Posts Tagged ‘Should’


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).  After the events on Wednesday, I decided to talk to ERP group members John Lloyd and Larry Sands about how I should handle it.  Should I bring it up in the ERP group, bring it up to my ERP group leader, Ms. Grey, in private or not bring it up at all?  Lloyd was adamant I should leave it alone with his reasoning nothing good would come out of it.  Sands said I should bring it up in group, that if private journal contents which are supposed to only be between the inmate and his ERP group leader could be divulged to another ERP group leader who then divulges it to another inmate supposedly mentioned in the journal (I always used shorthand only known to me to identify another inmate in the journal but the problems with cellie Andre Charles that I and many other inmates had with him were well known) was a clear breach of trust which was a group issue that needed to be addressed.  Sands was right of course but for the wrong reasons.  His relationship with Ms. Grey is strained at this point in time.  After our group did its breathing exercises it became evident she’d been reading complaints about this way of starting group as she asked for a vote on whether to continue it.  Eight of us voted no.  In the ensuing feedback, I pointed out this wasn’t a democracy and others echoed that sentiment.  After she prepared to move on I raised my hand and said I had an issue.  I started from the beginning, about how important confidentiality was and how I had shared things in my autobiography, in other materials and had this not been there I couldn’t have done it.  I then asked if contents of these materials were divulged to others.  She reminded the group and I about the limited confidentiality that exists between us, that other ERP group leaders and her supervisor may be consulted about our cases and should we confess to another crime.  I agreed that’s what we’d been told but asked how it was that another inmate would come by information that had only been in my journal knowing full well what the answer was as Andre had told me yesterday that his ERP group leader had told him.  I was hoping she would connect the dots herself but that was a no go.  She asked me to explain so I did in plain English.  Andre’s group leader asked him about it, told him not to worry about it after his denial, accused me of just trying to get him in trouble and to keep it to himself.  Ms. Grey’s disposition noticeably changed.  She asked me to confirm that another social worker had brought this up to Andre without I or Ms. Grey being present?  I replied yes.  She was furious.  The rest of the group, largely silent, began to speak up on my behalf, saying this process obviously couldn’t be trusted, particularly Sands.  Others tried to bring up their own issues, smelling blood in the water but Ms. Grey shut that down.  Ms. Grey said she wanted to bring all 4 of us together at this point but I argued the point.  Andre is leaving in 3 or 4 days as he’s graduated.  It’s just going to make matters worse in my cell.  The problem will be gone ten.  But she seemed to insist. S he also told me I’d not be allowed to have Sands move in when Andre leaves.  Ms. Grey apologized for the breach that had occurred with the journal.  We’ve suspected there was friction between the various ERP group leaders but now we know it. She was clearly angry as she said she’d be addressing this with them.  I sank in my chair not looking forward to this possible meeting.  The guys in the group came up to me, especially Lloyd, saying I should have left it alone.  Perhaps they are right.  Maybe in a “normal” treatment environment I did the right thing bringing it up.  But not here, that’s for sure.  Two things are clear.  I’ll never put anything important in their journal again.  And I’ll bet Ms. Grey will start reading them more often from now on. 


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). This morning we were locked down for unknown reasons at the time.  There is a lot of confusion over the disruption of routine any time it occurs.  Should we go back to sleep?  Watch TV?  What’s going on?  I’ve been around long enough to not even let it bother me one way or another, as have my cellies.  But it came out later.  Apparently,  they were doing some kind of weapons training on the 1st floor so they wanted to keep us locked down.  We finally got out after 1pm.  I and my group resumed work at the tables in the dayroom on the work Ms. Grey had given us.  At my table has been Scott Bunker, John Lloyd, and a guy from Alabama named Augie Prescott.  Prescott is deep south and is not shy with his view on minorities, so Bunker and he became friendly.  I’m quiet and Lloyd usually just sits back and agrees with anything he says.  Prescott has taken to calling black people share of ignorance as well picking on white people’s dress, manners and speaking.  MSDF has the most out in the open racially prejudice I’ve seen in the institutions.  It doesn’t help I’m sure that they divide the ERP groups, one drug offenders, the other OWI offenders.   The OWI group has 1 black man, named Larry Sands, the rest are all white.  But at our table, Bunker and Prescott go back and forth with their comments and jokes.  I threw myself into the assignments.  One was to write in detail about my OWI Offenses.  Another about what I’m hoping the ERP program will do for me.  It is difficult to write this one and Ms. Grey wants 2 pages.  We also had to conduct an interview of another group member, which I did.  I was interviewed by Dean Stark who is a nice enough guy but kind of gives me the creeps.  I had to interview Tom Dietz and he impressed me.  He’s a business owner and very good with people.  We never did see Ms. Grey today.  I’m not sure why.  She has been conducting what is suppose to be in depth interviews of each person.  I’m being told she knows nothing about us beforehand.  I’m real tempted to not be honest about my background because I don’t want other inmates to know any of it.  I’ve decided to be brutally honest about my background.  I just don’t think I have any reason to be ashamed of it and if I truly don’t care what they think I need to just do it.  In fact, in many ways, I could be proud of what I’ve overcome and accomplished – except for not doing what I needed to do to stay healthy.  But they’re handing out canteen, so I better go and listen for my name.


