Posts Tagged ‘segregation’

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.


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 in segregation, also known as “The Hole”, with a much different reality than the one I knew less than 10 hours before.  The night had been quiet much to my surprise as the stories I’d heard about seg said it was loud all the time but as you might expect I didn’t sleep well anyway.  New environments and uncertainty are a huge feeding ground for the anxiety junkie in me to gorge on.  But it was different this time.  I had confidence that I’d come out of this okay, mostly because I felt like I’d done nothing wrong writing for this blog.  I’d conducted myself in a reputable manner, never putting staff or inmates at any kind of risk and being truthful to the best of my knowledge without being vulgar in the process.  I’ve grown and learned a lot as a result and a lot of others have found our efforts useful.  I just didn’t want to believe I”d have to do another 18 months because of this.  Breakfast came in a brown paper bag, the same breakfast on my unit.  But here in Seg, the guards are the ones wearing hairnets and hats, stuffing the breakfast bags and distributing meal trays from us through trap doors in our cells.  Often they have no swamper assistance.  My faith everything was going to come out alright was tested later in the day on Saturday when a guard showed up at my cell wanting my signature for my property.  They’d packed up all my stuff out of my unit.  I wondered if they’d gone through all of that if there was a possibility I’d be coming back to ERP.  I signed it despite not knowing if all the stuff is really there.  I’d seen what can happen when someone goes to the hole, how his supposed friends can rip him off.  I expressed my concerns about my losing my bunk on the ERP unit and what it might mean to guard Sam Neville, the regular 2nd shift guard in Seg on 5A.  He assured me this was standard procedure for anyone going to the hole.  Again he put me at ease.  He also told me he was sure the DOC and MSDF simply didn’t know what to do in this situation as it was something they hadn’t encountered before.  So I would spend the next few days sleeping, pacing the floor, reading my Bible and reading the book The Last Disciple by Hangeraaff and Brower, which incidentally are both excellent books!  Surrounding me in the cells were people representing the extremes of violence and insanity.  Every once in awhile, only when the lights were turned on after 11 am and always on 2nd shift someone would do something which would require 5 to 8 guards to come running to intervene shouting of “Stop Resisting!” as they struggled with the offender.  One such incident the inmate tried to pull Neville through the meal slot in the door which was a physical impossibility.  Another situation when he was trying to move an inmate to another cell, the inmate decided to start kicking him.  In trying to subdue him, one guard was injured using the Taser on him.  The inmate ran around his cell naked which of course everyone saw thanks to the fishbowl mirrors on the walls.  The other inmates cheered.  It was funny yet sad.  The supervisor who would visit him told him he was facing a year in the hole for assaulting staff.  Could you imagine a year of this?  You get 4 hours of rec a week.  Rec consisted of going into a cage a quarter of the size of my cell with a TV on the wall which the guard had the remote for.  On the other side was another gate.  I met a man who was suicidal and an avowed racist on different days. It was just good to have conversation that wasn’t through a door.  I finally got to shower on Monday in my cell.  I got a few visitors.  Dr. Raymonds, a psychiatrist, the psychologist who met with ERP group member Larry Sands and Seg social worker Peter Botha.  All came because unnamed people had expressed concern for my well being.  That made me feel good and was surprising considering how little I say.  But Tuesday came and went with no word if I’d be released.  I even said to Neville, hey you said I’d be out of here by now!  But I knew he didn’t know why either.  Finally, on Thursday night the call I’d been waiting for came.  I was told to pack up and return to my unit.  Boy was I happy!  I was pretty sure everyone there knew about the blog by now.  This place can’t keep a secret to save its life.  How would they all react?  I was nervous but what are you going to do?  The important thing was no institutional charges and I’d get to finish my ERP program.  I said a silent prayer thanking God for answering my prayers as they led my back to my unit on 4C.