This week I received a response to my letter to the LCC warden. I had written because I have been approved for transfer to LCC since Oct. ’18 and I need to get there to take the iHelp program in order to be parole eligible. The only important information was in the last 2 sentences where he said “I will also include that effective January 1, 2020 the iHELP program will only be offered at the Omaha Correctional Center. You will need to work with your assigned Unit staff for any changes in your classification for this.” Well, for the past 2 years I have been trying to get to LCC to take that program and since Oct. I’ve had a “bus ticket,” as we call an approved transfer, and I’ve been pushing for them to actually move me. Now I find out that I should have been pushing to go to OCC instead. *sigh* And they won’t put me in for transfer to OCC until my once a year reclassification in Sept. Even then, I have a central monitoring issue with someone who was at OCC which means we can’t be in the same institution and he isn’t parole eligible until Dec. so they won’t transfer me before that. *grrr* I have already told my case manager that I want to go to OCC but it took me 2 years to get approved for LCC; I hope it doesn’t take that long to get to OCC.

Dr. John passed away last week. What a sad loss to the music world. I have many of his CDs in my collection at home and I can’t wait to get back and listen to them.

Two weeks ago I started the training to become and Intentional Peer Support (IPS) specialist. We have sessions once a week for 8 hours for 5 weeks. When I applied and interviewed for the program I didn’t know it was an international movement ( It is not like traditional therapy or counseling because it isn’t focused on one person with the other person offering advice or guidance. It is all about developing a relationship and sharing experiences with each other. I thought my experience as an HIV counselor might have helped me get accepted into the program but in retrospect it was probably a negative because that was a traditional counselor/counselee relationship where one person is the focus, the counselee, and one person is the expert with information or advice to give, the counselor. That is not IPS. During the interview I had also mentioned that I had been in group therapy and was familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles. I thought that the knowledge of how group therapy and CBT worked would be beneficial but actually the benefit in IPS would be that I’ve been in treatment like other people and that shared experience could be a basis for a connection. In IPS we aren’t there to “help” the other person. That implies a power hierarchy where one person gives what the other person needs. In IPS we are learning together. It’s quite a different starting point than I was expecting and I know that my biggest challenge will be to not fall into the patronizing role of giving advice. Instead we are supposed to supposed to learn about each other and ourselves through mutual dialogue.

IPS was founded by former patients of traditional mental health institutions. They are often called survivors rather than patients and they wanted a more positive approach than institutionalization and medication. Build positive relationships that focus on positive potential. Instead of diagnosing someone with x condition, a negative view, and offering them “help,” a dis-empowering role, you build a mutual connection where you each learn about the other’s worldview and experiences and focus on moving towards things rather than away from fear. You don’t say “you have x condition which requires y medication or else you’ll get worse.” Instead, after connecting you talk about what positives they can move towards, like, “what do you want to achieve and how can we get there?” IPS is sometimes portrayed as anti-traditional treatment but it seems more about what we as a community can do for each other so we don’t have to rely on traditional treatment. I think a serious issue we have yet to discuss is when do things cross the line where we have to involve the psychs. If someone is imminently suicidal I think something more drastic than IPS may be called for. I hope they give us clear guidelines on that. There are 3 more 8 hour sessions so we have a lot more to covers.

In the training we were talking about the stories that we tell ourselves to avoid facing a harsh reality. One of the trainers shared that when she was deep in her addiction her children were taken away from her and she would go around saying that she was such a caring mother that she gave up her children for their own good because she didn’t want to expose them to her lifestyle. Now that she is in recovery and a very good mother she can look back and realize that she was using that justification to cover up the fact that she was failing as a mother back then. I got to thinking about what lies I might be telling myself to avoid facing a harsh reality. After some serious soul searching I’ve come to the conclusion that I am lying to myself about being a good friend, partner, and son. I think that I try to be a good friend, partner, and son but a good friend/partner/son wouldn’t put their loved ones through the experience of having a loved one in prison…especially not twice. *sigh* I impose on them and ask a lot while not being able to truly “be there” for them when they need me. I’m actually a pretty demanding friend/partner/son and that constantly reminds where I am. I am forcing them to live through my incarceration with me.Is that a good friend/partner/son? 🙁

