Posts Tagged ‘Ruth’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  My first morning as a swamper along with my fellow swamper, David Sussex went without incident.  In the time we await the food I got to know him a little bit.  He proclaims himself a born again Christian, as I consider myself, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt him.  He is very vocal about his faith here while I am, as with everything else I do here, am very quiet.  Every morning he is out there reading his Bible just as I do.  If he irritates me in some fashion, its probably his desire to engage me in conversation about what I’m reading and start “preaching” about anything I might share that I struggle with.  But that probably says more about me than him!  As our ERP group got started that morning our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, took the topics from the resumes and interviews to the in-depth topic of relationships.  She handed out another workbook from The Change Companies designed for the Federal Bureau of Prisons that we had used early in group called Living With Others, and another packet from Earnie Larson.  We have used his materials before as well.  We spent the morning on an exercise where we identified the feelings connected to dating through marriage.  She then erased the words “first date” and replaced it with “addiction” and it followed pretty closely.  Pretty clever.  In the afternoon we watched the first four parts of video From the Inside Out from Hazeldon featuring Earnie Larson.  It’s actually quite good.  The first part got into why relationships are important. It looked at positive and negative relationships in our past lives, the different types of relationships, how love has been taught to us in the past, and principles of building good relationships.  I had difficulty sharing details of what my past impressions of love were like early on and solidified as the years went on.  But everyone knows me now and aren’t shocked by my answers anymore.  Even if they were, I decided long ago I was going to be honest.  I’m also grateful no one calls me a liar here as others have in the past, such as the psychiatrist at my court proceedings did and others did as I was growing up into adulthood.  I’m now able to document most details of my past thanks to my contact with my biological family.  After group ended at 4 pm, we had another fill in guard as they still haven’t yet replaced Ruth Barthowski, named Larry Cable.  Due to differing rules with different guards, there’s always a certain amount of risk involved.  Following customs set by pervious officers or what is considered normal.  But it was pretty clear while Sussex and I waited for the dinner trays he was going to be anything but predictable.  Its customary for inmates to go out in the hall in front of the cell to fart if necessary as a courtesy to their cellies.  However; Cable yelled at cellie Corey Ball for doing so.  Then he had us swampers walk around and make sure cell doors were closed.  Again, not normally done.  Cable then tried to micromanage how many extra trays we’d get and how many we’d try to send away.  Ok, I don’t care.  But then the extra tray I did get I took to my table and gave away all of its contents to the guys sitting there.  Cable said I couldn’t give the extra food away, that it was only for me, even though the rule book clearly says I can.  Problem is technically swampers aren’t supposed to get extra food at all.  So the rulebook doesn’t help either of us.  So as he is yelling at me in front of everyone, he announces he won’t allow extra trays when he works here anymore.  Others would later tell me that I should have quit right there.  But I didn’t.  I was mad though. I would return later before 6 pm count and ask him not to hold the whole unit responsible for something I didn’t know was his rule.  Finally he said he’d consider it.  It was uncomfortable at cleanup before 9:15 pm count.  But I’m just grateful he won’t be here often.  Being a swamper is fine but I’m not going to put myself in jeopardy to do it. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  On Saturday, I got a surprise knock on my cell door from former cellie Malik Pearl.  He is to graduate from ERP this coming Friday (May 6th) along with current cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen. The question Pearl passed to me didn’t take but a second for me to respond.  He asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Swamper as he was going to step down.  I said no way.  It would interfere with my routine, force me to interact with more people, upset my TV watching and I’d have to deal with people whining for the extra food that Swampers get as their defector compensation (even though technically we’re not supposed to get that) since I’m told there is no extra pay while in the ERP program.  He left and that was that. A t least so I thought.  As the day went by, I learned the swamper job was probably going to go to ERP group member Mark Hogan who had developed a good relationship with guard Roscoe Peters, who would make the decision.  There were two problems here.  Pearl, along with the other blacks, knew Hogan to be racist.  How you might ask?  As we’ve seen in the past with him, he blurts out inappropriate remarks, not caring who hears.  So that’s how Pearl indicated he’d keep the swamper job rather than letting him have it.  Cellie Larry Sands revealed to Pearl that Hogan had Hepatitis C.  I don’t know how he knew that.  But lets face it, swampers wear gloves and you are not going to get infected from serving food.  But Pearl used this information to turn opinion against Hogan being a swamper in the dayroom.  Later on that day, guard Ruth Barthowski again approached me with the question if I’d be willing to be a swamper.  Now I had had time to reconsider the situation and I had changed my mind.  Why?  Because it will interfere with my routine, force me to interact more with people, upset my TV watching and deal with whiny people.  Kind of like real life!  So against my instincts I said yes to the job knowing I’ll be free in about 50 days so its time to get used to these things again.  The only problem is Pearl had not changed his mind too.  He wanted a guy of his choosing, his cellmate David Sussex, to have the job so he could still have access to the extra food.  So Pearl managed to talk Barthowski into a new policy on swampers which Peters approved.  Swampers would change out every 30 days so more people would have a chance to do it.  From Pearl’s way of thinking, he’ll be long gone by the time the next swamper change occurs so its all good.  The swamper that held the job with him, whom he found annoying anyway, would now have to give up the job as well which would mean his guy, David Sussex, would get the job along with me.  That night was also Barthowski’s final night as a guard.  She made a nice speech at her final count at 9 pm, followed by us all applauding her.  She is going to be missed, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing from her again!  The next day, the 2 old swampers came out to train us, giving us tips on how to count extras for ourselves.  I’ll give you the swamper routine in a future blog entry.  I was assigned to hand out the liquids and bread while Sussex handed out trays or cereal.  Breakfast went fine but at lunch, when stacking dirty trays on the cart, 7 or 8 fell which caused the inmates in their cells in the dayroom to erupt in applause.  I stayed out to help him clean it up after I was done.  Things largely went fine otherwise.  I returned to my cell more energized, I think simply because I was doing something other than sitting on my butt.  My cellies of course complained I gave too much food away to others and not to them. I I had actually kept very little for myself.  I just smiled.  So this is what its like to be a swamper!  But Sunday night things got put into perspective about 9:30 pm when word came down that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  None of this really matters in comparison, does it?


