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Monday, August 11, 2014

Potatoes and Paranoia -- June 28, 2014

Prisoners at Stateville have been served potatoes for breakfast every day for the last two weeks. Storage rooms must be stacked to the ceiling from truckloads of the tuber. In addition to the excess of potatoes, there has also been an excess of paranoia at the penitentiary. Administrators from Springfield are snooping around and reviewing various operations. Their presence has put greater pressure on staff to over react to potential dangers. Prisoners in D House are on lockdown for dubious suspicions and mass pat downs during large movement lines are occurring. Guards have also been instructed not to go onto the yards to lessen the likelihood of an assault. Inmates, for their part, are spreading rumors about the cause of the lockdown and the new security measures. There is an abundance of paranoia and oddly potatoes at the prison, but I am trying to keep both in check.

Last Saturday, I began to notice an increased attention to security when at the Health Care Unit. All protective custody inmates were seen by doctors before those in general population. Prisoners in PC are kept separate, but it was odd they halted operations altogether at the H.C.U. While I was waiting for nearly two hours, a few prisoners had property taken from them at the door including a Walkman, a novel and a water bottle. A prisoner with a deformed face (caused from shooting himself after he committed a murder) complained about the matter. Thomas Miles said men can be locked in holding cages for long periods of time and may not come directly from their housing units. The guard working up front replied that prisoners are supposed to be sent back to their cell house and then brought to the H.C.U. despite how impractical this may be. Also, men should not have any property on them even if left with nothing to pass their time. He did return the items prisoners had brought with them, however, but not until they were leaving.

I was at the H.C.U. for a regularly scheduled appointment to see the psychiatrist. I will usually meet with the doctor once every other month and she evaluates how prescribed medications are working. I was going to thank her for prescribing the melatonin which was helping me sleep much better, but nurses have chronically been failing to stop by my cell at night or do not have the pill. She brought me over to the nurses' station in the E.R. to inquire what the problem was. Nurses said there was no melatonin and possibly she had to renew the order every month because it was "non-formula". Non-formula simply meant it had to be specially ordered through the pharmacy.

On Sunday, I did not leave the confines of my cell; however, my neighbor told me an interesting story when he returned from lunch. Prisoners are sporadically patted down to and from the chow hall, but on this occasion, everyone was. The movement team, along with guards who work in the cell house, had the entire line of men stand facing the cyclone fences which follow the walkway. Prisoners with their arms and legs spread were then frisked. Initially, I thought the guards were looking for men who had brought juice back with them. Recently, the administration has been trying to stop the making of hooch in the cell houses. However, I was told that staff confiscated everything prisoners had. When they left, water bottles, napkins, cookies, and various other harmless items littered the concrete walk.

My neighbor's cellmate was given a special work detail to tide him over until he was permitted to have his cell house help job again. Many work details at the prison had a year on year off rotation to give other prisoners a chance to have a job. The intermittent job Hooch was given was not very pleasant, in my opinion, and consisted of scraping off peeling or chipped paint around the penitentiary. Possibly, later he will be asked to prime and paint the surfaces. While he was gone, the sergeant as a practical joke sent him 10 trays of meat balls. Hooch hated the turkey-soy balls containing chips of bone and gristle. When he returned from work he was not very happy to find all the balls, but his mood changed when he won the NASCAR pool. The race was one of the few I watched because it was a winding road course rather than a track where cars went in circles.

Monday morning, I awakened to find yet again potatoes in my breakfast tray. It seems the prison has a never ending supply of them and they are now served daily in combination with some other food such as sausage, a waffle, or a pastry. Initially, some men liked the miniature potatoes that are sliced in half with part of the insides cut out. However, after two weeks, they are now complaining. My cellmate gives me his portion because the tubers are regularly undercooked. I will save them for later in the day or toss them in the toilet. The potato skins if prepared properly can make a good lunch. I happened to fill a bowl of potatoes with sardines in hot sauce and a little cheese when the director and the warden were touring the unit. A prisoner shouted out, "Director on 4 gallery!" and I thought I may joke with Tony Godinez and ask if he wanted some hors d'oeuvres, however, he never passed by my cell.

