Posts Tagged ‘swamper’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey started off the day finishing up the workbook The Price of Freedom is Living Free. Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack. D. Cooper and the video that goes along with it.  She pointed out the entry on the last page (52) entitled “The Beginning” really sums up the choices before us, to live free or to live in bondage.  I wish I had the space to share it but I sent my copy to the blog sponsors and they can link or post it per their choice. Here is the excerpt:

“The Beginning – Those of use who have made the choice to live free understand that the choices we make will always have a price tag.  We just need to be clear on what price we are going to pay:  the price for freedom or the price for bondage.  Both choices in living are available to us.  The pay-off for our old values in living are consistent and predictable…standing for count, random strip searches, the constant roar of inmates, correction officers, concrete and steel or waiting for that letter that won’t come.  What price are you going to pay?  In making your decision, you might ask yourself, “Am I prepared to spend another month, decade or lifetime locked up for a few hours of excitement here on the street?”  If your answer is yes, the system will gladly refund your misery. The choice rests with you.

Whether we are locked up or on the streets, we can choose to live free.  As “values” in living are rational, sound and sensible.  We recognize that we possess the ability to feel, appreciate and understand, as we learn to change the internal and external condition of our lives.  We can take care of ourselves while simply caring for others.  We can start living our own lives usefully, respecting other people’s rights to live as they choose.  We will understand that getting is not always better than giving, and that chasing objects and holding attitudes that set us apart from other people are not as important as seeking values that will bring us together.  Finally, we will see that we’ve been brought back into being…living with value and living free.”

For lunch we were having chicken salad, one of the better meals here.  For me as a swamper, what it meant is we would go through more bread than normal.  We’re usually provided 3 loafs of bread for the meal but inmates are accustomed to asking for and getting more than the 2 pieces allotted by the menu, which is okay, considering they cheat us on the quantity on most other things such as potatoes!  But toady I wasn’t going to be able to give more than 2 slices.  Inmates weren’t happy when I wouldn’t give more than 2 slices, but oh well. I treated them all the same, my cellies, guys at my table, everyone.  I told those who gave me a hard time they could come back for anything left over.  As I finished serving I heard a remark made by ERP group member Mark Hogan that since I’d become a swamper I was acting like a cop.  He was talking to someone else but clearly intended for me to hear it.  Like an idiot, I stopped at his table and asked him if he had something on his mind.  Fortunately he said no.  What would I have done if he hadn’t????  Of course, I didn’t let it go at that.  After the meal while I was cleaning up, I went to his cell and asked him what the problem was.  Hogan apologized and I reluctantly tapped his knuckles.  I don’t believe his apology but I’m betting he was smarter than me today knowing nothing good would come from this.  At our afternoon ERP session, Ms. Grey showed a movie I think we’ve seen before called Smoke Signals, a movie showing two Native Americans who attempt to overcome their own issues from their past each for their own perspective.It was obviously effective on some level for Augie Prescott as he was moved to tears.  I thought it was a good movie.  But I decided during the movie that this swamper experiment is going to have to end.  The reasons I took the job weren’t nearly as important to me as graduating.  ERP in 28 days on June 10th.  It had given me the material for my Phase 3 Goals and Objectives on improving socialization and patience so it wasn’t a total bust.  Only thing the guard who’d have to approve the change, Roscoe Peters, wasn’t working so I told the sergeant on duty I wasn’t feeling well.  I got the guy who had the job before me and who still wanted it to take over for me until Peters got back.  Many, including former cellie Malik Pearl who had tried to scheme him out of the job, weren’t happy he was coming back but I just don’t care.  I felt like a huge load was off my shoulders.  I got more good news.  In the mail, blog sponsors let me know my biological relatives had checked in and they were safe.  Also, cellie Brian Whalen who is being released Monday, that though he wishes to to maintain contact with the former swamper who wants to rob him, he is no longer willing to engage Whalen in any kind of business dealing since Whalen has a bit of a tendency to talk too much.  You think????  But Whalen doesn’t have any idea of the kind of bullet he has dodged.  Next week is the third PO call and our presentation of Phase 3 Goals and Objectives, while working on our legacy project.  Let’s keep it simple from here on out.

