Posts Tagged ‘rules’


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.

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


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). Shortly after count last night, the Koss headphones I bought off the catalogs, a plastic piece by the right ear just fell off making the ear piece unable to stay connected (Jack L. Marcus catalog #2168).  I got them while at JCI several months ago and they take a considerable pounding since I never listen to TV or radio without them.  I spent the rest of the night after shaving my head wearing those headphones being careful not to touch them once I got them on my head lest I cause the headphone to fall.  It’s unfortunate it happened right before Christmas break where TV viewing will be a major pastime.  With Christmas right around the corner (today is December 23rd) guard and staff vacations have started which means we have staff unfamiliar to us.  I asked them for an order form and catalog so I could order the headphones but were refused.  While waiting for lunch, my cellies, Malik Pearl, Andre Charles, and Brian Whalen had a long but productive conversation.  Andre went on and on about how those in his ERP group upset him with how they act.  He finally came at me and wanted to know what I thought.  I took a deep breath and told him the problem was him.  His expectations of how these people act is what has created this problem.  In addition, I told him his anger management isn’t the problem but he has a rage issue, and that he needed medication for mood stabilization and impulse control.  Finally, I told him I worry someday he will kill someone before he was even aware of what he’s done.  Everyone in the room was stunned by what I said but Andre said I was dead on accurate and thanked me.  But he asked why Whalen never had issues with him.  It’s because Whalen does everything he can to appease him while Malik and I would not.  Whalen even agreed with this opinion.  For once I thought I handled this situation well.  We had count after lunch and Andre came out without his ID or yellow smock.  Normally, they let this go but these new guards did not.  After count cleared, one of the guards showed up and told him to pack up as he was doing to the hole for these violations.  He was patted down, and Andre was clearly getting angry.  After going through his things, the guard announced he was “fu—– with him as he had them by not following the rules”.    Relieved he didn’t go to the hole he returned to his usual loud self.  But this guard had played a very dangerous game.  What if Ander had flipped out over losing his ERP over his trick?  Getting kicked out of ERP can mean additional years an inmate may have to sit in prison.  I believe Andre to be fairly dangerous and this guard was by himself and didn’t know Malik or I.  Fortunately, it ended ok …this time.  At 1 pm, Ms. Grey joined us and gave us new books.  On was “Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom, 5th Edition”, 2008, by Robin Casarjian and another workbook, “Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse Treatment.  Strategies for Self Improvement and Change” by Kenneth W. Wanberg and Harvey B. Milkman, 2006, Sage Publications.   We will begin assignments in this next week while she is gone on vacation.  Ms. Grey also gave us a whole bunch of worksheets.  The load is getting heavier no doubt.  But I am confident I’ll keep up.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). One thing that started yesterday was that it was our cells turn to clean the upper tier of the cellblock after each meal for the next two weeks.  We each get plastic gloves from the desk and go upstairs and clean.  Clean what, is the problem.  I’m the kind of guy that wants to know my assignment and let me go and get it.  I have little patience for “busy work” or standing around wondering what to do.  But if your not cleaning the bathroom that is essentially what you are doing.  So in a really weird paradox, the one job you’d think nobody would want – cleaning toilets and sinks – everyone in my cell wants to do so we’re not guessing what to do.  Of course, I find something to do.  I sweep the tier though I actually pick up very little.  I want to do this every time so I can know what to expect, but the other guys in the cell don’t want to do that.  They want to discuss what job each person will do each time.  My thought process/reaction is probably like this: “Oh man give me the worst job each time so I can get this done and move on.  Just STOP TALKING!”  A few companies I worked for as an IT guy and Software Developer, I chafed under the same idea that talking equals work.  In some ways, I find the discussion more stressful and complex than the actual work.  My ex-wife knew enough to give me a list of things to do and then get out of my way.  If this is a character defect or character asset, you decide.  But I’ve been like that since I can remember.  Everything was fine until breakfast.  I pulled out my broom to sweep the tier but not everyone was done eating.  One guy said to me to wait till everyone was done so dust wasn’t in their food.  He was right of course.  My problem was he yelled it to me in front of everyone.  Again, another pet peeve of mine is being called out in front of others.  I prefer one on one.  But that won’t happen all the time.  I said nothing and waited, then swept.  The guys then went to their ERP group.  Last week, no one cared if those of us not in the program slept during the day.  Today they cared.  We’ve seen guards who make up the rules as they go, but I’m convinced that wasn’t the case this time.  