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Monday, July 28, 2014

Adolescence -- June 14, 2014

After my arrest, the news media printed an extraordinary amount of sensationalistic innuendo shaping public perceptions long before my trial. Television reporting was much worse given its greater viewership and inflammatory impact as well as their willingness to run with stories which had little to no merit. Foremost were the insinuations that I committed the Palatine Massacre, however, there were other false and misleading rumors that went back to my early teen years. All of this played into the prosecution's hands to gain my conviction and sentence to natural life without the possibility of parole. Despite not being permitted at trial, jurors were most likely prejudiced by the heavy slander by the news media. Furthermore, while very dubious testimony was allowed at my death sentence hearing to impugn my character, it was hardly believed by the judge. I did not get an indefinite prison sentence because of my purported behavior as an adolescent, but in spite of it.

Sunday morning, prisoners were treated to farina, biscuits, and turkey-soy grease gravy as is customary. However, no juice was passed out with the breakfast. Starting last week and continuing all this week, the 4 oz. cartons of apple, orange, or grapefruit juice has been missing. The change is the result of administrator's attempt to reduce the amount of hooch being made in the cell houses. The fruit juice is often what incarcerated men at Stateville and probably those at most other penitentiaries use to ferment and create a very nasty tasting, pungent wine. I never liked even the finest quality wines I sipped a couple of times before my arrest, however, hooch is extremely popular in prison. Men will drink bottles of the rotting juice to get drunk despite how diarrhea and vomiting often will accompany it.

This week I have been able to overcome the cold virus which has swept the penitentiary. Feeling better, my exercise regimens are again at 100%. I took advantage of my renewed energy and cellmate's absence to do various martial arts including various kicks. Apparently, I looked like a mad man because Anthony told me later that our neighbor commented I was crazy. I noticed him standing outside the cell bars looking for a comment as I pounded the wall with my feet and elbows. In prison, I do not have a punching bag or any other equipment to stay fit and must improvise. I have been lifting weights and cardio training since I was in high school. Although my methods may have changed, my intensity has not varied much. In fact, I was much stronger and more athletic in my late teens than in my late 30's, and it was not from doing lackadaisical work outs.

I went out of my cell for dinner and while in the feed line a kitchen worker asked me who won the NASCAR race at Pocono. There are several pools in the penitentiary and the Snowman seemed disappointed when I told him Earnhardt Jr. won by a fluke to Brad Kozlowski who had a much better car. Later when walking back to the cell house, a couple of prisoners asked me who I thought was going to win the NBA finals. I told them the San Antonio Spurs were favored to win the series, however, I did not have any advice for them on day to day games. I do not even watch pro basketball or keep up with the latest news. Prisoners, though, seem to think of me as some type of sports guru. Even before my arrest when I helped my friends' booking operations, I was never great at picking teams, just hedging, odds, and accounting.

While black inmates cheered and jeered while watching the Heat play the Spurs, I was bored and flipped stations with my remote control stick. Eventually, I looked to see what my cellmate was tuned into and saw a parade of women. The Miss USA pageant was being broadcast and having nothing better to do with my time, I thought I may as well critique them with Anthony. From the women remaining, I told him the most attractive seems to be Miss South Carolina. She was a 6 foot blond of Polish descent and had a pretty face as well as a nice body. Of course, she lost to a Mexican woman which seems appropriate considering the flood of immigrants south of the border that continue to alter the country's racial demographics.

When mail was collected from the cell bars, I was glad to see a guard had shaved. Last week I had been making fun of his thin mustache. "Did you pencil that in? Are you going for that Mexican look?" I asked. Many Hispanics trim their mustaches to just a line above their lips because they think it looks stylish or perhaps just out of necessity. The guard, proud of his Italian background, acted insulted although he knew I was simply joking with him. I inquired why he did not grow it out thicker or grow a beard. Oddly, he told me he could not. "Before my 16th birthday, I was able to grow a beard," I said to my cellmate after the guard left the gallery with the mail. Anthony replied not everyone was a "man-child" whereupon I retorted, "Bold character" after the motto of an amusing Dr. Pepper commercial that extols a bearded man who lives in the wilderness catching fish with his bare hands and wrestling bears.

On Monday, I was surprised the prison was placed on lockdown. Nothing had occurred overnight to my knowledge to warrant it. When I spoke to a gallery worker, he had no idea. Instead, Bucky gave me a "hard sell" about trading my Korn cassette tape for his Iron Maiden. Live After Death was a good album that I listened to during my teen years. It was the classic genre of heavy metal I preferred over the alternative 90's. Had Bucky had the original and not a poorly made copy, I would have quickly made the trade. To make the deal more appealing to me, he said he may be willing to give me an additional tape. I told him to let me think about it.

With time in the cell and few distractions, I set upon giving myself a haircut. It was a challenging task to cut one's own hair let alone with beard trimmers and a couple of small plastic mirrors. My cellmate watched me struggle and he jested why I did not grow my hair out and put it in a pony tail. As a teenager and for a couple of years in my mid-20's, I did in fact have long hair which I brushed tightly back and bound in a hair tie. It was easy to cut and maintain. However, in my 30's, my hair line has receded and the top front has thinned. I was not going to try holding onto the past like Steven Segal. Short tapered hair now looks the best, in my opinion, and after I labored for over an hour with the sides and top, my cellmate gave me some assistance with the back.

On the 2nd shift, the prison was back to normal operations except for the Roundhouse. The building has been on a level 1 lockdown since a fight between a guard and a prisoner. During the day, it was being searched by the SORT. When the Orange Crush is assembled generally there is no movement and I assume prisoners whose cells were tossed were placed in the chow hall preventing any lunch lines from being run. A guard insinuated something dangerous or serious was found, however, later I learned it was just more hooch, albeit a lot of hooch. From sources, I heard an inmate had an entire large property box filled with juice, bread, and sugar. If that was not enough, there were two more large garbage bags in the back of his cell. I suppose if you are going to produce prison wine, you may as well go big. The punishment is the same if you have just a bottle or a few barrels.

I do not normally watch the local Chicago area news, but I tried to find out more information about a law just recently signed by Governor Quinn. According to the FOX ticker tape, legislation passed in Springfield automatically expunging the records of juveniles upon their 18th birthdays. Before this, people had to petition the respective court and judges had discretion to remove criminal files. Adults should not have to carry their adolescent delinquency around with them for the rest of their lives. What a person has done as a minor does not define them or who they will become later in life. Unfortunately, I believe the law only applies to cases which were never adjudicated. The evening news never mentioned the bill signed by the governor and I was unable to get any specifics.

Mail was passed out and I lost interest in trying to find information on Chicago's local television news. In one of my letters was a forwarded email from a private investigator I wrote. Stunningly, he claimed he had already worked on my case with Jenner and Block before my trial. I do not have much of the law firm's papers, but never did I see the name of John D. Rea. In fact, I was not even aware any investigation was conducted by my trial lawyers. Because I largely blame William Von Hoene for dropping the ball if not outright sabotaging my case, Rea said I may not be interested in his services.

On Tuesday, I missed yard to attend a health care pass. The psychologist seemed pleased that the melatonin prescribed to me was working well. She said it also helped her 10 year old son who has Aspergers. I inquired what other medications, if any, proved beneficial and was told that she could not compare us. Not only was everyone with ASD different, but her son had ADHD as well. From what I can surmise with my two meetings with this doctor, her son is not a quiet introverted child as I generally was unless aggravated, but he was very hyper. I imagine he is quite a handful.

On the way out of the HCU, I was stopped for a "code 3" or medical emergency. A prisoner from the Roundhouse was being brought in on a stretcher and was in a neck brace. Ironically, he was in leather restraints which I thought was unnecessary even if his unit was on lockdown or he was in segregation. While I waited for him to be wheeled through, I spoke with a nurse who formerly had passed out medications in the evening, but rarely does anymore. I did not realize how short she was until standing next to her. She had to be at least a foot shorter than me.

Upon returning to my cell, I called my father to ask him if he ever heard of John Rea before I replied to his email. He said no, and I did not bother asking him to assist me in the search for a PI. None of my family cares to help me in regards to my case anymore. It is not that they do not believe I am innocent, but because they are stubborn, frustrated, or so much wrapped up in their own lives.  Instead, my father told me about a woman he met from Russia in South Carolina. She has a daughter he thought may be interested in writing me. The idea of a Russian mail order bride has always intrigued me, but it seems premature.  I do not know if I will ever be released. Furthermore, even if I did have a close out date, few people are interested in writing anymore. They text and email, neither of which I can do from prison.

I did not go out for dinner and instead made burritos from commissary food. The DVD "Godfather III" was scheduled to be played for prisoners, and I wanted to finish making the meal before it began at 6 p.m. My cellmate was initially not going to watch it until I told him there were some brief sex scenes and nudity. The Godfather movies were classics and although the third one was not as good as the previous two, I still thought it was entertaining. While standing at the counter spreading cheese on flour tortillas, Anthony asked if I should not be making some Italian food. I said if the commissary sold it, I would. Prodding further, he told me one of the main actors had an Italian restaurant in L.A. where Chicago style pizza was served. I said I doubt I could get take-out even from a local restaurant let alone from one on the west coast but I could do a good impression of Tony Mantegna: "If you will not give, then I will take!" This quote from the disgruntled mafia don was the favorite of my co-defendant and it was symbolic of his attitude toward the Italian syndicate in Chicago.

The DVD was never played, and instead I watched CNN's coverage of a Republican primary election in Virginia. Stunningly, the House majority leader was defeated by Dave Brat, a Tea Party candidate with almost no money. I was pleased with the outcome because I did not care much for Eric Cantor, an establishment Republican Party member who was taking positions on immigration and other issues I found disagreeable. Readers may find it remarkable that I was greatly interested in politics before my arrest and voted in the 1992 election when I was 17 years old. No one bothered verifying my age or even if I was an American citizen eligible to vote. After supporting Pat Buchanan in the Republican primary, I voted for Ross Perot, although pundits claim his independent run for president allowed Democrat William Clinton to win.

Amazingly, despite the repeated scandals of the Clinton era, his wife is once again touted to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016. Personally, I do not believe she will run and is leaving the question open to sell more books. Hillary Clinton has been on various TV shows promoting her book "Hard Choices". Regardless of how many liberals adore her, she is less of an idealist than an opportunist. Book sales and paid speeches that earn her sometimes a quarter of a million dollars are much more important than having the office of president. Amusingly, Hillary Clinton was caught in an interview with Diane Sawyer complaining about being dead broke and unable to pay for the 10 mortgages she had on mansions. She did not mention the $12 million debt was due to lawsuits against her husband "Slick Willy" or that since that time they are once again multimillionaires. I do not mind politicians being rich but running a class warfare campaign is hypocritical. Furthermore, I think her service as a senator and as Barack Obama's Secretary of State was horrendous and incompetent.