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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).  After two days without any kind of ERP group I was ready to get back at it if only to defeat the boredom.  First item on the agenda was images for our graduation program handout for June 10th.  Previously ERP social worker Ms. Grey gave me what she thought were images but she had accidentally saved the web page instead.  Hopefully these will be right.  I have retained the majority of the color schema of the previous ERP graduation handout.  There just isn’t time to start from scratch.  So then we plowed into the new video and workbook series The Price of Freedom is Living Free Relapse, Recidivism, and Recovery by Jack Cooper.  We completed the majority of the wordbook through page 41.  It was a simple yet effective way to address these issues.  One interesting point was when the issue of what we fear came up.  I answered honestly that I fear my release from prison.  There is so much I’m going to have to do that it can be overwhelming to think about it.  It also might have something to do with my horrible attitude as of late.  At 3 pm, we went into the dayroom for our weekly community meeting.  These have really gone downhill.  Even guys in our own group aren’t participating.  The quote and word for the week were people that were turned into the butt of a joke.  It ended with the guys who got busted the previous night complaining about it during the time that was supposed to be for “positive reinforcements” at the end.  Ms. Carr ended up telling him he’d go to the hole if he didn’t quiet down, and she didn’t care if he graduated or not.  Supper was interesting for a couple reasons with my swamper job. First, swamper David Sussex had taken some cookies I had gotten as extras for serving.  When I found out he had I felt that familiar burn of anger.  Then he commented that he was messing with me and was just giving me a test.  I’m thinking to myself who the heck are you to give me a test?  Fortunately, it ended okay with no hard feelings.  A quirk about me:  I don’t like me or my stuff messed with.  I know that’s not healthy but it is who I am.  How do you fix it?  Then after supper and when we are supposed to clean, Sussex got a visit which meant I had to do all the jobs.  I didn’t mind at all.  His job essentially was to stack the dirty trays on the cart, tie them down, put the trash I get on the car and put it out in the hall to be collected.  No big deal.  People watched out of their cell windows to see if I’d drop the trays or if I knew what I was doing.  I didn’t care.  Getting back to the cell, I heard cellie Brian Whalen got some good news about his release.  His paperwork had been returned and he expects to get cut loose Monday.  I’m happy for him, even though I know his plans and the danger in store for him.  I do think I’m going to warn him this weekend.