For dinner, I went to the chow hall to see what Stateville's version of mostaccioli was. When I returned to the cell house, the sergeant spoke to me about my medications. Recently, nurses have repeatedly failed to bring my medications. He seemed to be under the impression they were intentionally singling me out and spoke to health care staff. Some of them were under the impression I was to go out with medical lines and he informed them they were mistaken. There were a number of new nurses filling in for those on vacation and I tended to believe this was the cause of the problem. I thanked the sergeant and he said if they continue to skip me to let him know. Since my conversation with him, nurses have come to my cell, but they did not have any melatonin until later in the week.

Despite not sleeping well, the following day I went to the yard in the morning. Oddly, the lieutenant and guards on the movement team ordered everyone to put their hands up against one of the two cyclone fences. They then went about frisking everyone. Prisoners are permitted to take water bottles, a Walkman, and various table games with them to the yard or gym. The guards did not take any of these items and this time seemed to be just looking for weapons or contraband. None of this was found and prisoners were permitted to go on the small mostly concrete yard. Within its premises, I heard men speculate about the extra concern for security.

The following evening, prisoners in D House were placed on lockdown just after their yard period. In fact, it was purportedly cut short leading inmates to think something happened. They speculated there was a fight and or a weapon was found. This seemed to be corroborated by the fact that blood was seen on the walk leading to the two small yards. The stains looked recent, but I could not tell how long they had been there.

While lifting weights, I occasionally spoke with Trigger. Trigger was a white inmate who I knew from the distant past at a different penitentiary. Just last week, he was moved into a cell with "KY". He knew about me telling other prisoners that KY was a homosexual and asked me to not say anything regarding him being in PC at one time. I did not know why he wanted to keep that a secret or even if it was one. It was not like he was in PC for being afraid or some other issue that I was aware of. Despite this, I said I would keep the information to myself.

On the other parallel yard was Rob and he wanted some advice on a pen pal. He was writing a woman from Oregon and they had developed some type of behind the wall, long distance relationship. The woman seemed to have many financial and emotional issues. She was contemplating moving to the area so she could visit Rob, but was also writing another prisoner in a different state. The skinhead had ceased writing other women and was angry that she was still corresponding as well as sending money to someone else. What should he do? I felt like I was some "Dear Abby" columnist giving relationship advice. I told him to grow a pair, and cease living in a fantasy world. A pen pal was not a real relationship.

The last time I had been at a prison with Rob, I had posted a few personal ads. I was writing a number of women romantically, although what he failed to realize was that I ceased writing them after a period of time when I thought they could no longer be faithful or before the correspondence became too serious. I was searching for a wife or long term committed relationship if I happened to win an appeal or a clemency petition. When these failed, I cut off all my courtship except for one Scandinavian  girl who was exceptionally pretty and promised to be faithful until I was released, whenever that may be. I held onto her for over four years until I realized I was being delusional. The next step was for her to move to the U.S. and complete her masters at a nearby university while living with my parents. However, where was this ultimately going to lead if I remained in prison as I have?

Rob asked if I was currently writing anyone and I mentioned a girl I went to junior high school with had recently contacted me. He asked if she was pretty. I told him I did not know because I had not seen her in about 25 years. At the time she had long dark hair, brown eyes, and a slender figure. She reminded me of the part American Indian girl in the move "Pale Rider" with Clint Eastwood. The skinhead disapproved and I said, no, she was not the Nordic-type of girl I was attracted to, but this did not matter. She was special to me because she came from the distant past, a time period I greatly value. I wish more people I knew from before my arrest contacted me.

Prisoners were taken from the yard directly to the chow hall where meat balls were being served again. It was a humid day and in my sweaty clothes I wanted to return to the cell to bathe. However, inmates were left in the chow hall for a long time and then stopped on the way back to the cell house. Once again, we were all frisked. Guards had a small pile of cookies and even a bag of meat balls. I thought it was odd and amusing that a prisoner would want to take back a bag of balls. To my cellmate I said, "They (guards) took someone's balls. That was cruel and unusual punishment."

Wednesday there were few people in the visiting room. I assume this was due to prisoners in D House not being allowed visits and it being the end of the month. Inmates are only allowed 5 visits per month at Stateville. Despite being able to converse easily without the noise, I did not enjoy talking with my mother. She brought up how she learned online that Robert Mueller was in his late 30's when he had sexual relations with not one but two girls at Hinsdale Central High School. She was under the impression he was in his 20's and there was only one 17-year-old. I told her Bob disputed when that relationship turned sexual and never mentioned a second girl to me. As for his age, it may come as a surprise to her but I am now in my late 30's and still find girls in their late teens to be attractive. Regardless, 8 counts of criminal sexual assault run concurrent for a total of 32 years was ridiculous. At least my mother agreed the punishment in no way fit the crime.

