Posts Tagged ‘State’


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).  The morning started out slow as our ERP social worker Ms. Grey was off for the morning session for some kind of training.  In the afternoon session, we began the Phase III work related to employment.  First Ms. Grey asked how many of us needed to work on our resumes.  Not a single hand went up.  Typically, inmates often have nothing like a resume coming out of prison. I was in Information Technology for almost 20 years prior to me going to prison so I am pretty well versed in resumes, job searches and how to conduct myself in a workplace.  But many do not so I’m sure it’s a good idea to offer it.  Ms. Grey handed out a packet on employability called “Introduction and Motivational”.  The first exercises were related to following directions.  Basically it told you to make sure you read it all the way through, then gave you steps to follow that made you jump through all sorts of hoops and then get to the final step that told you, that had you read through everything you would know you wouldn’t have to do any of this.  It got me.  I’m so accustomed to just mind numbing work I just plowed through the first 4 of the 16 steps before catching on.  So it made its point.  Then we had to split into 3 groups and make up a list of 10 things important to being employed and then narrow them down to the top 5.  In my group were myself, cellie Larry Sands, John Lloyd, and Russ Johnson.  Our top 5 came out as positive mental attitudes, good communication skills, good listening skills, reliability, and good problem solving skills.  I was suckered (nominated) by the other 3 to present the list to the other groups as they did too.  I surprised myself at how comfortable I was doing so.  Ms. Grey seemed pleased with our effort.  We then watched a video called "From Parole to Employment that offered tips on your job hunt and was motivational.  It was a good video. Afterwards, Sands brought up getting State ID cards which we’ve been told we could get before we got out and Ms. Grey said she’d look into it.  Then the conversation turned to computer access, which the inmates can use to access JobNet and the law library.  Some thought they’d need their own ID, which isn’t true at MSDF.  But if its all the same, I think I’ll avoid computer use here!  Besides, unlike other ERP programs, we have no community access in Phase III so we can’t contact or follow up any leads.  But such is the situation.  I had dug up a copy of my resume I had here along with a news article written about a software program using the .NET framework for a plumbing and electrical distributor.  Russ Johnson got a hold of it and commended he had extensive contacts and would help me with my job search.  I’m not really believing it but hey I’ll take any help I can!  So we’ll see.  So as usual we’ll see what happens.  I spoke with my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin, and we’re having discussions on cell phones and internet access which I’ll need to get employment when I get out.  It’s good to actually be planning the details for my release. 


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 Friday I woke up, really just like any other day.  I had to read my autobiography to my ERP group today and though I wasn’t happy about doing so I had resigned myself to having to do it.  But it wasn’t my turn until that afternoon.  First, it was ERP group member Mark Hogan’s turn to read his story in the morning.  We anticipated a lot of humor in his story in keeping with his class clown personality but though there was some there wasn’t as much as we thought there would be.  He brought visual aids along, showing the general store his father had established in the early part of the twentieth century.  Early in life his father and him argued and he fired and disinherited him.  They’d never reconcile.  He would talk about the beatings his father had given him under question in front of the group by ERP group coordinator, Ms. Grey, but didn’t detail in his reading.  It focused on the hard drinking and bad choices this man of almost 70 years of age had made and how he had helped himself overcome Vietnam with yoga and drugs.  Afterwards the news came that Gov. Walker had announced that Unions for State employees could only negotiate on salary issues, not on such things as health or pension benefits which guards over the next 2 days would be heard talking with each other about how much extra it was going to cost them for such things.  The conversations I heard were obviously of the angry type.  That afternoon intern, Nikita joined us.  Ms. Grey started by having us all change seats which kind of annoyed us.  Then it was my turn.  I read it exactly as written.  I could tell by the reactions of those in the room it was as hard for them to hear as it was for me to read.  Of course there was a lot more in there than you have read in this blog, but you can ask if you want.  