Posts Tagged ‘violence’


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  With ERP social worker Ms. Grey on vacation until June 6th, I anticipated a slow, boring Tuesday after Memorial Day.  It seemed like the biggest challenge we would be dealing with would be the heat.  The holiday weekend had brought summer like weather, with temperatures in the high eighties with extreme humidity.  It makes me grateful I won’t be here in July and August as I graduate this program June 19th and am anticipating release by June 20th.  I busied myself Tuesday morning with the assignments Ms. Grey had left us with.  I did the A and B plan, which lists what our plan is upon release, both a primary and a fallback plan.  I’ve been planning for that in some way almost every day as the blog sponsors will tell you!  As anyone will tell you when getting released, those kind of plans are tough as there are so many variables involved.  One variable changes or complications occur and the whole plan radically changes.  The other assignment was to write a paragraph on possible release triggers that we select from a list in a pamphlet.  I did 7 paragraphs.  Again, it’s obvious common sense stuff.  I know to stay away from bars, be honest, and get out of my head.  The general consensus is this is busy work for while Ms. Grey is gone.  It took me 2 hours to finish it all.  Most of the other guys in the group did theirs last week.  I pulled out the A edition of the encyclopedia and started reading.  Group member Kevin House indicated he wanted to change the quote for the graduation project program I’d worked on.  I felt like this might be an opportunity to fix the errors Ms. Grey made when she made changes to it.  We’ll have to wait and see if there’s time when she gets back.  Otherwise, we spent the day battling the heat and trying to stay occupied.  Cellie Malcolm Johnson as anticipated, is having some difficulty not stating his opinions in a constructive manner in Ms. Carr’s group as he came back upset with how they’re trying to “muzzle him”.  I’m sure  he’ll learn how it works here.  He sees things through the prism of racial bias, which while that is an element, it can’t be your focus.  Otherwise, as with a prism, it distracts your view of everything else.  Mail call was done early tonight.  My heart dropped when I saw an envelope addressed to me from the Winnebago County Courthouse.  Letters from such places are never good news and when you’re this close to release are grounds for a  heart attack.  The news isn’t good but it wasn’t about me.  I have a daughter from the relationship prior to JoAnn.  Her name is Lexi.  Her mother, Barb, through the years did everything she could to prevent Lexi and I from having a relationship.  She was the kind of person that wouldn’t hesitate to call the police and make up a story about you which is actually what let to our breakup.  I focused on JoAnn’s kids after she had begun making untrue allegations against JoAnn and later on against my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin concerning the treatment of her son from another relationship, Eli.  Lexi and I were very close while we were together and she loved JoAnn and the kids when we got to spend time with them.  But this paperwork indicated that Lexi had been removed from the home and they wanted to change her placement because of violence in the home which they were blaming on Lexi.  It was so unlike the loving, sweet, shy girl I’d known.  Eli had been removed from her home for similar reasons a  few years ago.  Since Ms. Grey was on vacation and the hearing is June 2nd (today is May 31st) I went to another ERP social worker Ms. Nell Presley, for help.  I wanted to at least attend the hearing by phone but would need their help to do so.  She didn’t seem motivated at all but said she would try.  She is the same social worker that divulged journal info to former Andre Charles.  Whenever you get legal papers, other inmates see that envelope and immediately know something’s up.  I briefly described it.  I’m just numb.  Why are all my kids following down my path?  And my father’s path?  And his father before him?  I feel extreme guilt and sadness.  I’m powerless to do anything behind these prison doors and I know that.  I just so wish I was there and able to meet her needs.  All I can do is pray and say how sorry I am which of course won’t help anyone at all. 

