Posts Tagged ‘self’


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).  If I thought Monday was bad temperature wise, Tuesday made it look like a walk in the park in comparison.  For the outside world in Milwaukee it was another record breaking day at a high of 97 degrees.  The difference here was unlike yesterday, from the moment we woke up, it was unbelievably hot and humid.  The day started off normal.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey arrived about 10 am and we reviewed the Phase 3 self evaluations assigned weeks ago.  Nothing really all that interesting there.  There was a distinct sense of hurry up and get this done so we can get out of this room with no air movement at all.  After everyone had gone, ERP group member Russ Johnson gave Ms. Grey the disc with the letters that need to be printed for the graduation project.  He was excellent for stepping up the way he did.  Again I thought that this was the end for my involvement on this project.  After lunch it was decided to call off anything program related.  Ms. Grey came by and brought the disc back. It seems when the graduation project program was printed on both sides it went from the gold color to a reddish blue mixture.  I’ve seen this before when printer ink runs low but she wanted the colors changed.  I complied, only to make her happy and be done with it.  Again she approached me later on wanting the time of the graduation ceremony put on the program which I did.  Shortly before she had done that, they announced all ERP program activities were cancelled for the day because of the heat.  After she was done with me, she went into the rec room and got everybody out of there who were working out or playing ping pong.  She had a point but she didn’t make these guys very happy.  Guard Art Coleman reluctantly told them to get out as well.  Meanwhile, cellie Larry Sands came up with an interesting idea to beat the heat.  The vent in our cell that streams this hot and humid air was a source of aggravation.   Sands came up with the idea of taping up the vent.  We waited to see if it would change the temp in our cell at all.  It appeared to at first, perhaps it was our minds playing tricks on us.  But by evening it became apparent to me it wasn’t helping.  I stuck newspaper under the door reasoning that perhaps the hot humid air in the dayroom was still coming in that way.  Still no affect.  In fact, it actually felt hotter.  I said something but nobody wanted to take the tape off the vent.  Still, all things considered, I’ve got it pretty good.  I’m almost out of prison.  I’ve got a fan.  I’ve got a TV.  Most guys in this building don’t have any of those things and they’re just starting their bit (time in prison).  The loss of joy in the fact I’m getting out soon is directly connected to my lack of gratitude for what God has gotten me through and has give me.  Tomorrow will be another day similar to this one.  Let’s hope my attitude improves. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Out ERP social worker Ms. Grey collected our journals and handed out self evaluations.  Our last evaluation occurred just 3 weeks ago but with our graduation on June 10th, less than a month away and all of the things we need to do yet, I’m guessing she doesn’t have a lot of choice.  I spent most of the weekend working on our graduation project.  Ms. Grey had provided what looks like thumbnail images you’d find on a search engine of Optimus Prime to represent the Transformer concept.  Largely useless, but others such as John Lloyd and Scott Bunker felt the stretched distorted image would represent well.  So I kept it.  As an Information Technology professional, it felt good to be on a computer again and listening to project requirements.  I’ve asked the blog sponsors by the way to put out word to these I know on Facebook and other agencies I’ll be available for work in July.   So keeping my fingers crossed.  Anyway, I saved all the information and documents that will be needed for the graduation project to a disc and will give that to Ms. Grey on Monday.  I also finished my essay due Monday on socialization for my ERP group.  It doesn’t really reveal anything you don’t already know about me.  It focused on my experience as a swamper, the good things along with the bad.  I’ve had lots of guys ask me why I quit. At the end of the day I just didn’t want the hassle of dealing with the schoolyard antics of several inmates, whose goal it is to make other inmates time more difficult thereby jeopardizing my goal of graduating especially with how my attitude has been lately.  Cellie Brian Whalen continues his preparations for his release on Monday.  He gave his fan to cellie Larry Sands along with his mirror among other items.  He did the usual divvying up of possessions inmates do prior to departure, promising this to one guy, that to another.  Of course, all of those folks became Whalen’s close friend this weekend hoping to get their share!  I had no such interest.  I spoke with my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin, and they’re putting in high speed internet which is necessary for my job search and getting my .NET framework programming skills up to speed.  I so can’t wait!  I’ve missed working so much.  They’re busy getting their home ready to move into after his retirement in July.  It is, of course, where I’ll be initially, after release.  So we will all be adjusting in a major way this summer, to a new home and to each other.  The ground is shifting beneath my feet, but I feel it is in a positive fashion, unlike the earthquake and ensuing destruction I rained down on my own life two years ago, by my failure to seek help.  Ironically, I now have to ask for help to get started.


