Inside the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS)
Prepared and submitted by
Timothy L Olinger SR. #166554
Hello. My name is Timothy L. Olinger Sr. My hope today is that, in submitting this Portfolio; that it will in some ways offer more insight about me and the strides that I have personally taken while being incarcerated in the (WPS) from March 8, 1995 until this present day. It is also my intention to provide the Parole Commission, as well as those concerned with accurate in¬formation that will hopefully show that the petitioner meets, and has attained statutory eligibility, served a sufficient amount of time for punishment through institution adjustment, program participation, institutional as well as personal re¬habilitation, and has developed an adequate parole plan.
Also, to assure the Commissioner(s) with a reasonable confidence that release at this time would not involve an undue or an unreasonable risk to the public, and would not serve to depreciate the seriousness of my crime(s). All of which being the foremost requirements for release to parole supervision back into the community, according to the PAROLE COMMISSION ADMINISTRATIVE RULES.
Table Of Contents
I. Factors and Insight.............................3-5
II. Crime and Punishment................................5
III. Responsibility and Remorse ........................ 5
IV. Change and Progress...............................5-7
(A.) Finding Myself...................................6
V. The System..........................................7-9
VI. A & E Requirements................................. 10
VIII. Work History (Incarceration)......................10
I.. Personal Achievements................................10
.. Future Goals Upon Release(Short-Term)............ 11
.I. Leisure Activities............................ 11-12
.II. Support Base. .................................. 12
I. Factors and Insight Leading to My Incarceration in Retro¬spect
As a young man from as far back as I can remember, I ex-perienced some difficulty in following rules. Whether it was in my mothers home, at school or out in society. Thus with time, came progression. Today as I look back and reflect on my child¬hood, and my youthful episodes; I've come to believe and in some-ways understand that the various forces that come together and culminate in the shaping and molding of a young and impression¬able mind, can often be very damaging.
None more powerful or confusing than the day that my father left. I was about four years old then. I make reference to this part¬icular event in my childhood, because today I review it as a very pivotal time in my childhood. In essence, he, my father, was the primary authority figure in our family at the time. Although my mother was equally diversified in the task of discipline, when it came to me her only son, she often stumbled about a bit awkwardly yet gainfully in the areas where a man's cultivation must ultimately prevail in a young boys life. My mothers influence, as profound and as necessary as it was and still is to this day; succeeded in the areas where a woman is most strongest, and most effective. In my opinion she did her best from what she knew.
I understand now as a 46 year old black man, that the guidance that a father figure provides in a young boys life, is in my opinion very critical. Today somewhat of a father myself to two young adult women, and a young adult son who also has been languishing in the (WPS) for the last five years of his life... it matters. Often times its a matter of life and death for young men who find themselves in similar situations. As I con¬tinue to grow and educate myself with such social subjects, I must acknowledge that the choices and decisions that ultimately landed me in prison time and time again, had very little to do with others, as it did with me and how I felt about myself. I could never have envisioned a life for myself saturated in de¬spair...surrounded with fences and bars, and neither did my parents. Yet I realize today, that psychologica11y...as it relates to me, the damage had already been done. There were also other very prolific events in my childhood that would also prove to be very harmful to my young mind. Some of which are very painful And to this day seem difficult to talk about. Some of those events would eventually come to alter the way I related to other. Including women and authority figures.
As a young adult, I began to experiment with different drugs and alcohol. This behavior was as much a part of my existence as living and dying is, and helped to nurture the circumstances that would eventually bring me to low points like this in my life. At some point I began to believe that with the ingestion of these substances I would somehow be able to cope with the world around me- that I had in essence created for myself. I was too young and immature then to identify with clinical terms such as: issues of abandonment, issues of trust, issues dealing with authority, issues with identity and issue surrounding chauvinism. All of which were all too real. The lack of education also proved to be a very strong factor as I continued my downward spiral.
I dropped out of school to the chagrin of my mother. I was about seventeen years old. During this period of my teenage life, I was pretty much lost to a mentality of rebellion. Which I'm confident today was brought on by my own ignorance, low self esteem, and my inability to seek or ask for help. While my classmates were graduating and moving on to the next level, I was slowly becoming mired into a psycho¬logical prison of dysfunction and apprehension. My choices began to reflect this condition.