When I returned to the cell, I was exhausted and lay down with a cloth over my eyes to take a nap. Not long after, my cellmate put his knee on my chest and his hand around my throat. I could not see him, but reached out to poke him in the eye and when I failed, I punched him in the balls with my other hand. Cringing in pain, I was able to take off my blind fold and kick him off me. We were just play fighting. After the incident with KY, I told Anthony I still could not put my guard down. Realizing he could not square off with me, KY may wait so he or someone else can attack me while unprepared. I must be continually vigilant and I told him about the movie "The Pink Panther" where comedian Peter Sellers has an Asian man attack him periodically when he least expected it to keep him on his toes. After rough housing with my cellmate, I told him it serves no function to attack me in my sleep. Even the goofy eccentric detective played by Sellers had some ground rules.

At night, I watched the last season episode of "Dual Survivor" with my cellmate. During commercial breaks, we questioned how real the program was. In a previous episode, Matt Graham caught a wild turkey with his bare hands after sneaking up on it. In this episode filmed in New Zealand, Joe Teti killed a buck with one shot through the heart. I am certain the former Special Ops soldier could do this, but he was using a rifle that had purportedly fallen down a rocky embankment and because he only had one bullet was unable to align the scope. I doubted the scenario presented in the show and assume Teti was given a perfectly aligned rifle and the camera crew may have done retakes or editing.

Thursday morning I awakened to another breakfast of miniature potatoes sliced in half. I noticed my cellmate had dumped his onto my tray also. I put them in a zip lock bag and thought I may eat them later. Along with the potatoes, there was something unfamiliar in the breakfast tray. Upon closer inspection, it was a cinnamon pastry. Prisoners at Stateville have not been served one of these in numerous years and I wondered what the occasion was. Perhaps the donated food was being served this week because IDOC administrators from Springfield were present. I did not know but was going to eat it until I discovered the carton of milk was spoiled. Since the cell house was going to be fed first for lunch, I just went without breakfast.

Later in the day I left my cell to attend a health care pass. While waiting in the holding cage for an escort, I spoke with Fat Pat whose cell is across from the cage. Ironically, Fat Pat shares a cell with Fat Jimmy. Jimmy had gone to yard, but Pat stayed inside to enjoy some time alone and draw. Usually, Pat would be at his work assignment, but during the week the prison store was closed for inventory and to be scrutinized by Springfield auditors. There was a great deal of theft at the commissary and their books never add up. Fat Pat seemed to think auditors would have a lot of questions but ultimately nothing will change. Stateville is and always has been the most corrupt and dysfunctional penitentiary in Illinois.

At the Health Care Unit, I waited almost an hour before I was told my pass had been cancelled. In fact, my doctor had not even come in for work. I told the guard I had just seen the medical director walk by whereupon I was told my appointment was not for the doctor but a medical practitioner. This news puzzled me because my pass clearly had a check mark next to the letters "M.D."  I came to the conclusion my appointment was not to address my lower back injury, but the requests I had made over a month ago when I was sick with a cold. Whoever filled out the pass made an error. I was able to return to the cell house quickly, however, I missed a pleasant sunny day on the South Yard.

My cellmate had gone to the Rec period and informed me of a new rule. Prisoners, before being let onto the yard, were told by a sergeant that guards will no longer come out on the premises to gather them to the gate. The guard in the gun tower will notify convicts when their time is up and they will have a certain amount of time to leave or will be given a disciplinary ticket. One prisoner yelled out, "That's bullshit, sergeant!" and later various men talked about why there was a change in policy. Some people speculated a weapon was found on the yard that D House was on earlier in the week and administrators did not want guards wandering about on the yard where they may be attacked. I told my cellmate the policy was not actually new and before the turn of the millennium, guards never dared to go out on the prison yards.

At 4 p.m., I made some hot coffee to go with my breakfast cinnamon pastry while watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN. On the show was the IRS chief defending the government agency from targeting Tea Party and other groups. Congress was conducting an investigation and it seemed apparent there was a coverup. Emails and servers important to the investigation had been "lost" and six IRS computers just happened to all go down at the same time. Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, did not believe the coincidence and called the IRS chief a liar. In a secondary story, Republican Chris McDaniel accused Thad Cochran of intentionally undermining the senate primary. Cochran who has held the Mississippi senate seat since 1978 was going to lose the election to the Tea Party candidate, but had his campaign target black Democrats to submit Republican ballots for him. It reminded me of how the union sought to defeat Bruce Rauner for the Republican nominee for Illinois governor by having many Chicago Democrats vote for Kirk Dillard. The union was unsuccessful, but Cochran won by a slim margin.