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  Weekends are my least favorite time here mostly because it seems time moves the slowest.  But of course as soon as I say that it changes.  My usual routine has me down for good by 10 pm, but on this night it didn’t happen that way.  As I walked toward the bathroom, I saw a group of guys around one bunk, doing what appeared to be sit-ups and others rooting him on.  I didn’t think much of it as I do these myself but on my bunk by myself.  Usually, I wake up several times a night because of things I’ve told you about before, but I don’t get off my bunk.  This time I did.  I wish I hadn’t.  There are two types of people who walk late at night.  They either pick up their feet as they walk or they don’t.  Those that don’t you can hear every step they make in the unit.  I am one who picks up my feet.  That same group of guys were together.   They were startled by my presence but didn’t have adequate time to cover up what they were doing.  I guess you could call it exercise but it was more of the push up variety done from a kneeling position.  It took me all of a second to see, put the pieces together and then avert my eyes.  I knew this went on but there is a huge difference between knowing and seeing, one I had been grateful for.  I used the restroom feeling disgust but mostly dread at the idea of having to walk back.  Why oh why don’t those geniuses turn off the stupid lamp?  Do they really need to see what they are doing??  When I returned I became one of those annoying people that dragged their feet when they walked.  I’m a convert, at least late at night!  But I figured they’d scatter before I got there, not wanting to see me anymore than I them.  I was wrong.  They saw me and one of them whispered, “Hey Jake!  What’s up?””  They were laughing.  I just replied that not much was going on in as casual sounding voice as I could muster.  They continued to laugh.  I got back to my bunk and tried to put it out of my mind without a whole lot of success.  Of course, the anxiety junkie in me came out.  How am I going to handle these folks tomorrow?  How should I react to them if they should bring it up in a conversation?  Should I go out of my way to shun them?  Or not?  Behind every anxiety attack, is the process of realization that the victim is not in control of others or things.  I eventually calmed down.  The next day the problem that wasn’t was handled the way most men handle things.  We ignore it.  To discuss it like adults would require courage and honesty none of us possess or desire. I am sure at some point down the road – way down the road – one of them will approach me about it.  Secrets have a tendency to require discussion by the conspirators.   Perhaps not.  After all by the end of November I won’t be here.  And if they don’t approach me, I’m also more than ok with that. 


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  We submit our canteen orders on Sunday’s and then get what we ordered after count clears, about 6 pm, on Monday.  Basically when the truck gets here, they call for volunteers to unload it.  After count and mail call, everyone stands in a room waiting for their name to be yelled by the two guards passing it out.  I tell you all this now to tell you that none of this actually happened this past Monday.  We were notified via a memo posted in the window behind the guard station that due to a lack of staffing, canteen would not be handed out until Tuesday.  Inmates who have been here awhile report they’d never seen this happen before for this kind of reason.  But this was no ordinary Monday night for the monsters of the midway, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers would play a football game.  Apparently, it was just a coincidence that the flu took out all of our regularly scheduled guards on the same night or at last that is what they would probably tell you.  They won’t explain that to us because we’re not entitled to explanations.  I don’t personally care.  Those that did either are the ones that have a tendency to whine about something all the time or were out of canteen.  Again, not my nature.  My former family used to laugh at me for bringing coats and sweaters when we would go camping but sure enough, late at night, they would all be wearing those coats and sweaters.  My point is, I try to be prepared for the unexpected.  Prison has only reinforced that.  Anyway, if you’re not a Packer fan here, chances are you holler and yell along with all the haters about how horrible they are, and how great the Vikings or some other team is.  Unfortunately, its not always all in fun.  Fights nearly break out over it.  As game time approached, we get our snacks ready and I climbed into my top bunk.  I walked around during the game a bit, observing people, guards and inmates, of all races, colors and creeds being pulled together by the common denominator of the Green Bay Packers. Everyone cheered (or yelled) at the top of their lungs for or against.  For a few hours we forget where we were, the barbed wire and the gates.  At the end, almost everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong for the Packers, yet they only lost by 3.  It was more how they lost.  They lost their composure.  They didn’t stay focused and didn’t do the very things that are basic to football. 

Afterwards, even those professing an undying loyalty to the team questioned the coach’s decisions, the general manager, even though he didn’t have anything directly to do with the game, and even Aaron Rodgers, who had been the toast of the Packer Nation.  Are they any less loyal, love the team any less because they questions ,and have their own opinions on things they don’t have all the facts on? Should the Packers disown their fans for such faithlessness?  No, of course not.  Their passion and zeal, even when its misplaced, is further evidence of their love and devotion for the team.  Do you see where I’m going?  Those who were close to me have turned their backs on me because of my failure to get help when I was sinking, its not fair to hold it against them. Their opinions, without knowing all the facts, doesn’t mean they don’t care.

The next day, the haters were out in full force led by the sergeants on 1st and 2nd shift.  But that’s ok.  Just because we get down on those we love, doesn’t mean we’re going to stop loving them.  We just need more accurate information.