On Wednesday, I was not looking forward to a visit with my mother. After 21 years, there is little to say. My life in prison remains miserable and I do not like to speak about it. Occasionally, talk will go to the times before my arrest which I find much more enjoyable except because she is so judgmental and religious, they become argumentative. This time I spoke about the girls I dated in high school and how I was sifting through them to find a mate to take with me to university. One, I broke the commandment of premarital sex. Two, I was not supposed to be even thinking about being a father at such an early age. Three, how did I expect to pay for tuition and the expenses associated with my plans? When I spoke of the money and property I had accumulated, I was criticized for having criminal associates. Finally, I broke cardinal rule 4 when I said if I had better parents, I would not have moved in with the Faraci's in the first place. As the saying goes, I could not win for losing.

Thursday morning, I awakened to a breakfast of uncooked sausage, rice cereal, and milk spoiled so badly it fell out of the carton like cottage cheese as I dumped it into the toilet. Having nothing to eat, I decided just to wait until lunch and in the meantime read as well as watch the morning news. Aaron Topper, a young man from Mokena, Illinois was killed in Afghanistan. He lived just a few miles from my parents and went to Lincoln Way East High School which had not been built when I lived there. Topper's death was in vain because he was accidentally killed by friendly fire. In fact, a U.S. B-1 lancer dropped a bomb on him. Often I feel like a bomb dropped on me and I would gladly forfeit my life in exchange for his.

Due to the Obama administration, it seems many of the wars the U.S. has fought were in vain. Advantages after the cold war are lost to Russia retaking parts of Ukraine. The situation in Afghanistan seems to be precarious and I would not be surprised if the Taliban eventually was back in control. Then there is Iraq which is being taken over by ISIS. The group which seeks an Islamic state of Iraq and Syria just acquired the 2nd largest city after Bagdad and a vital oil refinery. Regardless of the reasons given to justify the war, it is very important that America has access to oil and dominates the geopolitical center in the Middle East. Only a strong authoritarian state backed militarily by the U.S. could have kept together the splintered region.

In the afternoon, I went out to the South yard to lift weights and run the track. While working out with the bent and rusted iron barbells, I overheard a black prisoner speak about how he was hopeful he would be paroled soon. Keon was 17 at the time he committed a murder and due to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling his LWOP sentence had to be reevaluated. To me, I thought how I wish my indefinite prison term could be set for a new hearing. In fact, I wished that I had a fair hearing in the first place. I have noticed some readers have read old newspaper articles available online, however, what they can never ascertain from these excerpts was the credibility of witnesses and that the entire proceeding was a fraud.

Well before I went to trial, Judge Sam Amirante told my lead attorney, off the record, that he did not want to decide the case. Although the evidence did not support a guilty verdict, he wanted to play the role of Pontius Pilate. Furthermore, if the jury by chance found me guilty, he would give me what the public wanted: the most severe penalty. Knowing this, I waived my jury for the death penalty because I preferred it over any term of years in prison. I also knew I would have a much better chance on appeal if on death row. The judge was perplexed and asked me a couple of times if I really wanted him to rule on capital punishment. "Yes, your honor" (what a joke), I responded.

I think the most inflammatory testimony at my sentencing hearing came from two students I went to high school with. Scott Anderson was an 18-year-old senior and a member of a clique of Stoners I frequently fought with. On the way to a bus stop during my freshman year, I was confronted by the punk. I was tired of his threats and just wanted to beat his ass and scare him silly, both of which I succeeded in doing. However, his claims that I attempted to kill him were ludicrous. It was only by accident that I cut him when brandishing a knife. I did not even realize the blade glanced him until well afterwards. The small cut to his arm was covered with a little Band-Aid, seen by one of my mother's friends at the news stand where she worked. Scott was laughing and bragging to his friends about how much trouble he got me in.   I was arrested and plead guilty and was given a year of probation.

As for Melanie Speiss, contrary to her testimony, she was obsessed with me (think Jodi Arias). I dated her along with other girls at Lincoln-Way, even a couple of her friends. I made no secret we were not going "steady," but she became furious when I told her she was not Mrs. Right and began to fade her out of my life. Vindictive, she accused me of breaking into her house and stabbing her dog. I was never prosecuted for the incident because the police knew a person by the name of Harry Adams had committed the crime. He not only bragged about it to undercover ATF agents but plead guilty to making harassing phone calls where he taunted the girl about her dog. Similar evidence was not submitted by my attorney at my sentencing hearing and I really did not care.

I will be the first to admit I was no angel during my adolescence, but all of the people who testified against me during my sentencing hearing lied and told half truths. It was so apparent, even the judge remarked how questionable they were. However, as a scapegoat in the Palatine Massacre, it did not matter. The fix was in. To spite me, the judge even gave me a sentence worse than death: life without parole.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Excessive Force -- June 7, 2014

The Roundhouse was placed on lockdown last Saturday after a guard and prisoner fought each other. Because those confined within the large domed building are isolated, news about the incident was slow to filter out. According to inmates, a belligerent guard provoked the fight and excessive force was used by responding staff. Excessive force and retaliation in the IDOC is pervasive and I was not surprised to read about a lawsuit filed by a former Stateville inmate in Prison Legal News that made similar claims. Along with guards, police also often use excessive force and violate the rights of criminal suspects. Recently, the warden posted news of a wide investigation of convictions tied to former Chicago police commander Jon Burge along with his subordinates at two police departments. I also was a victim of police abuse during interrogation. However, unlike these prisoners, I never gave a confession. A detective from the Cook County D.A.'s office simply fabricated an incriminating statement. His testimony, despite being uncorroborated and conflicting with evidence, was never contested by my trial lawyers. 19 years later, I remain in prison based on his lies.

After being prescribed Melatonin, I have been sleeping much better. However, I continue to be sick along with the majority of inmates in the cell house. Early Sunday morning, I could hear a chorus of coughing and I could not help but be a part of it. Until my cellmate awakened to take a shower, I coughed into a small towel to muffle the noise I made as well as to prevent germs from being airborne. As soon as Anthony got down from his bunk, he began coughing himself. I filled out yet another medical request slip and asked if he wanted to do the same. No, he did not care to bother and said he will wait to see what I am diagnosed with if I ever do get to see a doctor.

Some inmates at Stateville have a subscription to Prison Legal News. The publication is printed by a human rights advocacy group in Florida but is distributed nationwide. It covers a myriad of topics of interest to prisoners and occasionally I will peruse it if my cellmate is given a copy. The May issue was passed to him and when he went to the shower room he told me to check out page 20. An article by David Reuther described an incident that took place at Stateville in 2008. In the chow hall a prisoner was yelling to men in a dining room from the inner chamber. A lieutenant told him to shut his mouth and get in line. After an argument, the prisoner punched the lieutenant in the face. Guards quickly wrestled Eduardo Navejar to the floor and handcuffed him behind the back. Despite being subdued, he was stomped on and pepper sprayed.  Then he was dragged out of the chow hall and the lieutenant pepper sprayed him again before he was tossed into a Seg cell without any medical treatment. Navejar filed a lawsuit which was initially dismissed, but later the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case and the IDOC is currently discussing terms of settlement.

When a prisoner acts violently, only sufficient force to subdue him is supposed to be used. Furthermore, once restrained, a prisoner cannot continue to be struck or retaliated against. However, the law is regularly disregarded by guards who have their own code of conduct and justice. They usually use overwhelming force particularly now that they have excessive amounts of manpower and have little to fear from gangs. Also, if the inmate assaults one of their own co-workers, there is often a desire to retaliate if not an obligation. Guards want to stand united even when they see something they find disagreeable. Being isolated in a Seg cell with limited property for 6 months to a year or longer is not always thought of as adequate punishment. Thus, there is regularly misconduct involved when staff assaults occur even when it is instigated by staff.

For lunch turkey-soy burgers with French fries were served. Fries are a rare treat for prisoners and nearly everyone went to the chow hall. I sat at a full table with 5 other men. One of them was Steve and I made fun of him for having Grey Poupon mustard. I told him he was now in a maximum security penitentiary and his pampered life of luxury was over. "Let it go," I said before other prisoners began to chime in with jokes from the old commercials where a man drives up to a traffic light in a Rolls Royce and says to another driver, "Excuse me. Would you happen to have any Grey Poupon?" Later, Steve told me he did not buy it. "The Dentist" did. He said the reason why he befriended the old, disheveled black man was because he saved up a lot of money before his arrest and continues to get $600 a month from a pension trust. I asked what he spent the money on considering his clothes have holes in them and he comes to chow implying he is not buying any food. Steve did not have an answer but finally said, "Grey Poupon".

Walking back to the cell house, I saw the lieutenant who I had just read about. If I were alone, I would have asked him what he did to get punched in the mouth. Was he again rambling on about his idol Barack Obama? Instead, I just said that I saw he made the paper. He did not know what I was talking about and I was not going to explain in the presence of prisoners, although some may already know. Already some men do not like him and have commented to me that they do not understand how I can get along with the lieutenant who can be hyper and petty with the enforcement of certain rules. Just being friendly with a high ranking corrections officer can raise eyebrows because there can be an "us vs. them" mentality. However, I refuse to lump everyone together and I have not taken sides in the incident I read about. Stateville can have a crazy zoo-like atmosphere and there is a lot of ethical ambiguity. Indeed, I often feel like striking obnoxious prisoners yelling in the chow hall.

The movie "The Town" was on TV Sunday night. The film is about a crew of Irish criminals in Boston and a member who wants to start a new life. The character played by actor Ben Affleck is resolved to get out when during an armor truck robbery a security guard is killed. The group's leader, however, threatens to kill him and his girlfriend if he does not partake in yet another even more dangerous job. Everyone in the race track robbery is killed by police except him and he returns to the crime boss to shoot him and his enforcer before fleeing. In my teen years, I acquainted with a similar group of men. In fact, my co-defendant sought to be in the mafia. However, this does not mean I participated or condoned what they did. In regards to the murder of Dean Fawcett, I was not even aware that Robert Faraci was going to kill him and did not find out until months later when I saw on television that my former roommate had been arrested.

Monday morning, I had the pleasure of going to the commissary building. It was incredibly noisy in the holding area where prisoners talked loudly to each other. They also coughed openly, snorted snot, and spit phlegm on the floor. A large fan was set up and inmates jockeyed for position around it until someone passed gas whereupon they dispersed. I sat in the corner by a card game waiting impatiently for my name to be yelled out from the locked gate. Occasionally, those playing cards sought out new players as men left to get their store orders. They glanced at me, but knew better to ask. I was not happy and wanted to leave asap.

