Posts Tagged ‘television’


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….

Advertisements

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 vacation today (Thursday, May 26th) and she won’t be back until Monday.  We have a little bit of work but really we’re keeping ourselves busy.  Cellie Jose Michaels got me turned on to a set of World Book encyclopedias from 2001 that are in the 8 x 12 room called the library.  I buried myself with Q-R.  It reminded me of when I was a kid.  When Charles and Victoria Martin adopted me and we had moved to WI.  I buried myself in encyclopedias.  Years later I had Google but encyclopedias were special.  At 3 am we had the weekly Community meeting.   Since our group is now the senior ERP group, the inmate running the meeting was my cellie Larry Sands.  He did a good job.  Again we introduced ourselves since a new ERP group just started.  For once, no complaints about hygiene were mentioned. In fact it went relatively quickly.  The big topic of conversation was about the California Supreme Court on prison overcrowding and what impact it might have here.  On Friday it was a furlough day.  Though we were supposed to be working on program materials the guard let everyone go and do their own thing.  He probably was unaware of this.  The unit manager showed up toward the end of the morning and told him we should be working on program related materials but then this guard argued back it wasn’t his job to enforce rules like that.  We figured come the afternoon session we’d be made to go back to work but that didn’t happen.  The one downside to furlough days is no mail is sent out from the previous day and no mail is given out that day.  With the Memorial Holiday coming there’ll be no mail until Tuesday.  I did get to spend some time with Les Simon who’s really struggling with the cultural differences in his cell.  It makes me grateful for my cellies.  We wear our headphones with out televisions and radios for the most part, leave the cell if we need to fart, are quiet after lights out at 11, and a general peaceful environment prevails.  Les has got noisy and inconsiderate cellies.  We did hear something interesting towards the end of Friday night.  It seems the former swamper who just graduated had talked of robbing former cellie Brian Whalen and of messing with one of the guards after his release, had not kept his curfew once since getting out and has been partying since getting out.  Most that know him here are in a mixture of awe and wondering when the other shoe will drop.  After all, he’s on the bracelet so his parole officer (PO) has got to know, or will know.  I have no desire to do what he is doing.  There is so much to do after I get out and lets face it, if I screw up there’s a pretty good chance my very life is at stake.  Saturday provided more evidence that my ERP group is suffering from the shorts,  the malady that infects inmates about to be released.  Kevin House, Scott Dietz, and Russ Johnson all had run-ins with other inmates, though in Dietz case its just another day at the office.  On Sunday John Lloyd had a run-in with a guard which was completely out of character.  That same guard, Roscoe Peters, and another guard I’d hear discussing this blog specifically the entry The Instigator.  They clearly don’t like me or what I had to say.  Then Peters saw me and quieted them.  Again, at this stage of the game, it matters not.  I spent that night watching parts I-II of a special on Milwaukee Public Television on the Korean War which was quite good.  It’s going to be a hot day tomorrow which is Memorial Day.  It should be the last holiday I’m locked up and that makes me happy!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Continuing to deal with the ripple effects of having been sent to the hole.  I told ERP group leader Ms. Grey about the loss of my journal and she said I should send an information request to Captain Nickelaus to get it back.  That night it was returned to me before he saw my request along with letters I’d gotten and my autobiography.  I was upset they’d read that as part of their investigation but with me having put large parts of it on this blog there really wasn’t any reason to be.  But the captain responded saying he didn’t know why Ms. Grey would tell him that as he wasn’t the “Property problem solver”.  I am still awaiting word from property to get my boxes back to get my stuff off the floor and have something to pack them in when I leave.  On Wednesday, no groups are scheduled and it was a training day.  Guard Roscoe Peters has returned to work.  Inmates reported to me that he was telling everyone how hard a time he was going to give me because of the name of “Roscoe” he’d been assigned on this blog.  Apparently other guards and inmates alike had been giving him a hard time about it, implying the inspiration behind it had been the sheriff on the Dukes of Hazard television show.  Though I could see why they might draw that conclusion it was erroneous.  A name like “Roscoe” implies to me a character with personality and is unique which is why I gave him that alias.  If you’ve followed along, you have seen that too.  But nothing from Peters has been directed to me.  Probably inmate exaggerations as usual.  I had a good talk with soon to be retired guard Ruth Barthowski relating to spiritual matters.  It turns out she is an atheist.  She shared where her beliefs come from and I tried to show another view of Christ not so wrapped up in what humans do.  I didn’t get anywhere but we’d agreed we’d meet for coffee once I was out.  I hope to be able to reach her.  