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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).  I’m still dealing with the ripple effect from my trip to the hole.  The guards that packed my stuff were not gentle and had destroyed all my boxes which I had used to store my things here.  They put it all in brown paper bags.  I don’t know how I’m going to carry that stuff out of here when I leave in about 60 days.  One thing is for sure as well.  I’m probably the only person in the history of the WPS to go to the hole for blogging related reasons.  Not exactly good for my cred with other inmates you know?  I can’t even picture myself explaining it.  Of course I’m kidding.  But these were thoughts going through my head.  I spoke with my adoptive parents Charles and Victoria Martin and while I was in the hole they had discussions with my parole officer Gayle Gaither and they were going to put a phone line in for my electronic monitoring device.  Gaither also told them she approved me to attend his retirement party and services in Michigan in mid-July.  Charles says farewell to his career as a full-time minister.  They they dropped a bombshell on me.  It seems my ex-wife and former step-children will be there as well.  Boy, with that, just getting out of prison and dealing with all sorts of family and friends from over the years that weekend, its making me already wish I could hide on that weekend.  But that’s not an option.  The anxiety junkie has just got to suck it up for the sake of my adoptive father and the family.  Another loose end left over prior to going to the hole was the response to my biological family letter.  My aunt had revealed that my biological father and her “had protected each other” as children and basically I shouldn’t be so hard on him for the things that happened and she was sorry they hadn’t been there to protect me and my half-brother.  My response wasn’t based on what I’ve learned but on instinct.  I pray it was the right one.  I asked when and if she was comfortable to share what happened to her and him as kids so I might understand him.  I also told her I’m not angry at all with them for not protecting me and the domino effect of all this through the years.  Between you and me I probably was angry at them somewhat over time.  But I sense we’re right at the edge of something huge here and it could be life changing for all of us.  After that, it was another rough night of sleep.  Perhaps all of this stress with things like my release, adopted family, biological family, and ripple effect from the blog being discovered is getting to me.  It’s a different kind of stress than paying the bills and going to work everyday but its real nonetheless.  The topic today for the ERP group coincidentally was domestic violence.  Our ERP group leader Ms. Grey was again very upbeat.  She also pointed out much of the lack of dynamics in our ERP group was our refusal to challenge each other.  She’s right of course.  We watched videos depicting various people who hurt the women in their lives.  I shared my biological father’s cycle of violence since it was already on my mind.  At the end of the day, Ms. Grey indicated I’d only have to make up one module I missed while I was in the hole.  She also indicated our Phase II goals and objectives would have to be presented this week so I’ll need to get busy on 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).  I woke up in segregation, also known as “The Hole”, with a much different reality than the one I knew less than 10 hours before.  The night had been quiet much to my surprise as the stories I’d heard about seg said it was loud all the time but as you might expect I didn’t sleep well anyway.  New environments and uncertainty are a huge feeding ground for the anxiety junkie in me to gorge on.  But it was different this time.  I had confidence that I’d come out of this okay, mostly because I felt like I’d done nothing wrong writing for this blog.  I’d conducted myself in a reputable manner, never putting staff or inmates at any kind of risk and being truthful to the best of my knowledge without being vulgar in the process.  I’ve grown and learned a lot as a result and a lot of others have found our efforts useful.  I just didn’t want to believe I”d have to do another 18 months because of this.  Breakfast came in a brown paper bag, the same breakfast on my unit.  But here in Seg, the guards are the ones wearing hairnets and hats, stuffing the breakfast bags and distributing meal trays from us through trap doors in our cells.  Often they have no swamper assistance.  My faith everything was going to come out alright was tested later in the day on Saturday when a guard showed up at my cell wanting my signature for my property.  They’d packed up all my stuff out of my unit.  I wondered if they’d gone through all of that if there was a possibility I’d be coming back to ERP.  I signed it despite not knowing if all the stuff is really there.  I’d seen what can happen when someone goes to the hole, how his supposed friends can rip him off.  I expressed my concerns about my losing my bunk on the ERP unit and what it might mean to guard Sam Neville, the regular 2nd shift guard in Seg on 5A.  He assured me this was standard procedure for anyone going to the hole.  Again he put me at ease.  He also told me he was sure the DOC and MSDF simply didn’t know what to do in this situation as it was something they hadn’t encountered before.  So I would spend the next few days sleeping, pacing the floor, reading my Bible and reading the book The Last Disciple by Hangeraaff and Brower, which incidentally are both excellent books!  Surrounding me in the cells were people representing the extremes of violence and insanity.  Every once in awhile, only when the lights were turned on after 11 am and always on 2nd shift someone would do something which would require 5 to 8 guards to come running to intervene shouting of “Stop Resisting!” as they struggled with the offender.  One such incident the inmate tried to pull Neville through the meal slot in the door which was a physical impossibility.  Another situation when he was trying to move an inmate to another cell, the inmate decided to start kicking him.  In trying to subdue him, one guard was injured using the Taser on him.  The inmate ran around his cell naked which of course everyone saw thanks to the fishbowl mirrors on the walls.  The other inmates cheered.  It was funny yet sad.  The supervisor who would visit him told him he was facing a year in the hole for assaulting staff.  Could you imagine a year of this?  You get 4 hours of rec a week.  Rec consisted of going into a cage a quarter of the size of my cell with a TV on the wall which the guard had the remote for.  On the other side was another gate.  I met a man who was suicidal and an avowed racist on different days. It was just good to have conversation that wasn’t through a door.  I finally got to shower on Monday in my cell.  I got a few visitors.  Dr. Raymonds, a psychiatrist, the psychologist who met with ERP group member Larry Sands and Seg social worker Peter Botha.  All came because unnamed people had expressed concern for my well being.  That made me feel good and was surprising considering how little I say.  But Tuesday came and went with no word if I’d be released.  I even said to Neville, hey you said I’d be out of here by now!  But I knew he didn’t know why either.  Finally, on Thursday night the call I’d been waiting for came.  I was told to pack up and return to my unit.  Boy was I happy!  I was pretty sure everyone there knew about the blog by now.  This place can’t keep a secret to save its life.  How would they all react?  I was nervous but what are you going to do?  The important thing was no institutional charges and I’d get to finish my ERP program.  I said a silent prayer thanking God for answering my prayers as they led my back to my unit on 4C.