Thus in retrospect, robbing, stealing and hurting others, as horribly wrong and dishonest as those things are ... without trying to lessen the seriousness of the crimes-that I committed, was in fact tantamount to how far I had fallen and regressed from the young man that my family had always envisioned for me. I've come to realize and understand today that in such a fallen state of being, my responsibility to my children, my family and ultimately my community...was unlikely. In hindsight and from a internal sense of liberation and compassion, I am able to construct these sincere thoughts of introspection and self scrutiny. Through much soul searching and forethought; I realize today that prison and I were on a collision course. Confinement or graveyards can only come from such an existence of rebellion and confusion.
I feel blessed and fortunate to be in a conscious state of mind
II. My Crime and Punishment
I am incarcerated today for the crime of Armed Robbery(PTAC). Myself along with another person, robbed an after hours party and took property from those who came to have a good time. I received a 30 year sentence with a Mandatory Release date of 2015. Which amounts to 2/3. The date that my sentence began was March 8,1995. I received 118 days County Jail Time. I've served just a little over 15 years .
III. Responsibility and Remorse
When I think about "Responsibility "...it brings to mind in-spiring words such as: accountability, reliability, dependability and trustworthiness. Years ago, these commendable words were very foreign to me, due in part to my self-centered and immature view of the immediate world that existed around me. My conduct was very poor and unacceptable, thoughtless and irresponsible. I live with not only the knowledge that I've hurt people. . . namely the victims of my crimes, but I also live with the consequences. I also under-stand that our communities have suffered greatly because of the senseless violence.
Being a praying man at times, I often pray for better results, but I understand that I must do my part. Today I take responsibility for my life and the damage that I have caused. I believe that true change is not merely a one time event, but a constant progression towards growth, experience and improvement. Genuine change starts within and works its way out. It begins wherever we are, no matter the circumstances. While that statement is easier said than done, I believe it to be the closest thing to the truth.
IV. Changes And Progress Made Since Incarceration
"An educated mind behaves differently; is able to canvass options and solve misunderstandings without the insistence of violence.” (author unknown)
A. Finding Myself
As I think about, or attempt to surmise the subtle progresses that I have made personally throughout this period of incarceration, what immediately comes to mind are those people who have in some way supported me and poured their spirits forth that I might in some way benefit from their wisdom as well as their experiences. I read somewhere that no man is self made, thus because they cared and showed me what they knew to be compassion...each step that I have taken along this dubious path, has in some form or fashion been humbly immersed in some phase of transformation, or change. Whether it be changing old habits, associations, or defunct think¬ing patterns, I feel pretty confident about the changes that are taking place today within myself.
When I came into the (WPS) in March of 1995, for the third time, I was lacking in many areas of my life as an individual, as well as a human being. I began to ask myself some tough questions. I thought that maybe I was just indefinitely flawed and unable to live in a civilized society where people are generally good and capable of giving and receiving compassion. I honestly had no real sense of self, and no real desire to succeed at anything. I was a 31 year old boy with the age of a grown man.
I found myself searching the pages of different religions to find the answers that I felt were eluding me, as though it were some type of elaborate scheme designed to keep me down and out. Although my spiritual understanding has flourished be¬cause of that diligence and curiosity . . . the spotlight continued to fall back on me, not to those external forces that I was so sure had sabotaged life. I realized then, that only an educated mind could find its ways back to the surface of well-being, and a comfortable sense of wholeness. Because of this ambiguous attitude, today I have an Associates Degree in Business Management Along with other academic achievements that have in some way added to the humanity that I so earnestly seek. I realize today that I am merely a student of life passing through a world of classrooms filled with different experiences, different people, and different episodes, that ultimately serve to shape and mold us. I believe the question for me is, and has always been, what do I have to offer with my life, and what is my purpose. I n-Ht4. meantime, I continue to open myself up to this process of being and becoming.
V. The System
When I was sentenced to 30 years in the(WPS )..in Judge Frankes courtroom, I stood before him as an habitual offender. Very confused, and very unsure of myself, or my future. Its clear to me today that I needed help. The theory that I had become a danger to the community as well as myself, never truly resonated with me at the time. The Department Of Corrections(DOC),has been for me, a place of reflection, self examination, and endless soul searching. And yet it has also been a source of humiliation, remorse, embarrassment along with misplaced anger, and pride.
