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Friday, February 13, 2015

A Dead Man's Boots -- November 30, 2014

Today I mourn my 40th birthday. Since 18, I have languished in the maximum security prisons of Illinois. During this time all my dreams, hopes, and aspirations have faded away. Everything, in fact, I once valued is gone. Regularly, I try to recall the past when my life had meaning, but those memories are blotted out by stark reality. There is no light at the end of this tunnel only a growing black void. I never wanted to see the day my body and mind succumbed to old age and yet now I have gone the distance with nothing gained but misery, hatred, and immense sorrow. In retrospect, I wish the police would have executed me upon arrest. The judicial system is a farce and my fate was set the moment the Cook County States Attorney's Office saw the opportunity to make me a scapegoat for a massacre they could not solve. My trial attorney had a fleeting chance to unhinge the unfolding disaster, but failing I have since been the living dead. For a quarter of this time readers have been able to follow in my footsteps. However, as I lace up a dead man's boots, I intend to walk on alone.

Early last Sunday I stood at the bars watching Colin's Football Show besides my cellmate who was on the gallery with a broom in his hand. We were making our picks against the spread and wanted the most recent lines. I had won predominately more games and his ability to catch up by the end of the NFL season was almost over. I jested I may just take all his teams except the Broncos to retain my lead. The Broncos were favored by a touchdown and I expected their opponent to play competitively. However, because there is no money involved and only bragging rights, I picked 10 different teams including the Buffalo Bills whose home field game was moved to Minnesota because of a blizzard of lake effect snow burying the city.

There was little joy in my life, but football Sundays occasionally provided some entertainment. Before my arrest, I played the sport for a number of years. I fancy myself that I could have excelled as a professional athlete or at least in college. However, I know that time has passed and other than Adam Vinatieri, a kicker, there is no player I am aware of in the NFL over the age of 40. Many men and women as well try to delude themselves that their age is less relevant in modern times. Advances in medicine and easier lives not to mention cosmetic surgery has certainly made people look younger or increased longevity. What it has not done, however, is increase the natural health, aptitude, beauty, or overall constitution of the species. Contrarily, I believe modern society and technology has caused its decline.

During the day, I heard it was the lieutenant's birthday. A few prisoners I knew were contemplating making him a goofy card as they do for incarcerated men. The idea "Lunchbox" had was a drawing of an obese black female guard in a string bikini giving him a lap dance. The lieutenant was in his mid-50s and will retire in a couple of years when he is able to collect a maximum pension. I have heard him talk before as if he has served a quarter century of prison time. He does not know what it is like, however, to be on the other side of these bars. He chose to work in the IDOC and has been lavishly compensated. His freedom is not restricted and he goes home at the end of his shift. I asked a guard what we were going to get the lieutenant for his birthday and he responded, "A number of thumps equal to his age." Yes, if he got this every day on the job, he may know what my suffering is like, I thought.

At night I watched the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" for the umpteenth time. This vigilante film starring Gerard Butler stirred a lot of emotions in me. A ruthless criminal breaks into Butler's home and rapes and slaughters his family, leaving him as dead. The man is arrested, but because the evidence is not presentable or strong enough to gain a conviction, the prosecutor cuts a deal with him. He will testify falsely that another person committed the crimes and in exchange he is released with time served. The person who was only present to commit a burglary thus is given the death penalty while the actual killer goes free. Butler so angry by the egregious injustice goes after not only the man who butchered his family but everyone involved in the perverse system. The rage he feels is comparable to my own except I am on the other side of the coin. It was my co-defendant who killed Dean Fawcett and when arrested he claimed I did it along with the Palatine Massacre. Unlike the movie, I was not even present nor aware of what he did yet the prosecutor was not concerned with truth or justice. He was only concerned about politics and convictions especially one against a person the public was led to believe killed 7 people at a Brown's Chicken restaurant. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office even sought my execution after Robert Faraci was acquitted, however, the judge gave me an even worse punishment: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

I awakened Monday morning to the bang of my cell door being slammed shut. Anthony was let out to begin his menial labor in the unit and I was alone. It was nice to start my day without his presence and not sharing the space in the 6 x 11 foot cell for the next 6 hours. Time in the penitentiary would be much better if I did not have a cellmate and after another prisoner bumped my breakfast tray off the bars onto the floor spilling its contents I thought time would be much better if I did not have anyone to deal with. Most of my misery stemmed not from isolation but the dregs of society I was imprisoned with. After cleaning the floor I stood at the bars looking out the building. There was snow on the penitentiary grounds and it was not a winter wonderland. Nothing was wonderful about prison.

Towards noon, my cellmate asked me if I wanted an extra tray. It was soy-turkey meatballs and I declined, but asked him to heat up a bottle of water for me in the microwave so I could make my own instant meal in the cell. He told me the new sergeant does not allow cell house help to use the microwave. C House has lost both its 1st and 2nd shift sergeants in the last month. Sergeants set the tone of a unit more so than any other correction's officer because they are in command of regular day to day operations. However, since I rarely leave my cell, I have yet to notice any difference.

Like most of the prisoners at Stateville, I turned on my television to see if Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson would be indicted of any charges in the shooting of Michael Brown. Earlier in the day I had heard there would be an announcement by prosecutor Robert McCulloch while listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio talk show. However, I did not realize he would speak at length to explain the process which began on August 20th nor the grand jury's decision rejecting all 5 potential charges. Nothing he said I knew would change the minds of people who already formed an opinion. Since Brown was killed, the reporting had been heavily slanted and skewed by liberal mass media seeking not only ratings but to push their political agenda. Black activists such as Al Sharpton and the lawyer who represented the family of Treyvon Martin were given plenty of air time, however, there were few opposing views offered to the public. It was difficult simply getting objective facts while black mobs rioted in Ferguson clamoring "No justice. No peace."

Immediately upon McColloch saying there would be no charges brought against Wilson, many black prisoners at Stateville began yelling and rattling their cell bars. They continued to be upset the following day when I went out to the yard and I listened to them rant about pervasive racism in the justice system as well as elsewhere. As the only Caucasian amongst them, I felt compelled to point out I was not given a fair trial and the prosecutor and police were just as dirty if not more. I doubted anyone around me was actually innocent and yet here I was two decades later. Furthermore, the police who arrested me were looking for any excuse to shoot me dead. A dead Palatine Massacre suspect was a solved case. The police did not have to arrest me at gunpoint with overwhelming force while in my car in the middle of heavy traffic. They knew where I was living and could have executed their recently acquired warrant for missing a court date in a peaceful manner. Ironically, I wish they would have killed me because it would have spared me the farce of due process and a lifetime in the penitentiary.

A couple of convicts demurred, but most accepted what I had to say. The conversation then went from racial bias to the special treatment accorded police officers. This was the crux of the issue. Most suspects were not granted an open grand jury. In fact, it is almost unheard of that a prosecutor presents both incriminating and exculpatory evidence. They only present the former and it is not subject to any scrutiny. Even 1st degree murder charges were easily approved with a few state witnesses regardless of their credibility. It was a mere formality across the U.S., but the St. Louis County Grand Jury was in session for a month in what was almost a trial. Pigs would fly before the state's attorney would call my interrogating officer John Robertson to the stand and then say "but here's all the reasons to show he is a lying piece of shit."

Later in the day I received a few birthday cards from family members. They stupidly wished me a happy birthday despite how I was condemned to die in prison. My aunt, however, had a sardonic sense of humor and sent me a card with a picture of a smiling chimpanzee on the cover. It said, "Nephew, figured you didn't want a sentimental birthday card, so you're getting this monkey card instead." When opened, the primate popped forward with its arms out as if reaching out. The message above the monkey was, "But you're so great, even he couldn't hold back giving you a hug." The dumb humor did not amuse me until it made me correlate it with something else. I called my neighbors to their cell bars and with the card in hand so they could see it, I opened it and said, "Hands up. Don't shoot!" For almost a minute I heard them laughing.

A number of readers probably think my joke just shows how racist I am. However, it is only a reflection of themselves and how they jump to conclusions. The joke is aimed at all those chimps out there who joined protest marches denying racism in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision. Racism is not the reason why more black people are incarcerated, mistreated by police, or shot dead like Michael Brown. The fact is people of color are more likely to commit crimes and be involved in the criminal justice system. Their greater exposure to law enforcement and courts allows them to see how much excessive force, corruption, and injustice exists in the U.S.  America has become a police state and it does not see black, white, or brown. There is only blue and everyone else.

Thanksgiving morning I awoke in time to watch the major news stories. Holidays generally do not have any serious news reporting and there was not much to draw my interest except on the FOX network's ticker tape. It read that Governor Pat Quinn had granted 163 clemency petitions. No other information was given and thus I guessed they were all for people with minor offenses and had already completed their probation or prison time. Many people who had been swept up into the system simply just wanted their records cleared. For the governor it did not involve any potential controversy or political risk. The governor had already lost the election and will never again campaign for political office. However, there may be some things he wants to tie up with the legislature before January 12th.

Towards 9 a.m., I left the cell to get my Thanksgiving Day meal. It was one of the few days in the year that prisoners were fed well. On the serving line, kitchen workers placed turkey, pork, macaroni and cheese, and a portion of sweet potatoes and stuffing on my Styrofoam tray. At the end of the line I was given yet another tray with salad, cranberry sauce, bread, and a little wedge of cherry pie. It was enough food to feed me for the entire day as I did not plan to leave the confines of my cell again, yet I received an unexpected visitor.