After returning from the commissary building, I read most of the day dropping newspapers as I finished them in my neighbor's cell. Amusingly, the thud of one roll of papers startled Hooch to such an extent that he smacked his head on the bunk above him. The newspapers were from the previous week and I quickly went over the old news including the scandal at VA hospitals. The corruption and delay of health care made me think about a conversation I had with my father the day before. My father began his career in real estate working for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. He regularly became embroiled in arguments with top administrators about the pervasive cover up of bonuses given to people who did not meet quotas or other efficiency standards. Because of this, he was passed up for promotion to other employees who kept quiet and kissed ass.

The VA scandal has been swept from the news, by the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who had been held captive by the Taliban for 5 years. Initially, the White House gloated in their triumph and ability to reverse the political damage particularly amongst veterans. Susan Rice even was again in the media with her spin giving Bergdahl glowing praise for serving the U.S. with "honor and excellence". However, quickly sources came out that he was hardly a hero. In fact, he was a private, only promoted to the rank of sergeant after he deserted. Furthermore, many Republicans and even some Democrats were aghast the president without congressional authorization or even notice swapped the U.S. soldier for 5 senior Taliban leaders being held at Guantanamo.

On Tuesday, my cellmate went to the gym and while he was gone, I washed the floor, counter, and table before exercising. A gallery worker came by pushing a bucket of ice and I stopped momentarily to get a bowl of it to ice a bottle of water. At commissary, I purchased a dozen due to rumors the tap water was unsafe to drink. I doubt it will make a difference, however, because I drink about a gallon of water a day and drinking a little 17 oz. bottle periodically will hardly suffice. After working out, I guzzled the water before bathing out of the sink and washing clothes out of the toilet. Being sick, I was very tired and was back on my bunk a little past noon.

I did not stir from sleep until my cellmate awakened me by flushing the toilet and the foul smell of his excrement. However, that was life in maximum security prisons and I could not expect him to hold it until I was awake. I went to the cell bars to get some fresh air. The windows are now open, but unfortunately the flow of air mainly comes from the vent in the back of the cell. When my cellmate got up from the commode he told me about his time in the gym. After he quit playing basketball because of petty arguments, he wandered around listening to his radio. In his meandering, he was approached by someone trying to sell him drugs. Oddly, they were pharmaceutical rather than marijuana, heroin, or crack.

For dinner I left the cell for baked chicken. Some inmates refused to eat it because it was not fully cooked. I took a chance eating the pink meat but not the donated bread. The buns had green mold growing on them. My neighbor, who was not eating, spoke to me about where he lived before his arrest. I was surprised he lived in Frankfort, a few miles from where I once lived with my parents. I was also surprised he was at Joliet CC for a time when I was there. I did not remember him and asked if we ever spoke. Leprechaun said, "Hell, no." Apparently, I looked mean and unapproachable. Some staff, I recall, would even intentionally mispronounce or spell my last name as MADrowski. Staff at the Stateville Health Care unit also will do this and I was reminded of this after a guard searched my cell and asked me why all my sheets of prescription medications were made out to Madrowski. Amusingly, a nurse recently brought my sleeping meds and asked if my name was Madrowski. She was new and did not know the joke other nurses play.

In the evening I watched a PBS documentary about an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh while waiting for the prison DVD "Dirty Harry" to repeat. For readers who have not seen that movie, it is about a cop who does not mind breaking the law to get the bad guy. The detective would beat murderers until they confessed or take evidence without a search warrant. The character played by Clint Eastwood also commonly used excessive force and would even kill a murderer rather than let him go free or be sent to prison. In one of the final scenes, he taunts a serial killer to go for his weapon before blasting him with his 44 caliber Magnum revolver. I like these old Dirty Harry movies and with my voice raspy from a cold, I gave my cellmate a couple of my best Clint Eastwood impressions including "Go ahead. Make my day."

By midweek, prisoners in G.P. were hearing news from what occurred in the Roundhouse. A lieutenant claimed a guard working in the building was punched, however, other sources were telling a somewhat different and more detailed story. According to it, the guard was regularly looking for trouble and eventually an argument between him and an inmate led to a fight. The two men exchanged punches until a large group of responding staff brought the prisoner down hard. That was not the end of the matter, though, and he continued to be struck before being tossed into a Seg cell.

Most guards do not come to work with a hostile attitude and seeking to provoke convicts with no out dates. Furthermore, although there is strong solidarity among correctional officers particularly when it comes to physical conflicts with inmates, they will not always stand lock step with their co-workers. In fact, this week I was told a guard defended a prisoner who was being scolded and wrongfully accused of misbehavior. After entering the quarter unit, the prisoner went to where a rack of food trays were and took several to pass out to others who were not able to attend lunch. This upset the guard at the front door because she was a new employee who was not familiar with common procedures. Furthermore, she had an obsession with securing all gates and inmates despite how impractical it can be. When another guard told "the Gatekeeper" it was OK, the rookie accused her co-worker of siding with inmates. This caused the senior correctional officer to become enraged and go into a tirade which could be heard across most of the cell house. Afterwards, many prisoners in the unit applauded.

Thursday morning, the pedophile who lives next door returned from the hospital. He had been gone for two days and I was hoping he stayed there until someone else was moved into his cell.  From what I am told, the child molester had lymph node cancer but it was cut out before spreading and now he just gets occasional check-ups. While he was gone, I also heard more about his case and prior offenses. Apparently, he had molested other children before he abducted a 10-year-old retarded girl walking home from school in Brighton Park. He will never again be able to get his hands on another child with the 120 year prison term he was given. The sentence was ridiculous and I thought a sentence of 12 years with periodic caning was more appropriate and practical. Human rights advocates may object, but I think Dirty Harry would have approved.

Later in the day I was annoyed to hear news of the president calling the surge in illegal immigration across the Texas border "an urgent humanitarian situation" requiring billions of taxpayers' money to care for their needs. He did not mention he is largely responsible for the exponentially growing Central American border crossings. When Barack Obama's so called "Dream Act" was rebuffed by Congress, he decided to act on his own through the DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The executive decree allows millions of illegal aliens brought to the USA as children to stay. When those in countries such as Guatemala heard this, they put their kids on buses and in many cases, they were unaccompanied by adults. While there was only approximately 10,000 apprehensions per month of Central Americans in 2012, this figure has increased fivefold and officials expect close to a half million to pour in this year, most of whom will be released. Children or no children, they should all be deported. Instead, they are used as pawns in Obama's push to get amnesty passed in the legislature.

Also on television news was a humiliating video of the U.S. president lifting weights at a gym in Poland. Was he trying to buff up before a possible encounter with Vladimir Putin at a French dinner party? Lifting those tiny dumbbells leisurely was symbolic of his weak and apathetic foreign policy. It was not reassuring to NATO allies and definitely did not earn the respect of Russia despite how their military has seemingly backed off a full invasion of Ukraine. More comical was a liberal pundit who claimed Obama was not demonstrating weakness abroad but being thoughtful like John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. The only similarity I found there were both presidents created their own problems by not using military force. Kennedy failed to back the overthrow of Fidel Castro before the USSR set up nuclear missiles and Obama failed to build up military forces before or during the Ukrainian revolution which gave the new Russian state the opportunity to seize Crimea.

Before night yard yesterday, some prisoners were amazed the warden posted a bulletin on the cable system which addressed pending litigation that could lead to overturned convictions. One convict even yelled out from his cell, "Now that's love" although the information provided was probably court ordered. Circuit Court Judge Paul Biebal had appointed a "special Master" to identify any additional victims of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge who were convicted based on coerced confessions. The investigation was broad in scope and sought out any prisoner who was arrested by the commander or detectives under his authority between the years 1972 and 1995.

I am certain Burge and Co. were responsible for some innocent men being convicted. However, not everyone interrogated by them was tortured, beaten, or had their rights violated. Furthermore, even those who were coerced to give confessions are not necessarily innocent. Cops will often use unscrupulous tactics to get evidence. It is probably pervasive when it comes to serious or high profile crimes. Many prisoners have admitted to me over the years that they were guilty but the police, prosecutor, or even judge usurped the law in order to gain their conviction. Sorting out the truth from fiction is probably going to be impossible with so much corruption. It may be best just to throw out all the convictions that are tainted to make sure the innocent are released and to bring some integrity to the system.

It is unfortunate with so much attention being paid to the conduct of Jon Burge, other suspect interrogations are not being scrutinized. The police who arrested me held me incommunicado for 2 days during which my Miranda rights were violated and I was intimidated, threatened, kicked and struck. Unlike other prisoners who had their convictions overturned, I did not give a confession. In fact, no amount of excessive force was going to make me fold. The only way my interrogator John Robertson was to get an incriminating statement would be if he made one up, which he did. Oddly enough, his uncorroborated claim remains the thread condemning me to an eternity in prison.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cassette Tapes -- May 31, 2014

In the IDOC, other than radio, prisoners rely on cassette tapes for music. With tapes almost obsolete, there is a great demand to purchase, trade, or copy recordings. This week, I exchanged tapes with a few men and listened to a variety of music I have not heard in years. There are rumors that administrators are considering a transition to MP3 players as some states have already done, however, I am not holding my breath. Similarly, I am skeptical of inmates' optimism that sentencing reform is in the near future due to the failure of a legislative bill making the income tax increase permanent. Democrats will most likely wait until after the election to continue their squeeze of business and the working people of Illinois. Even if they lose the governor's office and their congressional super majority, the lame duck session provides them with an opportunity to needlessly tax and spend billions of dollars.

Last week, I received a long kite from Rob who recently was moved to the quarter unit. He expressed disappointment that I had not reached out to him and rambled on for four pages about what he has been up to since I last saw him in the Roundhouse. Being a skinhead I was not surprised he was in a couple more fights. Those lightning bolts tattooed on his neck were a source of much pride, but they also made him a target, particularly at a penitentiary with a 3/4th majority of black convicts. During one of the fights I was told guards used excessive force restraining him and even gouged his eyes after he was subdued. Ironically, for a period of time he was labeled as a staff assaulter and had to wear the black and white striped jumpsuits whenever he left the cell. However, his classification was dropped eventually as well as his aggression level allowing him to be moved to C House.

In addition to telling me about what has been going on in his life, Rob asked to borrow a cassette tape or two from my collection of heavy metal music. I have known the skin head since he was taken off death row by then Governor George Ryan in 2003, however, over the years I have lost most of the tapes I once had. The tapes ordered from Resistance Records before the turn of the millennium were all gone except one. They were very popular amongst North Siders and other incarcerated men I associated with. When they borrowed a tape and unexpectantly went to Seg or were transferred and vice versa, I was unable to get my tapes back. Grudgingly, I sent Rob a tape by Bound for Glory but with strict orders. I told the cell house worker that was bringing it to him to give him a message that if he was planning to punch someone or had the smallest belief he may get into a fight, to send my tape back.

