Posts Tagged ‘Technology’


My name is Jake Martin and I am on parole from the state of Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) currently now living in Ames, Iowa. I write this from my own laptop in an efficiency apartment at a complex dominated by Iowa State University college students. How did I get here? More on that in a minute.

At the risk of sounding corny but what a LONG, STRANGE trip it has been both being in prison and since getting out. The day I was released it was Wednesday June 23rd.  Today is January 16th, 2012. In the roughly 7 months since my release so much has happened. I spent July through August largely glued to my cell phone and laptop while hunting for work, with the assistance of friends and the sponsors of this blog.. My parents grew concerned enough to tell me I might have to take work at a fast food operation or something similar. I had no problem with that. In fact I figured that was what would happen. While all this was going on my parents, whom my father is a minister though he retired in July, received a retirement call to serve a church in Juneau, Alaska. My PO, Helen Gaither, it turned out was very cool to me. Though the walks from the bus to her in Appleton WI were not! Because I had no car and often my parents weren’t available it was necessary to walk. But that’s ok. It just didn’t bother me. These things just don’t bother me anymore.

In about August, my efforts finally began to pay off. A major corporation hired me as a temporary software developer for a project they were working on through an agency I had worked with before and was unaware that I had been in prison the last 25 months. During that time I brushed the rust off my skills, got used to the grind that a software developer will have again and learned to deal with people again. About that time, a company based in Ames IA interviewed me for a position as a software engineer. They hired me. However I was given enough time to finish the contract I had started in with this company in Neenah WI. My parents were still in Alaska when I left in October. Needless to say I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I was fortunate on one aspect regarding work. I had largely lost the last two years and in technology circles that is as much as a lifetime. But this company was on older technology, technology I was well suited for. It was a perfect fit. Meanwhile I continue to upgrade my skills now. But anyway on October 8th I made the move. My first weekend didn’t go well. Furniture I had purchased for the apartment prior to my arrival had accidentally been tossed my a maintenance worker for the complex, as well as two tires going flat. Oh yes, my parents had sold me their old car and I had also managed to get insurance and a license during that time. But needless to say, I got things under control and my employer was extremely understanding as I missed my first day of work getting the car fixed. Things were pretty normal until about a month ago when weight loss and the familiar night sweats had returned – all symptoms I have become very familiar with. Testing revealed that my cancer had returned. Now before you become too concerned, just know, again I am going to be fine. I am doing chemotherapy again. But this time at least, I can control my diet though fatigue and nausea are now my main problems. See though I have insurance they don’t cover preexisting conditions unless you had proof of insurance before which of course I did not have in WPS. So medications I used for nausea and such are not covered either. But it is ok. It’s the same type of cancer as before and because they caught it earlier this time it is even more assured I will be fine. So don’t worry!

But what can I say about being free? My first day out my sponsors took me to a Mexican restaurant where I had chicken and steak fajitas. My mouth and stomach were on fire as they loved what I ate – but they didn’t so much later as they rebellled against the rich food I was not used to. I will spare you the details. Television, the Green Bay Packers and dear friends I have missed. All of it really is about choices of which we had very little in prison.

I still deal with the anxieity junkie. I still am largely alone or at least it looks that way. I am still single. My previous family contacts me to be sure but it is usually only when one of them is in trouble or needs money. My adopted siblings and family remain an awkward relationship. But yet I count myself as one of the lucky ones, one who found a way to be successful on release. I call it luck because things fell together in a way that I can’t really take credit for. Yes it is God and there are others to thank. Friends like Jennifer, Natalie, Mike, Bill, and Rebecca I couldn’t have done it without them. I owe them more than I have life left to repay. I simply can say no more than I am gratefully free. It has been so long and such a hard road, much of it self inflicted, that I can’t bring myself to complain. What right do I have to have such a good life? The answer is I do have that right as long as I do not forfeit that right with my choices I make in life.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank those of you who faithfully followed this blog, especially Jill, Karen, Kelly and Lori. You really kept me looking forward to mail call and such wondering what might be there today. Again, so grateful. How many others wait for even one piece of mail in prison only never to get any! And the rest of you, since my release I have watched your reaction from afar, really wanting to burst out and say hey its me! I’m free! But we all thought it best I keep a low profile until the entries were finished. I hope you understand. That said the future of this blog will be sporadic entries regarding what is happening with me and how it relates to being on parole. I am not going to do an entry every day. There just isn’t time like I used to have. But know this. If any of you want to reach out to me please feel free. I have always felt a closeness to many of you who suffered with your loved ones in prison right along with me.

On that note, its time to close. I have got some studying to do! Talk to you soon….