Typically prisoners receive visitors from their families on Thanksgiving, but my visitor was a girl I knew in junior high. I was surprised to see Cynthia on the holiday especially after she told me she had been in the hospital for 3 days earlier in the week. She said before she was stabilized in the emergency room she thought I would have never learned what happened to her. I would have simply never received another letter or visit and would think she was just another person who had come and left over my 20 years of imprisonment. She prepaid $40 with the prison collect call phone service provider so I could reach out to her if I wanted. It seemed like she wanted to keep in contact or possibly develop some type of relationship, but for what reason I did not know. I was condemned to die in prison and with the passage of time she would eventually fade away like everything else in my life. There were some more deeper issues I wanted to discuss with her, however, it would have to be done another day. Visiting on holidays was limited to one hour. She asked if she could come back on my birthday. That was a horrible idea I thought. Do not come on my birthday, I told her. It was only a day of sorrow.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas, prisoners bring their food back to their cells. This saves time and allows men to eat at their leisure. To keep my food warm, I had wrapped the tray in a wool blanket. Even after I returned from my visit in the mid-afternoon, the heat had not escaped. Unlike the food served most of the year which a dog may sniff and turn away from, the lunch on Thanksgiving is rather good. However, it did little to change my overall misery.

I did not watch any of the NFL games on Thursday. However, before I went to sleep, my cellmate informed me I had won all 3 against the spread. Yes, I was just a big winner, I said to him. This makes up for the 22 years of my life which has been taken from me. I have turkey, stuffing, cherry pie, and I even beat the casinos in Las Vegas. I am really cashing it in. Just as Richard Speck bragged, I have never had it so good. Anthony was not in the IDOC when the serial killer's video tape was made public. While at Stateville, Speck was filmed drinking, doing an assortment of drugs, and engaging in homosexual activity. The partying and debauchery the man who brutally killed several nurses was having enraged people outside the prison walls who thought he was doing hard time. Although the tape was made years before, when it was released in 1997, it was yet another impetuous for change in the IDOC. Well, the people of Illinois can rest easy now. Everyone is suffering in prison, including the innocent. Trying to fall asleep, I counted the numerous ways I could kill myself. Some people count sheep, but I think of a hundred ways to die.

As she promised, Cynthia came to the penitentiary to see me again the following day. However, once again there was a one hour time limit and the visiting room was packed. It was so noisy at times it was difficult having a conversation. I was not aware old television news archives were available to the public, but apparently they are. Cindy spoke about watching coverage after my arrest in 1993. She said the media tried and convicted me well before I had my day in court. I missed a lot of it while in the Cook County Jail, but knew how heavily biased and incendiary the television news was. In my jury pool were a number of people who openly admitted they could not be fair and thought I killed the employees at the Brown's Chicken Restaurant in Palatine.

I asked Cynthia why she did not create a petition on nor help me with finding a lawyer or private investigator. She said based upon what one lawyer told her and all the vast negative news reporting, she thought my situation was hopeless. Despite the Palatine Massacre being solved and evidence I had showing my innocence in the Fawcett murder, it was highly unlikely the governor would grant me a pardon. There also was little chance the courts would reverse my conviction, at least any time soon. If this was the way she felt, I wondered why she bothered visiting a dead man. Was it out of pity? I did not want anyone's pity and in the little time we had, I tried to ascertain if there was a purpose to stay in contact with her.

After my visit, I waited in a hallway off of Gate 5 with a crowd of other prisoners. One of the men I recognized despite how greatly he had aged over the years. His hair had thinned to almost nothing, there were dark circles under his eyes, and he was gaunt with wrinkled skin. It seemed like Death was knocking on his door and I asked him if we were all going to die in here. He surprised me by saying his appeal had recently been remanded for a new trial. A recantation from a witness and some other exculpatory evidence had convinced an appellate court to finally overturn his conviction.  He was now waiting to see if the Cook County States Attorney's Office would fight him tooth and nail over the past decade was going to drop the charges, re-prosecute him, or offer him a cop out of time served. He had already served 29 years and tended to believe the D.A. would not want to spend the money for another trial. In my mind I thought about how long it would take me to file my appeal and if it would also be argued over for 10 years. The idea of being released after my 50th birthday left me with a sense of dread.

In the cellhouse, I stopped at my neighbor's cell to speak to Hooch. Hooch had also been in prison since the mid-1980's and knew the man who had recently been ordered a new trial. While talking with my neighbor, I noticed he had a new pair of boots and inquired about the ones he kept in his box but never wore. The other boots, unlike the cheap products occasionally sold or given out by the IDOC, were of high quality and made of suede and not synthetic materials. I never saw a pair like them and offered to buy the shoes. Hooch told me he could never part with the boots because they had belonged to John Piggot, or Doc as most prisoners knew him as. Doc had served nearly 40 years for a string of robberies in the 1970's before he finally died last year. When he knew his time was near, he gave away his most valuable possessions including his black suede boots.

In my cell, I received another birthday card. This one was from my sister who I had not seen or spoke to in nearly 2 years. Unlike the stupidly cheerful ones I received earlier in the week or the goofy one sent by my aunt, this card was gloomy. On the front cover was a wood dock ending abruptly to a still lake at dusk. In the distance was a man alone in a row boat. The dock reminded me of a plank on a pirate's ship which the condemned were forced to walk. The row boat conjured up images of a lonely old man in his twilight years or the scene in the movie "The Godfather" where Michael Corleone has his brother executed while out fishing.

Yesterday the big news in the cell block was Big John returning from work and requesting Protective Custody. While he was packing up his property, my cellmate stopped to speak with him, but he would not say why he was concerned for his safety. Steve also saw him outside when he was morosely pushing his cart of belongings to X House. John would not even look up and ignored him. A secret is difficult to keep, however, at Stateville and by dinner I was told that word had gotten out that he was a former cop. This was false and he was actually a former guard at the Cook County Jail. To some convicts including KY, it did not matter. Cops, guards, or anyone involved in law enforcement was despised and considered the enemy. I hated the emergence of the police state as well as the prison industrial complex. This oppressive and corrupt system of government needed to be dismantled. Despite this, I did not hate all those who worked within it, and in fact I had known John was a former guard for a long time but I got along well with him.

As I was writing this post, my neighbor passed over the suede boots for me to have on my birthday. They fit rather well and I paced the cell several times wearing them. I do not know where Doc got the shoes and they may never have been sold in the IDOC. Hooch did not explain why he changed his mind, but I tend to think he was in essence passing the mantel onto me. Doc had done nearly four decades in prison and I will probably do that and more before I pass away. I was arrested when I was 18 and this was the 22nd birthday I've had since being incarcerated. At the age of 40, I could probably languish in prison for over a half century if I did not commit suicide. In the minute chance I am freed, I think Doc would be happy to know that although he never made it out, his shoes did.

Readers have followed my stories at the maximum security penitentiary, Stateville, for over 5 years. I never intended to write until I keeled over an old, decrepit and defeated man. As my 40th birthday has approached, I have increasingly lost interest in sharing my life, or more accurately my death, with the public. After Governor Pat Quinn leaves office, I may cease writing for this blog. Regardless if he grants my request for executive clemency or not, there is no happy ending to this story. Either way, I will be walking in a dead man's boots.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Hope Monster -- November 22, 2014

Sunday morning I woke up later than usual. My cellmate had already finished what he needed to do and was sitting on the table dressed in his jumpsuit waiting to be let out for work. During the night I had slept restlessly waking periodically with thoughts of dread. My mind churned over the possibility the governor had rejected the clemency petition I submitted 5 years ago. The petition was not the first one I had filed and there were four before it going all the way back to the Edgar administration. None of them ever notified me of their decisions and instead sent out brief letters to my family who misled me to believe they were still pending. My family wanted me to cling onto this glimmer of hope thinking it pulled me through these most difficult times. What they failed to realize, however, is that they are never ending and there was nothing worse than false hope. At least when there is no hope, there is finality even if that meant for me death in prison.

Typically I begin my day early and am exercising soon after my cellmate is gone. However, I continued to mull over the thoughts I had during my sleep. If the governor rejected my petition, it was basically the end of my life. Bruce Rauner was not going to grant me clemency and any appeal through the courts of Cook County would take numerous years. I may be 50 before there was any final adjudication. There was not much potential after 40 yet alone at 50. My thoughts drifted to a movie I watched the previous night. In the "Bucket List" actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are dying of cancer and are given less than a half year to live. Instead of lying in a hospital bed waiting for death, they decided to do everything they could to complete their lives. I wish I could do the same, however, I am trapped in this cell and there was nothing of meaning to do. I searched for one thing I could put on my bucket list, but came up empty.

Eventually I got on the hamster wheel, although without a clue as to why. I wonder even if the rodents know why they run in place never going anywhere when I was done working out. I went to bathe out of the water dish in my cage but was told by a guard I was being let out for flu and tuberculosis shots. Sweaty and with my hair slicked back I walked into the makeshift medical office on the lower floor. There were two nurses there I know fairly well. The one giving the flu inoculations asked me a series of questions and then gave me a form to sign. While going through these formalities, I inquired if she happened to have any pentobarbital. "But why?" she asked. "You have not done anything yet to deserve it." I told her it would be an act of mercy. I had not noticed but the child molester who lives in a cell next to mine had stepped into the room. In his whining, retarded speech he said, "I don't want a shot." The other nurse tried to explain to him he did not have to be given a flu vaccination but the TB test was mandatory. Again, John repeated himself as if he had heard nothing she said. Certainly there was something special the pedophile could be given I told the nurse giving the flu shots before I left and glared at John.

The melancholy I felt continued throughout the afternoon and evening. Even broadcast football failed to entertain me despite a couple of my favorite teams playing in marquee games. Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Linebacker Clay Mathews was also impressive causing havoc in the Philadelphia Eagles' offense. The Packers won 53 to 20, but I just yawned and thought about taking a nap as my cellmate was. The New England Patriots played in the night game and I only watched the first half before going to sleep.

I awoke in a better mood than the previous morning, but then I heard the cackle of an unpleasant female lieutenant. The hag occasionally substitutes for the regular lieutenant on his days off. Soon after operations began, her shrill laughter and loud conversation with staff became shouts at inmates. She scolded and threatened men for the most paltry reasons. Big Rick was even yelled at when he reached into his commissary bag to give me a couple pads of paper. Last week I had given him a summer sausage and he was repaying me. They call Rick "big" for a reason. He is about 6'4" and over 300 pounds. Rick could easily go "Donkey Kong" on the woman, but he just ignored her and said he will send the paper to my cell later. C House has a high proportion of older men who are less aggressive and apt to violently explode. I tend to believe she is assigned the unit because of this. Normally, she works with model or protective custody inmates in X House.