The following day I received another kite from Rob. He wrote that he did not think he was going to scrap with anyone, but it was always possible. Then he listed all the tapes he had and that he would send me any I wanted as collateral. I looked over the list, but it was mainly death or speed metal. A few tapes I never heard of and just by the name thought were exceptionally weird such as "Vagina Jesus". Finally, I settled on a couple of Pantera tapes, although I only like a few of their songs. Maybe, I was going to have to talk with Steve. I knew he had several classical music tapes that I would like to hear with my new Koss headphones.

On Sunday, I sat at the table in the cell and ate a package of sardines with uncooked Ramen noodles as a substitute for crackers. While I was eating, Bucky was on the sergeant's office dock taping plexiglass to the ceiling. The office is basically a cage of interwoven metal. The plexiglass on top is to prevent guards from being bombed by prisoners on the upper galleries throwing garbage or liquids like rotten milk cartons. The cell house worker was sealing the sheets so even dust or a little water did not make its way through when he cleaned the surface. As he worked, we talked and our conversation led to music. When I told him I had some rock and metal tapes, he expressed interest in sharing.

Despite not feeling well, I went to the chow hall for dinner. While in the inner circle where prisoners wait in line to be served, Rob tried talking to me from the dining room he was in. Because he is on a different gallery, we do not eat together. I do not like yelling over other prisoners even when I am not sick, but I hollered a few words back to him. I could tell he was lonely and wanted me to at least acknowledge his presence. Since he was moved to the cell house, I have barely said a word to him.

When I returned from the chow hall, my cellmate wanted to know how I knew the skinhead. I told him after he was taken off death row, me and another man befriended him. Rob was very young when he was arrested and like many skinheads not very bright. We tried to help him adjust to prison and educate him not only about politics but history and philosophy. Anthony has not been around many skinheads and I went on to say how many do not even understand their own ideology. In the Chicago area, I have met adolescents and young men who would occasionally flip from being skins to SHARPs (skin heads against racist people). Some I speculate just liked to belong to its clique, culture, dress, or for the fighting. Anthony was amused when I mentioned a skinhead who had a hammer and sickle tattooed on himself. He also thought it was humorous that I dated a skin girl and asked if she was a bald headed brute. Although she wore a fringe, Julie or Jewels as some people called her was contrarily very feminine and pretty.

The news Monday morning was mostly dominated by a mass shooting which occurred a few days earlier on a college campus next to Santa Barbara, California. However, I was much more interested in the outcome of the presidential election in Ukraine. Despite saboteurs in a couple of eastern cities preventing people from voting, observers concluded the results were fair and decisive. Petro Poroshenko won overwhelmingly and immediately took over the powers of president. I was not certain the "chocolate barron" would be a strong enough leader to unite Ukraine and crush Russian insurgents. Vladimir Putin was certainly going to continue stoking unrest in the east providing solders, military equipment, and other support to small enclaves which had more loyalty to Moscow than Kiev. Almost immediately these rebels armed with automatic weapons, rocket launchers and assault vehicles took over the Donetsk airport testing the resolve of Poroshenko. I was pleased after giving the insurgents time to withdraw, that he ordered a military air strike with helicopters and fighter jets. Later in the week while reading about the event in a newspaper, I listened to Richard Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" which is a powerful classical music composition often used as a backdrop to film footage of military air power.

After finishing all his work assignments, Bucky came to my cell bars and handed me a list of all his tapes. He had over 30 rock, grunge, and heavy metal albums, but only a few appealed to me. My favorite on the list was Iron Maiden's "Live After Death" and I told him I was definitely interested in listening to it. He did not want to let me borrow the tape just yet, however, because he just got it back and asked if I wanted anything else. I gave the list to my cellmate and he wanted an "Alice in Chains" tape. He also suggested that Bucky bring me "Skid Row" because it had my song on it: "18 and Life to go". My cassette tapes were all in an instant oatmeal box and I took it out to show the cell house help worker. He picked out "Seasons in the Abyss" by Slayer. "Good choice," I told him.

Prisoners are permitted to take their Walkmans with them to the yard or gym, but I never do. I cannot work out with the cord and because of the cardio exercises, the radio or headphone would quickly fall off. My cellmate, however, brought his and listened to the "Alice in Chains" tape as he bench pressed. There was a long time between sets with all the prisoners waiting to use it and a lot of conversation took place. The Elephant was as usual very talkative and attempted teasing Anthony about how weak he was. The fat man boasted he can kick my cellmate's ass on the bench press whereupon Anthony retorted he could kick his ass in real life. The group of convicts standing around thought this was hilarious and broke out in laughter.

With a bad cold kicking my ass, I did not work out nearly as intensely as I normally would. In fact, I ceased exercising toward the end of the Rec period and walked over to where Bone was talking to Rob through the two separating cyclone fences. Behind his back, I used my hand to mask the Biker's incessant talking. Every so often, I would also repeat some of his crude speech and slang. Eventually, Bone stopped talking and Rob asked me what happened to my "Cult of the Holy War" cassette tape. The album by RAHOWA was one of my favorites, but it, like the other tapes, was lost over the years.

In the evening, I received 5 letters along with 3 corporate reports my mother had left me when she visited last week. I went over the letters while listening to Skid Row. I did not like the band, however, I did listen to the song "18 and Life to go" several times. There were similarities in the lyrics with my own circumstances but I did not grow up on the wrong side of town and was innocent. In my letters, I received a new list of comments including a few readers who quoted the Daily Herald and asked about my juvenile record as well as testimony at my sentencing hearing. Blog editors may choose not to publish these or my answers including one where my reply is 2 pages long. I may need to write an entire post to address the lies, although I think the matters are trivial and irrelevant to my wrongful conviction and sentence of natural life without the chance of parole. By the way, I was sent an array of photos of angry cat memes to show me what they were. I had no idea, but thought they were funny.

Midweek, I had a pass to the Health Care Unit. It was not to see a doctor about my cold and I doubt that will occur for weeks, but to see the prison psychologist. For a half hour I waited in the cell house holding cage for an escort. While in the 8 by 8 foot enclosure, I spoke to a prisoner who was on the same gallery as Rob. I asked if he acquainted with him and he said, "Not often." When I inquired why, he said that Rob was an Odinist and racist while he was a Buddhist who got along with everyone. Later when he complained how numerous prisoners were bothering him for extra breakfast trays when he worked the midnight shift, I told him maybe that would not occur if he was a racist who was not friendly with everyone.

The H.C.U. was very crowded and the sergeant working the front door would not accept any passes. He had me and some other prisoners packed into a holding cage in the hallway. There I listened to a black inmate attempt to talk to every female who passed by. He also complained incessantly about the need to urinate. Annoyed by him, I turned the other direction and listened to a conversation about a rumor that IDOC administrators were going to soon allow prisoners to purchase MP3 players. Apparently, in Minnesota and several other states, this had already occurred. It would be nice if true because in Illinois convicts were only allowed to buy cassette tapes from one vendor. The mail order company, Pack Central, had an extremely limited amount of tapes for sale and those they did have were very expensive. Some popular tapes were priced at $100. I refused to pay such exorbitant amounts and the last time I bought any tapes was over a decade ago.

Thursday morning, I listened to the talk radio show hosted by Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf. The topic of discussion was Edward Snowden and if he was a whistle blower or traitor. According to a poll, 60% thought the former and I tend to agree. The NSA was pervasively violating the 4th Amendment of the Constitution which forbids unreasonable search and seizures. I was disappointed that I missed the Snowden interview broadcast on NBC the day before. Dual Survivor was on and I wanted to see Joe Teti's new partner. Matt Graham was impressively able to adopt to the jungles of Panama. In fact, it seemed he was so comfortable, he did not want to leave.

The intercom system in the quarter unit was finally fixed and prisoners were told over the loudspeaker to be on standby for yard. While I waited, I listened to the Iron Maiden tape borrowed from Bucky. The tape like many in the penitentiary was a copy. Original tapes were hard to come by and those who had them did not want to sell. Instead, prisoners often made copies and they were usually of poor quality because staff removed all the recording mechanisms out of cassette player/recorders. In fact, cassette players have ceased to be sold and only radio Walkmans are available on commissary. The Iron Maiden tape was in bad condition, but I was still glad to hear the music. These songs I have not heard in years if not over a decade. Every now and then I would repeat a line to my cellmate who could not hear the music and had little appreciation for classic heavy metal.

With the music of Iron Maiden reverberating in my thoughts and caffeine coursing through my blood (large mug of tea), I was amped on the yard. I lifted weights pushing myself past illness and back pain. Occasionally, I refused to wait my turn and blocked out other prisoners. I did this to Jug Head a few times just before he went to position himself which caused him to laugh at my intentionally comical antics. With another black man who began to complain, I told him this was a new affirmative action policy. Since white prisoners were a tiny minority at Stateville, we had special rights and entitlements including more access to the iron. When I finished bullying convicts using the weights, I ran laps around the 1/4 mile track burning up any traces of energy I had left. Later I paid for my exuberance. Exhausted, I slept for two hours in the mid afternoon and thereafter had a hacking cough.

Yesterday morning, the cold symptoms extended into my sinuses. Strangely, when I awakened, I could almost not open my eyes. It was as if they were glued shut. Looking in the mirror, I saw that my eyes were covered in a sticky residue and they were extremely red around the edges as if I had pink eye. Despite this, I spent my morning and afternoon reading newspapers. The first of these was Barron's which I had received late in the week due to the Memorial Day holiday. The Dow Jones was at another high, breaking 16,700 for the first time. It was odd considering GDP for the first quarter had been revised to -1%. However, investors probably discounted this as an aberration due to the extremely cold winter and were expecting a bounce. In the paper, I noticed BP was at a new high as well and wondered if the family member I told to sell it was now angry. He should not be, however, because there is a lot of risk in the energy major losing its Russian assets. Furthermore, I told him to move the money into Royal Dutch Shell or Chevron which had performed even better.

Steve had not only sent me a cassette tape of music by Richard Wagner but Mozart, and I listened to this while I read. They were light compositions, but due to the quality of my new Koss stereo headphones, the noise of the shouting convicts in the cell house was muffled. They were excited that the television news was reporting the Illinois legislature had adjourned without being able to pass a bill maintaining the tax increase of 2010. It meant that there would be $3 to $4 billion less for the government to spend. The funding to the IDOC could even be curtailed with more pressure on it to release inmates. Prisoners, however, fail to realize keeping them locked up was a priority even if it was unpractical or unreasonable. Also, the Democrats still had a lot of tricks up their sleeves to continue their reckless spending binge.