On Thursday, we presented our Phase II Goals and Objectives.  My first goal was to explore the possibility of my having some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder by writing an essay on the book Stop Obsessing How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions by Edna Foa and Reid Wilson.  Ms. Grey though I might.  I didn’t see it other than I like routine in my life but not entirely sure that isn’t normal.  But it was informative.  My second goal was to write a paper on how I’ve used alcohol to avoid relationships.  I came to the conclusion that I used alcohol to avoid honesty about me to others in my life as I was afraid for them to know there was anything wrong.  Not earth shattering like the Phase I Goals and Objectives but good.  Perhaps the most obvious and profound change has occurred in Scott Bunker.  He has gone from being a self pitying intolerant person to being very in tune with himself and obviously happy.  He still has that catheter by the way after more than 3 weeks!  They’ve just got to get that scheduled to be taken out.  One bump in the road occurred when ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands , when he read his essay on abandonment and Ms. Grey challenged him on why he hadn’t kept a log like some others had on things related to this issue.  Sands hadn’t been assigned to on his goal sheet and explained that which didn’t appease Ms. Grey.  He was told to do so.  Sands pulled her aside and would tell me later Ms. Grey said she was hard on him because she was tired of seeing black men come back to prison.  But he doesn’t believe that, he believes it’s a personal dislike.  However at the community meeting and at the end of group, Ms. Grey told us all how good we were doing and how we obviously are working the program.  None of us can figure out why this positive vibe has been coming from her.  But its really remarkable.  At the community meeting I was assigned the defensive mechanism skit for next week which everyone has to do once.  We were told then we had to have our alcohol report done by Friday (tomorrow), 3 pages long.  I’ll tell you more about this report next time as it’s kind of a messed up situation.  I got it done.  Those few days in the hold put me behind a bit but I’ve now recovered. 


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 seems more had gone on that I didn’t know about on Monday.  As I’ve told you previously, our ERP group leader Ms. Grey was unhappy with guard Ruth Barthowski for having helped inmates with information and advice.  Ms. Grey in full hearing of all inmates in the dayroom told her it wasn’t her place to have helped inmates in any fashion as that’s not her job.  That was followed by a phone call from the unit manager to Barthowski  echoing the same sentiments.  Barthowski disappeared halfway through the shift due to a medical emergency at home.  I hope that wasn’t just a cover story but I also hope everything is ok there.  The next day in the morning began the second week of parole officer (PO) calls.  But Ms. Grey has clearly been embedded in recent events.  People from the last graduating class were working out in the rec room which doubles as our group room and the computer room, which doubles as a visiting room, during ERP program hours.  Historically graduates have been granted a lot of freedom while awaiting their paperwork to be processed.  But Grey went to all these inmates and pointed out that according to the letter of the contract signed when PRC granted us ERP they still have to follow ERP program rules until release, even asserting herself on regular 1st shift guard Roscoe Peters.  I do agree with her that I don’t want to smell the sweat of people working out that morning in our afternoon group session but I wonder if the ERP staff know or care that their very public in fighting is so obvious to us and the damage to their credibility it is doing.  Our afternoon session was devoted to the study of Ecstasy.  We watched the video Ecstasy When the Party’s Over from the Educational Video Network.  It dwelled on the physical consequences of its use.  Then we watched the movie called Crash starring Terrance Howard and Sandra Bullock.  Its storyline revolved around the ripple effect of intolerance and bigotry on its participants.  It was a good movie.  At the end of the session there were a couple of surprises.  As you recall, Ms. Grey had asked me to help group member Mark Hogan do his Phase II Goals and Objectives.  Hogan had let me help with one of his goals but insisted the other one was fine.  Ms. Grey didn’t.  But she gave it back to me to help him which annoyed me.  But then the last thing that was said took me back a bit.  She told us that we are here to work on ourselves and not worry about her and that she gets to go home at night and we don’t.  That was rude but clearly these words were a reaction to something else, possibly cellie Larry Sands stories to the psychiatrist.  Sometimes the days are just a struggle you know?  But that night I got mail from the biological father’s family responding to the last letter where I laid much of what had happened years ago in a letter passed via email.  Much to my surprise they didn’t reject me.  They even confirmed some of the horrors my biological father had done to some of them.  They had  had doubts I was who I claimed to be.  No longer.  I didn’t write back that night.  I’m just drained these days.  But I found some good medicine that night on Milwaukee Public Television watching the series The Civil War A Film by Ken Burns.  Such an excellent production.  It was chicken soup for my soul.