When the lieutenant was on a lunch break, a Hispanic prisoner stopped at my cell. He saw advertisements from the newspapers my cellmate and I were throwing away. Vargas wanted them to share with his wife. I said to him, "I thought you killed your wife." He claimed this was not true and then I remembered it was another woman he was dating after his divorce. Oddly, the prisoner pleaded not guilty and was half way through trial when he broke down admitting in open court that he killed her. I did not like the weasel, but told him he could have the trash.

For dinner, I joined prisoners going to the chow hall. Cubed pepperoni was donated to the penitentiary and it was being served in lieu of turkey-soy. Outside the cell house, inmates fought the bitter wind and cold. I have lived a brutal and harsh life and was not bothered by some frigid gusts of wind. I noticed the sergeant outside by himself supervising movement. He was formerly the cell house sergeant on the 2nd shift, but purportedly was reassigned because of sexually inappropriate behavior towards nurses. I am not certain of the rumor, however, I like to make subtle joking comments about it. Monday night I said, "Kind of lonely out here." To return the favor he patted me down for contraband on the way out of the chow hall. I was the only prisoner who was searched, although I was the only prisoner slowly walking while others were nearly running as if they were in a heavy storm.

Later one of the prettier nurses stopped by my cell to give me my medications. I was studying a corporate report of a large energy company that is selling cheaply due to the dive in oil prices. The nurse asked how I was and I did not know if she says this to everyone as a meaningless greeting or if she really gave a damn. In any event, I was busy and just replied "fine," as I stuck out my hand for the pills. Some sexually starved prisoners will seek out the most banal conversation from female staff, but I did not see the point. Not long thereafter, though, a man was strangely being escorted by a female guard and I had to ask her if male nurses required her protection. Amused, she said, "Some in fact do." My cellmate later commented the guard was a butter face which was a play on words meaning but for her face she was attractive. Sarcastically and in a foreign accent I told him to express himself and not let these inner thoughts stay trapped inside. How will she ever know your true feelings if you do not tell her?

The following morning my cellmate was watching the news with me. There was a segment about Charles Manson getting married in a California prison. Afton Burton was 26 years old while the crazy convict connected to the infamous slayings of 3 women including actress Sharon Tate was the ripe old age of 88. Anthony commented, "See, there is still hope for you." No, there was not, I thought to myself. What 20 year old woman would be interested in me? I was less than half Charles Manson's age, but unlike him I was not permitted conjugal visits in the IDOC. Even if I was released sometime in the near future, I doubted I had any chance of marrying the young princess idealized in my mind. All my hopes and dreams have been crushed over the time I have languished in prison.

Tuesdays were rec days for those in Charlie House, however, few men went out. A mass of cold Arctic air had moved into the upper Midwest bringing with it negative wind chills. Only 5 prisoners on the gallery left their cells to attend yard and those that did were told by a nurse she was not coming out to get them if they fell out. The lieutenant also chimed in prisoners can freeze to death. I did not go, but it was not due to the cold. My lower back was painful and the NSAID I take had yet to begin working. I moved about the cell like a crippled old man and periodically my cellmate stopped at the bars to make fun of me. It was not until close to 9 a.m. that I was able to do my workout routine.

While exercising, I heard prisoners shout, "Major in the cell house!" This was a warning to others who may be committing one of the myriad of infractions in the IDOC. She was only in the building, however, to take temperature readings. Drafts of cold air regularly blow in on blustery winter or near winter days. The central heating system was turned on last week, but it still was not adequate and often guards turned on the blowers. The hot air blower across from my cell is nice not only to keep the cell warm but to muffle the noise in the cell house.

The nurse who I ignored the previous night certainly got my attention Tuesday. I was watching television when I heard her say my name. I was simply going to get the pills and then go back to the program, however, when I turned around I was startled to see her in a zany green hat with her hair curled. I almost thought she was Alice in Wonderland. I exclaimed, "Nice hat! Where did you get that?" She said perplexed, "At a store." "The Dr. Seuss store," I said and my cellmate began laughing. She had left but I went on talking about her tall, fluffy green hat. I said to Anthony, "How did she get into Stateville with that? That was a threat to the security of the institution. Just think of all the contraband she could have hidden underneath it." My ridicule and jokes were not meant to hurt her feelings. I just happen to say what I am thinking and was caught by surprise. Normally, her long hair is tied in a bun and she is dressed in nothing but gray attire. After my cellmate ceased cracking up he told me whatever shot I had at a date were over. What did it matter? I was condemned to prison indefinitely.

The next day I tried calling Cynthia. She knew me from junior high school and liked me despite my frankness or disparaging humor. The collect call provider had apparently put her number into the system, but she was not answering. She may have thought the call was from a telemarketer. For some reason when prisoners call out, they are identified with a phone number associated with salesmen. I was nothing but a salesman, I thought. If I worked at a car dealership I would have to point out to customers all the flaws and possibly make fun of them while doing so.

The prison administration refuses to spend the money to buy a DVD player which can be programmed or for that matter accept one that has been donated. Thus, movies must be played manually by the LTS supervisor. He is only here for part of the day resulting in only 2 playings, the second being at 4 p.m. when he leaves for the day. I have not watched a DVD in some time because of the early times. These hours I am busy doing various other things and typically do not watch television for any length of time until the evening when I am too tired to do much else. However, I made an exception Wednesday to see "Edge of Tomorrow." The actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist, once again stars in a film where aliens attack the earth. He is killed time and time again only to start from the beginning. Apparently, drippings of alien blood mixed with his own caused him to have the power of reliving events and time travel. The plot is ridiculous but it is both sad and heroic watching him die thousands of times and yet still not be able to save the planet. I said to my cellmate who was also watching the movie, "I wonder how many times I would have to die in order to change my plight. If it was before my arrest I think I could change my future in one trip, but if after my conviction, the system is so rigged against a prisoner the futility was probably as great as Tom Cruise experienced."

After the film ended, Anthony told me about "Mold Head". Mold Head was an old black prisoner with some type of green growth on the side of his cranium. He was released on parole last month, but was back in a cell on the lower floor. The man did nothing to violate his parole, but because he can barely walk and has so many health issues, he had no where to stay. Over the years, he lost any relationships with family members. He also could not stay at a half-way house because of all the special needs and nursing care he requires. My cellmate overheard him talking to a counselor about his dilemma. The counselor did not seem too eager to assist. I told Anthony that before the turn of the century, prisoners were required to go through a program which prepared them to live on the outside. I then added, "Although in the 1990s there were not nearly as many geriatric old men in the penitentiary."

Thursday morning Anthony got ready for work and then sat on the table by the bars waiting to be let out. He waited for an hour and then took off his jumpsuit. After reading a couple of newspapers, he climbed onto his bunk. No announcements were forthcoming from the cell house loudspeaker. Finally a guard walked by escorting a nurse and said we were on a level 1 lockdown. I wondered what could have occurred overnight to place the penitentiary on a strict, no movement lockdown. Breakfast trays had been passed out at 3 a.m. by inmate workers as usual. The only thing I could think of is the early school and library lines which are run around 6. However, then I noticed a group of prisoners walking outside and was truly puzzled when they were from the adjacent quarter unit and were going to yard.

With my plastic prison mirror, I tapped on the cell of my neighbor and asked Hooch what was going on. He said Bruce had died in the night and C House was the only unit on lockdown. I asked, "Who is Bruce?" Bruce was an old Caucasian man with white hair who lived on the lower gallery. The prisoner did not come out of his cell much recently, but I remembered who he was. Occasionally, I saw him when going to chow. He used a crutch to walk and tired easily. He also made little trinkets which he traded to other convicts for commissary. Hooch speculated he died of health related problems and seemed a tad depressed, although he rarely acquainted with him.

Bruce's cellmate was sent to Segregation. It is a common prison procedure until an investigation is conducted even if the cause of death was readily apparent. When my cellmate, O.G. Bobby, died of a heart attack a couple of years ago I was also sent to the Roundhouse. I overheard the lieutenant say there was no room in Seg for Mark and they had him in a holding cage in the hallway leading to the building. He went on to tell another guard he would not be surprised if they threw a mattress in there for him to sleep on overnight. The guard asked about his belongings and if anything could be sent to him. The lieutenant informed him that Internal Affairs had placed a padlock on the cell and nothing could be taken out until after the investigation was completed.

In the evening I considered asking the nurse if she knew what the prisoner died from with or without her Green Dr. Seuss hat. However, I got caught up in the audacious actions of the president. On national television, he said he was going to use his executive power to nullify the laws set by Congress and permit millions of illegal aliens to stay in the U.S. In 2012, Barack Obama usurped the legislature by enacting DACA which gave residence status of all children (or those purporting to be under age 18) brought to the country by parents and now these parents along with others were allowed to stay. Most of his speech was dedicated to justifying his unconstitutional breach of power. He claimed he was bringing Hispanics "out of the shadows" and those that were criminals would be deported along with new illegal arrivals. However, the illegal immigrants were never in the shadows and were criminals simply by being in the U.S. without authorization. Furthermore, more waves of people would not be dissuaded from coming only encouraged. A political pundit said that a new president could simply reverse the policy, but the problem was any children born in the U.S. were automatically given citizenship. In fact, like Obama whose birth in Hawaii is dubious (and even if not should never have been created into a state) could become president. U.S. immigration laws were absurd and the president was making them even worse. As Mark Levine would say on his radio talk show later that night, Obama was a radical socialist attempting to transform America into a vile cosmopolitan state.