For over a week, I have been paying close attention to the budget and tax issues in Springfield. Governor Quinn and most Democrats wanted to increase government spending to a whopping $38 billion. This will give them plenty of money to play with including increasing appropriations to the IDOC. However, because it is an election year, many Democrats are afraid of raising taxes which will be tremendously unpopular. Thus, they passed a budget of $34 billion and will borrow or shuffle money around to make ends meet. Furthermore, after the election, they will be free to hit the people of Illinois with a permanent tax increase. This can be done even if Democrats lose the governor's office or their super majorities in both chambers of congress. This is because incumbents stay in power for an additional two months. The lame duck session is often when politicians do all their dirty work. So unless prisoners are expecting the governor to whip out his pen to grant them a pardon or a commutation of sentence, they should look forward to listening to cassette tapes for many more years.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Continued Lockdown and a Slow Recovery -- May 17, 2014

I continue to slowly recover from aggravating a low back injury last week. Unable to do my high intensity cell workouts, I have spent more time reading and watching television news. During a yard period, I did my best to lift weights but allowed myself to be distracted by conversation. Later the penitentiary was placed on a low level lockdown and those days were beneficial in helping me rest and recuperate. However, as the pain in my back recedes, I grow more concerned about becoming ill. Yet another cold virus is sweeping across the prison and this strain is the worst I have seen in years. Numerous inmates have become very sick including my cellmate. Temperatures falling below 40 degrees and no heat in the building is not helping the situation. Yesterday morning, a nurse was meeting with sick prisoners. I spoke to her about my back because I knew there was nothing I could do to protect myself from the airborne contagion. Even hunkering down in my frigid cell with extra clothing and blankets will not shield me.

In the morning, I will typically exercise. However, with my back stiff and still causing me a lot of pain, I stayed in bed watching a few hours of political news shows on Sunday. The FOX network was the most critical of the Obama administration, although other shows could not avoid the scandals, incompetence and perpetual propaganda emanating from the White House. The main topic of conversation was the cover up in Benghazi, Libya where a U.S. embassy was overrun by Islamic terrorists. An email was discovered directing Susan Rice to deceive the American public into believing the attack was that of spontaneous unrest after a YouTube video was released. Although Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi claimed the misinformation was not done to help Barack Obama's reelection, a special committee is investigating the matter.

In the Ukraine another referendum was conducted to support succession or union with Russia. The vote, like that done in Crimea, was a sham and meant to give Vladimir Putin justification to invade eastern territories. The Russian president claimed he did not want the vote to take place, however, at the same time government controlled television was directing ethnic Russians where to vote. At the lunch table, I mentioned the ruse to Steve and expressed how the U.S. was making a mistake not intervening. Steve was indifferent to the matter, but my cellmate was sympathetic to the Russians given the U.S. Monroe Doctrine. Fat Pat who was listening did not know what the Monroe Doctrine was and I had to explain that it was opposition to any European intervention in the Western hemisphere. If the U.S. forbid any power from meddling in the affairs of countries nearby its borders, Anthony's reasoning was that Russia could do the same. However, I had to remind him the doctrine from the 5th president was outdated and spheres of interest were continually challenged as the world has become geopolitically much smaller.

After chow, I returned to the cell and began writing my previous post. Writing is challenging to me and is in no way easy. I have no natural ability to write and often am stumped as to what to say or how. There is also the problem that I cannot easily make corrections and must write very neatly so it is legible for someone to type. Although I have pencils, the prison does not allow pencil sharpeners or erasers. When I use a pen purchased at the commissary, I must start all over if I make a mistake, or use white acrylic paint as white out. Not surprisingly, I wrote throughout the afternoon and long into the evening. Increasingly, I am thinking about ending my blog.

The guard who picked up mail stopped at my cell to talk. He told me he took some time off work and last week attended a Blackhawks game at the United Center. The professional hockey team was once again in the playoffs and contending for a consecutive Stanley Cup Championship. I would be watching the games except they are not broadcast on any of the stations Stateville receives. The guard complained about the cost of the tickets despite getting them for half their retail price. I told him if he will take me with him next time, I will pay for his seat. I doubt, however, even if I was friends with the warden, this would be a possibility. The IDOC does not have a furlough program even for prisoners in minimum security penitentiaries. It is extremely difficult to be given permission to see a dead family member in a funeral parlor for 15 minutes with armed escorts while restrained in shackles and handcuffs.

Monday morning, I ate a large breakfast of bran flakes and crumb cake which I spread peanut butter over. Therefore, when lunch lines began to leave the cell house a couple of hours later, I was not hungry. I considered not going but was informed that sliced ham was being served. Prisoners are not often fed real meat and it was enough to entice me to go. In the chow hall, I used a few sandwich bags to bring the bread and ham back with me to the cell to eat at a later hour. Unfortunately, a guard on the movement team pulled me out of line to be frisked and confiscated my lunch. Guards randomly pat down prisoners looking for weapons and contraband, but sometimes they will take food as well.

I was annoyed to have gone to the chow hall for no reason. I hated the crowds and noise. There were numerous obnoxious, loathsome, and loud prisoners I had to put up with. Many of them were also sick and coughed or sneezed indiscriminately. In addition, due to the way lines are run, it can take an hour to leave and return. Often I feel like I am amongst a herd of cattle being taken out to pasture and then corralled. Finally, I was still in a lot of pain and I was exasperated with movement. Upon returning to my cell, an announcement was made over the loudspeaker for the 2nd floor to be ready to leave for commissary. At the prison store, I could look forward to more of the same aggravations. Why did I not just stay in the confines of my cage?

By noon time, I was exhausted. I had shaved, bathed, gone to chow and commissary, reordered my property box and put away the new items I just purchased. I also had put together all my laundry to be sent out and washed the floor. As I was tying the knots in my laundry bags, I asked a gallery worker if he would get me a lunch tray. I did not want to bother making myself a meal. The prison worker came back quickly with one of the trays which had been sent to the cell house. It did not have any ham on it, but poorly processed turkey with a lot of gristle and even a couple of chips of bone. The food would have to do and after eating it, I went to sleep.

Refreshed from a nap, I read a financial newspaper. A family member is paying 2% fees to a mutual fund and I searched for an alternative investment. For a long time, I have been trying to persuade this person to move the money to Fidelity which had a very similar fund but was performing better and had less than half the costs. It was stupid to pay 2% in management fees especially considering how narrow the sector was. In addition to Fidelity, I highlighted all the ETF's available with the same objectives including a few which used "fundamental weighting". All this information I cut out of the Barron's newspaper and placed in an envelope along with a letter. Hopefully, it will convince her to switch funds and my efforts were not in vain.

Typically, my dreams are pleasant because I rarely think of prison and they are set in a time period before my arrest. The dream I awakened to Tuesday morning was no different and I was 14 or 15 years old. However, there was a disturbing dimension to it that haunted me for hours thereafter. While in bed a stoner from my high school had broken into my house and attempted to kill me. I took a heavy brick-like object and struck him in the head. The blow shattered his skull and I noticed not only blood but brain matter splattered against a bedroom wall. Clearly it was self defense, but because I was suspected of another murder, I was concerned how it made me look. The prosecutor may now press charges against me and I would be sent to prison for a crime I did not commit.

It was a dreary and chilly day with a light drizzle. The weather seemed to befit my injustice and 21 years of incarceration. Despite my back pain, I went to the South Yard and lifted weights. Unlike Saturday evening, I was able to do most exercises albeit with extreme caution. A biker worked out with me and my cellmate for half of the recreation period. Bone was more interested in talking than lifting weights, but I did not mind considering I could not go 100%. Plus, he had some amusing and wild stories to tell from when he was younger and free. For some reason, he had the impression that we may have been good friends in our high school years which made Anthony laugh. Bone did a lot of drugs, alcohol, and partying. In high school, he would have been considered a stoner, a clique of students I clashed with frequently during my freshman and sophomore years before I attended Lincoln-Way. Bone asked if I was in Friends Stand United which I never heard of but was told the group was fervently against drugs and frequently started fights.

On the 2nd shift, the prison was placed on a level 4 lockdown. I did not inquire why and was glad I would not have to go out for meals. In the evening, game 6 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild was being played. However, because it was not televised on any station at the prison, I watched an interesting documentary about the National Security Agency. Before Edward Snowden revealed the vast spying conducted by the U.S. government, I doubted many people were aware the Orwellian predictions in the book "1984" had come to fruition. The PBS program Frontline did a good job exposing the NSA, however, I doubt all its secrets have come to light.

Windows had been closed in the cell house, but it did not prevent the unit from being cold and damp. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, I heard prisoners complain there was no heat. I also heard them coughing and blowing their noses. Another cold virus was making many men sick. I hoped I did not catch it but I suspected my cellmate had already succumbed to the pathogen. It was only a matter of time before I became ill.

Also in the morning before noise levels became too high to hear anything below a shout, I heard guards using different frequencies to circumvent problems with radio communications. Last week, a radio tower was allegedly hit by lightning and the prison was placed on lockdown. Many prisoners thought it was not true particularly when the antenna began working just fine after the last day of Officer Appreciation Week. However, it seemed something was causing glitches and they have yet to be worked out. Around 8:30 a.m. an announcement was made that there would be no movement except for visits and necessary medical treatment. The latter did not include my pass to the Health Care Unit, but close to noon my name was called over the intercom system for a visit.

On my visit, I had to apologize for my unpleasant phone call on Mother's Day. On Sunday, I had called home and almost immediately became embroiled in a heated argument. My parents do not want to assist me in finding a private investigator or new counsel. I must just learn to accept this and try to find help elsewhere. I also had to apologize for being so critical. Although I do not have a natural writing ability, I do have the extraordinary talent to find the fault in everything and everyone. In the I.Q. tests I have taken, I score 100% on parts dealing with locating errors in numbers, symbols, or pictures. A psychologist was stunned when showing me pictures that I was able to find many flaws in addition to the one answer expected, and with great speed. To demonstrate my unique talent, I listed a number of imperfections and abnormalities that I had noticed just when I walked to the table we were to sit at, including a midget sitting at another table. I thought he was strikingly obvious, but my mother was oblivious.

After my visit, I listened to the sergeant complain about how some prisoners thought it was a "Motel 6". She was talking to another convict and I was surprised he agreed with her. The visiting rules were extremely strict and no touching is allowed except briefly before and after a visit. A prolonged kiss or embrace was forbidden. Men incarcerated for decades and with natural life sentences could not engage in the slightest romantic gestures or risk being sent to Segregation. The policy is outrageous and I was very frustrated and upset when a girl came to see me from across the Atlantic. It made me wish I had met her before the IDOC became so oppressive. I suppose it does not matter to me now that my only visitor tends to be my mother, however, I do not know how it does not bother prisoners with wives and girlfriends.

