Posts Tagged ‘skills’


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….


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Sometimes I’m not so bright.  In fact, I can make just stupid decisions.  When I was a child my arm was broken.  The arm was never set properly and as a result the arm has always given me some discomfort.  The last few months however; the pain has steadily grown where I have to work around it for such tasks as putting on a shirt.  So I put in a medical request form. I suggested that perhaps the lack of exercise is causing the pain, as up until a year ago I was being treated for cancer and I didn’t exercise much and since then I’ve done very little.  But with my impending release on Wednesday, I didn’t make a  good choice ignoring the pain.  To my surprise, I was actually seen on Sunday by a nurse right here on the unit.  The nurse decided to see me because of my history of cancer.  She determined the kind of bone issue I described shouldn’t be ignored.  Just another example of the usually positive experience I’ve had with health practitioners while I’ve been in prison.  She decided to refer me to the doctor without performing tests.  But she did take a history of how it happened, asking why I didn’t address this years ago when I had insurance and why I waited until now.  Truth was I didn’t want to answer the questions people would have asked related to how it happened, my usual honesty and shame issues.  Hopefully, I don’t continue that pattern.  One nice thing about all my family and friends knowing I went to prison is all pretense is gone.  The truth will be revealed eventually whether you want it to or not.  The fact I had problems is now known to them.  How will they react to me?  How will I react to them?  I am going to try, despite the loss of family, possessions, career, and money, to hold my head high.  The difference between disgrace and shame would be failing to learn the lessons shame has taught.  It will be a struggle, make no mistake about that.  Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents, have his retirement celebration coming up July 17th where family friends and acquaintances from years gone by will be in attendance.  We’ll see then if my words here mean anything.  The rest of the weekend was uneventful.  ERP group member Scott Dietz had his paperwork signed by a Milwaukee County judge on a weekend.  He also inquired about me building websites for his businesses.  I’m suspicious of any contact with people from here or promises made but I said sure I’m interested but I’ll need a couple of months to get my feet on the ground.  But I almost believe him.  I talked to my adoptive parents on Sunday as well.  They have the bed I slept on as a kid setup in the basement and some simple foodstuffs put up for me there.  The internet will be turned on June 25th so I can get to catching up on my Information Technology and programming skills.  They gave my parole officer (PO) Helen Gaither the house key which I can get from her on Wednesday but left a door open in the event by the time I get to Menasha, WI after business hours.  Of course this tells me the PO and my adoptive parents have been meeting and talking.  That makes me a little nervous.  But everything seems set.  Wednesday can’t get here soon enough!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Monday, June 6th would turn out to be a record breaking day heat wise in the Milwaukee area.  Though we are in an environment where we never see the outside world, we very much feel the effects as the air from the outside world is pumped through the ventilation system.  But the day didn’t begin all that badly.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey returned from vacation having gotten to see the Grand Canyon among other places.  She appeared relaxed, content much more than I’d seen her in the past.  The first thing we did was to go through the relapse trigger assignment.  Ms. Grey surprised us with having the presenting inmate do a skit with other group members reflecting the relapse triggers described.  For mine, she had two inmates play my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin expressing concern about how much isolating and the amount of time I spent on a computer, which I could actually see them doing.  As an IT Infrastructure and .NET Framework programmer, fortunately they know I will be working on the computer a lot, knocking the rust off my skills.  While all this was going on I saw guard Ron Kidd standing at the front door of my cell.  Sure enough he had gone in and was doing a cell inspection.  We had largely been ignored since the big shakedown here but Kidd and cellie Malcolm Johnson have already had several run ins.  He hasn’t gotten the idea yet to stay below the radar which is surprising since he has spent so much time in prison.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands happened to be there and said he saw Kidd go straight to the fan he managed to acquire from a departing inmate (again) and take it which led him to think someone snitched on him, possibly Johnson.  While Johnson has become one who seems to spend a lot of time at the guard desk and time alone with his ERP social worker Ms. Carr, I don’t think Johnsons was the snitch this time.  The bottom line is he took a fan, an extra set of clothes I had and ripped down everything taped to the wall including our antennas for TV.  