Yesterday and early today, I watched Wimbledon tennis while eating breakfast potatoes with fish and some trimmings. Two matches were of interest to Stateville prisoners. Venus Williams played Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and then her sister, Serena, played Alize Cornet of France. Black convicts cheered loudly for the two black female tennis players. They were very unhappy both of them lost. Contrarily, my cellmate and I were pleased by the outcome. Possibly, it is the end of the Williams sisters' dominance in professional tennis.

I recently spoke with Psycho who works in the kitchen. According to him, potatoes are likely to be served for breakfast daily. There are still enough spuds piled up in storage to feed 2,000 prisoners for a couple more weeks, if not longer. He also mentioned that there were now two quarter units on lockdown. Earlier today, kitchen workers prepared Styrofoam lunch trays to be brought to both D and B Houses. There were various rumors floating about to explain the expanded lockdown of the institution, however he could not be certain of their validity. It seems the only certainty is that potatoes and paranoia will continue for some time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Preparing for War -- June 21, 2014

Sunday, blood was found splattered on the floor and wall of the shower room. There was speculation that someone was beat to a pulp or possibly bludgeoned with a weapon. No one was taken to the prison hospital that I am aware of. However, it was a reminder to me of how violent and brutal a maximum security prison can be. I was in the penitentiary when it was a gladiator school and fighting often with crude weapons was a regular part of life. Menard was nicknamed "The Pit", Stateville "The White Man's Graveyard", and Pontiac "Thunderdome" after the Mad Max movies popularized in the early 1980's. Fortunately, I was mentally and physically conditioned for the concrete jungles I was to enter. Times have greatly changed since then, but I continue to be vigilant. During the week when faced with a violent encounter, I was not taking any chances and prepared for war.

On Tuesday, prisoners on the lower galleries of the quarter unit were permitted to shop. At the commissary building, I sat by Bone in a holding room. He spoke almost incessantly about an appeal he filed which was dismissed by the state courts. The issue revolved around an improper criminal indictment. Certain procedures are supposed to be followed when the grand jury is impaneled which prosecutors regularly do not bother to strictly abide by. It is a technicality many desperate prisoners who have lost all their regular set of appeals are challenging. They hope some court will eventually overturn their conviction, however, I knew this was not going to happen. They were going to die in prison.

Before I was sentenced, I knew the judge was going to give me the maximum amount of time. Rather than spend decades suffering and languishing in prison, I attempted to kill myself in various ways. By fluke and a strong instinct to survive, these attempts failed. I ended up in a holding cage waiting to be transferred to the IDOC with a single black man. While I stood there sulking, he paced excitedly. He asked eventually how much time I was sentenced to and where I was headed. When I told him, he said I needed to own it and say it with pride: "You're going to the Thunderdome and when people ask you, tell them you have a natural ball!"Having not committed suicide, I chose a fate of never ending strife and hardship which I had to embrace.

When I returned from store, I noticed property boxes in front of the sergeant's cage. The prisoner who people simply called "Big" was being transferred to a medium security penitentiary. For a moment I wondered if he was not the same black man in the holding cage with me 19 years ago. However, that convict told me he was sentenced to 50 and under the old statute, he would still need to do another 6 years before he was eligible to leave maximum security. I also recall Big telling me he was arrested in the 1980's and would not have been in the Cook County Jail when I was there. Despite having a hulking muscular build, I doubted he would live to see freedom. Like Bone and many of us at Stateville, we were doomed to die in the penitentiary.

At night, I watched the brutal, vigilante movie Law Abiding Citizen. The main character played by Gerard Butler is the victim of a home invasion where his family is butchered and he is left for dead. An assistant states attorney concerned only with his conviction rate makes a deal with the killer to testify against his co-defendant. The result is lopsided with the man who merely committed a burglary getting the death penalty and the murderer getting a 3 year sentence. Incensed by the injustice, the sole survivor kills him along with his attorney, those in the prosecutor's office, and the judge. The actor Gerard Butler also stars in another violent film called 300 where he is a Spartan king who holds off a million man Persian army with only 300 soldiers. He knows it is a mission which will ultimately lead to his death, but not before all of Greece is united to defeat the eastern invasion.

