Posts Tagged ‘Robin’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Monday, June 6th would turn out to be a record breaking day heat wise in the Milwaukee area.  Though we are in an environment where we never see the outside world, we very much feel the effects as the air from the outside world is pumped through the ventilation system.  But the day didn’t begin all that badly.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey returned from vacation having gotten to see the Grand Canyon among other places.  She appeared relaxed, content much more than I’d seen her in the past.  The first thing we did was to go through the relapse trigger assignment.  Ms. Grey surprised us with having the presenting inmate do a skit with other group members reflecting the relapse triggers described.  For mine, she had two inmates play my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin expressing concern about how much isolating and the amount of time I spent on a computer, which I could actually see them doing.  As an IT Infrastructure and .NET Framework programmer, fortunately they know I will be working on the computer a lot, knocking the rust off my skills.  While all this was going on I saw guard Ron Kidd standing at the front door of my cell.  Sure enough he had gone in and was doing a cell inspection.  We had largely been ignored since the big shakedown here but Kidd and cellie Malcolm Johnson have already had several run ins.  He hasn’t gotten the idea yet to stay below the radar which is surprising since he has spent so much time in prison.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands happened to be there and said he saw Kidd go straight to the fan he managed to acquire from a departing inmate (again) and take it which led him to think someone snitched on him, possibly Johnson.  While Johnson has become one who seems to spend a lot of time at the guard desk and time alone with his ERP social worker Ms. Carr, I don’t think Johnsons was the snitch this time.  The bottom line is he took a fan, an extra set of clothes I had and ripped down everything taped to the wall including our antennas for TV.  Reception can be hard here so that was annoying.  But back to group.  I participated in the skit for ERP group member Russ Johnson.  I played his twelve year old daughter, while Sands played his ex-wife, who were making demand if him.  Apparently, I did a good job playing his daughter.  At one point in the skit, mom and dad were fighting and I quipped, “Mom and dad are fighting again.  Oh Well.  More presents for me.”  Everyone laughed at this.  Then we got into the Phase 3 essay test while she reviewed our Plan A and B plan.  It was a simple test.  Afterwards, she made suggestions on how to improve the poster and covered the definition of craving that she hadn’t covered yet but had been on the test.  By now, the heat, a high of 94 degrees outside and high humidity, had descended on us.  In these polyester uniforms it was just miserable.  And Sands, as well as Jose Michaels, have no fans.  I felt bad for them but nothing I could do.  Speaking of Michaels, he really is working hard.  He is thoroughly doing the exercises in the Houses of Healing book by Robin Casarjian.  Just a ton of effort in everything program related.  Malcolm, on the other hand, has made it clear he doesn’t want to do anything.  It’s kind of interesting to watch.  After group, some members called me over.  They want me to create a title for the poster board on the graduation project on the computer.  Of course, I wasn’t happy.  Just poor planning on this all around.  Other groups had their project done months before and here we are 4 days before graduation still planning.  But Russell Johnson volunteered to step up and make it.  I was happy.  Perhaps too, the heat is just making me cranky. Mail call came and along with it, another development with my daughter, Lexi.  She had gone on Facebook and gave me a friend request (Under my real name of course.  If you’d like to befriend Jake on Facebook, go here).  I asked the blog sponsor who watches these things for me to accept her request and let her know I can’t wait to see her and to look around her Facebook page for me and let me know what’s going on with her.  Finally, a window into what is going on!  I settled in for the night with a smile in spite of sweating along with some apprehension. 