Once the training is done then the approximately 20 of us in the class will have to decide how to implement it in here. There is an IPS program in NSP already but it is only offering support to guys who are in long term segregated housing (the hole). So its scale and implementation are limited. Here we are going to offer the service to everyone so we have to come up with how we think it would work best, subject to administration approval of course. It will help that there are staff in our training and even Associate Warden Cruikshank. I am hoping to implement a gay peer support group if they’ll allow anything but one-on-one sessions. We’ll just have to see. If I get transferred to OCC maybe I can help implement IPS there. *smile*

Last month I also sent some more creative writing pieces to Professor Daniel Wuebben to use in another online class. I wrote 2 new pieces which are in my blog: Reading Is Life, Why I Write. I like Reading Is Life but I think I could develop Why I Write some more. I should be getting some feedback from the grad students in Daniel’s class. I’ll use that and see if I can expand Why I Write. I think I need to set myself some deadlines to do some creative writing. I find it is often cathartic and is always fulfilling so I should do more of it but I don’t seem to be productive unless I have a deadline. I have received feedback on Reading Is Life and it surprised me. I purposefully tried to avoid making it all inner monologue and observation by adding dialogue. The review suggested cutting back on the dialogue, especially towards the end, and adding more descriptive observations. I tried to separate the observation and dialogue into distinct sections. I guess the dialogue sections didn’t connect as well, at least not with him. Hmm.

This past week I watched a PBS show titled Cyberwork And The American Dream. It was a very interesting look at automation and technology and their impact on work. It started with a historical perspective, back to what they called the first industrial revolution in the mid 1800s with coal power. Then up to the second industrial revolution with electricity and gasoline powered vehicles. The advent of computers was the next work revolution and all of those “revolutions” shook up labor markets, displaced some workers but created other jobs. Work was not destroyed, it was shifted. The concluded by addressing concerns over AI and the “end of work” fears of some futurists. They argued that historical precedent showed that AI would end some jobs but make others. It would increase productivity in some existing fields, reducing the need for the number of workers in those fields, but simultaneously making whole new fields of work. Before computers no one could have imagines the job of computer programmer or especially social media influencer. The biggest difference with new technological advancements is that they are coming faster and faster. That means that the most valuable skill one can learn is…how to learn. Being adaptable and a quick learner are essential to the next gen workforce. Even in my 50s, learning is a skill I have worked to master my entire life so maybe I’ll be well placed in the future labor market. *smile* I hope I can help McK to learn to love to learn too.

Since I’ve been thinking about being transferred to OCC soon I’ve been worrying about the possible cellie or dorm-mates I might get. I realized I have been really lucky with my cellies. Jeff and I have been cellies for almost 2 years now and without any conflicts at all. That’s virtually unheard of in prison. He’s very laid back and doesn’t participate in anything that would bring heat to our cell. We even arrived at TSCI the same day; we were brought from NSP in the same van. We weren’t cellies at first though. My first cellie was Robert (or Pelon/Beto) and he was totally focused on getting back to his kids and his woman so he didn’t cause problems either. I keep up on how Robert is doing through a friend of his who is still here on the gallery. Robert just paroled a week or so ago and is happily back home and working hard to support his family. Jeff is strongly considering asking for a transfer to OCC in Dec. when he gets reclassified. It would be great if we could be cellies again there, though most of the beds are in 8 man “cells” so we’d have other cellies. Maybe we could share one with Jeremiah, Jeff’s buddy from here that just went to OCC. He keeps Jeff informed on how things are at OCC and it sounds like they’re pretty laid back…for the most part.

As you may recall, I have been trying to do a public records request of NDCS since the start of the year. I want to petition them to reduce the cost of photo tickets from the current $2 so I had dad send me information on the average cost of printing photos. I then tried getting the TSCI business manager to share a years worth of the monthly Photo Project reports he produces so I could gauge the average profit they are making per ticket.He said “that information will not be provided” even though it is clearly a public record. So I wrote NDCS’s Central Accounting…twice. I specifically stated in the first sentence that I was making a public records request and that, by statute, they have 4 days to reply with the data or explain why they won’t provide it. Both times they ignored my request so I asked my dad to send the same request. Wouldn’t you know, they answered him with the data I wanted. I guess they don’t consider inmates to be residents of the state of NE or concerned parties. Now I am going to move on to more important records request. Next I want to get information on how my people have earned 191 good time to use in a lawsuit over how they are miscalculating 191 good time.I will also ask Central Accounting how much is budgeted for inmate pay each year for my argument about increasing inmate pay. I want to get the NDCS central office used to answering public records request because I plan on forcing them to be more transparent and increasing public knowledge of the details of operating Nebraska’s prison system. Shine a light to purge infection. *smile*