Friday morning the cell house was taken off lockdown and my cellmate was let out to work. During the course of his detail he happened to speak to several prisoners about Bruce. A cell house worker who is on the midnight shift said he was passing out breakfast trays when he and all the others were told to go into the holding cage. From there, he saw guards grouped outside the cell. A med tech went in and checked for a pulse. Later paramedics from an outside hospital arrived and tried to revive Bruce despite being dead for a great amount of time. Then they took his body out on a stretcher. Anthony said the cell had red tape across it like it was a crime scene and inside everything was a wreck. However, he then added the two men were slobs and much of the disarray may have been coincidental.

The dead prisoner's cellmate was let out of Segregation and various people spoke to him. He said Bruce had a heart attack, but some questioned if it was induced. The night of the incident, Mark had said his cellmate committed suicide. Furthermore, guards discovered all his sheets of medication were emptied. Most likely, I reckon Bruce had enough misery of living in prison. He already languished in maximum security penitentiaries nearly three decades and there was no hope of him ever being released. Even if he had an out date which was obtainable, death was preferable.

Today I spent most of my time writing this post, however in the evening I left the confines of my cell to go to the chow hall. There I was greeted by my former cellmate, The Snowman. Over the years I have watched him rot away in the penitentiary. Since coming to the IDOC he has stressed greatly about having a sentence of life without parole. A few years ago, his spirits were lifted when the University of Chicago took on his case. Unfortunately, they were only lifted to be crushed. The courts denied his successive post conviction appeal and he now has no judicial remedies. He calls the optimism of prisoners "The Hope Monster" and I have seen many men succumb to it. Even I fleetingly entertain thoughts of the governor granting my clemency petition and I know my subconscious does as well in my dreams. However, no hope is sometimes better than having false hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Wall -- November 15, 2014

High walls surround the maximum security penitentiaries of Illinois. They can be seen from almost everywhere on the prison grounds and even from many cells including my own. Most other facilities have a double fence perimeter with razor wire. The latter is probably more effective in preventing escapes, however, it does not have the same  psychological effect. A wall isolates prisoners from the outside world by not allowing them to see out or for that matter for anyone to see in. Convicts are banished to a void amongst themselves and are to be forgotten, never seen, or heard from again. Unlike a fence, a wall also seems much more permanent. It reminds the men condemned inside their transgressions are irredeemable and whatever life they had before is gone. Even for the innocent, the wall has a crushing oppressive affect. They as well as the guilty share the same grim fate. It may be years, decades, or a century, but the wall will always be there until their death.

Sunday morning I awakened as I have for over 21 years in the confines of a cell. Despite how much time I have been incarcerated, it is always a shock to go from a world of dreams where I am a free teenager with an entire life ahead of me to an old man captive in a maximum security prison. I look at the dreary mottled gray walls of my cell to the bars where I hope to see something more but am stymied. Beyond the bars of my cell are the bars of the gallery and then the cell house walls. Looking out the opaque windows, I see yet more bars and beyond them is cyclone fencing topped with razor wire. In the distance are the looming walls of the penitentiary which prevent me from seeing anything further except for the tops of a few tall trees.

On the cell table are 4 Styrofoam trays stacked on top of each other. I opened the lid of one of them and discovered why there were extras. For breakfast prisoners were served farina, bread, and the most distasteful gravy. I took the bread out to make a couple of peanut butter sandwiches to eat while I watched the news. Most of the news continued to cover the elections from the week before and what would be forthcoming. However, there were also reports from Germany where people were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where the wall once stood separating East from West Berlin, thousands of balloons were released to float up into the sky. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a great triumph for the West, however, I think people have become complacent. To remember the pervasive oppression and horrors of the communist state, I thought it would be better if they had left the wall in place. Then every day Berliners could wake up as I did contemptuous of a wall which created so much maleficence.

On the cell house loudspeaker a guard exclaimed, "Good morning Green Bay Packer Fans!" before announcing the day's activities. I assumed she was being sarcastic to the small contingent of prisoners who would be cheering against the Bears later in the day. It was a rotten morning like most are in the penitentiary and in fact the only thing I looked forward to was the Packers trouncing the Bears on Sunday night football. I had no loyalty to the local Chicago team and since free agency began, I do not know how other people continue to have a fervent support for any team year after year if personnel changes. I liked the Packers due to players such as Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Clay Mathews and others who I tended to like personally and had exceptional talent.

For dinner I left the confines of my cell to go to the chow hall. Prisoners were being served "tacos" but it was nothing similar to what most readers will conceptualize. A scoop of boiled turkey-soy, 2 stale corn shells, corn, and a little iceberg lettuce was placed on my tray. In the serving line, Snowman asked me if the IIP filed a DNA request yet. I was a little surprised because I had never told him about the lawyer's visit. Word travels fast in the penitentiary so I thought before telling him that I do not think anything will be filed in the courts for some time. Then it will probably take a couple of years or longer to get the results if testing is even allowed. Snowman responded that it took him 2 years from the time the Innocence Project at the University of Chicago filed his appeal to the time he was rejected. Cook County courts were much slower and I have heard of incarcerated men waiting up to a decade for a final adjudication of a collateral appeal. On the way back to the cell house, I looked at the vast concrete wall which encircles Stateville.

During a visit the week before, Cynthia gave me her phone number which I memorized to submit a request to be allowed to call her. As I suspected, she had quickly lost interest in writing. Very few people write letters anymore. It is email, texting, FB, or phone. I disliked talking on the phone, however, I knew women did and it was my only way to reach out to her. In the cell bars I placed a letter to her which mentioned she will need to pay the prison collect call service provider upfront and it may be a couple of weeks before her number is entered into the system. Behind these maximum security walls it is difficult to maintain connections with people. Being able to call her may keep her in touch for a few more months.

Monday morning the noise in the cell house came to a roar early. There was a relatively great amount of movement for men in a high security facility. Prisoners on the upper galleries were permitted to go to the commissary building. As always, they yelled to each other about exchanging goods, paying debts, or asking for handouts. Personal property lines were run allowing men to get legal papers out of storage. Some prisoners have 10 or more boxes of discovery, transcripts, and appeals which they could not possibly fit into the 2 boxes they may have in their cells. In addition, there was law library after lunch as well as several "B of I" lines. The B of I is short for the Bureau of Identification Office where prisoners are photographed. I asked a guard if I would be having my ID renewed and was told there was already too much going on. Possibly, tomorrow, but all inmates who had yet to have an annual update were going this week provided the penitentiary did not go on lockdown.

With my headphones on I read until the time of my health care pass in the afternoon. In the holding cages of the H.C.U., it was not much quieter. I intended to go to the back window and stare at the little patch of lawn which separates a hallway from the prison hospital. There was not much to see because 50 yards down was a long perpendicular building and above and beyond it the front of the penitentiary which has 35 foot walls extending away from the structure in both directions. A prisoner I knew 2 decades ago from the Cook County Jail stopped me from gazing out. Frankenstein seemed to believe we were compatriots of some sort because of the media publicity I received years ago as a mass murderer. No, I was framed for the Palatine Massacre and had nothing in common with the crazy serial killer except we were both Caucasian with ancestors from Poland.

Another white convict sitting next to Frankenstein upon hearing I was quartered in C House began a conversation with me. The man wanted me to send a message to a prisoner on a gallery above mine. I asked him what it was but all he would say was to tell Moon his nephew was in the Roundhouse and he needed to get in touch with him. There were a number of black prisoners who had family members in prison, but this man was white and Moon did not seem old enough to be his uncle. Eventually he was to explain they were just in the same gang. Gang members will sometimes refer to themselves as family. It was not to be deceptive, but because their real family had long ago ceased to be a part of their lives. The gang was their family, especially within the confines of the wall.

After my doctor appointment, I was sent back to my unit and spent time on the gallery waiting for a guard to open my cell door. I noticed a prisoner working on a fan. He was trying to repair it, but said the motor was shot. My fan was working well, but had a shattered plastic exterior and I asked him if I could have it. He said, "Sure," and went on to explain how it was my cellmate who had given him the fan in the first place. Anthony had found it in the garbage and thought he may be able to repair it. Inside the cell, I gutted my fan and put the parts into the new one. The cracked shell and dead motor were discarded.

Guards on the 2nd shift were still trying to persuade my cellmate to work from 4 to 10 p.m. Anthony was a reliable worker the guards trusted and got along with. The dilemma for him, however, was he did not want to miss his TV shows at night which were his escape from the ugly realities of prison. In a compromise he told them he would work both shifts if they would allow him to lock up early and only on a temporary basis until they found someone else. Joe Miller had been assigned to work the 2nd shift, however, he was a repugnant convict staff did not like or trust. Prisoners also did not like Miller and it was for reasons other than him torturing and killing a number of women in his truck trailer. Regardless, "Whips and Chains" was a crippled old man now and would not be able to do the assignment.

After Anthony was let out of the cell, I did all the things I could not do earlier waiting to be called for the B of I and then at the H.C.U. I exercised, bathed, and cleaned the cell. Then, due to the poor meal served for dinner, I made a substitute meal. The hot water pipes in the building were scalding hot and I gave my cellmate a package of shredded beef to place on it as well as a bottle of water. The water I used to make instant refried beans and brown rice to go into the burritos I was making. After rolling them up, I placed them in a potato chip bag to also put on the pipe. The bag has a slight tin interior which singes the flour tortillas. I told Anthony I will regularly make burritos if he works the 2nd shift, but he only worked that one evening. There is not much for cell house workers to do on the 2nd shift and guards can go short staffed.

Tuesday I was repeatedly told to get ready for the B of I and then to never mind. I know many people who read this blog look at my IDOC mugshot to see what I look like. Thus, I spent time in front of the mirror posing for the photo. I did not want to look happy and smile like my cellmate nor did I want to look miserable. I tried to strike a middle ground. Then I combed my hair, parting it on the side, and then just letting it fall down naturally to cover my receding hairline. Eventually, I became fed up trying to look nice and waiting. I exercised and did the common things I usually do in the cell. When my cellmate finished working he told me the delay in ID updates was due to Moon blasting another prisoner who goes by the name Missouri. Both of them were at Gate 5 near the B of I office. After the incident, guards began taking only small groups of prisoners and were taking extra security precautions. I told Anthony sarcastically that Moon will now be able to talk with his "nephew" in the Roundhouse.