The guard came to my door and I was sitting on my bunk so he moved on.  But moments later Malik Pearl came with a smile on his face told me I can’t sleep even if I’m not part of the ERP group yet. I asked what prompted all of this and he replied that even though we weren’t part of the ERP group we still had rules to follow.  I then observed Malik and Andre Charles and the social worker talking and pointing up to the cell.  I’ pretty sure I know what’s going on here.  In their ERP group there was a discussion concerning non=program people and that complaint got raised which got the guard involved.  The guard, they don’t just suddenly get a spurt of ambition and create a rule that didn’t exist before.  Now whether Malik and Andre were behind it, I’m not sure but the fact Malik showed up right after the guard came by and announced the rule tells me I’m going to have to remember though they share my cell, they are not to be trusted.  It disappoints me as I would like to build a circle of people I trust.  But even though this is the ERP, I’m still in prison and I can’t forget that. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The Green Bay Packers beat the stuffing out of the Minnesota Vikings 31-3.  Normally its a real loud environment around here on game day but it was so bad nobody  had anything to say.  It appears that I’m no longer part of the worship team since I got off bunk confinement.  I haven’t been approached about it for the last two weeks.  I’m okay with that.  If you were following along you understand why.  Oh and if you were wondering, saddlebags and Bill  “Made up”.  That’s Bills words, not mine.  I just didn’t want to know anything beyond that so you fill in the blanks!  But its been a relatively quiet weekend.  Normally early Monday morning I’ll wake up real early and do my laundry, especially since we now only have one washer and dryer to serve 200 plus inmates thanks to an inmate putting a bar of soap in the washer instead of the laundry soap we’re supposed to purchase.  But as luck would have it I walked by the washer around 7 pm and saw it was available so I hurried and got to it before others did.  The downside is I had to hang around the dayroom instead of hanging out by my bunk and watching TV like I like to at night.  Many saw my departure from routine and came up to me to talk.  We get used to each others routines.  Most of the conversation revolved around the game and why I was in the dayroom at that hour.  But Paul came by to chat.  He’s getting out next month and is having a particularly hard time. They didn’t offer him a job while he was here until the very end, has no money saved up and as a result must live in housing called a transitional living placement (TLP) with other parolees for 60-90 days.  Those in such placements often must wear electronic monitoring ankle bracelets which Paul doesn’t want to do.  In addition, prior to your release you get the “rules” your parole officer (PO) has determined you must live by.  Some are standard, but then after those are listed the PO lists rules specific to you.  You’re suppose to sign you rules prior to release from prison.  The problem here is that the PO listed as a rule that he must agree to any kind of treatment or counseling the PO believes is appropriate.  Paul felt the rule was too vague and wouldn’t agree to it.  Ms. Greer tried to arrange a phone conference which resulted in him hanging up on the PO.  He’s now in the process of filling out paperwork to get a new PO.  Paul’s problems have always gone back to his anger, even when I knew him in the group home 25 years before.  He doesn’t want the PO to have so much power over him as she could order him to complete any kind of treatment they want he reasons.  It surprises me as this is the 4th time in prison.  I’ve heard they have life or death power over you so I wonder why he’s fighting the PO so much.  He should know this.  I do know he’s really against any kind of anger management.  He had lost his mom to cancer back when I knew him as a kid and that the aunt that cared for him since had also died.  He’s all alone.  People like him, I get them.  I tried explaining since the beginning of all this his life has been a series of tumbling dominoes where though responsible for his actions, the likelihood of bad decisions being made continued to escalate as each domino fell.  The weight of the past dominoes that had fallen were such to make impossible for the current domino to stand on its own without a lot of intervention and change.  Paul indicated he “totally understood” what I was saying, but I got the sense he just wasn’t ready to trust this PO because they may make decisions that might force him to face things he was afraid to.  Again, I get that.  It’s a rebellion born of fear that resembles defiance.  I see that.  Will his PO?  For now, at this point, I’m not that hopeful he is going to make it when he gets out.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  December 13th is my bed date to begin my ERP program at Milwaukee Secure Detention Center Facility (MSDF).  They could come get me from here any day now.  It’s November 19th, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Ms. Greer showed up today in her #4 Minnesota Vikings jersey, and she is proud to wear it and she’ll let you know that when she hears the topic come up in conversation.  It makes everybody smile though.  She has a rough edge with a good heart.  So overlook her football team preference.  Nobody’s perfect! I always wonder if she feels imprisoned by the system in trying to help inmates or if she has stopped fighting and just picks her spots where she can make a difference.  