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 new cellie, Corey Ball, is settled in but cellie Andre Charles won’t act out in front of him.  He went off on me about supposedly looking at him again.  But he waited until Ball left the room.  What followed was the usual shouts and threats and finally I caved.  I told him I’d leave him alone in the cell from 8 to 9 am instead of staying in our cell like we’re allowed to do prior to ERP group.  In exchange, for the remainder of his time, the complaints will stop.  Like I believe that’s going to happen!  Afterwards, Andre left the cell and I’m told others asked about the noise and he snapped on them to mind their own business.  One inmate told him to go ahead and get in his face and to watch what happens.  Charles backed off.  Good thing too.  I know the one who confronted him and he is every bit as unstable as he is.  There is no ERP group on Wednesday mornings.  On Wednesday afternoon our ERP group leader Ms. Grey had us watch the movie Pay It Forward starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.  I’ve seen it before and its one of the best I would say.  There was no time for discussion so she handed out a worksheet to fill out.  She also handed out a schedule for the week and it indicated Thursday and Friday would be a “Paperwork Day”, that is time to allow us to get some of the work on our ERP Goals and Objectives done.  Once group was complete I returned to my cell and all the cellies were there.  I helped Ball with his antenna for his TV. He had ordered one of the pricey Digital televisions off the catalogs but it didn’t help his reception any.  Andre joked I couldn’t fix mine so  how could I fix his?  Just like everything was back to normal or at least if it was suppose to be.  We all were still trying to be on our best behavior in front of the new guy.  We had canteen that night and talk turned to the graduation party for Andre next Friday. I stayed out of the conversation but I knew I’d get asked to contribute.  Ball is good at making “hookups” which is to combine several items into one dish.  I don’t care for doing that because it can get pretty expensive.  But I went along with it for the sake of harmony among us.  My contribution would be tortilla shells, refried beans and pepper slices.  A total of $3.74.  I really have to hold back what I truly wanted to say about having a party for Andre.  But its almost like real life isn’t it?  Everyday you have to accommodate people and do things that you don’t necessarily want to for the greater good of a given environment and I suppose this is no different.  Well of course it’s different but you know what I mean.