Reception can be hard here so that was annoying.  But back to group.  I participated in the skit for ERP group member Russ Johnson.  I played his twelve year old daughter, while Sands played his ex-wife, who were making demand if him.  Apparently, I did a good job playing his daughter.  At one point in the skit, mom and dad were fighting and I quipped, “Mom and dad are fighting again.  Oh Well.  More presents for me.”  Everyone laughed at this.  Then we got into the Phase 3 essay test while she reviewed our Plan A and B plan.  It was a simple test.  Afterwards, she made suggestions on how to improve the poster and covered the definition of craving that she hadn’t covered yet but had been on the test.  By now, the heat, a high of 94 degrees outside and high humidity, had descended on us.  In these polyester uniforms it was just miserable.  And Sands, as well as Jose Michaels, have no fans.  I felt bad for them but nothing I could do.  Speaking of Michaels, he really is working hard.  He is thoroughly doing the exercises in the Houses of Healing book by Robin Casarjian.  Just a ton of effort in everything program related.  Malcolm, on the other hand, has made it clear he doesn’t want to do anything.  It’s kind of interesting to watch.  After group, some members called me over.  They want me to create a title for the poster board on the graduation project on the computer.  Of course, I wasn’t happy.  Just poor planning on this all around.  Other groups had their project done months before and here we are 4 days before graduation still planning.  But Russell Johnson volunteered to step up and make it.  I was happy.  Perhaps too, the heat is just making me cranky. Mail call came and along with it, another development with my daughter, Lexi.  She had gone on Facebook and gave me a friend request (Under my real name of course.  If you’d like to befriend Jake on Facebook, go here).  I asked the blog sponsor who watches these things for me to accept her request and let her know I can’t wait to see her and to look around her Facebook page for me and let me know what’s going on with her.  Finally, a window into what is going on!  I settled in for the night with a smile in spite of sweating along with some apprehension. 


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).  It was another odd Tuesday. I went out in the dayroom to await the beginning of our ERP group but hours went by before we learned our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, was not coming in that morning.  We did this song and dance again in the afternoon until about 2 pm until we learned there would be no group at all.  We don’t know why at this point.  The news for me on Tuesday involved my swamper job.  Counting trays, ketchups, mustards, cereals  and milk are a critical part of the job to get right.  I had told my fellow swamper David Sussex not to talk to me when I was counting.  He of course did anyway.  I was annoyed but I didn’t say anything.  The look on my face must have communicated my feelings however as he told me he was through with me if that was going to get me angry.  And of course, my count was then off.  I tried to explain to him I was not angry but he wouldn’t even discuss it.  I’m thinking to myself, whatever, I don’t really care.  I’m then told he discussed it in his ERP group.  Apparently at supper I missed cleaning a table afterwards and one of his group members came to my cell to tell me about it.  Normally,  one would see this, grab a towel and clean the table. A gain I didn’t say anything but my facial expression must have told the story.  I would observe them both later on conferring with each other, and they normally don’t.  But my big mistake was showing signs that they had succeeded in getting to me.  I resolved not to allow that to happen anymore.  I used to be really good at that.  Have my people skills been degraded that much since I’ve been locked up?  On another note, Tuesday was the final day for cellie Corey Ball prior to release.  He clearly is nervous about the uphill struggle that awaits him upon release.  He found a place to go with a relative in Pewaukee.  He insists he’ll be in a bar Wednesday night partying and he’ll be in touch.  Regardless, I wish him well.  He had a lot of trouble sleeping as one might expect that night.  The next morning Sussex said he wanted to sit down and talk at some point.  I said sure that’ll be fine.  What else am I going to say?  I really have no desire to talk to him.  Right in the middle of breakfast, guard Roscoe Peters told Ball to pack up, give him his cell key and they were coming to get him right then.  As I finished cleaning the tables he was by the door.  He looked as stiff as could be.  I told him to breathe and its all going to work out.  He smiled and said I hope so.  Then that was it.  He was gone.  Since it’s Wednesday, there were no ERP groups.  I wrote my Phase 3 goals and objectives essay on patience which probably will be published here later, not because it’s good but because it shows how at a loss I am to explain my attitude as of late.  Later that day Sussex decided he was going to take an extra banana from the leftovers from supper.  I just threw the bananas and said whatever.  Sussex said I was crazy.  He might be right.  Normally, I’d never react like that.  