago. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  There’s been so much going on I haven’t been able to get it all in the past few entries.  But a couple things to note you should know.  First, regular second shift guard Ruth Barthowski has let everyone know she is retiring as of May 1st (today is April 18th). There’s not a one of us that isn’t sad to see her go.  Simply put, she is the best corrections officer I’ve seen.  They’ll have to break the mold with her gone.  Guard Mike Metcalf is openly campaigning for the job much to our dismay.  Metcalf says he’s going to “clean up our unit”.  Inmates have already filed several inmate complaint forms against him just based on the few days he filled in.  Just not a great start.  We’ll see what happens.  Next we had a new ERP group come in to replace the last graduating class.  At least three members of that class had relatives who had found this blog and told them, even sending printed copies of them of some entries to let them know what was in store for them.  Even had not MSDF or the DOC found out about the blog it would’ve come out anyway.  I’m not mad.  I’m proud.  We’ve done something good her.  Now onto the day.  We started out on the Child Maltreatment module.  First we watched a video called Casey’s Gift For Love of a Child.  Though it was an old video, it communicated effectively the pain and guild people felt over the loss of a child and how they each dealt with it.  Many of us weren’t too sure what it had to do with the theme of Child Maltreatment but it kind of fit.  The packet was gone over in the afternoon. It covered sexual, physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  My comments were directed mostly at resisting the idea that somehow the child or abuse victim, particularly in extreme cases, is capable of walking away or getting help, that outside intervention is almost always required.  People want simplistic answers because it’s easier for them to understand and then blame the victim.  But if you’ve lived that life you know exactly what I’m talking about.  At the end of the day we had time to kill and the topic of this blog came up again.  ERP group leader Ms. Grey again reiterated no confidentiality had been broken.  I talked with the group how its changed my life, helped others and the idea of maybe writing a book someday.  Group member Scott Dietz challenged me saying I must have too much time on my hands.  I was gracious in my response as I explained that it was a choice of what to do with ones time locked up.  I didn’t choose to spend a lot of time working out or playing cards but writing and dealing with my own issues while doing so.  Later on cellie Larry Sands confirmed many felt resentment over what I’ve done, if they’d been mentioned.  They will just have to read it when they get out.  But I’ve decided I won’t discuss this blog with anyone here anymore when they ask about it. My instinct tells me its’ the right way in handling 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’m still dealing with the ripple effect from my trip to the hole.  The guards that packed my stuff were not gentle and had destroyed all my boxes which I had used to store my things here.  They put it all in brown paper bags.  I don’t know how I’m going to carry that stuff out of here when I leave in about 60 days.  One thing is for sure as well.  I’m probably the only person in the history of the WPS to go to the hole for blogging related reasons.  Not exactly good for my cred with other inmates you know?  I can’t even picture myself explaining it.  Of course I’m kidding.  But these were thoughts going through my head.  I spoke with my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin and while I was in the hole they had discussions with my parole officer Gayle Gaither and they were going to put a phone line in for my electronic monitoring device.  Gaither also told them she approved me to attend his retirement party and services in Michigan in mid-July.  Charles says farewell to his career as a full-time minister.  They they dropped a bombshell on me.  It seems my ex-wife and former step-children will be there as well.  Boy, with that, just getting out of prison and dealing with all sorts of family and friends from over the years that weekend, its making me already wish I could hide on that weekend.  But that’s not an option.  The anxiety junkie has just got to suck it up for the sake of my adoptive father and the family.  Another loose end left over prior to going to the hole was the response to my biological family letter.  My aunt had revealed that my biological father and her “had protected each other” as children and basically I shouldn’t be so hard on him for the things that happened and she was sorry they hadn’t been there to protect me and my half-brother.  My response wasn’t based on what I’ve learned but on instinct.  I pray it was the right one.  I asked when and if she was comfortable to share what happened to her and him as kids so I might understand him.  I also told her I’m not angry at all with them for not protecting me and the domino effect of all this through the years.  Between you and me I probably was angry at them somewhat over time.  But I sense we’re right at the edge of something huge here and it could be life changing for all of us.  After that, it was another rough night of sleep.  Perhaps all of this stress with things like my release, adopted family, biological family, and ripple effect from the blog being discovered is getting to me.  It’s a different kind of stress than paying the bills and going to work everyday but its real nonetheless.  The topic today for the ERP group coincidentally was domestic violence.  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey was again very upbeat.  She also pointed out much of the lack of dynamics in our ERP group was our refusal to challenge each other.  She’s right of course.  We watched videos depicting various people who hurt the women in their lives.  I shared my biological father’s cycle of violence since it was already on my mind.  At the end of the day, Ms. Grey indicated I’d only have to make up one module I missed while I was in the hole.  She also indicated our Phase II goals and objectives would have to be presented this week so I’ll need to get busy on that.