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Today is Friday, the end of our 21st of 26 weeks that this program lasts.  In the dayroom prior to our ERP group starting, we learned Augie Prescott still couldn’t get through to his family in Alabama after the devastation caused by the tornadoes there that have killed over 200 in several southern states.  Of course, I didn’t say anything to anyone but my recently reconnected biological family is from that area.  I have no way to reach them since my only way to reach them is through email via my sponsors.  I sent a note but I can’t let myself think about it too much.  It would be so ironic if something happened now that I have finally connected to them.  But lets not go there.  The day started off with us going over proper interview etiquette in the video From Parole to Payroll which was very effective if you have not had experience interviewing before.  We paid special attention though in how to handle disclosure of our criminal offense in the interview and on the application. We’re supposed to answer the question on the application that we’ll explain at the interview.  At the interview when the question comes up what we did we’re to answer truthfully yet answer it with a one word answer or as few words as possible.  Above all, take responsibility and don’t’ lie.  So we learned something, at least I did anyway.  Then we were teamed up two by two by our ERP Social Worker Ms. Grey, where we were to give each other what would be considered a job performance evaluation.  It was of course fun for each of us to pick on the other guy.  I was teamed with John Lloyd, whom I have sat across from in the dayroom and eaten across from the last 5 months.  He identified as my strengths my writing, initiative and thorough.  As weaknesses he said I lacked tack and that I’m not subtle at all.  But when I pressed him for an example he couldn’t give one.  So I didn’t understand that at all, where he saw that in me.  Most I know see me the opposite of these things.  Ms. Grey then handed out our blank Phase III Goals and Objectives sheets and said we should consider what was identified as weaknesses for Phase III short term goals.  We don’t’ have a due date on these goals but lets hope it’s not going to be the struggle for our group it was in Phase 2.  In our afternoon session, we played another game just like UNO and the goggles on another.  This time it was a game where we asked each other random questions that were printed on cards that had been dealt to us.  The questions were such like “What was the biggest mistake you made?” and “What would life be like without computers?”  We all had fun with it, with their being some serious moments.  Even intern Nikita had joined us today and participated. Guess we’re going to be losing her soon as she is returning to school soon.  Heck, we’re all going to be gone soon!  After group, cellie Corey Ball gave guard Ruth Barthowski a card form all of us that said goodbye and thank you for her years of service and for the respect she has shown us.  Tomorrow is her last day on the job.  The ERP Social Workers were aware so there was no risk of fraternization charges.  Supper was interesting tonight because in the middle of one of the worst meals served here, soy based imitation meat for our tacos, an emergency count was called which meant we had to get up in the middle of the meal, go stand and be counted, then wait until count cleared to return to eat. Let’s face it, the food is usually cold when we get it in addition to it sucking so the only problem for us was the disruption of routine.  As for me, I ‘m still out of sorts and my cellies have noticed I’m not as patient as I normally am.  The juvenile humor and acting out I usually just ignore is getting to me more now.  I’m not sure what my problem is except perhaps nerves about getting close to getting out.  I hope my cellies will put up with me while I get my perspective back. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  The day started off with the discussion in the dayroom prior to group about our legacy project, which is what we’ll do for our graduation ceremony on June 10th.  I kicked off the discussion simply because I knew if I didn’t no one here would as non of us are all that excited about doing anything for the ceremony.  This project also includes what will put on the program for the ceremony.  I was volunteered due to my computer skills to do that.  I let the guys know I’d come around on Monday to collect the quotes they each want to have under their names on the program which they were okay with, and we decided to use our group mission statements on the back of the program.  Then came the discussion for the name of the group.  I nominated the name “Pyramid” group, as each level on the pyramid represented an attribute in our orientation workbookLarry Sands offered the “Phoenix” group as in out of the ashes of our former lives, we rise up anew, but it was rejected as too complicated to render.  But Russ Johnson offered “The Transformers”, as in us being transformed from MSDF to a new life.  This was accepted.  The drawing was to be of a person half in yellow, half in civilian clothes.  Scott Bunker, who is gifted at drawing, drew up a prototype which pleased the group.  Now he’ll have to draw a much larger rendering for the ceremony.  By the way, Bunker was to finally have that catheter removed today but he has resumed bleeding.  