When I returned to the quarter unit, I noticed two new prisoners in the cell once occupied by Kojak. Psycho and Memo were vigorously cleaning the cell and I did not blame them. Kojak was not only semi-insane but very dirty. Later, I learned the "bug" had been sent to Seg and now I hoped my neighborhood would be improved with the removal of the pedophile next door. I rarely ever have any contact with John. Every now and then I will be given his mail because his last name is spelled closely to mine. The child molester does not get any personal mail, but a lot of health care passes. Depending on my mood, I will pass them over or crumple the papers into a wad and chuck them into his cell.

The penitentiary continued to be on lockdown Thursday and I spent my day mostly reading, listening, or watching TV news. In the morning, I listened to the John Cass and Warren Cohn radio talk show on WLS. They spoke about the pension crisis in Illinois and the city of Chicago. A judge has ordered an injunction against legislation passed last year reducing pension payments to retirees and increasing the amount of money current state union employees must put into the system. Despite this, Rahm Emanuel, the major of Chicago, is considering doing the same or increasing property taxes. The city and state are wallowing in debt due to decades of reckless spending, dysfunction, and corruption.

The day before, I listened to the growing scandal surrounding the "Neighborhood Recovery Initiative". Just before the 2010 election, Governor Pat Quinn gave the city $55 million to be used to combat violent crime. Instead, the money was doled out by Chicago aldermen to various questionable organizations. Much of the money simply vanished. There are accusations it was a political slush fund to drum up city votes. Years ago, a prisoner told me about the matter and he was excited yet another governor would be impeached and possibly sent to prison. He liked the idea of Lt. Governor Sheila Simon taking over the chief executive office. This year, Simon is running for state treasurer, but her odds of winning are slim because Republican House minority leader Tom Cross will be her opponent. He is well known and is widely thought of as very competent and fiscally responsible.

At 4 p.m., I tuned into CNN's Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room. He had the governor of California on babbling about how the wild fires in his state were the cause of global warming. Jerry Brown was an idiot and he should be a lot more concerned about his state's finances which are almost as bad as Illinois'. Carbon emissions were not increasing temperatures and at Stateville prisoners are freezing in their cells. There was actually snow in the northern and western suburbs of Chicago. On Friday, I was wearing thermals, sweats, and even a skull cap. Occasionally, I put my jacket on or draped a wool blanket over my shoulders.

Despite the lockdown, in-house sick calls were run yesterday. Prisoners were let out of their cells to see a couple of nurses in a makeshift medical office. The men I saw were all coughing or sniveling. A Mexican inmate a couple of doors down from me even came out of his cell with a cloth mask covering his nose and mouth. While I was waiting for my turn, I spoke to the lieutenant and guards in the sergeant's office. They were all bundled up as well. They said even if the boiler was turned back on, it would take a few days for it to be producing heat in the building. Surprisingly, the boiler is at the NRC and hot water and steam is piped a long distance underground to Stateville.

The nurse probably also thought I was there to be treated for the virulent strain of cold which has many inmates extremely ill. Instead, I asked her if I could be prescribed a narcotic pain medication for my back injury. I did not want to receive it every day, just when my back goes out and I cannot move. She told me the doctor did not prescribe medication this way and I should just tell them when I am in severe pain. I told her it could be weeks before I was seen, if not months, and then how would I get over to the hospital if I could not walk? She said that I can notify a nurse or a guard and they will get me over to the H.C.U. right away. I was skeptical. Fortunately, though, the severe pain in my lower back has receded and the NSAIDs I currently have are sufficient.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Partial Lockdown and Paralysis -- May 11, 2014

Prisoners were locked in their cells early several times during the past week. I heard various reasons including problems with count and radio communications. However, most convicts were skeptical and believed these were only excuses to reduce work for the guards and give them more free time. Within the penitentiary, it is widely known that Officer Appreciation Week consists of more than just better food. The restricted movement only mildly affected operations at the maximum security prison where incarcerated men spend most of their time in their cells regardless. Other than a health care pass, I did not miss anything I wanted to attend. In fact, I was glad when evening yard was rescheduled because I would not have been able to go. I aggravated a spinal injury and for a few days was nearly paralyzed. I continue to be in great pain even as I write this post.

At every penitentiary in Illinois, one week of the year is dedicated to honoring guards and other staff. Apparently, the state unionized workers' lavish salaries, benefits, and pensions are not sufficient. Officer Appreciation Week has existed since before my conviction and was once a greater event than it is currently. Like most things in the IDOC, it has been diminished and basically is now just specially ordered and prepared food for staff. Monday was Cinco de Mayo and if inmates thought they were going to share in the Chipotle-like meal served to guards they were mistaken. Incarcerated men were given a scoop of processed turkey-soy and beans along with a literal handful of iceberg lettuce and fried corn chips without any cheese. Behind the serving line were a number of drawings made by prisoners illustrating Mexican nationalism, however, I doubt these were any consolation to Hispanics who were expecting a much better meal.

Later in the cell, I made myself an alternative lunch consisting of commissary bought beef stew and a package of Ramen noodles. While I ate, I listened to Rush Limbaugh discuss Condoleezza Rice withdrawing from a commencement speech she was scheduled to give at Rutgers University. Liberal professors and a small but vocal minority of students protested against having the former Secretary of State visit because of her involvement in the Iraq war. Regardless if Intel of weapons of mass destruction was incorrect or even a ruse, taking control of the country was important for geopolitical reasons and oil. Furthermore, Iraq could have been used to invade Iran, a country whose regime was unquestionably developing a nuclear weapon. The use of military force, however, was abhorrent to peace nics and the left wing except for possibly humanitarian purposes.

There has been growing support even amongst liberals for the U.S. military to rescue approximately 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by an Islamic group in the northern part of their country. Boko Haram has threatened to sell the girls or marry them to their adherents if the government refuses to release prisoners. This has caused a public furor mainly through social media and the U.S. President is sending a team of advisers, reconnaissance, and possibly Special Ops to assist Nigerian forces. Despite the Twitter hash tag "Bring Back Our Girls" that even Michelle Obama has re-tweeted, these are not our girls. The first Lady likens the hostages to her own daughters, but they are not Americans. America, in fact, has no national interests to get involved. Boko Haram is a regional group that has for many years been fighting a civil war in the corrupt country. Atrocities far greater are pervasive across the continent of Africa and the world. America's military should not be used for political expediency or as a global police force.

The season premiere of 24 Hours: Live Another Day was on television Monday night and I watched it with my cellmate, although on separate televisions from our bunk beds. In a prior season of 24, the main character Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland was controversial for using torture-like or violent methods to prevent terrorism. In this episode, the controversial theme seems to be the U.S. use of predator drones. I did not have a problem with the CIA using enhanced interrogations nor do I mind if America's fleet of predator drones is being used to kill or spy on enemies of the state so long as they are not flying over the U.S. or killing U.S. citizens abroad. During a commercial I told my cellmate they could even be deployed on America's southern border to eliminate the invasion of drug smugglers and illegal aliens. The Mexicans can celebrate their freedom from Napoleon all they want, but they have no right to undermine our sovereignty.

Tuesday morning was extremely chilly and I used 3 wool blankets during the night to keep warm. Despite my shivering and warming my hands around a hot mug of instant coffee, on the news was an alarmist U.S. government report on climate change. If CO2 emissions were not reduced immediately there would be dire consequences including raging wildfires, increased hurricanes, droughts, floods, pestilence, famine, and on and on. Later when conservative talk show host Mark Levine was listing the apocalypse, I thought, "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!" after the character played by Bill Murray in the comedy Ghostbusters. The Obama administration seeks to scare the public to please Democrats' environmental constituents and push his plan to put additional regulations on the energy industry, most notably coal utilities. In this report, the U.S. is broken up into regions to attempt and personalize the doomsday predictions that the public has grown increasingly skeptical of.

I went out to the prison's small yard despite how it was basically two concrete basketball courts surrounded by cyclone fencing topped with razor wire. Last year, the warden to pacify prisoners' complaints allowed a weight bench and two barbells to be put inside along with a couple of steel tables. Lifting weights was boring and several men while waiting for their turn played games of chess. Other convicts talked amongst themselves. Neither my cellmate nor anyone else I cared to speak with was lifting weights and I tried to occupy my time doing supersets. A prisoner wearing a green shirt to signify he was classified an extreme escape risk asked me if I recognized him. No, I did not and often I do not know who people are who were incarcerated with me in the past. During my 21 years of captivity I have kept a small circle of acquaintances and often was oblivious to others or their social groups.

Stateville is located under a route taken by commercial airliners going to Midway Airport in Chicago. While working out, prisoners often looked at these jets but more interesting were the small propeller planes from Lewis University. The university has a flight school and conducts patterns nearby. A helicopter began to fly around the penitentiary grounds and unintelligent convicts speculated it was also from there. No helicopters, however, are permitted to tour over the prison and it was obviously authorized by the IDOC. The helicopter may have even had IDOC administrators on board. More to my amusement were the incarcerated men's speculations that a chicken hawk was flying overhead. It was indeed a raptor of some sort but the only chicken hawks around were walking amongst us. A chicken hawk is a name given to sexual predators in prison.

For a moment I stopped exercising to talk to Bone. Bone was on the basketball court and told me how he had recently gotten over a bout of pneumonia. After taking the antibiotics, he was going to be given more drugs for a liver problem which was causing fluid to build up in his abdominal area. Doctors had considered just taking a large needle and draining it, but they were concerned about infection. After speaking of his troubles, I told him about my legal woes, in particular my search for someone to get the affidavits I need to reinforce my post conviction appeal. The good thing about Bone is that he knows a lot of prisoners and said he would get me the name of a P.I. who is being used by Northwestern University.

After chow I walked into the cell house holding cage. I had a pass to see my new psychologist who has a son with Aspergers. In the cage with me was a prisoner bent over with stomach cramps. He believed he had food poisoning and I would not be surprised if he had contracted it from the kitchen. Mice run around defecating and urinating on food in storage.  I will occasionally see cockroaches on the serving line. Kitchen workers are also not the best handlers of food. Then if there was yet another reason not to eat the food at Stateville, the trays often have remnants of previous meals on them. It is little wonder guards usually bring their own food from home and even during Officer Appreciation Week there were a few guards who did so.

I spent over an hour at the Health Care Unit waiting to be called to see the doctor before guards said all passes were cancelled. A moment later, more guards entered the prison's hospital and ordered all of us to leave. Prisoners were escorted back to their quarter units and in my cell I asked my cellmate if the prison was on lockdown. He did not know, nor did he know if the matter was related to guards losing keys in X House. For a couple of weeks, X House had been on lockdown and was just recently let off, although the keys were never recovered to my knowledge. I threw a blanket over myself and took a nap. Later, I learned there was purportedly a problem with count which was very odd at that hour of the day.