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 weekend was the Super Bowl where Wisconsin’s own Green Bay Packers were taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  All week the usual trash talk has been going on but not nearly the level it was at Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI).  Still you had your haters, who dislike the Packers just to get under people’s skin, and of course those genuinely rooting for the Steelers such as one of my cellies, Andre Charles.  Events such as these draw more than the normal gambling going on and it also means the stakes are higher.  During the season it was common to see meal trays as the object of the wagers.  Not this time though.  People bet canteen dollar amounts, paid for at the next order of canteen by the inmate who lost.  Of course this is entirely against the rules.  But that’s not why I don’t do it.  You have a way of knowing if the inmate your betting with hasn’t made so many bets he’s in over his head and now he might react if he’s unable to pay everyone.  Of course, keep in mind, it’s me we’re talking about.  I’ve been pretty risk averse during my time in prison.  But cellie Brian Whalen almost did find himself in a situation.  He bet with others $10 of canteen (a large sum around here) the Steelers would win with assurances from Andre that he’d help cover his bet if he lost.  Of course, when he lost, Andre didn’t know who he was which upset Whalen.  I’d been enjoying the quiet since he stopped talking to me but now that Whalen and Andre are feuding that’s gone.  I’m just glad it’s not me for a change!  Andre took the Steelers loss much better than expected and we had a good conversation.  I guess he has to talk to me now since I’m all he’s got if Whalen and him are going at it.  The next morning Ms. Grey, our ERP Group Coordinator, arrived in what appeared to be a bad mood, shutting down all football talk because she’s ‘not a fan’.  We had a surprise this morning as she called on group member Larry Sands to read his autobiography again.  Again, Sands missed the mark on what Ms. Grey wanted but it was improved.  He spoke of his father’s suicide, violence, mental hospitalizations and a woman twice his age taking advantage of him sexually – and all of this as a kid.  As he aged, he engaged in serial relationships – if you can call it that – with woman he manipulates with ease.  At the end, we didn’t have much to say.  But Ms. Grey had a lot to say.  She voiced her concerns that he engaged in bad guy behavior while putting it out there as if he was being a good guy.  The tension between the two was pretty obvious.  I volunteered that perhaps the manipulative serial relationships indicated a fear of desertion and being alone hoping he would talk about where those fears came from.  Ms. Grey challenged me, asking if I was condoning his behavior.  No, but I understood from his background I told her.  The answer seemed to satisfy her.  It should.  It’s the truth.  After lunch we watched more videos from Dr. Samenow focusing on manipulation we do of our loved ones.  Ms. Grey had us write down one time we manipulated someone.  But she returned Sands paper as it wasn’t about him as well as group member  Augie Prescott.  She collected Sands autobiography as well as the autobiography from group member Kevin House who is scheduled to have his read tomorrow.  We’re all talking amongst ourselves just because Ms. Grey isn’t operating as she normally does.  But we’ll see what happens.