Later on, I’d go apologize to him for my reaction as well as to the inmate who pointed out the dirty tables.  I felt much better after doing that, like  a load lifted off of me.  Even if they did wrong, I had no right to react like that.  The night ended with our cell getting tossed because cellie Brian Whalen left his oranges from lunch in plain view of the passing guard.  He then tossed the cell next door, where 2 recent ERP graduates, including former cellie Malik Pearl, resides.  The guard got his key stuck in the door.  One of them offered to get his key out if he didn’t toss their cell.  This just served to infuriate the guard.  Pearl and an inmate who shares my table at meals, Todd Knight, got conduct report for altered property.  Knight had altered his headphones to share them with Pearl. when he watched TV which is a rule violation.  Pearl isn’t upset at all as he’s leaving soon.  Knight, on the other hand, has got 4 months left, and will suffer the consequences for trying to help Pearl.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It’s the first Wednesday of the month which means it’s a training day.  What this means for us is it’s a cleaning day on the pod and there are no ERP group sessions.  We’d been told by our ERP Social Worker Ms. Grey that this would be a different kind of cleaning day in that it would be a more extensive cleaning than we’d been accustomed but that didn’t appear to be the case.  I never enjoy days like this but mostly because of my own personality I dislike chaos and disorganization, and while the process to get the cleanup done fits that description, the work does get done.  It was a little different for me this time being a swamper.  At the end of the cleanup, fellow swamper David Sussex and I had to move all the tables and chairs out of the dayroom, turning the tables on the side to clean out hidden treasures from underneath in the rail of the table such as butter and ketchup packets, stored there by inmates so they can have extras at a meal of their choice.  To be honest, its an unpleasant task as often the packets have been crushed and are messy.  After this was done, we mop the entire floor and sweep.  We still get in each others way but it’s a work in progress that will get solved as we get familiar with the job and each other.  Once we were done we had to move the tables back to where they were.  The former swamper that is working with cellie Brian Whalen to go back into the business of dealing drugs decided to direct Sussex and I where to put the tables.  That was fine until he decided he was going to have fun with it.  I have little tolerance for the former swamper to begin with much less any desire to fool around while working.  I’m kind of the type to get focused on a task.  So, I walked away when Sussex continued to play with him.  Someone came over and helped Sussex.  He’d tell me later he was just wanting to goof around.  I suppose I get it.  They’re both about 10 years younger than me and the way they work is different than mine.  And lets face it, it’s not like the fate of the free world rests on my performance so I could lighten up.  Once done, we returned to our cells for the day supposedly to work on ERP program materials.  That was no problem for cellie Larry Sands and I as we had a ton of stuff to do.  By Friday we had to have our Phase III Goals and Objectives done, the Living With Others Workbook done – all 61 pages and we’re supposed to be working on our legacy project for the graduation.  I managed to finish the workbook but not doing a very thorough job in the process.  I wrote up my Phase III goals as improving social skills and working on patience.  Because the goals are to be presented by Friday May 13th, I chose the Bible as my basis for study on patience, as there’s no time to find and read a book of any value on the subject and to write an essay on it.  For improving social skills, I’m writing an essay on the positives and negative things I’ve learned about myself working as the swamper.  Just a lot of time constraints.  At lunch and supper, Sussex continues to have real problems counting trays.  But more importantly, we had another guard who rarely works on our unit.  He let me know right away there would be no extra food given to swampers when he works.  I was fine with that as I rarely eat the extra stuff anyway.  But it told me this wasn’t going to go well.  At 6 pm after supper he wouldn’t let us come out of our rooms as every other floor is locked down on training day.  But he didn’t know the program floors like ours were exempted.  So 7 to 8 inmates were down at his desk arguing the point with him.  Finally a white shirt (supervisor) let him now.  But by the time cleanup began, barely anyone was in the dayroom which was funny considering all the fuss that was made.  It came time to take out the trash.  I asked the guard to open the door but he ignored me for 10 minutes, while chatting with another guard.  I just left it and went to go get ready for 9:15 am count.  Yes, I still need to work on patience?  After count, I read emails you all send to the sponsors for me.  One reader, who has corresponded in the past, compared reading this blog to an episode of Real Housewives.  I get that!  But more importantly, it gave me a real good laugh prior to going to sleep.  So thank you!


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.