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).  We were waiting for our ERP group leader Ms. Grey, when another ERP group leader told us she wasn’t coming.  Many of us returned to our cells, and we hadn’t been there for a minute when Ms. Grey along with intern Nikita came.  We spent the morning session finishing the book Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjain, specifically  Chapter 15.  It portrayed prison as a gift that’s been given to us to allow us the opportunity to effect change in our lives.  Well if you’ve been following this blog at all you know that to be true, that change has been affected, particularity true before my time at MSDF.  But prison as a gift?  There are many words and phrases I’d apply to the concept of prison.  Some aren’t printable.  Gift wasn’t one of them!  But I get the point.  Though I lost everything coming to prison, there is one thing I kept – my life.  Had I not come to prison with the path I was on I very well could have taken my own life by now.  So I guess you could say prison gave me the gift of my life.  Lets just hope prison never gets the chance to give me any more gifts!  But anyway, we have to return this book to Ms. Grey.  I would have kept this one.  Our afternoon session was spent watching a video on addiction that describes how it affects the brain and how scientists are trying to develop a vaccine for addiction, specifically cocaine.  Sorry, I wasn’t close enough to see the DVD case for info on the video.  The evening was full of intrigue, thankfully none of it directly involving me.  Both swampers are now from the cell next door where cellie Larry Sands came from and where former cellie Malik Pearl had moved to earlier.  Sands informed me about how cellie Brian Whalen was planning to sell a lot of cocaine being provided by another inmate from that cell.  Unknown to him, their plan was to rob him once they were all out and Whalen came up with the money.  I told Sands if he knew this we had a responsibility to throw Whalen off this plan somehow, even if he didn’t want to cross those guys.  I just feel bad for Whalen.  I’m afraid he’s going to get himself hurt with his biggest crime being he wants to be liked.  As the day and night progressed more and more people began arriving to take beds for the next ERP group that’s starting.  The problem began when an inmate arrived with a lower bunk restriction and there were no lower bunks to be had at this point.  The guard in charge, not a regular, decided to bump the swamper in that cell next door, that is making this deal with Whalen off his bottom bunk for this guy.  He put him in a cell on top bunk above an inmate when many think this is the nastiest guy here.  But the guys in the swampers cell vehemently protested, wanting instead for them to move Sands out of our cell and move the new guy here.  They tried to convince the guards to do this but no dice.  The female guard got to the point she tossed their cell (inspect for contraband) after they said one of the reasons they couldn’t move him was that they all combine their canteen which is of course a rule violation.  I don’t know how the inspection came out but Sands was mad that they tried to disrupt his situation just because they didn’t like what was happening.  These guys made it clear to Sands once regular second shift Ruth Barthowski returns she’ll make him move as they believe they have influence over her.  I’ve seen it but I don’t think she’ll let them push her into this.  We’ll see.  Through it all, I’m still relaxed which is remarkable for this anxiety junkie.  My thoughts are outside of this place, for a day when I can write you about the positive things out in the world even if I’m struggling. 


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 Monday night being cellie Andre Charles last night prior to release he was bouncing off the walls and keeping us all up.  Cellie Corey Ball broke out his refried beans and I even broke my no food after 8 pm rule and joined in.  It was quite late before we settled down.  The next morning (Tuesday)  was my laundry and shower day so it means I was up at 5 am so I was pretty tired.  Andre was also up at 5 am which he never does.  But we all were guessing he’d be gone by lunch.  Group began with the ERP group leader telling us she was bringing the breathing exercise back despite our vote to eliminate it but she was making it optional to participate.  After we were done she announced we were going through chapters of the Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian and we had to go slowly because we didn’t have a lot of content left in the ERP program to cover and because we’re at MSDF, a maximum security facility, we can’t do much of what Phase III of the ERP program that inmates at other institutions (usually minimum or medium security) would normally be doing.  That phase at those institutions have a lot of community involvement getting them ready for release.  So we are reading chapters from that book.  Fortunately it’s an excellent book but the guys in the group were clearly bored as we read aloud.  Even Ms. Grey seemed to not be into this.  At lunch, Andre was still here and when count rolled around guard Roscoe Peters announced it was Andre’s last count.  We returned to group at 1 pm.  We went over Chapter 12 and wrote letters to ourselves, acknowledging and forgiving ourselves for the past wrongs we’ve done.  I’d already done this in my Phase I goals and objectives, so I read that aloud when it was my turn.  At about 2 pm, I looked out the window of the group room and saw Andre and his ERP group leader having an extremely animated conversation.  H saw me in the window and threw up his hands in the air in frustration.   I’d find out after group he was told for reasons unknown no transport was available to take him to his parole officer (PO) office so he’d have to stay another night.  The PO herself would come get him at 10:30 am-11:00 am the next day.  Andre was furious.  