In hindsight I realize that I did need a structured environment(as much as it pains me to admit that)...to help me address the many psychological issues that permeated deep within me.
The notion of rehabilitation when I came into the system in March of 1995, seem to be very much alive. When I came through the Dodge Correctional Facility, where I was Assessed & Evaluated (A&E), it was determined that I needed Drug And Alcohol Treatment, Anger-management, I had a Vocational need, and I was required to complete CGIP 1&2. This process is common to all inmates. With my sentence structure being a such...(30 years), most of those programs would not become available to me until much-much later in the course of my incarceration. Thus I had a huge amount of time on my hands to reflect on my life and the time that weighed heavily on my mind.
It was in these times or moments of despair and meditation, that the rehabilitation process for me began to resonate. I quickly learned that such a process must start with me first. I learned that attitude meant a lot, and with a 30 year sentence hanging over my head, my attitude needed a complete over-haul. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but I was willing, and that was a start.
With the political landscape constantly changing, the road would prove to be even steeper. Tommy Thompson had just recently passed new legislation called "Presumptive Mandatory Release(PMR). Which effectively allowed the various release mechanism via, the Parole Commission, the Placement & Review committee(PRC)...etc , to hold inmate on or beyond their MR dates should a committee of these people decide that the inmate had not satisfied certain ambiguous criteria's for release. The infamous Tommy Thompson letter, as it has come to be known, called for the holding of inmates for as long as possible. With this legislation in place, the prisons began to swell. Considering that the cost of keeping one person confined for one year is a whopping $29,041.. . release for some inmates at that time seemed inevitable. Yet instead the system started systematic¬ally sending inmates out-of-state to be warehoused in (CCA) facilities. Which stands for Correction Corporation Of America.
The reasoning here was to effectively alleviate overcrowding, and in the course of this endeavor, save money. Whether or not the goal was achieved; these CCA facilities that I found myself in such as: Whiteville Tn, Sayre Oklahoma, Wotonga Oklahoma, and Appleton Minnesota ...were breeding grounds for gang activity, drug activity, and a host of other questionable activities. For me it was difficult to find a reason to be positive. After the initial shock of being so far away from home began to dissipate, I began to seek out the positive aspects of these places instead of dwelling on the negative. The academic courses, the religious events, the programs available, and the leisure time activities, helped to keep me grounded and focused on the goals that I had set for myself within the system. Not being able to see my family, or my children, often left me feeling estranged and out of touch with the support group that I yearned for and felt that I needed the most.
In 2003, Governor Jim Doyle appointed Mr. Lenard Wells as Chairman of the state's Parole Commission. With the appointment of Mr. Wells, the tentative pendulum of the Parole Commission, seemed to finally be swinging in a more liberal direction as it related to the current prison system, and its prior Parole Commission. Men who had for decades been denied parole under the guise of not having served enough time, or that release at the time would cause an undue risk to the public, or simply because some program that usually more times than not, only becomes available to those closest to their Mandatory Release dates, were beginning to intermittently find relief and release, as they appeared before respective parole boards.
My own personal experience with the Parole System, has been at best tentative. Where the harsh tentacles of ignorance, and confusion exist, there is no vision, or insight from which one might glean a clear understanding of that which besets him. That statement, I believe most accurately described me, and countless other inmates that found themselves oblivious as to how the system that's in place today, actually worked. Thus, the egregious notion of fairness, justice, and equality, have in there own exclusionary manner, left me feeling somewhat jaded, and overly anxious as I pursue my freedom.
If I had to pinpoint one criteria that appears to be a thorn in my side, that the Parole Board cites with staunch regularity;
that would be...Hasn't served "sufficient" time for punishment. After 15 years in the WR5 , that in a nutshell describes my plight, and all my frustrations to this day.
With that being said, I can honestly say that I personally have no idea where this current system hopes to go.
However, with the cost of housing just one of the state's 23,000 inmate's at a whopping $29,000 per year, the outlook doesn't seem to be very productive. Since Chairman Alphonso Graham took office, the percentages show a 33% reduction in parole grants. From 15% under Mr. Lenard Wells, to 10% under Mr. Graham. In conclusion, I struggle each day with the knowledge that the system doesn't work in its current capacity. Thus what chance do any of us have of being fairly treated as we seek to return to our families, and our communities!?