I ended it about all the writing I had done since going to prison (not of course that it has been in this blog) and how it’s helped me along the way.  Afterwards there was questions from the group.  They clearly look at me differently now, that’s for sure.  Ms. Grey didn’t have that many questions.  And then it was over.  Pretty painless, huh?  Well I can talk smart now that it’s done, can’t I? Smile  Afterwards, group member Scott Dietz invited me to his family’s events if I wanted.  Others came up and expressed to me similar stories they hadn’t included in their autobiographies and asked me what I thought of one thing or another.  Just very different.  I’m not sure what to think or if I like this or not.  Time will tell.  The next day, Saturday, we got locked in while 2 guys in a different ERP program who were 5 days from graduation were taken to the hole for fighting.  That’s got to be the worst nightmare come true for those guys.  Week 10 is complete and there’s 16 weeks to go.  I’m praying that I don’t end up with a similar fate. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP). They handed out canteen last night which was unremarkable except for the fact I met the regular second shift guard, a sweet older lady by the name of Ruth Bartkowski.  Ruth actually sincerely inquired how I was doing in my adjustment to MSDF.  We talked about what a shock it is to the system for those of us coming from medium or minimum security environments.  I think I genuinely smiled for the first time since my arrival here while talking to her. And if that wasn’t enough, after I had returned to my cell I was well into a bag of BBQ chips being so hungry and my cellmate Malik Pearl appeared to be sleeping on his bunk with his headphones on, her partner tonight, a guard in his mid-twenties, who looks like he could be in a band, named Peter Thorn, came to our cell to inspect it.  I said that was fine.  But he saw Malik sleeping, inquired with me about it and I replied he was.  Then Thorn shocked me with what he said.  He didn’t want to wake Malik up so he’d inspect us another time.  Are you kidding me?  Between Bartkowski and Thorn, the laws of the universe are being turned upside down!  So, I’m in a good mood until time to lock in for the night when Andre Charles and Brian Whalen were talking and appearing to try to shield their conversation from me.  I don’t really care what they are saying.  I’m more annoyed by it and I find it disrespectful.  But I’m in prison so I shouldn’t expect politeness.  The next morning after we ate breakfast and had returned to our cell all of a sudden the power in the cell went out but the lights remained on.  We heard yelling ordering us to come out of our cell.  I was pretty sure it was a shakedown.  I felt pretty confident about not having anything considered contraband.  My cellies scrambled to throw various things in our little wastebasket, but I made sure I was the last one out to make sure they didn’t throw anything on my bunk.  Once downstairs, I had a wave of panic hit me.  I had used newspapers I’d gotten on my subscription to pad my extremely thin pillow and I also remembered I’d brought a box of raisins from breakfast a few days ago and it was on top of my locker.  Ok it isn’t major contraband but I don’t know their attitudes here.  So we were taken to another pod and crammed in a room to await them to complete their task.  We were there about an hour.  I heard they’ve had more searches in the last month than the rest of the year.  My previous institution, Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), was also doing this.  Some say its a budget thing as that whole process in the State of Wisconsin is beginning.  I don’t know.  We were then brought out into the dayroom of the pod we were in to be strip searched prior to returning to our pod.  Even the social workers were locked in clearly upsetting them.  It was there we learned that the canine unit of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office had been here.  In addition to the normal strip search procedure, we had to endure the indignity of bending over so they could see up there.  Other guys report they had to spread their toes for the guard.  We then returned to the same room and then we all assembled in the room next to our pod as our cell number was called.  Finally one cell was left and instead of joining us they were locked in that pod.  What they had had in their cell is unknown but one person among them was scheduled to be released today.  But all 4 were taken to the hole.  I can just imagine what’s going on in that guy’s head.  After 6 months of ERP, putting up with this place and then this.  I don’t know and probably wont’ get to find out what happened to him.  I got back to my cell, the box of raisins still there and newspapers undisturbed but while I’m thankful I realize how truly thin the line between success and failure will be for me at MSDF.