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 only clue there was anything different on Christmas Eve than any other day was that this was a Friday and it was being treated as a weekend day, which meant there was no ERP program activities and the lights stayed off until 11 am.  Everyone is okay with that but in the back of my mind I’m thinking about the fact we won’t see mail until Tuesday.  I very much look forward to hearing from the blog sponsors with messages from them that include your emails and comments you post along with their well wishes and information on my personal affairs.  As I’ve said, I’m very grateful for you and them, and I hope you find what we do here helpful.  If so, please let others know about this blog.  Anyway, this is my 2nd and hopefully last Christmas incarcerated.  Last year at this time, I was in Waukesha County Jail (WCJ), having completed my second chemotherapy session and in a cell by myself that I could never leave without a mask due to my low white count.  Two weeks later you all joined me on this journey through the WPS, and my divorce was finalized on the same day.  To borrow the cliché, what a long, strange trip it has been!  A lot was uncertain about the future then, just like now, except last year was about the transition to prison life and this year will hopefully be about the transition back to the community.  But we’ve got a long road to go until then.  There was little talk of Christmas around this unit except on the telephones which seemed like they were always occupied.  My cellie, Malik Pearl and I both opened the cookies we got the week before and shared them with the other cellies, Brian Whalen and Andre Charles.  I learned something new about all my cellies.  The reason Andre is always trying to scam Whalen is he has nobody out there to send him money.  MSDF is different.  If you had nothing in other prisons I’ve seen, it was just too bad.  People would eat in front of you and not care.  If you had nothing, which happened to me several times, no resentments were held.  Here people get mad about that.  Whalen had 3 visits, one being his son and another being the therapist who sent him the letter.  But he doesn’t want to be pressured and he feels she’s pushing him.  He asked me if I want to be a roommate once I get out since I have nowhere to go at this point.  Of course, no way do I want to do that, but I can’t afford to eliminate any options.  But Malik, he made a call to family and found out the mother of his child had somehow lost all his possessions but the assumption was her family members had paned them for drugs.  If seems Malik has a tendency to use violence to keep “his women” in line and though he is a laid back person, he would not hesitate to hurt, even kill, those who cross him.  The only thing saving her now is that she is the mother of his child, and it was good he was not on the street now, or so he claims.  This girl “put him in prison once” and he won’t let it happen again.  I just can’t believe I so misjudged him.  He’s just as dangerous as Andre, but in a different way.  But everyone in this cell is getting along real well.  If this had been a year ago, I would have handled it differently.  But it’s Christmas and I’m one day closer to never seeing this place ever again.  And that’s a great Christmas present!


I’m at the Fox Lake Minimum Correctional Institution (FMCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  It may not come as a shock to you that many inmates have problems with boundaries.  The real question for me is whether or not the person violating my boundaries has acted in a malicious manner or is it just the way they are.  Most of the time I have an opportunity to assess the situation or person and methodically make a decision how I’ll react to a violation.  That wasn’t the case today.  This particular situation involved an inmate named Charlie who lives in my row of bunks on Unit 9.  Charlie who has been in many years, goes up and down the aisles, begging coffee, food and it is rumored he is not above taking something left out on a bunk or cupboard.  In fact, it got to the point where inmates in other rows in an effort to defend their row  without having to snitch, joined together and told him he was banned from their aisle.  Policing themselves has mixed success at a minimum security level.  It is more effective in a medium environment where the threat of violence is more prevalent.  Unfortunately, since Charlie lives in my aisle, he can’t be banned here.  The problem for Charlie as I perceive it, is he has nobody to help him financially on the outside.  Neither did I, but I received money for valued possessions which I use for my expenses.  If he did that, how long since it dried up.  Many of us are not without heart.  We gave him coffee and other items.  He promised many he would pay them back in some fashion.  But he repaid very few.  I was one of the few.  You might ask if others expected to be paid back, how are they showing heart or compassion?  Because nothing his ever free, not in the real world but especially here.  When he didn’t pay back the others, fact is no one would do anything about it because Charlie is a physically imposing person.  He is at least 6’8” and at least 300lbs.  But what made people even more angry was he took much of what was given him and traded it for cigarettes.  People felt hustled because they felt they had given to meet his needs.  From his perspective, he had taken what he had gotten to trade to meet his real “need”.  Charlie had misrepresented his intentions to others – again not shocking behavior from some inmates.  The effect of all this was that no one would have anything to do with him.  I thought the situation would improve for him once he got a job in the kitchen.  He would be able to scam food out of the kitchen to trade for his wants or needs, which is exactly what happened.  But for these folks like myself he did pay back, somehow in his mind this represented a bond between him and each individual.  He would come by our bunk areas and want to peer in our cupboards, wanting to know what we had in canteen and trying to propose various deals.  No one was interested and I could see the confusion in his eyes.  But my understanding attitude evaporated yesterday when he came up to me from the side, put his arms around me and whispered he needed food and wanted to trade.  He could have told me he had a pardon from the governor and my reaction would have been the same.  I jabbed my elbow in his rib cage and warned him to step off (back).  Looking surprised he asked me what was with the attitude.  He really didn’t understand this.  Yes, I have issues.  Did I overreact?  I tried unsuccessfully to explain in my agitated state about my space, my boundaries and his need to respect that.  He walked away and it was over.  Normally in these situations one might fear retaliation from others.  Not this time.  Charlie is universally disliked.  But the task before me is to figure out how I can handle a situation like this differently in the future, why I fear people getting in my space so much and what to do about it.