She certainly hasn’t completely quit trying as many who burn out. I’m hoping I spend Thanksgiving week here as I’m told the food portions are better here.  I won’t lie, I’m nervous about going to MSDF and change is always hard for me.  Other inmates pain a very bleak picture.  You won’t see the outside world until you leave, canteen is small and expensive, its dirty and no electronics.  Still as we’ve seen in the past, inmate information can be unreliable and if I can endure this and succeed, I’ll get out.  Anyway, we’ve had a huge influx of new people in the last week.  There’s no Welcome Wagon here to educate them on how things are done and the unwritten rules.  That becomes most evident in the line for meals.  The customs are really a reversion to grade school tactics.  Of course, the Glee Club is still at the front of the line but after that group, grown men who never care about such things all of a sudden become quite concerned with someone who might step in front of them or others who feel they are popular by being allowed to do so.  I usually greet this whole drill with a yawn and roll of my eyes but for some reason not today.  As I moved toward the cart that holds the trays in front of the guard station,  a new inmate, a young black man with an early Jackson 5 type haircut with his pants down so far his butt was on display darted right in front of me.  Normally I don’t care but today for some reason I did.  As I debated how to handle it, the sergeant yelled at him twice to pull up his pants.  He conveyed his contempt for the sergeant with his half hearted compliance. I decided then wasn’t the time to deal with this.  After lunch, I have to walk past his bunk to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth and I stopped and said to him that I didn’t want to say anything in front of the blue shirts (guards) but you can’t step in front of people in line like that without asking as they will feel disrespected.   His cellie, white and young like him, laughed nervously.  He reacted like he couldn’t believe I said something but finally after a couple of seconds said “ok”.  I went to the bathroom and on my way back he motioned me over and he thanked me for not saying anything in front of the guards.  I replied that they would have taken it wrong.  It ended well, but this was not the way to handle this.  If he had reacted differently, I could have lost everything.  I should have let it go.  I just wonder if I’m subconsciously trying to sabotage myself because I’m about to enter ERP, mostly because my reaction was so out of character for me.  Remember, I’ve been dreaming about my goals eluding me despite doing all I could to achieve them.  Am I trying to set myself up for failure?  I don’t really know the answer just now but I sure hope not. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). The following day after the institution wide shakedown I got to the showers right after count cleared around 7:50 am.  It was good that I did because shortly thereafter all the hot water was turned off on the unit with some saying the hot water heater had failed. This certainly didn’t help the mood on our unit which was already sour due to yesterday’s events.  Then to top it of, we ran out of liquid soap though later in the day we got a new supply.  The repercussions of the shakedown continued. An unconfirmed number of 9 people were sent to the hole with more expected the following day.  In addition new regulations were put in place regarding kitchen food.  Seconds were banned.  Only one piece of fruit allowed in your bunk (not including canteen).  A note was posted on the whiteboard saying if you had any property confiscated you were going to get a ticket for unauthorized transfer of property or similar offense and that the days to come Lt. Brodie and Capt. Bramer would hold hearings on the tickets. This is going to be literally dozens of tickets. Some inmates began making noises that it was an illegal shakedown because according to the rules an inmate must be present when their area was tossed even during an emergency and they were going to fill out complaints about this.  They will lose.  You can’t fight city hall you know?  But all of these new restrictions on food and such came about because so many had abused the situation.  This had been a long time coming.  People working in the kitchen were okay with it though as there was more food for them.  But truthfully these were the kind of rules we had at Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a medium security institution.  One upside – perhaps they won’t have so many flies during the summer.  I won’t be here to see that though.  Tomorrow I get off bunk restriction.  We are having a stretch of 60 degree November days so I’ll hit the track hard.  We finished off the night with canteen distribution a day late due to yesterday’s fun.  Another inmate made “cake” with some of his canteen and gave me some.  It simply was some of the finest food I’ve had in the last 18 months.  Oh and a side note.  Percy actually spoke to me like a human being with no sarcasm and a genuine smile.  Will wonders never cease?  I settled in for the night comfortable in my Tuesday night routine on my top bunk.  I watched TV shoes NCIS and Parenthood while eating a microwave bag of plain popcorn.  I then flossed and brushed.  Then I laid down and did the same thing I do every night.  I fantasize of life in the real world, of a family of my own, interacting with friends, playing in a Christian band and having my happy ending to all this.  That fantasy can become reality but we’ve got a lot more work to do to get there.