A “normal” person locked up 2 years as he’s been would be anxious and upset but as we’ve seen with him, he’s not “normal” when it comes to anger.  That night he paced the floor, stressing on the injustice done to him, snapping at everyone in the room at some point.  I just stayed silent.  I’m just as unhappy as he is that he’s still here.  We were assigned to make a list of reasons we are grateful.  I focused on that and prayed for deliverance to come for both of us tomorrow. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Cellie Andre Charles must have woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  But his demands of cellie Malik Pearl who is on the upper bunk above him, are just crazy.  He wants him to put a chair by the bunk so when he hops down he won’t wake him.  This is prison, not a for your comfort hotel.  Besides those of us on top bunk deal with that whole inconvenience! 🙂  But Malik said he wasn’t going to do it anymore because it isn’t all about him.  Andre thought I put that in his head.  He was right!  But one thing led to another and Andre threatened him.  Malik was clearly ready to go.  Andre back down.  Malik went to guard Roscoe Peters and told him who referred him to his ERP coordinator.  Even cellie Brian Whalen was on board this time.  Because it was guard training day there were no ERP program activities this morning.  Instead we cleaned the unit.  The afternoon session was interesting.  First, we got a new book.  It’s title “Driving With Care: Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Impaired Driving Offender Treatment” by Kenneth W. Wanberg, Harvey B. Milkman and David S. Tinken.  What’s with the long titles anyway?  But we didn’t open it.  Instead we delved into the third House of Healing video (Ms. Grey skipped the second) by Robin Casarjian concerning not letting people hit your emotional triggers.  Then we went into the follow up on the inner child healing assignments from yesterday.  Larry Sands talked about how his failures to deal with his father’s suicide affected him.  Jeff Dietz talked about how his father beat him in front of family after he’d been drinking which was often.  Augie Prescott expressed disdain for the whole idea of inner child damage.  I wondered aloud if my inner child was dead.  Mark Hogan made fun of those who suffer from Post Traumatic Delayed Stress Disorder (PTSD). I must have been clearly drifting in all this as Ms. Grey called on me in front of everyone and asked me what was on my mind.  After a couple of minutes of dodging, I told the group I had PTSD and I’m trying to fit together the concept of inner child damage and PTSD.  I wasn’t very eloquent in how I said it.  Most of these guys knew all the right words and I feel very far behind and they are so much further in their autobiography than I (I’m up to age 8 and meeting my adoptive parents – 12 pages) than I.  But in the last 12 months on this blog I’ve written about acceptance of my past and how I used drinking to mask it.  So I’m wondering if I was doing the same thing just not aware of it.  Tonight’s assignment is to write a letter to the inner child.  This is quite difficult.  But I’ll do my best.  After I got back to my cell, Malik told me his ERP  Coordinator would be meeting with all of us about Andre tomorrow.  So it continues…….


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 morning cellie Andre Charles and Malik Pearl immediately started in on each other once Malik revealed people talk about Andre’s tendency to snap on people.  Andre didn’t like learning people talked about him though he says he knew they did.  But of course, he was angry that Malik didn’t tell him before.  That’s not what he was really mad about.  But as I talked with him I again tried to make him understand that his rage issue, if he didn’t get a hold of it, with medication or whatever, he’s going to kill someone to no avail.  He keeps wanting my opinion/approval, I don’t know why.  But I’m going to keep telling him the same thing.  After the ERP group began this morning, Ms. Grey, who’d been on vacation all last week, was here.  She asked us our impression of the What the Bleep Do We Know.  We were all pretty skeptical.  Then we did breathing exercises which she wants us to do everyday to start group.  We close one nostril, breathe in, bend our head, then blow out the other nostril.  It’s different.  But we better get used to it.  Then we talked about the assignments in “Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment” by Kenneth Wanberg and Harvey Milkman and Houses of Healing by Robin Casarjian.  Everyone completely agreed including Ms. Grey, that the Milkman workbook completely sucks and Casarjian rocks.  But we’re required somehow to do this workbook according to Ms. Grey.  So that’s what we’ll do.  In the afternoon session we managed to get a hold of the remote for the DVD player and were able to watch “Portraits in Addiction” by Bill Moyer, which we hadn’t been able to do last time and wrote a one page essay on it.  It was at least 15 years old so some of the references and people were dated but I thought it showed several types of addiction as well.  They’re telling us much of what we already know.  Yes we are alcoholics.  We don’t need convincing.  But perhaps I speak too quickly.  After the afternoon session, I checked at the desk for mail and to my shock there was a letter from my former step-daughter Lynn.  She sent a Christmas card with a photo of her and her boyfriend, a photo of her and JoAnn, and Lisa and a letter.  In her letter she apologized for how she has treated me and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on with me.  They had even gone to see my adoptive parents this past weekend.  I sense there’s more going on out there in regards to this group of people.  But its the same issue when JoAnn sent me the Christmas card.  To what level can I get involved with these folks?  Should I?  I still haven’t decided.  But I have a letter to write.  I’m excited she reached out to me as I had wanted that for a  long time. 