During the evening news, reporters were talking about the Asian summit the president of the U.S. was attending along with other national leaders in China. The media made a big deal about Vladimir Putin putting a jacket around the Chinese premier's wife. They also spent time talking about Barack Obama chewing Nicorette gum. I thought this was absurd and there were many more important issues to be discussed. China and Russia were both projecting increased power. Russian tanks were rolling into Ukraine and China was demanding extensive rights in international waters. They had just acquired their first aircraft carrier and had the audacity to showcase their new stealth bomber which was obviously built on stolen technology from the U.S.

After the news segment, I took off my headphones to find out what a prisoner on my gallery wanted. He was shouting my name. Finally, I went to the cell bars and said, "Speak. Who calls?" The man told me a few packs of Ramen Noodles were thrown in front of my cell and he wanted me to pass them down. There was nothing there, however, and I told him so. A cell house help worker or some other prisoner had just tossed them up on the gallery from the lower floor. I did not know what to tell him and said maybe the child abductor next door to me abducted his noodles. Upon hearing this he began to shout his name demanding his stuff. John ignored him but his cellmate claimed he did not take them.

With my breakfast Wednesday, I watched the 7 a.m. news. A large mass of Arctic air was moving into the upper Midwest. Along with the front was a snow storm that was already blanketing Minnesota. I thought about the foolish notion of man-made global warming and the president's non-binding deal with China to reduce carbon emissions. It was a ridiculous agreement not only because there is no evidence to demonstrate a correlation with industrial carbon dioxide emissions and a warmer planet, but because Barack Obama was stifling economic growth in the U.S. while China would never up hold its end of the bargain. China emits far more carbon emissions as well as other real pollutants. The pact with China was a farce solely to make the environmentalists in the U.S. happy and supportive of the Democratic Party.

Finally, guards let me out and several other prisoners to be escorted to the B of I. On the way there, gusts of wind tossed my hair. I went into the bathroom to wet it down but that was all I was doing to look nice. I hated posing for pictures. Waiting outside the office, Shaky commented about the small group and I told him about Moon knocking out Missouri. As I told the story, I looked at the child molester and made insinuations he could be blasted next. He went to the front right next to the door as if it provided him with protection. When I went in for my photo I was annoyed by not only John but all the low lives in the penitentiary. All the practicing the previous day for posing for a new mug shot went out the window.

Later in the morning I went on a visit only to be more annoyed by the badgering of my mother. She wanted me to quickly approve the draft petition sent to me by my lawyer. The draft was not even completed and had numerous other problems. My parents had pressured me to listen to my trial attorney who failed to contest the interrogating officer's testimony. Then they proceeded to hire various attorneys on appeal who I did not like or approve of. This time my appeal was being done my way. I was submitting all the issues I had and was going to support the petition with every affidavit I could possibly procure. Never again was a lawyer going to burn me with incompetence or not playing all my cards.

Back in my cell, Anthony wanted to see my photo ID. He said, "Damn, you look angry, almost as if you are glaring at the camera." I am angry. I have spent over 21 years incarcerated in the worst maximum security facilities despite not having the least bit of involvement in the murder I was convicted of. I did not even know my roommate killed the man until months later when he was arrested and it was on television news. I had evidence my car was 50 miles away from the crime scene and yet the witnesses were not called to testify. Appeal after appeal has been denied or dismissed and I am still struggling to get my case in the courts. The photo expressed exactly how I feel as well as my age. I looked every bit 40 or older and the loss of half my life made me angrier. A post conviction appeal will take 5 to 10 years and that is after I find a good private investigator/ attorney to file it.

In the evening I was handed a stack of old newspapers for my cellmate and I. Anthony even had several magazines to go with his News-Gazettes. I was not about to read all the newsprint nor did I think I could in a few hours before I became too tired and had to call it a day. I chose to read just the edition of Barron's. the USA Today was a liberal rag and its articles would only upset me. To shut out the cellhouse noise, I put on my headphones and listened to the cassette tape "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. The band was popular amongst stoners when I was in high school. I assume they smoked dope or did LSD to the psychedelic music, but I just used it to relax and ignored most of the lyrics. The Wall, however, has an interesting blend of subject matters from WWII to the post war British Fascists as well as a person who has a great amount of emotions bottled up within himself. That was me wanting to break out beyond the wall.

The following morning I went through the USA Today papers. There was an article written by Oren Dorell. He wrote about the feelings of Germans towards supporting Ukraine against a Russian invasion. The people he interviewed were at Lindenstasse 54, a museum dedicated to victims of political violence. It was formerly a jail in East Germany where the secret police of the communist state, STAZI, tortured and held political activists. Despite many Germans suffering under the Soviet Union, few were eager to help Ukrainians. They felt resentment that no one came to their aid when the Iron Curtain fell over them. The U.S. should have sent forces straight through Berlin all the way into Russia to topple the Marxist government, but cowardly political leaders prevailed. Unfortunately, cowardly political leaders still prevail to the detriment of the U.S. and its allies. The only wall Barack Obama seeks to prevent rising is on America's southern border.

After WWII, the Soviet Union seized half of Europe. Millions of people were slaughtered or sent to gulags never to be seen again. Those spared lived under the heavy oppression of communist rule. The regime spread its system of government around the world even off the coast of the U.S. in Cuba. The Soviets seemed invincible until the 1980's when Ronald Reagan used every means possible short of nuclear war to undermine "the evil empire". Eventually, the communist state began to crumble and on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Jubilant crowds took part in demolishing the wall into rubble and not long thereafter the USSR ceased to exist. It was a monumental achievement and I was glad when a small piece of the wall was given to me as a souvenir. The ugly chip of concrete held more value to me than if it were a semi-precious stone. It represented the defeat of America's arch nemesis and an ideology I abhorred. It also represented liberty. I do not know what came of the chip of concrete over my 21 years of incarceration, however, with a looming prison wall to stare at every day, I will never forget its symbolism.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Elections -- November 8, 2014

Elections and their potential to greatly alter political landscapes have captivated much of my attention recently. Last week, Ukrainians voted for control of parliament. It was the first time sweeping elections were held since the revolution when their corrupt puppet president and his party were cast out. Despite pro-Western parties winning in a landslide, Russian forces continued to consolidate power in the east. U.S. President Barack Obama unwilling to assist Kiev militarily instead sought further unpersuasive economic punishment. On Tuesday, Americans went to the polls to vote on liberals' weak foreign policy and socialist domestic agendas. Democrats' policies were overwhelmingly repudiated by the public and Republicans took the Senate and will have the greatest House majority in over half a century. The GOP also won many state gubernatorial elections including Illinois. There is immense anticipation for change, however, I expect divided government will prevent any significant shift except possibly within the IDOC.

On Sunday, I awoke at sunrise. An orange-red glow slowly filled the sky. From the prison cell, it reminded me of the coming of a new dawn. I expected Republicans to win by large margins in Congress and set the stage for a complete takeover in 2016. I also expected Democratic Governor Pat Quinn to lose. If state Republicans could just win a couple of seats in Springfield, the new governor would command some authority or at the least check Michael Madigan's grip on power. Regardless, a Bruce Rauner victory will have a dramatic effect on the state's prison system. Governors have almost unbridled power over the IDOC and I wondered how he as well as the outgoing governor will use it. Governors throughout the U.S. wait until their last week in office to grant pardons and commutations they are politically restrained from doing during their tenure.

After my cell workout, I watched the remnants of the Sunday news programs. The political commentary I saw all agreed the Republicans would hold onto their control of the House. However, there was disagreement if the Senate could be flipped. I contemplated if these news reporters just sought to hype a close race or were biased. In the USA Today newspapers I read, it was obvious their writers were slanted hard to the left. I thought they were either trying to blind the public or were blind themselves. A great tsunami was approaching the U.S. coast and it was going to drop on the capital. The electorate was fed up with Barack Obama and his cohorts in the Senate.

The only football game I cared to watch this week was between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. This was a battle which most likely would decide what AFC team went to the Superbowl. Incredibly, the Patriots were 3 point underdogs at home. The casinos in Las Vegas must underestimate the dynasty put together by Bill Belichick. My money was on New England and with much fanfare I watched them crush the Broncos. Julian Edelman had a touchdown reception as well as an 84 yard punt return into the end zone. Tight end Rob Gronkowski broke through tackles repeatedly for over 100 yards and a touchdown whereupon fans at Gillette Stadium chanted "Gronk, Gronk, Gronk...!" The offensive line was probably one of the best in the league and allowed quarterback Tom Brady to eviscerate the Broncos defense. Contrarily, Peyton Manning was under tremendous pressure forcing him to make bad passes including an interception to Ninkovich. In the end, the Patriots won decisively 43 to 21. It was the same unequivocal victory I expected for American patriots come Election Day.

After the game I called my mother who was home alone except for the dog. I was concerned how she was making do without my father and if her property was vandalized on Halloween. Surprisingly, she had bought candy for trick or treaters on what she used to call the "Devil's Day," however, very few kids stopped by. In fact, no one rang the door bell after 6 o'clock. The town passed an ordinance that dictated the hours for trick or treating, but she was not aware of it until the following day.  Although I ridiculed the law, she exclaimed it was dangerous for kids to be out at night without adult supervision. She went on saying they could be kidnapped, crime rates were soaring, and times have changed since I was free. What she said was preposterous. There was no serious crime in her area let alone kidnappings. Crime rates were plummeting to all time lows since 1990 across the nation and only a sensationalistic news media made it seem otherwise. What had changed since my arrest was the rise of the police state where individual liberty has been stripped away.