The following day, the chow hall was packed for lunch. My cellmate and I ended up sitting at the only remaining table where an old deformed man sat. The prisoner, from what I am told, killed his wife in an act of mercy before putting a shotgun in his own mouth. Amazingly, he lived, but half his face is missing including an eye. I tried speaking to him, however, he is largely deaf and is unable to pronounce words. Later, I asked my cellmate, "What are the chances of surviving a shotgun blast at point blank range to the skull?" If guards gave me the weapon and just one slug after my conviction, I would have gotten the job done right.

Upon returning to the cell, I made myself a pair of shorts from sweatpants I had purchased the day before. The prison commissary sells shorts, but they are made for short fat people. I needed a pair with a smaller waist and longer legs. Cutting the fabric with toe nail clippers and hemming it with reused threads to a professional standard was not easy. I spent a few hours on the project and then another hour sewing fabric on my shoe which was tearing apart. After I finished, my cellmate told me I should sew up his torn gym shoes as well. Apparently, his needle was too small and thin. I replied that it sounded like a personal problem.

While watching the DVD 3 Days to Kill, I almost missed the male nurse who was passing out medications. When I yelled out to him, he kept on walking and ignored me. However, a guard told him he needed to come back to my cell. Later, he eventually returned. I asked him who was responsible for not filling my prescription. Other female nurses are usually friendly and will apologize for making an error, but this man gave me some attitude which upset me. I was thinking of grabbing him through the bars and yanking him into the cell bars, yet he moved away. Repeatedly, new hires in the H.C.U. were bungling prescriptions.

Thursday lunch lines were run at 9 a.m. I was not hungry, but because I heard kitchen workers made the spaghetti with sliced pepperoni instead of turkey-soy, I went out. Although I am not a fan of pepperoni, the meal was an improvement. Upon my return to the unit I noticed Big John had been moved in the cell vacated by Big. He waved and gave me a happy greeting. He had been moved out of cell house a year ago and seemed glad to be back. My cellmate made fun of all the prisoners who went by the name "Big", but we both got along with John. By happenstance, I encountered him again later in the day.

While I was waiting to gain an escort to the visiting room, John was placed into the holding cage with me. He acknowledged how he had repeatedly requested to be moved back to the unit. Now, he was hoping he could regain his former cellmate from F House. Puzzled, I said I did not think he would get along with KY. Stunningly, he claimed KY was the best cellmate he ever had. I asked him if he knew he was a homosexual whereupon he looked like the one shocked. Immediately, he said I did not know what I was talking about and should keep my mouth shut. A couple of other prisoners in the cage who were nearby also defended KY and scolded me. For a moment, I thought a 3 on 1 brawl was going to erupt in the crowded holding cage. A guard opened the locked gate, however, to let me out for my visit. Before leaving I told John that I had known his former cellmate for two decades and he was definitely as I said.

On my visit, I did not want to mention the subject with my mother, but I had to tell her I may be in Segregation or transferred to Pontiac in the near future. Of course, she wanted to know why. I told her I may have caused a chain of dominoes to fall that inevitably would lead to a fight or worse. This was not an adequate explanation for her and thus I explained what happened. What I had said was eventually going to get back to KY and with his reputation at stake he would have no choice but to retaliate. The odd thing was that I was telling the truth and thought most everyone already knew. My mother wanted to know why the matter had to lead to violence. She did not understand prison and this was not something I could explain to her.

After my visit, I took a nap and refreshed I exercised for an hour. My workout regimen was even more intense and deliberate than usual. I emphasized speed and explosive force with mixed martial arts keeping in mind my most likely opponent. KY was a large stature Caucasian man who was once very violent in the 80's and early 90's. He had wicked tattoos over his entire body, even over his bald dome. However, he was now in his 50's. Muscle had turned to fat and he was slow. Without a weapon, I would quickly overtake him. Despite this, I was not taking any chances and pretended he was the UFC's heavyweight champion. I also trained for having more than one attacker.

My cellmate came back from the chow hall saying Big John had said, "What's up with your cellie?!" Anthony told him I had known KY for years, yet he only knew him for one. He also commented that he saw no reason for me to lie about the matter. I had no ax to grind and am always brutally honest with him, maybe a little too honest for my own good. When my cellmate related his conversation, I was in the back of the cell bathing out of the sink. It was humid and after my workout, my sweat actually rinsed off the suds before I filled the basin again with water. I kept on hitting the cold water button, but it only momentarily changed the temperature. For over a month, the sink has been broken and slowly dribbles hot water.

