Posts Tagged ‘road’


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….

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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).  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).  Tuesday afternoon came about and the staff and inmates alike were focused on one thing – Gov. Walker was giving his address on the state budget.  Inmates and staff were watching for vastly different reasons however.  Staff were concerned with layoffs, benefit cuts, as well as DOC funding cuts.  Inmates wanted to find out what would happen to the so called early release provisions of Act 28 in the previous two year budget and what, if anything, would happen to ERP or the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP).  ERP is a federally funded program but those running the DOC are said to be opposed to any kind of programs that encourage early inmate release.  So nobody knows what was going to happen.  Truthfully, though, had people been thinking by the time any of this goes into effect we will have all graduated ERP.  So there really isn’t reason to be concerned.  But it makes a good conversational piece.  The social workers even came by the unit though no groups were going to watch it on our TV.  The address got interrupted by the trays being handed out for supper but the news came out under this proposal, Act 28 and any mechanism for early release, such as good time, is dead.  In addition, over 50 million in funding for the DOC is being cut based on lower prisoner population.  It would seem these two things contradict each other.  We shall see.  Nothing was said specifically about ERP but I’m guessing it’s going to be left alone.  Again, we shall see.  The rest of the budget was painful to hear but that didn’t surprise me.  I noted the possible cuts to BadgerCare, especially since I might need help with the cost of the PET scans after I get out until I get a job with insurance to make sure cancer has not returned.  But that’s a down the road concern.  We all went about our business.  The following day held a surprise for me.  It was a Training Day but I was asked along with a swamper to go and clean the social worker’s office.  I got there and they were al in one room with several desks.  Even the intern Nikita was there.  They joked with me about the job sweeping I was doing when I left a dust bunny behind.  It was odd seeing them all together except for one.  Then the unit manager came by, let the social workers know she needed her office cleaned as well and wanting the mop water changed.  The swamper went to get water while I went to her office to sweep.  I’ve never seen a more messy desk.  Having read my face she insisted she knew where everything was on it.  After we were done we returned to the unit where everyone was busy cleaning as is the custom on Training Day.  The guys in my group now kid me more than ever about being Ms. Grey’s favorite.  But that’s ok.  I don’t’ care.  I just don’t know what she sees in me. 