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).  This past weekend was marked by arguments and in fighting amongst inmates over stupid things.  Most of it of course involved Scott Dietz, revolving around rec room issues.  I’ve just noticed the courtesy between inmates in the laundry procedure and the order for showers is breaking down.  People skipping each other to use laundry or the shower causes friction.  I got to talk to Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents this weekend.  They’re going to send the glasses I sent away at Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) to the sponsor of this blog who is picking me up.  They also will have cable which means I’ll be able to have internet access which is critical for my job search and getting up to speed on the technology and software I’ve missed the last two years.  Speaking of which, Sunday, May 8th marked the 2 year date of my incarceration.  Sixteen of those months this blog has run.  Not an anniversary I look at fondly but assured I won’t forget it. But I’ve been talking like it’s a foregone conclusion that I’m going to graduate June 10th.  Not if I keep acting the way I did Monday.  Now the last graduating class has a high number of guys who are busying themselves by starting trouble, including former swamper and cellie Malik Pearl joined by one of his cellies.  They took aim at me because on occasion I don’t wear a hat (not a hairnet mind you but a paper hat) when serving food as a swamper.  There is not rule that I’m aware of that says I have to and I’ve told you previously, I shave my head, so there’s really not a need.  But they started yelling at me to wear a hat.  I was visibly angered.  I put it on and asked them if they were happy now.  Afterwards, it was time to start our ERP group.  Our ERP social worker Ms. Grey took us through the entire Living With Others workbook that day.  In the middle of the morning we observed through the window to the dayroom that the guards on 1st shift had been joined by several others.  They began to shakedown every single cell even taking the extra clothing the inmates had acquired which usually is ignored.   Group got interrupted several times as we observed them taking things out of the cells critical to our graduation project.  At the end of the morning session, I went out to clean tables and put out napkins to get ready for lunch service.  I came right back and didn’t touch anything else an inmate egged on by Pearl’s cellie, demanded I change my gloves.  I refused.  This was just harassment.  We exchanged words across the dayroom.  My reaction was so out of character for me.  Lunch got served.  We had Swiss Rolls, which are a pretty hot item around here.  I observed that same inmate shoving some down his shirt to smuggle them to his cell.  I asked him if he wanted me to play this game he had started.  He quickly got back to his cell.  I wasn’t going to tell but I was mad!  Afterwards, I was told Pearl and his cellie were going to try to get me fired as a swamper.  Initially, I didn’t care. I don’t need the extra food and who needs this aggravation?  But after I calmed down, I remembered why I took this job to begin with.  I went to the inmate who took issue with the gloves and apologized for my reaction.  But more importantly, what is going on with me?  Is it just a simple chase of the “shirts”, where inmates near release get irritable and melancholy?  Whatever it is, I resolved to get a hole of myself and stay in today instead of thinking about my release in June.  We turned in our goals and objectives for Phase 3 in the afternoon session.  She approved them on the spot and told us to have our presentations ready for the following Monday (May 16th).  Mine are ironically, to improve my social skills here and being more patient.  Clearly, these goals are appropriate and necessary. 


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Today is graduation day for another ERP group.  This graduation includes 3 important characters in this blog – Brian Whalen, Corey Ball, along with former cellie Malik Pearl.  About 9:30 am the ceremony started.  They had chosen the name “The Pibts” as their theme in they’re another chance, a one way ticket out of here but if they don’t do what they need to do to stay clean and sober it will be a round trip ticket bat to MSDF or similar place.  The artwork was impressive, with a wall trimmed with gold and blue.  On top were blue circles with a plane inside along with each person’s name.  After the opening remarks, there were comments by the unit manager and the security director who was standing in for the Warden, who couldn’t be there today.  What followed was presentation of quotes by the inmates, who also took the opportunity to thank their ERP social worker Ms. Carr along with a list of others in the room.  Some even took the time to thank the parole officers who took the time to attend, which was a nice gesture.  Then Ms. Carr presented the ERP completion certificates to the inmates as those in attendance clapped.  Like past graduations, cookies were given out.  Since I’m a swamper the guard told me to hand them out, 2 a piece, one chocolate and one ginger.  Of course inmates were trying to get me to give them extras.  One positive thing about me is public opinion of me here isn’t high on my priority list!  So that didn’t happen.  Of course some got seconds before others got their firsts but that’s because they didn’t get in line right away.  Just like first grade right?  Then we got a big surprise.  Our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, showed up for group.  Normally on graduation day we don’t have group in the morning but she decided to have group anyway.  Cellie and ERP group member Larry Sands had had a conversation with her and she revealed the reason she missed the previous day because she had been mugged.  It was good she was ok.  Again we watched videos form the relationship series From the Inside Out featuring Earnie Larson.  These were the last ones.  We did the accompanying workbook sections for the videos.  We flew right through.  This again was another topic (relationships) that we could have spent weeks on.  Larson did an excellent job through the role play depictions of portraying various relationship behaviors that I’m sure if we had the time it would have been beneficial to go into this in depth.  But there isn’t the time left to do that and everything else scheduled prior to June 10th (our graduation).  As we left group for lunch we noticed that the guy who said he’s going to tell on everyone at a community meeting and all his cellies in a rather heated meeting with two social workers.  It seems all his cellies have tired of his bullying tactics in the cell.  No big surprise huh?  At lunch it was one of our better meals, the Baked fish and cupcakes for dessert.  There were no extras because a guard named Albert Payne ate them all!  He’s the same guard that makes us all stand with our hands to our side at count.  We’ve seen guards eat multiple trays of food at FMCI before so its no big revelation.  But doing it, I was looking forward to that extra cupcake I’d have gotten as a swamper! Smile  But no big deal.  more importantly, my relationship with the other swamper, David Sussex isn’t as good as it was.  He just likes to preach at people about their shortcomings in a religious way.  His outlook is just very immature.  I finally told him he talked too much and shared with him what scripture says about zeal without knowledge.  He didn’t like that.  But its okay.  We’ll be fine.  I’ve got 35 days till my ERP group graduates, no more than 45 till departure.  I’m not letting anything here take my focus off of that.