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 part of the ERP program is we are required to do a detailed report on our drug of choice.  I’m told other ERP programs in WPS had access to a lot of resources to do these reports that we don’t have here at MSDF.  That combined with the fact that this is an OWI group which meant that everyone’s drug of choice was alcohol meant that all of the reports sounded the same and contained identical statistical information.  So yeah it was a little boring but we had to go through the motions.  Even our ERP group leader Ms. Grey has acknowledged that the lack of resources limits the ability for her to provide a productive group experience.  Anyway, after these reports were read we proceeded to our self evaluations for Phase II, like we had done for Phase I.  Group members Dean Stark and Russ Johnson had learned their lesson to not rate themselves too highly with Johnson probably going overboard the other way.  I had rated myself a 4 on a scale of 1 to 15 on being social with peers and the group said I should mark it down to a 3.  They were right of course.  On interaction with staff I rated myself a 4 but ERP group member Scott Dietz said sarcastically I’d had a lot of staff interaction lately referring to my trip to the hole.  The rating stood.  Dietz has been making a lot of snide remarks since my return from the hole.  It might be because of this blog but as Johnson put it to me when he said not to take it personally as this is just the way he is.  That is true.  In the afternoon session we started out with wearing “beer goggles” which are supposed to simulate different levels of intoxication.  We went out into the dayroom where we pulled the tables and chairs aside and put tape on the floor and attempted to do the heel to toe walk police do for a DUI test.  And who should be running all of this but intern Nikita!  She has been very quiet and reserved for the most part.  But she conducted herself quite well for the most part.  While the exercise was funny, it reminded me of the failed tests I’d had my previous arrest.  ERP group member Mark Hogan pretended to accidentally run into Nikita but she didn’t let it phase her.  The group was testing her which was pretty clear.  After Ms. Grey, who had taken a couple group members on parole officer (PO) calls, we did more tests.  We setup the chairs as an obstacle course, tried to balance a ruler on a fingertip, and threw a ball back and forth between us.  All of them demonstrated our lack of coordination and muscle/eye cooperation.  Though the goggles really weren’t realistic it made the point at least for me.  We had time left over so then we watched what Ms. Grey said was the last movie we had to watch called First Time Felon.  This movie was about a younger man (Omar Epps) involved in gang life who gets a second chance by going through boot camp, the struggles he has after getting out and his eventual realization of his goal to be an inner city youth counselor.  It was a good movie.  We were given a reaction paper to write due for Monday.  This weekend is Easter so Monday is a furlough day but none of us knew that until later.  But the bottom line is another week is done, which is 19 of 26.  I thank God for getting me through another one.


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).  Do you know the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando?  It’s a nice song that tells a nice story about an inmate who gets release from prison and wonders if his love will take him back.  If she will, she’s supposed to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in front of their house. Well he gets there on a bus and he finds, with everyone cheering around him, there are a hundred yellow ribbons on the oak tree. Like I said, it’s a nice story.  Happy endings in prison are so rare I have found.  But when one comes along you can’t help but cheer along with the inmate.  I’ve told you how ERP group member Scott Bunker endured a potentially serious medical condition over the last few days.  Saturday came and hadn’t improved.  In fact, I’m told it had gotten worse.  It must be true, for the guards took him on a weekend , which is quite rare, back to the hospital again.  He again returned, this time having been fitted with a catheter.  It kind of reminds me too that even us inmates are capable of setting aside the pettiness, racial tension and self obsession that seems to consume us here when a person among us falls sick.  Seeing Bunker sick made us united in the hope for his recovery and conveying that to him.  Still we are men.  There of course were the jokes about him being “on his period.”  Tasteless yes but juvenile humor is often how men will cope and as a group deal with a tough situation.  When I was diagnosed with cancer while at Waukesha county Jail awaiting transfer to WPS, an inmate yelled so everyone could hear, “Hey Martin you gonna die or what?”  We all laughed.  I was grateful for the break in the tension.  Anyway, the goodwill generated by Bunker’s situation seemed to last all day.  Then that night, according to him, without them knowing what had happened, his second wife and step-daughter showed up for a visit after not having communicated at all for the past 2 years.  What occurred was just amazing!  She told him she wanted him to come home to them after all and that they still loved him.  He had sent his victim impact letter to her so perhaps this got the ball rolling.  After he got off his visit he went around the dayroom telling everyone that would listen, trying to act indifferent about it but the smile on his face betrayed him.  