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).  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 Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  As I’d noted earlier, I’m in the middle of a 5 day bunk confinement.  In preparation, another inmate needed laundry soap so I gave him what I had left in exchange for doing my laundry since I couldn’t get off my bunk to monitor it.  Bunk confinement stinks but its not that bad.  It’s harder on my bunkmate(Cellie) than me as he is used to me being gone at least some of the time.  It was Monday and I woke up about 5 am.  I gave my laundry bag to this inmate, then ate breakfast and returned to my bunk.  A couple of hours later Lt. Brodie announced we must all remain on our bunks until further notice as we were having an “area shakedown”.  If we wanted to use the restroom we would need to be strip searched.  Meanwhile, people started pulling out food from the cafeteria they’d stored and started moving it down and what they couldn’t finish they handed out to others and what they couldn’t get rid of there they tossed in the little waste basket by their bunks.  Unauthorized property wasn’t as simple of a problem.  I had two problems here.  Another inmate has both my state clothing and the clothing I bought from the catalogs to do the laundry and because we can’t leave our bunks I can’t get it back.  That means that clothing could get tossed in the shakedown as it won’t be on his property list.  Also, as you might recall, I had a lamp on my bunk I didn’t buy.  I watched others trying to get rid of property.  Some threw it on bunks of guys who were at work, others tossed items in the aisle hoping the guards wouldn’t see it.  Of course, being the anxiety junkie I am, was all freaked about the lamp for awhile.  But the guys most worried were those in possession of alcohol and/or tobacco, one of which was Charlie.  He kept going up and down the aisle trying to find a way to unload it.  Guards came by twice over the next 4 hours to let us use the restroom and get water.  Each time they took us two at a time into the shower area doing the whole strip search procedure they’ve done since Day One.  It seems while we were waiting another unit was having their turn at getting shook down.  Lunch time came and they gave us paper plates with hamburgers and returned us to our bunks.  Finally a little after noon we were told to line up for the bathroom but this time we were each sent to an individual stall.  But not a normal strip search by a blue shirt this time.  They wore red shirts.  They were guard trainees that had been bussed in just for this occasion.  Once we’d been searched and gotten dressed, we walked up to the Multi-purpose Building, the same place as Chapel and orientation.  All the way there, there were at least 20 guards lined up along the road, half on each side, there to verify we didn’t drop or pass anything.  Out in the yard were guards with metal detectors, presumably looking for weapons.  There were guards checking the roof looking for discarded contraband.  This kind of a shakedown happens once a year I’m told.  I sat in that building till about 4 pm.  No books, no electronics and hundreds of people from which there was no where I could go to get away making ear splitting levels of noise.  Just the very definition of hell itself for the anxiety junkie, at least this one.  Finally, Captain Kramer called for 3 inmates to come to the office – Charlie was one of them.  We then were all sent back.  It looked like a hurricane had hit our unit.  Mattresses were everywhere, papers, documents, and photographs on the floor.  We spent hours that night straightening up.  Somehow my clothes and lamp weren’t taken.  There were inmates with items that had been broken or shouldn’t have been taken.  They were told to fill out complaints.  Guess how that will turn out?  But Charlie never returned.  Percy packed his stuff in boxes.  I had watched him go in the office.  I think he knew what was coming.  I felt bad for him on a certain level.  But tonight, I felt a collective sigh of relief from the whole unit, myself included.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Weekends are my least favorite time here mostly because it seems time moves the slowest.  But of course as soon as I say that it changes.  My usual routine has me down for good by 10 pm, but on this night it didn’t happen that way.  As I walked toward the bathroom, I saw a group of guys around one bunk, doing what appeared to be sit-ups and others rooting him on.  I didn’t think much of it as I do these myself but on my bunk by myself.  Usually, I wake up several times a night because of things I’ve told you about before, but I don’t get off my bunk.  This time I did.  I wish I hadn’t.  There are two types of people who walk late at night.  They either pick up their feet as they walk or they don’t.  Those that don’t you can hear every step they make in the unit.  I am one who picks up my feet.  That same group of guys were together.   They were startled by my presence but didn’t have adequate time to cover up what they were doing.  I guess you could call it exercise but it was more of the push up variety done from a kneeling position.  It took me all of a second to see, put the pieces together and then avert my eyes.  I knew this went on but there is a huge difference between knowing and seeing, one I had been grateful for.  I used the restroom feeling disgust but mostly dread at the idea of having to walk back.  Why oh why don’t those geniuses turn off the stupid lamp?  Do they really need to see what they are doing??  When I returned I became one of those annoying people that dragged their feet when they walked.  I’m a convert, at least late at night!  But I figured they’d scatter before I got there, not wanting to see me anymore than I them.  I was wrong.  They saw me and one of them whispered, “Hey Jake!  What’s up?””  They were laughing.  I just replied that not much was going on in as casual sounding voice as I could muster.  They continued to laugh.  I got back to my bunk and tried to put it out of my mind without a whole lot of success.  Of course, the anxiety junkie in me came out.  How am I going to handle these folks tomorrow?  How should I react to them if they should bring it up in a conversation?  Should I go out of my way to shun them?  Or not?  Behind every anxiety attack, is the process of realization that the victim is not in control of others or things.  I eventually calmed down.  The next day the problem that wasn’t was handled the way most men handle things.  We ignore it.  To discuss it like adults would require courage and honesty none of us possess or desire. I am sure at some point down the road – way down the road – one of them will approach me about it.  Secrets have a tendency to require discussion by the conspirators.   Perhaps not.  After all by the end of November I won’t be here.  And if they don’t approach me, I’m also more than ok with that.