The penitentiary was only placed on lockdown until the 2nd shift and prisoners speculated guards just wanted some time to dilly dally. After 3 p.m., little movement occurs other than chow lines. My cellmate went out for this meal despite eating nothing but a state cake. During the evening I listened to talk radio while reading a few letters. In one of them were copies of comments from my blog site as well as a few emails. Everything readers send me must be printed and then mailed. The mail is very slow and I hope people understand I cannot immediately respond. By the way, I very much appreciate the woman who sent me $20 through the prison's JPay service and encouraged others to do so. I will continue to try to persuade blog handlers to set up an easy and free Pay Pal donation button to raise money for a private investigator and other legal expenses.

Wednesday morning normal operations were announced over the cell house loudspeaker. Names of prisoners and their cell numbers who were on the law library list were called, as well as a couple of programs and religious services. A guard also walked by and asked me if I wished to go to the barber shop school for a haircut. No, I was not interested. The only haircut they were proficient at was a bald head and I could do that in the cell with my beard trimmers. After I dressed for my exercise routine, I washed the floor and noticed a rabbi walk by. He stopped to talk to my neighbor and inquire if his Passover was observed. I considered telling the man that Hooch had violated Judaic law by eating swine. However, the rabbi does many favors for him and he may not be so apt to do so in the future if I told him even in a jestful way. Later, Hooch coincidentally become greatly ill almost as if he was being punished directly by Yahweh for his sacrilege.

For lunch I left my cell for soy-spaghetti. While waiting in line by a gate going to the chow hall, prisoners were taken out in wheel chairs from the infirmary. One prisoner was even pushed out onto the hospital yard on a stretcher. A man standing next to me mentioned he was cellmates with an old Caucasian inmate who was in a wheel chair. He complained that he had very poor hygiene and was glad when they parted ways. I had heard other stories about him including a black man who even beat him for being so dirty and unclean. He was in his late 70s and needed geriatric care a long time ago. Ironically, the prison administration has him designated as a dangerous staff assaulter because one day when guards harassingly strip searched him, he threw his soiled underwear in one of their faces.

It is one thing for an old crippled man with a myriad of health problems to be unhygienic, but another for a  man in his early 20's. When being strip searched before a visit, a prisoner next to me reeked of body odor. The entire strip search room stank as he undressed and no one said a word. Finally, I asked him what cell house he was from and then followed my question with another asking him if they did not pass out soap there. He apologized and said he had just awakened. He was in a hurry and did not bother to use any deodorant. He went on to say the deodorants were not effective anyway. The prisoner had a point with the deodorant sold on commissary ever since the administration stopped the sale of any with a plastic screw stick inside which they claimed could be used as a weapon. However, I will then wash my armpits throughout the day if I need to.

When I returned from my visit, I stopped by my neighbor's cell to see how Hooch was doing. Earlier, I had passed him in a wheel chair slouched over and he did not respond when I asked him what was wrong. Apparently, not long after the rabbi visited him, he began to have migraines so strong that it caused him to vomit repeatedly until he was just dry heaving. Hooch was currently on his bunk almost catatonic and his cellmate told me medical staff gave him a medication at the H.C.U. to thin his blood.

Before passing Hooch in a wheel chair on my way to the visiting room, I spoke to an escorting guard about Officer Appreciation Week. Somewhat sarcastically I asked him how appreciated he felt. He replied, "Very little." The guard has been employed by the IDOC for about a decade and a half and probably recalls years ago when it was a bigger affair employees looked forward to. I asked him if at least the food was good. He told me the pizza was decent but the French fries were soggy. I did not mention this to the guard nor did I want to pry, however, from other sources I heard some staff were drinking alcohol. Many guards will drink after work and it seems like a popular pass time. Of course, drinking on the job is not allowed, although it will largely go overlooked by co-workers or supervisors.

For over a week, I have been experiencing pain in my hips. Eventually, I figured out that it was from having such a thin mattress. When I sleep, I will repeatedly turn over spending time on my back but mostly on my sides. I have very little body fat and my hip joints will grind into the steel bunk below the mattress. Thus, I thought I would experiment by sleeping on my stomach. The pain in my hips went away, but that in my lower back increased. Despite this, early Thursday morning I did an intense work out in the cell with little stretching of my spine. It was a big mistake because afterwards I was in severe pain and could barely move about. Every little movement I made caused a jolt where I have 2 degenerative lumbar disks. I crawled onto my bunk and in a fetal position laid there most of the day.

Because I eventually fell asleep, I did not notice prisoners were locked up in the early afternoon. However, like on Tuesday, there were normal operations on the 2nd shift. Prisoners on the galleries above mine were permitted to go to evening yard and in their absence I read a newspaper my cellmate receives in the relative peace and quiet. In the May 5th issue of Marine Corps Times was an article about a show I watch weekly called "Dual Survivor." Apparently, there was some controversy regarding cast members military credentials. David Canterbury had his contract terminated by the Discovery channel after producers learned he embellished his record. The man who took his place was now under fire for claiming to be a combat veteran in the Iraq and Afghan wars. I thought the criticism was petty. Joe Teti was verified to be in the Marine Corps elite reconnaissance division in the 80's and Army Special Forces in the 90's. In the two wars he did not serve directly but was contracted in counter terrorism units. Joe Teti will be kept on the show, however, his co-star Cody Lundine was leaving due to conflicts with the high intensity former Special Ops soldier.

When prisoners returned to the quarter unit, I put my ear buds in with some wadded up toilet paper and watched a little television trying not to move. I was in intense pain and the NSAIDs I took were only mildly effective. Eventually, I curled back up in a ball on my side and went to sleep. It was the worst sleep I have had in some time and I awakened repeatedly throughout the night. Every time I moved, even if very slowly, I was struck by sharp pain. Early in the morning, I got up at the pace of a tortoise and reached for a package of Indomethacin on the shelf. I was only supposed to take a maximum of 6 capsules a day, but since aggravating my back, I take 9. At times like this I wish I could take a narcotic pain reliever. However, these drugs require prisoners to go to the HCU and I could barely move.

Friday all movement except for lunch was shut down. My cellmate went out for the meal and said he had the opportunity to meet Kentucky. Kentucky was a prisoner I knew from early in my incarceration. He was one of a very few convicts in Illinois who was in the Aryan Brotherhood. Decades ago, he was very violent and kept a sissy for a cellmate. In this old age, he is now just a homosexual. Anthony told me how he went on talking about his former cellmate's man boobs while at the chow table. In addition to the backwoods queer, he regretted going out because there was a gauntlet of guards and I.A. on the walkway. Purportedly, a radio tower was struck by lightning and guards' radio communications were not working properly. On the 2nd shift, evening yard was cancelled and trays were brought to inmates in their cells. I heard prisoners complain the lockdown was called so guards could be lazy and stuff their faces with Subway sandwiches.

Saturday, radio communications almost magically were fixed and there were normal operations. I was further surprised yard was made up for in the evening. I had spent the last couple of days on my bunk almost paralyzed or inching around the cell in great pain and my cellmate was incredulous I was planning to go. I swallowed 100 mg. of Indomethacin with a large gulp of tea and told him my one-liner, "I don't have time for pain." Out on the yard, I pushed myself to the limit but was simply unable to do all the exercises I wanted. The pedophile John came out to the yard for the first time and like a slug sat on a block of concrete. Anthony jested he knew I was a broken man and may even be emboldened to attack me. I responded saying regardless of my pain, like Joe Teti or Jack Bauer I will make quick work of the child molester and with extreme prejudice.

Ironically, during the Rec period I could barely walk let alone run, the LTS supervisor was officiating a race. The prisoner who could run 5 laps won the competition. In years past the winner was given an award of commissary, but this was just for bragging rights. Despite this, I was disappointed I could not participate. I could have defeated the front runner by 2 minutes if I was not disabled. Instead I sat defeated at one of the tables with the other crippled or old men. After listening to the disheveled "Dr. Smith" get threatened to get his hygiene in order by a much bigger convict, I played a couple games of chess. I won the games, however, this was little consolation. I was a big loser at the game of life. All my best years were behind me and I was physically deteriorating.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ill at Stateville -- May 24, 2014

A virulent strain of cold virus continues to spread amongst prisoners like a plague. Despite my greatest effort, by midweek I had become sick. It was inevitable I would catch the contagion particularly after my cellmate began to show symptoms. I could take all the precautions I wanted, but because we share the same air, it did not matter. Last week, in jest I boasted to him that similar to the prisoner in the Stephen King novel The Stand, I would be one of the extremely rare people who was immune to the pathogen and everyone would die off leaving me the sole survivor at Stateville. Trapped in the cell, eventually I would be forced to siphon water out of the toilet and eat his dead corpse until Mr. Flagg came to my rescue. Misery loves company, however, and I tend to think Anthony began to intentionally seek to overwhelm my immune system.

Sunday morning after eating breakfast and watching the top news stories, I exercised at the front of the cell. As soon as I did, my cellmate climbed down off his bunk to urinate, dress, and tidy up his mattress. I did not mind sharing the limited floor space with him and this is why I limit my work out area to what old timers here call the foyer. However, what I did mind was him coughing without even trying to contain some of the germs he was projecting. While I did arm curls using my small property box, I told him if he continues not to cover his mouth, I will do it for him. In fact, I will wrap an entire plastic bag over his head. My cellmate was not intimidated by my empty threat and reached into his box to grab a few cough drops before getting back on his bunk to watch pop music videos on VH1.

Last Saturday, the penitentiary had been taken off of lockdown or what I believe the administration was calling "restricted movement". The problems with radio communications seem to be resolved. Ironically, though, the intercom system in the cell house is now broken. Guards are unable to make announcements on the loud speakers by picking up the telephone and pressing a few buttons. Instead, they must yell from the ground floor or walk down galleries notifying prisoners of events, visits, or various lines. For lunch, a guard walked by telling men to get ready.

Prisoners are let out of their cells from the other side of the gallery first to attend chow and most other main events. Two guards will key open and close doors from the high end to the low. Before the turn of the millennium, a crank was used to unlock all the cells simultaneously, but administrators thought this was a security threat and now each door is opened manually, then closed, one after the other. While waiting for our cell to be unlocked my cellmate and I watched a black prisoner hang disorientated to the gallery bars in front of us. Guards eventually came to his aid and used their radio to call for a med tech when he collapsed to the floor. I never found out what was wrong with Baldhead. He may have been sick with the cold virus going around or had some other ailment. The nurse who was sent to the quarter unit, however, was in no hurry to get to him and on the way to the chow hall I saw her walking casually as well as stopping to chit chat with an inmate.