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 number one rule in a prison environment is you don’t snitch on another inmate.  You are suppose to handle whatever the issue is between yourself and the other inmate.  But I feel like cellie Andre Charles has put me in a position of where I feel I don’t have a choice but to ask to be moved.  If this thing explodes all the work and waiting (almost a year) I’ve done to get to ERP goes down the drain.  I feel I’ve given him chance after chance while putting up with his conduct since my arrival at MSDF.  I decided the next time I got a threatening word or an attempt to intimidate me or anyone else in this cell I was going to go to the blue shirts. (guards).  But then cellie Malik Pearl confided he was going to go to the  guards and ask to be moved.  He’s in fear this whole thing will cost him his place in the ERP program too, as well as the chance to get out early.  Sensing an opportunity, I asked him to let me know when he’d done this and then I’d follow and do the same.  I thought we should do it together but I didn’t ask.  Malik, being a black man, cooperating with a white guy against another black man, in this environment it just isn’t normally done.  But later on Malik came to me and told me we should do this together, and in so doing, they’ll probably move Andre.  I asked him about the problems he might face with his guys and he said he didn’t care.  This tells me two things.  One, we both consider this to be a serious enough threat to do something this drastic.  Two, though Malik has been a violent drug dealer in the past he has a strength of character I admire.  We both agreed we should wait until Saturday, which is New Year’s Day, to talk to the regular first shift guard, Roscoe Peters.  The next day was Friday, New Year’s Eve which was treated as a weekend day.  A lot of the inmates spent the day in the dayroom playing cards and chess.  As usual I hung by myself.  That night the FOX television network showed “Rocky Balboa”, the final video of my favorite movie series.  Malik and my other cellie Brian Whalen, traded memories of great champions when boxing was a great sport.  But Andre hates it when the conversation includes Malik but hates it even more when I’m involved in the conversation.  Whalen won’t get involved but I see him not caring if Andre sees him talking to us.  So that’s good.  But I’m focusing on Rocky’s words. “I see you blaming everyone around you and making excuses for why your not doing good.  That’s how a coward acts and that’s not what you are”.  It’s not verbatim but the general drift.  Whatever happens in 2011, my success or failure, rests on me.  No excuses.  No apologies and no quitting.  Happy New Year Everybody!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  I got my towel and washcloth third in line on the chairs in front of the disgusting shower and was happy about that.  It was also laundry night so I was plenty busy.  The next morning cellie, Brian Whalen, agreed we would pull all our cords out of the tangled mess on our outlet and I would try to get it so that the wires and cables weren’t interfering with the reception of our antenna’s for our televisions.  Though we don’t have cable we do pick up 31 television stations, which is amazing considering all the granite and steel here.  But electrical cables seem to interfere with the antennas.  But I decided to wait until lunch to do this as we were having the worst meal here, beef stroganoff.  I went to my ERP group where our group leader, inmate Larry Sands, decided on his own to show a movie called Gracie’s Choice , an excellent movie of a young girl with several brothers and sisters whose mother was an addict.  After it was finished I returned to my cell and when lunch was called, I began to work on the cords and antennas.  Cellie Andre Charles was the only one left in the room, his fan blaring on high, and having just banged around at his locker.  As I experimented with antenna positions he challenged me in a threatening manner on the amount of noise I was making.  This coming from a guy who plays his TV and radio loud all the time and no one says a word.  I just looked at him and left.  I saw Whalen coming up the steps and told him after he inquired of whether I was finished that no I wasn’t and he should ask Andre why.  After I returned, everyone was quiet and Andre was pacing the floor saying he’s not going to put up with this sh—anymore.  I showed no fear or concern, but I didn’t answer.  The other cellie Malik Pearl, confided once Roscoe Peters, our regular first shift guard, returned from vacation he would ask to be transferred.  I told him I probably would after he did.  His reasoning is he can’t handle it.  But I don’t put it beyond Malik to be playing games either.  I just don’t know for sure.  Our ERP group resumed and after doing a couple assigned crossword puzzles on the Body System and Neurotransmitters, we watched another movie, “When a Man Loves a Woman” starring Meg Ryan.  It’s a story about how a woman gets help for her drinking problem but as a result of getting healthy as a person, her marriage suffers.  I avoided this movie in the real world as I heard it was a ‘chick flick’ but it was actually pretty good.  Afterwards I returned to my cell.  Andre wasn’t saying a word now.  But right before supper was served, Malik drew my attention to the cell window.  There was Peter Thorn, the guard who liked like he belonged in a punk band, on  a chair head in hands with a white shirt (a supervisor) encouraging him to come with him.  He hadn’t looked right before and he displayed the eyes of heroin use.  Some inmates laughed, some cheered, but not me.  Addiction can take down a guard, an IT Specialist/programmer like myself or anyone else really.  People are fighting for their lives in here on several different levels and not all of them are inmates.