Monday morning prisoners at the maximum security facility were treated to a large strawberry pastry. These types of baked goods are donated to the IDOC. The wholesalers are given tax write-offs for perishable foods they could not sell and the prison system is more than happy to take them to fill holes in their budget. Before my cellmate left to work, he sat at the desk and ate his pastry like it was some type of delicacy. I cringed when seeing him lick his fingers with a look of almost joy on his face. The man lived in a cage and was condemned to die in prison and yet the sweet pastry seemed to make him content.

Monday was commissary day and convicts gave my cellmate a variety of goodies which made him even happier. The prisoners were giving him cookies, cakes, and sodas as a gesture of appreciation for the help he gave them. Unlike these men, I did not go to store. I was saving my money for a private investigator and in any event, there was no food I could be sold that would overcome the misery I felt. Later, though, I would barter over a slightly used pair of gym shoes and sweat pants. The shoes were too small and I gave them back. The sweat pants I bought, although they were too big and I had to pull the drawstring tightly around my waist. My cellmate saw me walking about the cell and stopped to laugh. He said it looked like I had parachute pants on. Jesting, I told him they were my "Hitler pants" and I was going to wear them until I won the war. (The leader of Nazi Germany was occasionally mocked for his big military fatigues he tucked into his boots and were fastened tightly around his waist with a belt.)

While in my XXXL sweatpants, I read a newspaper from last week that had an extensive article about the election in Ukraine. The pro-western parties won handily, however, no single party had a majority. President Petro Poroshenko would have to form a coalition government with that of the prime minister, Arsenly Yatsenyuk. The Popular Front surprised most political observers with their large showing and ability to win the same number of seats in parliament. The results were not unexpected to me, though. Poroshenko was not aggressively responding to the Russian invasion in the east. He was also not as conservative as Yatsenyuk's party.

For months, Russia has made no attempt to hide its insurrection in Donetsk and Luhansk. Their forces have poured over the border along with tanks and all types of heavy military hardware. There is even talk nuclear warheads may have been moved into the region. President Barack Obama failed to prevent the unfolding events along with the U.S. treaty obligation to defend Ukrainian territorial sovereignty, however, it seems he is attempting to ratchet up economic sanctions. The price of oil has been plummeting and various journalists have written that Saudi Arabia was oversupplying world markets to undercut the U.S. oil fracking revolution which is now producing 10 million barrels of oil daily. Unlike conventional drilling done in the Middle East, companies which use fracking technology require higher prices to make a profit. What these news writers do not consider though is the special relationship the U.S. has with the House of Saud. The monarchy is flooding the market to punish Russia. The Saudis were also happy to undercut the government revenue of Iran which is their Middle Easts enemy. America has a huge economy and oil sales make up only a small percentage of its GDP. Furthermore, cheap energy can stimulate overall U.S. growth. This is not true for Russia which derives over half its government revenues from oil and natural gas sales. Unfortunately, hitting Russia in the pocket book will not prevent Vladimir Putin from seizing parts of Eastern Europe.

Tuesday morning, I was excited it was Election Day in the U.S.  Federal and state congressional seats as well as the office of governor in Illinois were being voted upon. No, I could not vote and I was probably going to die in prison regardless of the outcomes. However, like many Americans, I felt a huge dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. There was a dire need for new leadership to stop the U.S. from falling into the abyss. If I was ever released, I did not know if I would even want to remain in this country. It was not the country I recalled from the 1980s before my arrest. Ronald Reagan had not just toppled the Soviet Union and in fact the tenants of communism were taking hold here along with its economic ruin. Socialism had weakened the republic and caused a staggering $18 trillion debt.

For the last couple of weeks, television has been filled with vicious attack ads against Bruce Rauner. Tuesday morning it was much more of the same as incumbent Pat Quinn desperately tried to hold onto power. These ads could not change the record of the governor and a state capital dominated by Democrats. They increased taxes during the lame duck session in 2011 without a single Republican vote and they were certain to do so again if Quinn won another term. House majority leader Michael Madigan and others claimed it was only temporary to pay for pensions without further borrowing as well as to pay interest on the debt. However, not a dime was used for those purposes. Illinois has the worst pension funding and obligations surpassing $200 billion. Direct debt owed was soaring also and because of this the state paid the highest 30 year interest rates (5.75%). Illinois also has the highest unemployment rate and businesses as well as its residents were fleeing. Under these dire circumstances, I was amazed Quinn's campaign staff continued to try to impugn Rauner as a successful businessman. The Marxist tactics of class warfare rang hollow.

After the first 20 minutes of TV news, I began my day as usual. I exercised, bathed, and read. I did not leave the cell even for meals. Around noon, my cellmate brought me an extra tray from lunch. I went to fill my plastic mug with sink water to wash down the soy burger and discovered it was a dark brown-orange color. When a guard passed by he mentioned a pipe had burst in B House the day before and plumbers were currently trying to fix it. There is so much wrong with Stateville, I am occasionally surprised the dilapidated buildings do not just fall in on themselves. Already a few buildings were razed and two are condemned. Other than funding more unionized guards, there is little money flowing to support the growing number of prisoners. They are just crammed into smaller spaces with less or inferior food, shelter, clothing, and health care. Democrats in Springfield meanwhile will do nothing to change the criminal statutes including much needed sentencing reform.

Towards 7 p.m., I made a large meal of burritos and nacho chips. I shared the food with my cellmate as well as my neighbors. The food was for me to snack on as I watched election news. There were 36 gubernatorial and Senate seats up for grabs. Initially, CNN began by making it a contest if the GOP could gain control of the upper congressional chamber, but this changed to how much of a majority they would have. The liberal news station almost begrudgingly made projections of Republican victories. They also tried to cast doubt in various senate races including Kansas, Georgia, and even Mitch McConnell's long held seat in Kentucky. They furthermore debated Louisiana's runoff election despite how there was almost zero chance of Democrat Mary Landrieu winning. The Republicans were sweeping the South and in fact when I saw the wall map of all the congressional districts, the entire country looked to be painted red. The only smudges of Democratic blue were around large cities, the West coast, the Northeast, and those pesky Norwegians in Minnesota who still clung onto socialism many generations after they migrated to the U.S.

Knowing the GOP would have solid control of the Senate and a House majority not seen since 1947 during the Truman administration, I turned stations to watch coverage of elections in Illinois. Judy Baar Topinka was the first Republican to declare victory in a contested state wide race. I assumed the popular comptroller would retain office despite her opponent being the Lt. Governor Sheila Simon. Bob Dole I was glad to see win against the most virulent campaign. Ironically, the more I saw the attack ads, the more I hoped he took back the 10th District from Brad Schneider. Jim Oberweis ran a pathetic campaign, and I was not surprised the far left liberal Dick Durbin won his 4th Senate term. Tom Cross had stepped down from his position as House minority leader to run for the office of state Treasurer. Considering how Democrats under Michael Madigan dominated Springfield, he probably thought he would have more influence elsewhere. The election was close and as of the time I am writing this, votes are still being counted.

By far the most important race was for governor. Democratic governors were required to dominate in Chicago because the rest of the state by and large was solidly Republican. In 2010, Pat Quinn had won a squeaker over Bill Brady simply by taking two counties: Cook and Alexander. After closing the supermax Tamms, Quinn was not going to win Alexander again. Thus when WGN broadcast that Bruce Rauner was getting over 20% of Cook County, I knew he was Illinois' next governor. By 10 p.m. the Associated Press and other news agencies were declaring his victory. However, despite 99% of precincts reporting and a 150,000 vote deficit, Pat Quinn refused to concede. His spokespeople claimed provisional and mail-in votes would put him over the top. This was ridiculous, but as I went to sleep, I head a sergeant and strong union backer yelling angrily that Quinn should not have conceded until every vote had been counted.

On Wednesday there was little talk about Republicans' sweeping victory in the U.S. Congress. On both prisoners and guards' minds was the flip in the governor's mansion and what it meant to them. Bruce Rauner had run on a campaign of shaking up Springfield including curtailing the power of state unions. Prisoners could not help but spite their captors who had lavish salaries, benefits, and almost lifetime job security. When "Sonic Hedgehog" unlocked the cell door to let Anthony out for work I asked him somewhat sarcastically if he voted for Bruce. He said, "Hell, no. I like to be wined and dined before I get fucked." Ironically, I thought the AFSCME and other state unions had been wined, dined, and much more for years.

When I returned from a visit, I stopped by Psycho's cell. He was very interested to get my opinion of what a Bruce Rauner administration meant. I told him it depends if the Democrats in Springfield maintained their super majority. With the power to override the governor's veto, he will be basically impotent regarding legislation. This seemed to make Psycho unhappy but then I told him regardless the governor still has full control over the IDOC and upon him taking office he will replace the director as well as other administrators. I also assume after conducting a full audit of the state's finances, they will be making budgetary cuts wherever possible to deal with the runaway spending and debt. Because Rauner has said he will reopen Tamms, I speculate he will close Stateville and open Pontiac CC to general population. Because contracts with the union are constitutionally binding, he will not be able to take away promised pensions. However, I am certain he will reduce staff which is ridiculously redundant. Psycho said his kitchen supervisors were worried the new governor would privatize the IDOC or parts of it. This was leverage Rauner could hold over the union to agree to concessions, but I did not think he would privatize the entire prison system.

Close to 3 p.m., I was rudely awakened by the counselor. The guard who was being paid extra money to act as a liaison asked me if I needed anything. She was unwilling to do a lot of things other counselors will do for prisoners claiming it was not her job. I do not know exactly what their duties are, but I never had any expectations from them. All I wanted her to do was not wake me out of a dead sleep. After she moved on to annoy other convicts, I made a cup of instant coffee and turned on my television. There was breaking news and all local stations broadcast Governor Pat Quinn make a brief 3 minute speech. He seemed very bitter, but conceded it was clear he did not have enough votes to win the election. The gap in votes from Tuesday had actually widened to 170,000 or 5%.