When KY was moved to the cell house, I had told Anthony about him. In the 80's and 90's, prisoners were largely judged by how violent and powerful they were. It did not matter if one of these men had sex with a sissy or was a sexual predator. Convicts did not abide by any traditional ethical codes and the gangs had a Lord of the Flies mentality. I always thought KY was a sexual deviant as I am sure others did, but in this environment particularly when white prisoners were outnumbered 10 to 1, he was accepted if not respected. There was only one time when I had a problem with KY and that was when he got blitzed on moonshine and psychotropic drugs. He lost his marbles and tried attacking me. When he sobered up, he barely remembered the psychotic episode, but strongly apologized. To Anthony I said with emphasis, "Never trust someone drunk and on psychotropic drugs. They are capable of doing anything." I was being serious, but also making fun of his own criminal conviction.

Friday morning, I ate a makeshift breakfast while watching the news. The president was finally sending 300 Special Forces into Iraq. They were to assess the situation on the ground and possibly help assist the Al-Maliki government. Barack Obama was continually too late and too little when it came to using military force. Did he not realize he left a huge power vacuum in Iraq when he pulled U.S. troops out? All of Iraq was in chaos due to him being aloof or asleep at the wheel. It is always better to be continually vigilant and prepared for war than to let it sneak up on you.

After the news, I wrote a "kite" to Big John. A kite is prison slang for a brief letter. In it I told him I was glad he was back in the unit and looked forward to making him look foolish again on the basketball court. Then I repeated what I said to him in the holding cage and if he wanted to talk further about it he should come out for lunch. Big John did go to the meal and sat next to me. Speaking lowly, I told him how I knew KY was a homosexual. He never made a secret of it 20 years ago and had a sissy as a cellmate. I was about to tell him a story when he stopped me and said he heard enough. He asked why I had to announce to the entire bull pen that he was gay. Had I told him privately there would not be a problem, but now the word was already repeated back to KY and he would be forced to respond.

Big John hated homosexuals and regularly would express this to KY when they were cellmates. Oddly, I told John that KY does not think of himself as gay. He thinks that only the man who is playing the role of a woman is queer. Even if he realizes his conduct is homosexual, he believes it is acceptable, or not sexually perverse. Numerous times when I would be with KY on the yard or elsewhere and he would comment that since he cannot have a woman, he had the next best alternative: a man who acted like one. Of course, while this reasoning may have been overlooked decades ago in the Thunderdome or other maximum security penitentiaries, it did not have any merit today. Homosexuality may be more tolerated in society outside these walls, but inside almost a reversal has occurred  particularly amongst certain segments of the inmate population which KY belongs to.

Back in the confines of my cell, the plumber finally came to the cell to fix the sink. He was in the tunnel behind the cell and made his presence known by hitting some pipes with a wrench or other tool. Anthony ducked down to the vent to talk to him. After a moment, the hot water stopped dribbling out and he yelled to push the button. The water ran briefly and still had little pressure. I told my cellmate to tell him to raise the pressure and timer. When he did, the plumber remarked, "You're asking for steak on a hamburger budget." However, he did as we asked him to.

It was nice to have both sink buttons working properly for a change, though I did not know if I would be able to enjoy it. Friday evening, the lower galleries of the cell house had yard and I knew KY would be there to confront me. I packed up a Seg bag which is basically a few things prisoners are sometimes allowed to take with them immediately to segregation. It included a bar of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, wash cloth, and some underwear. I told Anthony that I did not know if they would do so, but to ask a guard if he would bring the bag to me. They had no obligation and many prisoners will be in Seg a week or longer without any property. I also told Anthony that if I happened to be transferred he should keep various things of mine I knew would be taken. KY, knowing he cannot take me one on one, may attack with a weapon or with the help of others. In prison, the administration does not make a distinction between aggressors and those simply defending themselves. Regardless, whatever KY starts, I planned to finish.