Sadly, with resignation of Mr. Wells in 2007, those of us still languishing under the old regime, or(01d Law)...or Old-New Law, or whatever, depending on ones own perspective; find ourselves at the mercy of a "New Law" that doesn't include us, an "Old Law" that has in many respects, out worn its welcome.(Via.the dismantling of the Parole Board to ERRC).
Under the Wisconsin Act 28, Sentencing Reform. Thus myself, and others like me, who have "NOT" served sufficient en¬ough time for punishment, and continue to pose an "UNREASONABLE" risk to the public, are in my opinion, simply pawns in a system that has simply gone awry. I guess the question here is, have we satisfied our debt to society? And should we as inmates expect to be treated fairly given our crimes and our history!?
VI. A & E Requirements
* Vocational...Custodial Program(Complete)
* AODA Level 6 Support Group Programming(Complete)
* AODA Level 1 Support Group Programming(Complete)
* CGIP 1&2... Cognitive Thinking(Complete)
VII. Education Initiatives
* Associates Degree in Business Management
* Certified L.V.A. Tutor
VIII. Personal Achievements (Programs)
* Restorative Justice Program
* Victim Awareness Program
* R.Y.T.E. Program...(Reaching Youth Through Education)
* Reach Out Program. ..( Focused on reaching youthful offenders)
* Community Service Program...(Focus on giving back to the community
* Anger Management Program
* NA/AA . .(Support based groups)
* Applying Basic Life Principles. . . (Christian based program)
* Basic Money Management...(Banking Principles)
IX. Jobs Held During Incarceration
* C.W.C...Off Grounds Project (Oakhill Corr. Inst.)
* Bathroom Custodian (Oakhill)
* H.S.E.D Tutor (Redgranite Corr. Inst.)
* Reintegration Tutor (Redgranite)
* Financial Literacy Tutor (Redgranite)
* Business Basics Tutor/Facilitator (Redgranite)
* Library Clerk (Redgranite)
* Recreation Worker (Redgranite)
* Badger State Industries (Columbia Corr. Inst.)
* Canteen Worker (Columbia)
* Community Service Project (Columbia)
* AODA Level 6 Facilitator (Whiteville Tennessee)
* Segregation Worker (Whiteville)
* Kitchen Worker (Sayre, Oklahoma)
* H.S.E.D Tutor (Sayre)
* Dayroom Custodian (Appleton MM)
X. Future Goals Upon Release (Short-Term)
* Develop working relationship with Parole Officer
* Find work immediate1y . . .develop work history
* Seek out support based groups... attend church functions
* Continue education...MATC
* Surround myself with like minded people with positive attitudes
* Get involve with community events, programs, and seminars
* Most importantly, be patient...stay focused!
* Find suitable housing . •
* Get I.D, Birth Certificate etc.
* Stay drug & alcohol free
* Build a relationship with my children/grandchildren
* Work with at risk youth
* Look at possibly starting a business
* Successfully complete paro1e. . . stay out of prison
* Look at possibly owning investment properties/Landlord
* Get married
* And just strive to be a decent human being
XI. Leisure Time Activities
* Meditation/spiritual focus
Leisure Activities Continued...
*Studying African American history and diverse cultures
* Studying Real Estate
* Listening to music
XII. Support Base
In conclusion, I believe that I have a very strong support base. I have a strong and determined woman in my corner(my fiance’).. . who has been my eye's and my ear's throughout this vast ordeal. I owe her my sanity. The mother of our son, she is an integral part of my smooth transition back into society. Also my immediate family members are very instrumental in my life. They have always supported me in a positive way, and have also been a life preserver along the way. They've always managed to be there for me in some of my darkest hours, and they continue to express their love and support as I make my way home.
I've also taken the initiative to become acquainted with several agencies in the communities of Milwaukee, that assist prisoners with the arduous task of reintegration . Agencies such as: Project Return; Community Corrections Employment Program(CCEP); New-Hope Project; Milwaukee Job Training Services; Milwaukee Urban league; and the list goes on. I'm confident that these community resources will prove to be invaluable as I make the transition back into society.
Timothy Olinger L Sr .