President Barack Obama was also not taking the loss of the Senate very well. Incredibly, after his party platform was repudiated across the country, he was claiming a mandate on behalf of people who did NOT vote and threatening to use his executive power if the newly elected Congress did not do what he wanted. The president made it very clear he will veto any legislation he does not like and will nullify immigration laws to allow millions of illegal aliens to stay. Wednesday night I listened to the Rick Savage radio talk show and was amused when he called Obama a "Lilliputian." Lilliput was a fictional kingdom created in Swift's Gulliver's Travels inhabited by a race of diminutive people, albeit who thought they were very important. The president was a very pompous and conceited man despite his diminished political authority.

While listening to Rick Savage, I could occasionally hear prisoners yelling from their cells. They were of the consensus that any changes in the IDOC would be good. One black convict even exclaimed he did not care if he had to bust rocks in a chain gang so long as sentences were reduced. When I spoke to Psycho earlier, we spoke about how criminal statutes had only become more expansive and extreme over our decades of incarceration. The living conditions had also become worse. We concluded that when you are at the bottom, there was nowhere to go but up. This I believe was the same thought of many people in Illinois, although they may be disappointed by the governor's lack of power to carry through on his promise to "shake up Springfield".

Thursday morning, I listened to another WLS talk radio show. John Kass and Laura Cohn had Illinois' new GOP minority leader on as a guest. Jim Durkin said the Democrats would not renew the increase in income and corporate taxes during the lame duck session. They actually took delight in Bruce Rauner trying to manage the fiscal disaster left to him without extra revenue. The talk show hosts asked Durkin how Rauner will deal with it. He said the governor could not propose a budget without a full audit of the state's expenditures, debt, liabilities, etc. He also will probably be stymied by Michael Madigan. The Democrats had managed to hold onto their super majority and could override the governor. John Kass asked why Republicans could not just win one more House seat. Durkin went on to explain how Democrats had gerrymandered the districts. "But Kankakee?!" Kass implored. The Republican challenger had lost by less than 100 votes.

On the prison yard, it was cold and windy with occasional wisps of rain. Along with a small group of black convicts, I lifted weights with the bent and rusted scrap iron. Two men argued about whether it was the federal government or Springfield which caused the detrimental changes in the IDOC as well as the justice system. After getting annoyed by the exchange, I told the younger and ignorant prisoner that except for federal appeals, everything was due to state politics. Then they debated what the new governor had in store for them. I did not say a word, but when I received a surprise visitor, they joked I had a Bruce Rauner victory party to attend. Apparently, I wear my ultraconservative beliefs on my sleeve.

Republicans flipped the Senate 44/56 and increased their dominance of the House. Their landslide victory was a clear message by the electorate to change course. However, despite the GOP's mandate and new power, the president is a socialist ideologue. He will not compromise and will veto all legislation passed that he disagrees with. Similarly, the same situation exists in Illinois. Voters elected a new governor to alter the downward spiral of the state yet Democrats with their super majorities in both chambers of the legislature can continue to do what they want. The only change which will come is in regards to divisions of government under his direct control including the Department of Corrections. After languishing in the dungeons of maximum security penitentiaries for over 2 decades, I look forward to the change. Ironically, though, the biggest change I can hope for is with the outgoing governor. Before he leaves office, he can grant my petition for executive clemency. My life will never be the same again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Cellhouse Worker -- November 1, 2014

After much confusion, my cellmate finally began a job as cellhouse help. The assignment is not difficult and requires him to do miscellaneous menial labor in the quarter unit. In addition to his official duties, he also assists prisoners who are trapped in their cells in a variety of ways. For working 7 days a week generally between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., he is given an extra $18 a month in state pay. No one accepts a job at Stateville for the money, but for the small perks which come along with it. Cellhouse workers are often able to walk the galleries of the quarter unit and occasionally go outside when escorted. The movement allows them to socialize and barter with a large group of men. Furthermore, they have access to state supplies, extra food trays, and a shower at the end of their shift. There is nothing appealing to me about the detail and I would never accept it, but I am glad my cellmate has. It conveys a few benefits, none better than not having a cellmate for part of the day.

Anthony was first made aware he was going to be offered a job when Internal Affairs had him submit to a drug test a few weeks ago. It is common procedure for prisoners to be tested before being allowed to work. Immediately upon returning from the chow hall, two members of the security unit were at the cell bars and gave my cellmate a cup to urinate in. They thought this was going to be a simple task for him and they could move on to other prisoners on their list to be dropped, however, I knew better. Anthony has trouble pissing in the presence of others even me despite us being confined to the same cell for almost 2 years. I grabbed a newspaper and sat on the table next to one of the men from I.A. and then told him, "This may take awhile. My cellmate has a shy bladder."

Prisoners have 2 hours to give a urine sample. If they fail to do so, they are immediately handcuffed and taken to Segregation. Typically, Internal Affairs will first ask the inmate whether they can go before handing them a cup. After giving them the cup, however, they must watch to make sure the prisoner does not cheat in some fashion. Anthony stood there trying to urinate for 5 minutes before giving up and putting the cup down. The security guard allowed him to drink some water, but I knew that was not the problem. He had a large mug of coffee before chow and at dinner drank 6 or more small cartons of grapefruit juice. His bladder was full. At other times I would make jokes such as "What are you doing back there? Are you playing with yourself, Giggitty, Giggitty? How long are you going to hold your pecker?" and so forth. Occasionally, I will even poke him with my remote control stick or give him a kick. However, on this occasion, I did not know if I should attempt to lighten the mood or allow him to concentrate. Thus, I just read the paper and made a little chit chat with the guard while Anthony repeatedly tried to give a urine sample. Almost an hour passed before he was successful. The cup tests for 5 different drugs and they all indicated negative.

In the week following my cellmate's drug test, he was informed that he was approved for a cell house help job. However, there was much debate about which shift he was going to work. Several prisoners were jockeying for openings including those who already had assignments in the quarter unit. Anthony was ill and did not aggressively lobby the sergeant like others. In fact, he only spoke to her once and with the encouragement of a guard who got along with him. The sergeant was noncommittal and I speculated this was because either she was recently assigned to the quarter unit or was uncertain if she would retain the post. With the indecision, Anthony wrote the assignment officer asking if he could have his kitchen job back but if not possible he preferred to work the 1st shift in the cell house.

It was not until last Saturday that Anthony learned where or when he would work. Just before 8 a.m., a guard yelled from the lower floor for him to get ready to come out. My cellmate was recovering from a bad cold, but immediately jumped down off his bunk eager to begin his first day. He was not at work very long when he was notified he had a visitor. Prisoners and staff alike razzed him that he was already taking time off, however, later he told me there was not much to do. He was assigned 10 gallery (the 5th floor) and he basically just swept, mopped, and picked up trash on the bars of cells. For a period of time, he stood at the far end of the narrow aisle and stared out over the penitentiary wall. I asked him what was the best part of his day at work and other than the view he replied "being able to take a shower." Cellhouse help workers are permitted to shower every day after their shifts.

On Sunday, I awakened my cellmate at a quarter past 7. He told me the previous night to wake him up sooner, however, I did not want him in my way. I have a routine in the morning that I do not like disrupted. He could sleep a little longer until I settled in to eat breakfast and watch the news. Furthermore, I am not a social person and this is particularly true when it is very early. I hate my life and it takes me a while just to adjust to the ugly realities of it. Cellhouse workers can be let out of their cells any time between 7 and 9 a.m. On this occasion, he had plenty of time to get ready and even sat on the front table watching VH1 music videos for a half hour while he waited.

At my suggestion, Anthony chose to take up another cellhouse worker's offer to switch galleries. The view from the 5th floor may be nice, but it was much more practical to work the gallery you also lived on. While I was exercising, I had the opportunity to watch my cellmate at work. First he picked up all the trash prisoners left on their cell bars including many Styrofoam breakfast trays. Then he swept and mopped the gallery. I told him he was pretty good with the push broom and he mused it was due to his four years of training in the Marine Corps. Later he rolled a crate by with a bucket of disinfectant. Every Sunday morning prisoners are given a watered-down solution of disinfectant to clean their cells. When Anthony pored some into a container for me, he commented it was 9 out of 10 parts water.

At noon I turned on my television to watch the New England Patriots crush the Chicago Bears. Stateville prisoners were upset to see the home football team be so completely dominated but I was happy. I had no loyalty to the Bears and the Patriots, due to their personnel, were my favorite group of players. I particularly liked watching tight end Rob Gronkowski manhandle Chicago's defense and make 9 for 9 receptions and score on three occasions. The Patriots went on to win 51 to 23, but the cellhouse went quiet by half time. As I watched the game, I ate a tray of baked chicken brought to me by my cellmate. Every cellhouse is sent a rack or two of trays for prisoners who have doctor ordered lay-ins or were not present during feed lines. When there are leftovers, they are given to cellhouse help. I disdain going to the chow hall and intend to take advantage of Anthony's benefits on the job.

In the evening, I called home using one of the two phones on the gallery. Since my cellmate was already locked in the cell, I was dependent on another worker to bring it to me. Initially, I was in a fair mood, but my mother was to quickly anger me. She told me about a litany of petty problems various family members had. I was railroaded for murder and had spent 21 years in a cage. Most likely, I was going to die in prison and none of them cared. Not one was willing to pay for a private investigator or a new attorney. Exasperated, I told my mother to let me speak to my father. I wanted to talk to him before he left to South Carolina.

The following day, I awakened to find a couple of small croissants in my breakfast tray and thought they would go well with coffee. Since my cellmate was now waking up near the same time as me, I also made him a cup. He appreciated the gesture but was again in my way before he left the cell. He even wanted to use the toilet at the most inconvenient time for me. I told him to shit downstairs in the lieutenant's office. The office is actually a cell directly below ours. There is no bunk bed but it has bars, a sink and a toilet. My cellmate grumbled something disagreeable and claimed he would be sent to Seg. I replied no staff would walk him for having to use the toilet. When you got to go, you have to go. Just walk straight in there, pull your pants down, and have a squat. If anything, they will be too stunned or amused to send you to Seg.