Before going out to the yard, I practiced various strikes and self defense techniques. It was important they became instinct and not requiring any forethought. Furthermore, I went over specific movements which were meant to inflict the most bodily injury in the least amount of time. Unlike a boxing match or the UFC, points were irrelevant. Also, there were no rules and rendering your opponent incapacitated with strikes to the knee caps, genitals, and throat were all fair game. We both had protracted death sentences, and although I hoped one day to have justice, I had to own this life without parole. As the black convict told me before I was sent to the Thunderdome, I had a "natural ball"!

I was one of the first prisoners to go through the gate onto the yard. I rushed to the other side where I undressed until I was only wearing my gym shoes and shorts. I tied my t-shirt around my forehead tightly like a bandanna. In a brawl, a fighter wants the least loose fabric. They also want their body slippery, and along with sun block, I glazed Vaseline on parts of my skin. Then, I grabbed a handful of sand which was going into the eyes of my first attacker. If I had wanted, I could have secured or crafted a weapon. However, this was unnecessary. I had faith in my physical abilities unless I was caught off guard.

KY approached me directly while I was on the basketball court. I was thinking sand to the eyes and then take down or a kick to the balls. Actually, he left himself open to numerous attacks. However, I was going to wait until he made the first move and he started by saying, "Hey, Paul, let me talk to you for a moment." I walked back with him whereupon he asked, "What is this about you calling me a homosexual?" "Are you telling me you are not?" I replied, and thus began the most ridiculous conversation I have had in some time.

I noticed a lot of eyes upon us as well as some convicts who may want to get involved and thus I told KY to walk the track with me. Many people walk around the track and it is inconspicuous as well as private. KY tried convincing me he was not a homosexual despite living with a sissy and telling me he had both anal and oral sex with various men. He even had the gall to ask, "Did you ever see me?" and of course I had to say no. "Well, there you go then," KY replied. I said, "Just not long ago you told me a man sucked your dick." "No," KY said. "I said I saw that man suck dick." Finally, I said to him that I did not care if he wanted to be in the closet. I will agree not to speak of it again to anyone in the prison. However, it will be his task to try to put the cat back in the bag.

Later, I spoke to Big John and told him we came to an agreement. I see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Oddly, John seemed happy about this arrangement. He told me when we were on the basketball court he really thought I was going to romper stomp KY and was concerned when we went out on the quarter mile track. There was no one to break up a brutal beating and the gun tower did not have the range to be dissuasive. I said that was in part why I did this, but I also wanted to diffuse the situation. There was no need for the matter to go beyond me and KY and hopefully this is the end of it.

For the rest of the yard period, I worked out while KY and his cronies stood talking by the showers. KY is respected and well liked in the prison. He has many more friends than I have or probably ever will. It was much more important for him to preserve his reputation than for me to impugn it. Actually, I never cared. Almost two decades have passed and I have been largely indifferent if prisoners knew he was a homosexual. The problem is I am not the only one who knows and there are no secrets in prison. Indeed, at the end of the Rec period, a worker came out on the yard to collect the ice buckets. He was totally oblivious to what had occurred earlier and yelled out to prisoners, "I'm surprised you let KY stand by the showers!"

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 Gavin standing outside the cell bars looking for a moment 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' bookmaking 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 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 Toppen, a 19-year-old 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 I would have attended except for a strange zoning district that sent me to Lincoln Way Central in New Lenox. 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 when a teenager myself 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, now 39, was 17 years old 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 news reported 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 stab 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. Years later, she was still vindictive and at my sentencing hearing 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 to the evidence discrediting the interrogating officer at trial, it was not submitted by my attorney but 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. I told him they did not know how to spell, but knew it was just them having some fun. 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 misconduct of Jon Burge, other suspect interrogations are not being scrutinized. The Palatine Task Force used excessive force to arrest me. Between 10 and 15 gun wielding police surrounded me in my car at a traffic light. With laser scope beams trained on my body, I was roughly handcuffed and thrown into the back seat of an unmarked squad car. Offhandedly, an FBI agent told me I was lucky to be alive, inferring they were more than willing to shoot me dead. For the next two days, I was held incommunicado during which not only my Miranda rights were violated, but I was intimidated, threatened, and struck many times. Unlike other prisoners who had their convictions overturned, I never gave a confession. In fact, no amount of abuse by police was going to pressure me into doing so. 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 skinhead 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 duct 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 mock 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 amusing.

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 and only 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 still risk the energy major may lose 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 if necessary. 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 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. The USSR even placed nuclear missiles in Cuba and to create an independent Ukraine was not at all hypocritical.

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 using notes I had made the day before. 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 she 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 Kass 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.