I’m just very happy for him.  I’m not the type to always describe to God every good or bad thing that happens.  But how could you not in this case?  On Sunday, it was time for my weekly call to my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  I’ve seen them once since I was in prison and recently started talking to me via phone.  They’re consumed by retirement planning as Charles is retiring as a pastor  shortly after my anticipated release.  They are moving to a place in WI which is where I’m thinking I’ll end up initially after release.  Their first concern was to talk to my parole officer (PO) up there to try to get alcohol allowed at the house.  No go there!  Their second was the retirement party at the hotel on the Saturday prior to the retirement service and whether alcohol could be present.  I told them I’d be talking to the PO about it this week.  Truth is though I’m dreading the whole thing.  After a rough start in life, I’d became an IT Professional, homeowner, and family man.  I had earned respect of others.  Now I’ll see all these people I’ve known over the years alone, penniless and no job.  I have no clue how to deal with that.  I’m sure I’m not the first guy to have to go there after prison.  I wrote a letter to my adoptive parents asking them to allow me to duck out on Saturday after making an appearance but then to participate in all the hoopla, pictures and tributes at his retirement service on Sunday.  But I’ve got to trust God to look after me the same way he looked after Scott Bunker.  It may not be as dramatic but I’ve learned God will always get me through.  The retirement party is in July and its April.  A lot can happen between now and then.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  After the debacle the previous day, I dreaded the following morning.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, the meeting between cellie Andre Charles, his ERP group leader, my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, and myself.  I imagined the fireworks that probably had gone off in their office as a result of all this.  Perhaps I’d get lucky and with Andre leaving soon maybe they’ll leave it alone.  I just doubt it.  To make matters worse, Andre had relaxed and the cell was returning to normal.  Opening this up again will just make things worse.  But I doubt Ms. Grey will see it that way.  The day started off with us all assembled in the dayroom.  We were scheduled to finish ERP group member John Lloyd and mine presentation to the group of our self-evaluations.  I have largely skipped writing about this as a lot has gone on the last few days and space/time constraints dictated some choices had to be made.  But the self-evaluation consisted of some questions of what has changed since we started our group, what we need to work on in Phase II of the program, and what we need to work on when we get out.  On the other side were questions on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 the best rating.  We evaluated openness, honesty, participation, program expectations, unit tasks, interactions with peers and staff and written assignments.  Most everybody agreed with the person’s evaluation of themselves and rarely did anyone challenge anything and this morning we spent until the dayroom closed from 8 am to 11:45 am.  We wondered if Ms. Grey had gone to Madison to protest as today the bill scrapping most collective rights for the state employee unions had become law.  But after lunch she showed up along with intern Nikita.  I was the last one to present the self-evaluation.  After my autobiography, I became much more honest and open.  I needed to work on my social skills in Phase II.  And after I get out I need to remember to ask for help when I need it before I get into trouble.  I rated myself a 4 on honesty, openness, program expectations, unit tasks, and on interactions with peers and staff and a 4 on my written assignments.  My peers in the group kept trying to bump my scores higher which I suppose I feel good about.  But Ms. Grey focused on my social interaction.  I shared I’m comfortable in situations where I’m in control or have an escape route, which is why I had success in my Christian Rock band and in my work as an Information Technology professional.  She deserved that in her opinion I exhibit symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorders.  First time I’ve ever heard that but I suppose its possible.  I’ve always believed it was part of my post traumatic delayed stress disorder and related anxiety issues.  Anyway, again I was the only one that gave any kind of substantial feedback.  She then announced she wanted us to turn in all the work we had done the last 13 weeks.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t told us to keep the material and much of it though she had assigned it we had never gone through it especially the movie reviews.  Some had very little of the material but everyone was missing some of it including me.  A mini panic gripped the room as we started to go back to our cells trying to find missing work.  After we’d all returned and handed in what we had prepared for our Phase I test.  We were expecting a multiple choice test but no, it was an essay test with 5 questions.  Again, we all sweated this test including me.  But it turned out it was ok or we’re going to go over the answers Monday.  Finally group was over.  That night a new guy came in for the next ERP group that will start when Andre’s group gets cleared out of here.  I felt a mixture of sympathy for him and relief that that isn’t me.  Boy, am I thankful that  isn’t me!  Week 13 of 26 down and 12 to go.