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 a notice from one of the other ERP social workers that our ERP social worker, Ms. Grey, would not be in today.  We didn’t know why she wasn’t here but many of us didn’t mind.  With all the assignments piled on us as of late, many of us welcomed the break.  Of course we have another ERP graduation coming tomorrow so cellies Corey Ball and Brian Whalen are happy and bouncing off the walls as it’s not their turn.  Whalen and Ball both insist they’ll stay in touch.  I don’t put a lot of faith in this but you never know. I’ll be in Menasha, WI and they’ll be in southern Wisconsin so its pretty unlikely.  In light of the direction they both have indicated they’re going, it might not be wise to stay in touch anyway.  I’m happy to report my cravings and dreams have subsided.  A sponsor sent me materials on this and it seems its perfectly normal.  I remain irritable.  This swamper job isn’t helping that at all.  Our excitement for the day was started by members of the graduating ERP class.  They decided they wanted to call out several members of the group at the community meeting for poor hygiene.  Guess who was the focal point of this discussion?  My ERP group member Scott Dietz of course.  Unfortunately it is true as well. Many have complained about his smell.  Somehow, my cellie Larry Sands got roped into this.  They also went around to each room asking them to identify people who have issues with hygiene.  Sands asked me what I thought.  I urged him to make sure if they were going to do this they do it in such a way that doesn’t make the person feel attacked.  I suggested they call them out as a group, not individually.  Sands would eventually consult with another ERP Social worker, Ms. Carr, who would tell them to stand down because she’ll address it in the community meeting (again) and speak with the people involved individually.  So I thought that would be the end of it.  When the time for the community meeting came at 3, the time for issues in the community came up and sure enough Ms. Carr spoke up and said she’d be talking to the people on the list.  It probably would have stopped there had it not been for one guy on the list responded by just going on and on about various reasons why people might smell.  The former swamper who is planning on robbing Whalen and is graduating ERP tomorrow as well, spoke up and specifically called out Dietz for failing to wear deodorant and smelling up the rec room when exercising.  This was very bad.  His reaction is bad enough when he gets put on the spot in group.  How much more will it be in front of a group of 40!  They went at each other back and forth with Ms. Carr stepping in.  Dietz clearly was in a bad way as he made a face and sound of disgust at Ms. Carr that others close to him picked up on.  The other ERP social worker present acted as if she was going to challenge Dietz on that but didn’t.  Mercifully, we moved on.  Once again, community member participation is laughing.  Ms. Carr said we’d have to write down our responses to the quote, word of the week and defense mechanism if it didn’t get better like we did before.  By the way, the word of the week which Sussex provided was “sacrifice” which was explained extremely well.  He reminds me of when I was a new Christian.  Every conversation turns into a sermon on his part on how I should do this or that.  I told him at one point he talked too much, but with a smile on my face indicating no malice was intended.  He’s young and on fire for God.  Life taught me that not everything is as black and white as I thought it should be when I was young in matters of faith or love.  But I’m not going to say anything to him to make that realization come any sooner.  In that mindset people don’t listen well.  The night ended with Dietz working out and using the phones while sweating and smelling and everyone grumbling.  So this whole thing is obviously not over.


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!