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 woke up after a very bad night, with my cellie, Andre Charles, in a foul mood and trying to pick a fight with another cellie, Malik Pearl.  The issue this time was Andre thought Malik was angry over all the noise he was making.  He probably was but he hadn’t said a word to Andre.  I rolled out of bed and ate breakfast.  For whatever reason, Andre requires our attention and I’m just not going to give it today.  Ms. Grey, our ERP coordinator, is on vacation but she had left behind assignments for us to do.  We were to read chapter 1- 2 of House of Healing (HOH) and complete the assignment in the morning session of our ERP program and in the afternoon watch the first video on HOH, as well as read the Criminal conduct and Substance Abuse  (CCSAT), and work on our group mission statement.  Reading HOH, I can tell you straight away that the author Robin Casarjian is a genius in how she frames things for the reader.  The first two chapters are entitled “Doing Time” and “Who Are You Anyway?” “Doing Time” feels like a pep talk, that regardless of your circumstances behind bars, making change in yourself is worthwhile work.  “Who Are You Anyway?” is a look at our core, our “self’, surrounded by our sub-personalities and how “over-identifying with any one of them can debilitate us or stunt our growth” (p.13). I can see how someone with my background may have gotten so lost in a sub-personality now.  I highly recommend this book to everyone regardless of the kind of prison you’re in.  I completed the “Who Am I” assignment on page 10 and moved on to the CCSAT workbook.  We were to complete Session 1 but many were way past that.  Session 1was concerned with explaining the program and setting up goals to avoid “criminal thinking” and recidivism.  I feel out of place with this workbook and its tone feels, the word comes to mind is clinical.  But I will give it my best effort.  I mean I don’t have a choice, right?  After lunch in our cell, Andre went on and on to me about when he says he’s through with people it’s nothing personal to me even though Malik and Whalen, my other cellie, agreed he absolutely was.  I wanted to reply that though I hope he finds the help he needs, I couldn’t care less if he was through with me.  In fact, I wish he and I had no involvement at all.  But for once, I bit my tongue.  After lunch, we’d been told to watch the first video of the HOH book series.  It took 20 minutes for us inmates to get the DVD player in the weight room running.  The video we were supposed to watch told the story of how HOH came to happen (remarkable itself – email if you want to know) and further discussion on identifying who we are.  Then we as a group decided to watch the second video so we didn’t have to set it up again.  This was on forgiveness, the ability to see the good in a person past their present issue.  Again, outstanding stuff.  I feel I do a good job of that most of the time. It’s to see the light bulb, not the lampshade.  Our next item, was the mission statement for our ERP group MS. Grey asked us to come up with.  Yours truly did the honors.  It states “we seek to learn how to live a clean and sober life through truth and accountability to each other, surrendering our old way of doing things and being open to new ideas, humbly and empathetically looking at ourselves and each other in a balanced fashion, remembering to be truthful for our new lives.”  Let’s hear it for the run on sentence!  🙂  The “Ripple Effect” of addiction was assigned to our ERP group inmate leader, Larry Sands.  They cancelled our ERP group night session so I listened to Whalen state how fed up he was and Andre keeps goading him.  Man, my headphones can’t get here fast enough!  But the best part of the day, I actually got a Christmas card in the mail tonight!  So, I’m happy.  It’s good to know you’re not forgotten once in awhile, you know?