Despite many prisoners being sick, they watched the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers game on television enthusiastically. Between coughs, I heard cheers and shouting. The NBA playoffs are very popular amongst black inmates. At the same time, the NHL playoffs were being conducted and were also on TV. Despite the Chicago Blackhawks competing for another national title, few prisoners watched them play the LA Kings. Hockey games are rarely broadcast at Stateville and there was little interest in the sport even amongst white prisoners. My neighbors watched it, but my cellmate preferred girls college softball and I chose to read.

As I suspected, the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi won the office of prime minister in India last week. The Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP not only got the most votes, but won by a landslide and will be able to rule the world's largest democracy without forming a coalition government. It was the most decisive victory the country had seen in decades and will cast out Gandhi's political dynasty which has dominated East Indian politics since the British relinquished control. With the corrupt and socialist regime gone, I expect prosperity will increase even if there is some friction with the Islamic minority. I also expect better business and political ties with the U.S. while those with Russia and China are waning.

Monday morning, I ate a couple of waffles with the peanut butter purchased and watched news pertaining to China's corporate and military espionage. China has been stealing U.S. intellectual property for many years and I was glad the president finally openly accused their government even if he does little to nothing about it. In contrast, the Russian and Chinese head of states were actively engaged in negotiating any changes in trade or economic sanctions. Vladimir Putin signed a 30 year contract to supply their Asian neighbor with natural gas. The deal is worth $400 billion for Russia's Gazprom which will in time lose customers in Europe. It is also greatly beneficial to China which has a growing need for energy.

Towards noon, I noticed gallery workers bring in a stack of new mattresses. For security reasons, they are now made with a clear plastic cover. I assume this is to dissuade prisoners from hiding contraband in them. My mattress is old and thin despite how I regularly pull it together to make it thicker. I have even put a couple of blankets underneath to add some padding. Although my lower back is feeling better, my hips have begun to hurt again from rolling over regularly in the night. Unfortunately that I could not get one of the new mattresses. Those were already going to be assigned to prisoners who had made a request months ago. When my cellmate awakened, he told me he has been waiting over a year.

On the Rush Limbaugh show, the topic was the delay in health care for veterans. A huge scandal erupted when a retired doctor from Phoenix VA sent letters to CNN and the Arizona Republic claiming the facilities off-the-books waiting list may have led to the deaths of at least 40 patients. Veterans are supposed to receive treatment within a reasonable amount of time, however, across the country many are waiting months if not over a year to see a doctor. A caller on the talk show even claimed he has been waiting 2 years. An investigation has shown top officials altered medical appointment wait times in an effort to hide the vast problems within the government health care system. There was also a financial motive to cook the books because bonuses were given out to those administrators who met goals. Limbaugh made a link between VA health care and government incompetence across a broad spectrum of programs. The private sector was much more efficient and provided much better service. As a prisoner in the IDOC, I could not more readily agree.

Early Tuesday morning before I adjusted to my prison environment, I had Buckey at my bars happily greeting me. Buckey was an energetic new cell house help worker who took the place of Bob. When he said "Good morning," I asked him if that was a statement or a wish. He asked if it could be both and I told him no. My cellmate was up and despite being sick he seemed to be in a better mood than myself. In his coarse voice, he exchanged some trite pleasantries. Anthony, in fact, was getting ready to leave to the gym and planned to play basketball. I was not going to dissuade him because I would then have the cell to myself for a few hours.

In my cellmate's absence, I washed the floor and various other surfaces with soap and disinfectant. As I did this, the hot water button on the sink broke. It continuously dribbled out water and would not stop. This did not bother me greatly because it had no chance of overflowing the basin and I could still get cold water if I wanted. After cleaning the cell, I worked out happily thinking I had killed most of the germs and did not have my cellmate's virus to breathe in. However, what made me even happier was that I finally received a replacement for my Koss headphones. These were great and a vast improvement to the ear buds I had been using for months. They were even better than the former pair I had sent the company to repair. If Apple's managers were smart, they would not have squandered $3.2 billion to acquire Beats Electronics at over 3 times its valuation and instead bought Koss.

For dinner prisoners were supposed to be fed chicken-ala-king, but instead they got boiled chicken bones, skin, gristle and a little meat on top of noodles. It was a distasteful meal, however, while in the chow hall Bone gave me the name and address of a highly recommended private investigator. From what I was told, he has worked on a few prisoners' post conviction appeals and they were very pleased with his work. As soon as I returned to my cell, I wrote him a 2 page letter. After briefly describing my case, I told him what I was looking for and asked if he would be willing to work directly with me rather than through an attorney. Oddly, I have had a couple of private investigators write me back saying they only dealt with defense attorneys.

On Wednesday, guards had gotten ahold of a hand held loudspeaker and they used it to make a number of announcements in the morning including showers. That got my cellmate out of bed. When he returned, he asked me if I was going to request a work order on the sink or just let it keep running indefinitely. I told him I planned to just let it go unrepaired. To give it some pressure, I had cut out a rectangular piece from a Styrofoam tray and put it in a slot. This narrowed the passageway of the water and could be easily moved to change the force the water came out. It was much better than the little tube he had made out of a cable wire. Plus, the Styrofoam did not have a warning label on it saying it was made with lead and people who handle it should wash their hands afterwards. Sometimes I question my cellmate's intelligence, but when I left on a visit, I did ask a guard to put in a work order. Maybe it will be fixed by summer.

My mother was very ill over the winter and I was concerned she could get sick again by coming to the prison. The visiting room was crowded and many people were showing symptoms of having a cold. I even wondered if I was carrying the virus, although I had yet to have any outward signs. I tried not talking loud or towards her, but she could not hear me if I did not raise my voice. I considered pulling my T shirt over my mouth and nose like some prisoners were doing in the chow hall, however, other people may look at me suspiciously. Instead, I just let my mother do the majority of the talking while I listened. She probably did not notice because she usually talks much more than me.

I was glad I took the precaution on my visit because after I took a nap, I turned on the bright fluorescent cell light and looked down my throat while making the sound "aah" with my tongue held down. In a mirror, I could see the back was red and immediately I told my cellmate that he passed his germs to me. He denied it and claimed I was a carrier and had in fact made him sick. It was a ridiculous claim and instead I changed the subject to his bald head. For weeks, he has been trying to train his hair to lay down flat even using a do-rag much to my amusement. Only black men wear do-rags and it is to keep their hair from being excessively frizzy, unkempt, or to loosen the tight curls to make waves. I have been making fun of him for trying to tame his coarse porcupine-like hair. Apparently "Sonic Hedgehog" got tired of my razzing or lost patience and buzzed his head again while I was on my visit.

At night, I watched the season finale of Survivor on CBS until Tess lost. I did not care for either Woo or Tony to win. In fact, I was disappointed last week when Spencer was voted out of tribal council. This season's Survivor reality show seemed better than most, but at 8 p.m. Dual Survivor came on. Looking behind the scenes at the growing tension between former Special Ops soldier Joe Teti and the hippie survivalist Code Lundine was a greater priority. Apparently, the straw which broke the camel's back occurred in Norway. They were in a gusting snow blizzard and Lundine refused to wear any shoes. He also was dressed in shorts. I thought it was pushing the limit but Lundine never wears any shoes and goes barefoot. At least in Norway, he did have on some very heavy wool socks.

Thursday, I was awakened by bright sunshine and worse still a sore throat. I knew it was just the beginning. Other prisoners have had various cold and sinus problems for weeks. I could hear the hacking coughs and the blowing of noses throughout the cell house during the morning. It made me think of what I had to look forward to. Steve has been sick for a month and my cellmate for at least a week. Bone had been ill with pneumonia and had to take antibiotics to get better. He was not the only one whose cold dropped down into his lungs or bronchial tubes. Instead of working out, I decided to take a day off. I listened to Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf on WLS talk radio. As a guest they had Larry Kudlow speak about the Democrat's class warfare campaign and how it was unfortunate that Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Tim Palenty endorsed a higher minimum wage. The Rick Savage show I listened to earlier in the week was even more incinerary comparing Hillary Clinton's rhetoric to that of Pol Pot, the communist who killed millions of Cambodians in the name of equality.

My cellmate seems committed to spreading his germs and went out to lunch and then the small yard. Considering numerous other prisoners are sick, they are probably just sharing. While men were gone, the quarter unit was relatively quiet and I made use of this time to write a couple of letters. One was to my attorney who claimed she has a 100 page appeal in the making. She just had to put on the finishing touches and did not want me to see it because of how critical I can be. While writing her, I began to hear cell doors opened and slammed shut. Eventually, I discovered a couple of guards from Internal Affairs were conducting a hooch run. They just go in a cell, open up the property boxes, smell, and then look around very quickly. Hooch has a very pungent smell and it is easy to locate. To my knowledge, none was found in my quarter unit.

When Anthony returned, he told me a black prisoner was inquiring about my blog. He wanted to know what I wrote about and insinuated he may have some issues for me to publish. Inmates occasionally get the wrong idea about my writing. I am not a prisoner rights advocate despite being a prisoner. I write a story of what it is like to live at a maximum security penitentiary. I write my story and from my perspective. It is called Paul Modrowski -- On the Inside for a reason. Anyway, I am told this prisoner plans on having a family member send him some of my posts to read which I am not pleased to hear. The blog is for people on the outside of these walls, not those within them.

Amazingly, my prescriptions for my back pain were filled before I had run out of pills. Even the prescription my psychiatrist ordered weeks ago was finally received by the Health Care Unit. Oddly, however, I am not trusted to keep melatonin in the cell and a nurse must bring me one 5 mg. tablet at a time. I have not complained and am just pleased that after years of requesting the natural sleeping supplement, I am finally getting it. Despite being ill, I have slept better than I have in years.

Yesterday, I could barely talk and communicated with my cellmate during the morning using sign language. Generally, I would simply ignore him. It is very easy to do now with my new headphones. I do not even hear what he is saying. When he realized I was intentionally not speaking because my voice was gone, he offered me some cough drops whereupon I gave him "the bird".  No, I do not want any lozenges. I just want to be left alone. Even when I went out to evening yard I avoided people and rarely spoke. Jug Head was working out nearby me for a moment and questioned where I had been. I just put my hand to my throat and he knew I was sick. He mentioned that he had been ill for a few weeks and it just lingers without ever going away. There were only a handful of prisoners exercising and I tend to believe it was because they also were sick.

This morning, I put in a request to see a doctor. Usually, nothing can be done for a cold, but I will not see anyone for a month. The only reason I was able to see a nurse pertaining to my back within a couple of weeks was because I put in requests earlier regarding my medical permits and prescriptions. Hopefully, I am better by summer, but if I am not, then I may be able to get an appointment in the HCU. There is nothing like being ill at Stateville.