Just not good.  So our ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, showed up and we looked at interviewing for jobs.  Though this is old hat for me it was good to cover.  We didn’t have enough handouts of the packet on this so one was passed around.  Then we did role playing.  I volunteered for the interviewer.  The point was to demonstrate a person who was confident or not.  Sands volunteered for the confident role, Augie Prescott volunteered for the not confident role.  It was fun to do and good to brush up on.  By the way, Prescott couldn’t get through to his relatives in Alabama after last nights tornadoes that has killed at least 200 in Alabama, so he’s pretty worried and we all let him know we’re praying for this situation.  We watched a video on interview skills called Why Should I Hire You by J. Michael Farr which was very well done.  After lunch we were awaiting Ms. Grey when it was announced that a tornado warning had been issued.  Guard Ruth Barthowski had us all go to our cells and take the foam mattress off our bunk, sit on the floor and put them over our heads even though we knew it was a drill and threatened to put warnings on the card to anyone who didn’t.  Most took her seriously.  Being that it was Thursday it was time for another Community Meeting.  I did my skit with Johnson’s help.  It went over well once I was told to raise my voice which is easy to forget to do.  That night we worked on a goodbye and birthday card for Barthowski, as she is retiring on Saturday and it also happens to be her birthday soon.  We are sure going to miss her.  As for me, I’m a little uneasy.  I’ve started to crave alcohol and cigarettes lately and I don’t know why.  I’m even having dreams related to it.  Could it be pre-release jitters? Is it stress related to my birth family?  I’m also not as patient with  my cellies as little things are annoying me.  I spent time in prayer prior to bed last night, asking God to ease my mind and renew my faith as I suspect that is at the root of my problem as always. 


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).  As I was being returned to my unit from the hole after 6 days for investigation on possible charges related to this blog but for which I’d been cleared.  I looked through the windows and saw regular 2nd shift guard Ruth Barthkowski who smiled at me and tried to work through the paperwork that was deficient with my arrival.  The inmates seated at the tables in the dayroom smiled as I walked in but I couldn’t tell what was behind it.  Barthowski began to give me the lay of the land right away.  Everybody now knew about the blog staff and inmate alike.  She also told me she had worked on people trying to get me out of the hole and I thanked her for it.  My property was still in Segregation and wouldn’t arrive.  I was assigned my old bunk and old cell which I was grateful for.  Barthowski took me up to the linen closet while I got the rest of my yellow outfits.  Guys at the tables in the dayroom welcomed me back but their body language indicated some mistrust.  Once I made it to my cell, ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands gave me the rundown of what had happened in group.  Apparently the night they took me last week the guard on duty, a by the book type named Mike Metcalf had announced I was on a bus back to Dodge Correctional Institution.  Regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters was upset over being named Roscoe.  Guys in my ERP group knew they hadn’t been named but still wanted to know what was said about them.  But probably the most interesting development was what had gone on with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  The week I’d missed she had been smiling, engaging and being kind.  The last while she has seemed distant and combative.  But she had discussed my situation with the group telling them that day I returned that I was not going to return but then telling them something different later in the day.  It seems that yours truly who always sought to avoid attention was the focus of the entire pod this past week.  That and of course this blog.  My main concern wasn’t any of this though.  I was concerned about seeing Peters and Grey the next day.  What would they reveal about me?  I’ve laid myself bare on this blog.  But I also felt a sense of pride and strength, that no matter what might happen I was going to be ok.  That didn’t mean the anxiety about how tomorrow would go in group wouldn’t give me a restless night.  But as it turned out I shouldn’t have worried at all.  Peters wasn’t working on Friday .  And Ms. Grey was engaging and kind throughout the morning.  And then the most surreal thing.  In the afternoon session her and intern Nikita broke us into two groups and had us play Uno!  That’s right, the card game!  Everyone was smiling and had a good time.  Had Ms. Grey read the blog and not liked what she saw and decided to change things up?  Or did something else happen to cause the change?  Whatever it is it’s promising.  On another note, I’d considered asking the sponsors to shut down the blog, much as I did 15 months ago when I got cancer.  After with everyone here knowing about the blog, this may no longer be the typical prison experience.  But I’ve got bigger concerns.  The blog helped me and has helped others.  It’s worked up till now.  I’m going to stick with it.