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I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  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).  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).  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).  My routine has been adjusted thanks to my swamper role.  I’m getting up at 5 am every morning, mostly because with my release 37 to 47 days away, I want to get accustomed to getting up early like I did in my days as an Information Technology professional.  After getting the rags we use to clean all over the pod out of the washer and putting them in the dryer I take down the 40 chairs stacked on the tables in the dayroom from the night before so the floor can be cleaned.  Then I read my bible for about a half hour until about 6 am.  Then I get ready for 6:15 am count.  After count I  return to the dayroom and get the breakfast cart.  Fellow swamper David Sussex counts the cereals and I count the milks and juices making sure there are 40 for our pod and 34 for the pod on the other side.  This particular day both our counts were off which mean the pod on the other side were short.  Guard Roscoe Peters let us know that annoyed him.  Then breakfast is called and we hand out the food.  Inmates will try anything than can to get extra food out of us but both of us are pretty firm mostly because we each have ideas of what to do with the extras!  At the end, the extras are split in half between us.  I give some to my cellies and some to the guys at my table.  Once breakfast is complete, I  wipe the tables, take out the trash and clean the counters while Sussex cleans the trays they’re served on and gets the cart back so we can load the trash.  I get back to my cell about 7 am where I write a blog entry, do homework and a journal entry.  I had been going back to bed about 7 am till 8 am when program starts but I’ve decided to stop doing that as I can’t do that after release.  I continue working on things until 9 am, or when ERP Social Worker, Ms. Grey, comes by usually shortly after.  Today our ERP group got into part 5 and 6 From the Inside Out video series by Earnie Larson.  After watching the videos (quite good), we did the evaluations in the accompanying workbook in section 5-1 and then went around the room to reveal our scores.  It didn’t start out too well as ERP group member Scott Dietz nearly had a meltdown as Ms. Grey and others challenged how he scored himself on several points.  He did this early in group too but fortunately he pulled back before it was too late.  I have to say though this was the first group session where we freely provided each other with constructive feedback, challenging what the other person said about himself when needed.  When they got to me, people expressed shock at my taking the swamper job as I had stepped out of my comfort zone.  They did say I’m hypersensitive to some things though.  I won’t argue with that.  At lunch, as well as supper, I go clean the tables and put out napkins.  Once the trays arrive, I count out milk and open bread while Sussex counts out trays.  He has really struggled with this.  While waiting, we have time to talk.  Talking to him makes me very conscience of how my language has deteriorated while I’ve been locked up.  I didn’t cuss and swear like that before prison.  You can’t around kids and at work.  I’m going to have to work on that.  Once we serve, I clean the tables, change the trash and help Sussex keep the trays steady while he’s stacking them.  At ERP group in the afternoon, we finished the evaluations.  But the highlight was when Ms. Grey let us know the huge workload in store for us until graduation on June 10.  Most groups took it easy on Phase III but not Ms. Grey.  We scrambled in the evening hours to get the goals and objectives plan for Phase III done by Friday, pages 1-31 of the Living With Others workbook series from The Change Companies.  We found out cellie Corey Ball will most likely be gone by Monday.  He and his fellow cellie Brian Whalen graduate this Friday because he’s done so much of his time.  He’s already planning on how and where he’s going to get drunk.  It’s too bad too because he’s a very good guy.  But that’s not the point is it?  At about 8:45 pm, when dayroom closes, Sussex and I go to put up the chairs, take out the trash, sweep and mop the dayroom floor, and wash the rags.  Peters, who worked a double shift, let me take a shower after count.  Clearly he doesn’t trust me but he is professional, courteous, and kind.  I still have nightmares but I’m out pretty hard now when I sleep with this schedule.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Late Friday we got some great news.  The family and home of ERP group member Augie Prescott is safe after the devastating tornadoes down south.  Of course, I’ll have no word from my recently reconnected biological family for some time as my only means of communication is by email through the blog sponsors.  But I’m not thinking about that because it would be counterproductive to my mental health.  Kind of like some of you worrying continually about your loved ones who are locked away will only serve to make you insane.  You’ve got to go on, be able to function, which you can’t do it your always in your own prison of paralysis.  Some of you out there are in so much pain over what has happened to the inmate you love and what is happening to your and your family as a result you’ll turn to the likes of me.  Perhaps you know I’ll understand like no one on the outside will.  Be honest, compassionate, and actually answer your correspondence unlike many men who are locked up who seem reluctant or unable to respond.  For many of us inmates we are consumed by shame, guilt, fear, insecurity, and doubt so much so that we’re unable to even know where or how to begin an honest discourse with those that we love on the outside.  Let me say that again.  Those that we love!  Be assured their hearts are still with you and though your inmate may not communicate well at times, its not because they don’t’ want to.  They just don’t know how.  That becomes evident in the inmates silence or communication that seems trivial, sexual, controlling, or angry.  Please keep in mind when you write me, I’m not trained as a counselor (though I’ve though about it but don’t have the first clue how to achieve that).  I was an Information Technology (IT) guy prior to prison.  I don’t claim any special insight nor am I going  to have a solution to all your problems.  Heck, I’m not aware of the solution to all of my problems yet.  What I do have to share with you has not been something I’ve done on my own but it is part of who I am today and it’s something you’ve seen played out on these blog entries over the last 723 days.  And that is the battle for my soul and mind.  It’s the same exact battle your loved ones in prison fight with varying degrees of effort and success, just like me.  What I tell all of you is your inmate is so blessed you stand by him and have not forgotten him.  Until the last 6 months, I largely had no one except for the blog sponsors and those through this blog I now call friends.  But I feel blessed and am happy that I’ve made a difference for some of you and wish I could do better for many others.  Thank you for reaching out to me and telling me your stories.  When my answers aren’t adequate there is always prayer, which I do for many of you often.  If I could end your pain I would but prison is not a place of magical solutions, but lessons learned through tears, honesty, and perseverance by inmate and their loved ones alike even though our loves ones didn’t deserve this.  Be strong, ask for help and know that you are not alone!


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.