Later while on the job my cellmate asked me to hand him his electric razor and a mirror. From the gallery, he shaved to look clean cut for his photo. The prison was again taking annual mugshots and his name was on the list. He did not return for a long time and I asked him if he broke the camera. He said while he was at Gate 5 a fight occurred in the Roundhouse and there was a hold on all movement. I asked to see his new identification card and when I saw he was smiling I remarked, "Creepy." In fact, I told him he reminded me of "Creepy Rob Lowe" in his commercials for Directv. My cellmate told me numerous men were complaining of the yellow tint. I did not notice it in his photo, but I am certain with my pale complexion, I will soon have a new ID where I appear to have jaundice.

Visitors are permitted to leave publications for the person they are seeing. I had too many newspapers to read and only quickly perused the Mokena Messenger my mother had left. I noticed the Lincoln Way Knights were ranked below all the other Lincoln Way schools and took solace that because of the new schools since my arrest, I would have attended LW East, rather than Central. The Griffins had just beat Bolingbrook and were going to win the SWSC Blue Title. I was going to throw out the newspapers but then thought my neighbor may like to look at them because he was also from that area. Not long after I did, Leprechaun was excitedly tapping his mirror on my cell and proceeded to tell me his brother was spoken about at length in one of the articles. His brother was a long time developer in the SW suburbs and was soon to be half owner and manager at an enormous new indoor gun range. Live Fire Gun Shop and Club was to open next year in Mokena. I asked Leprechaun how close of a relationship he had with his brother. He said he had not had any contact with him in well over a decade.

Before I went to sleep I was delivered more mail. After 5 years my attorney had sent me a rough draft of my appeal. I briefly looked at the issues raised before putting it away in my property box to read some other day, week, or month. As I anticipated, she only raised a quarter of my issues and still had yet to get the affidavits I required. Even if the appeal was done properly, I had lost all faith in my attorney. Filing the appeal was the easiest part. How could I trust her to represent me in the 2nd and 3rd stage of a post conviction proceeding? I will probably just wait for the Illinois Innocence Project to file for DNA testing and decide if they want to represent in entirety, although this will take 2 years.

On Tuesday, my cellmate asked permission to attend the gym. Cellhouse help and other workers have a special yard day on Saturdays, but sometimes are allowed to go to other recreation periods. The sergeant gave Anthony the go ahead and after picking trash off the cell bars of the gallery, he went to play basketball. While he was gone, other workers swept and mopped the floors. They also passed out supplies. One of the workers returned to my cell to give me an extra roll of toilet paper as well as an extra bar of soap. Apparently, the extra supplies were a perk of the job.

Since Anthony was at the gym, I did not know if I could rely on him to give me an extra lunch tray. At the chow hall, a couple of black prisoners oddly sat with Leprechaun and me. One of the men is referred to as Big Jr. because he is a sizable man, although not as muscle bound as Big. Big Jr. had the audacity to take my two juice cartons. Occasionally, I will lift weights with him and I did not know what to think of what he did. Was he testing or playing with me? Maybe, he simply thought I did not want them because they were not close to my tray. Then I considered if he was just delirious because he was a diabetic and his blood sugar levels drop greatly when he works out. Dubious to his intent, I simply said, "So, you are just going to gangster my juices?" He did not reply, but placed them back.

In the afternoon, my cellmate seemed to be trying to make up for his absence earlier. He sorted and passed out the majority of the laundry bags and sheets which had been returned to the quarter unit. After his shift, he was very tired and was about to take a nap when the sergeant who works from 3 to 11 p.m. yelled to him. The sergeant said he had pulled some strings so Anthony could work for him. My cellmate got along with the staff on the 2nd shift, but he had sought working the 1st shift so he would not miss all his television shows during prime time. Later, the sergeant as well as a guard came to the cell to further persuade him. Anthony was trying to be tactful, but finally I blurted out that he cannot work the 3 to 11 shift. His life was watching TV at night. Not happy, they went away and my cellmate worried that he may face retaliation.

Again on Wednesday, I was anxious for Anthony to leave the cell. His new job assignment was great because it provided me time during the day without his presence, however, in the mornings he was very disruptive and annoying. Before my medications begin to work, I am regularly suffering from back pain and stiffness. I do not like engaging my cellmate just after waking, let alone playing a game of Twister in the small confines of our cell. Eventually, he was let out at 8:30 and I immediately washed the floor and then worked out. I expected to receive a visitor and had a lot of things to do before my name was announced.

After arguing with my mother for most of our visit, I returned to the cell and took a long mid-afternoon nap. When I awakened, I noticed my cellmate had glued a couple of hooks on the wall to hold his two jumpsuits. All prison workers must wear a baby blue jumpsuit while on their assignments. This is largely done to differentiate them from other convicts. My cellmate was too lazy to fold and put away the jumpsuits. Furthermore, he did not want them in his property box because they could only be washed once a week. I told Anthony I did not like his placement of the hooks and the jumpsuits would be in my way when I used the table or worked out in the cell. Later, the issue would become moot because the hooks fell off the wall.

For dinner I went out to the chow hall. It was a beautiful autumn evening. A navy blue sky was mottled with dark grey clouds which passed over a bright crescent moon. Over the 33 foot high prison wall, I could also see the tops of some trees. Their leaves had turned orange and I briefly imagined what it was like outside the penitentiary. Walking into the chow hall, I was brought back to my ugly reality with mobs of yelling prisoners. In the feed line, the Snowman asked me if I wanted a job working with him in the kitchen. Although my cellmate did, I had no such desire. He told me if I change my mind to let him know. On the way out of the building, I stopped momentarily to talk with a lieutenant. I jested for him to make sure he voted for Bruce (Rauner) and went on to tell him it was soon going to be very lonely for his favorite president when Republicans take over the Senate.

Anthony did not request to have time off work to attend another rec period, and I went to yard without him. I lifted weights with Suave, D-Boy, and a couple of other black prisoners. Conspicuously absent was The Elephant and I inquired about him. Prisoners laughed and said the prior day he went on a hunger strike. From what I was informed, his lawyer had arranged for a legal call, but the counselor was a couple of hours late and when he dialed the number, no one answered. Repeatedly, counselors have been late for his calls and to make a stand, he declared he was no longer eating until the problem was addressed administratively. Prisoners thought our counselors were negligent and had a conflict of interest being guards temporarily assigned the jobs as liaisons. However, their amusement was in a 350 pound man who was continuously eating, declaring a hunger strike. They placed bets on how long he could go.

At night, I watched the beginning of the movie "Lost Boys" until the local Chicago news came on. WGN broadcast Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez telling a crowded room of news reporters that Alstory Simon was innocent and being released immediately from prison. She claimed Northwestern University's investigators pressured the man into confessing which exonerated their client, Anthony Porter. The Porter case captured national media coverage because he was hours away from being executed when he was granted a stay. Later, Illinois Governor George Ryan would commute all the death sentences in 2003 just before leaving office based in part because of Porter. The announcement by Alvarez struck me as nothing but political. She wanted to discredit the law school while simultaneously adding integrity to the states attorney's office. I knew very well cops and prosecutors used various unscrupulous tactics to gain convictions and what Paul Ciolino was accused of doing was nothing comparable, even if true. Furthermore, Simon repeatedly confessed to the murders of Marilyn Green and John Hillard as well as in open court. There was no one I can recall ever who did this and was innocent. Regardless, there was more to Anthony Porter's exoneration than Simon's confession. Students under the tutelage of Professor David Protess discovered the witnesses to the August 1982 double murder in Washington Park could not even see what happened from their vantage point. Make no mistake, the criminal justice system is broken and politics does and will continue to play a factor.

On Halloween I watched the ESPN sports show, Mike and Mike, while eating breakfast. The two goof balls were dressed as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I did not like their humor, but Belichick was a guest and I thought highly of the Patriot's coach. Afterwards, I asked Anthony if he was going to wear a costume or do any trick-or-treating. With the lieutenant already screaming at the cell house help for "trading and trafficking," he doubted he could do any of the latter, but in his light blue jumpsuit he may appear to be a giant Smurf.

For part of the day, the female lieutenant sat against the outer cellhouse wall like a gargoyle watching workers for the most trifle infraction. Cellhouse help were weary of leaving their assigned gallery or even passing a book to another prisoner. However, while getting cleaning supplies, Anthony was able to get a little bleach to pass to me. I used it to scrub my white gym shoes to eliminate the rust stains. Later when my cellmate passed by again, I inquired if the lieutenant had shut down Halloween festivities. He said there were definitely no treats while she was working, but he was repeatedly tricked while walking by Killer Ray's cell. Apparently, the man had a centerfold open at the front of his cell of a black woman with her legs spread. "Giggitty, Giggitty" could not help himself but to look at the vagina, although every time he did, he was disgusted by the dark and disfigured genitalia. My cellmate said he had to get off the gallery and escape the purple vagina, both the one in the porn magazine and in the cell house. He volunteered to haul the quarter unit's garbage to the dumpsters on the other side of the building. I noticed him through the windows pushing a crate soon thereafter and could tell it was a blustery, cold Halloween. In fact, the penitentiary was placed on a low level lockdown on the 2nd shift.

This morning, the regular lieutenant was back from his extended vacation. There was talk he would be reassigned to another unit but this proved false. Both staff and prisoners were pleased to see him, although they expressed it in their own ways. A guard seemed like she wanted to give him a hug while Horse yelled from his cell, "Lieutenant! Lieutenant!" and when he replied I heard the convict shout "F**k you!" For his part, the lieutenant said, "On these nuts, Horse!" In similar spirit, I told Anthony to show the lieutenant how much we appreciate him by taking a dump in his toilet. Then I shoved the cellhouse worker out of the cell.