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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Four Visits -- October 4, 2014

Visits are extraordinarily restrictive at maximum security penitentiaries. At Stateville, prisoners must submit information about prospective people who may come to see them including their race, age, relationship, and address. If an unapproved visitor arrives, they will be turned away. Visitors are subject to a thorough frisk and are not permitted to bring anything with them other than identification and debit cards. During visits, prisoners must remain seated and no contact is allowed except upon greeting and departure. Visits are limited to 5 a month and each cannot exceed 2 hours. Visits are only one hour on weekends and holidays as well as during lockdowns if they are not cancelled altogether. Due to the 3 week lockdown last month, my opportunity to see friends or family was limited, however, I made this up in quick succession with four visits within a week's time.

On the 24th of September, the penitentiary was taken off lockdown after repeated searches by the tactical unit. After a large contingent of Orange Crush had raided an adjacent cell house, I was not expecting normal operations the following day. However, in the morning, a guard announced barbershop, library, and all details were to get ready to leave. A couple of hours later, chow lines were run and I went out along with most of the prisoners in the unit who were pent up from being confined to their cells. I sat with Hooch, Fat Jimmy, and the ailing biker, Bone. Bone has lost so much weight that he was not only being given Boost drinks but extra portions at meals. He gave me one of his turkey-soy burgers and I made a double of my sandwich. Kitchen workers also gave men a small bag of cheese puffs and I offered them to him, however, he declined and I tossed the bag towards Fat Jimmy who rarely ever declines food.

On the walk back to the cell house, I noticed the hyper lieutenant pacing around outside looking for someone. Eventually, he pointed at me as if I was in big trouble. I had natural life without a chance for parole, however, and was mostly amused by his gesture. I dodged behind another man pretending he could not see me. There were a lot of convicts in the lines returning from chow and maybe I could just blend in with the herd. After a moment of play, I walked over to him to see what he had to say. As expected, he told me I had a visitor.

I knew my father was going to visit because he must reserve a side room in advance and I am sent a memo. Side room visits are only for attorneys meeting with clients or incarcerated men in protective custody. However, the administration will also make accommodations for those who are severely disabled. My father has lost most of his hearing and in the crowded general population visiting room he is for all practical purposes deaf. Even with hearing aids or if I were to shout, he could not make out a word I would say other than by reading my lips. Worse still is his crumbling spine and severe degenerative arthritis. He can barely move about despite taking strong pain medications and the steel rods screwed into his spine have only exasperated his problems.

After being strip searched, I walked over to gate 2 to give the staff my identification card. There are five gates which lead into the penitentiary, although two are not used because they are redundant. Gates 3 and 4 are left open and unmanned. In between them sits a large wooden chair that looks like a throne a medieval king may have sat on. Possibly, half a century ago, the warden once sat on it to have his shoes shined. While the chair and two gates go unattended, there is plenty of security at the entrance of the penitentiary and I am leery of even approaching gate 2 alone, less some guard would think that I may make a bold escape attempt out the front door. For that reason, I asked the officer in the strip search room to escort me before I greeted my father who was waiting in a room off to the side of the hallway.

My father resembles the actor Jack Nicholson in both appearance and demeanor, although not as ostentatious or charming. He has never been a flashy person and for most of his life he was very serious and stern. During my childhood, he was a difficult man to get along with and as a teenager I often avoided him. We rarely spoke and usually when we did it was in anger. Like most old men, he has mellowed with age. It is unfortunate that he has fallen apart so greatly physically, I thought as I gave him a slight embrace. If I squeezed him too hard or patted him on the back with too much force, I worried I may break something.

I sat down at a table with my father across from me. He told me I was sitting in the wrong spot and pointed to a piece of paper that was taped to the wall. Written on the paper was "Inmates Sit Here" and it had an arrow pointing down. My father said I had to sit directly underneath the sign. He was being sarcastic and regularly we will mock the ridiculous security precautions taken at Stateville. Later my father asked a sergeant why a simple clock could not be put in the room. Not long ago all visitors have been prohibited from wearing watches and he did not know what time it was. The sergeant said a clock could be dangerous and also added that was why the room was so empty and austere. Everything was scrutinized at a maximum security prison as a possible hazard and I told my father about how all the plastic milk baskets were removed earlier in the year until someone realized how there was no way to store or move the milk in any practical fashion.

One of my father's favorite topics of conversation is complaining about my mother. The woman, I am told, is not only forgetful and a clutter bug but nags him almost ceaselessly. I had to readily agree her increasing senility was annoying. Because her memory is poor, conversations are repeated and occasionally I wonder what information she is retaining. The clutter would bother me immensely and I told my father just to throw it out. That is what I will do to cellmates' property if they refuse to put it away or order it. As for the nagging, some of it I assume was well deserved but he can simply turn off his hearing aid. Furthermore, he has a large sprawling house and can come and go when he wants to. Contrarily, I am trapped in the confines of my cell of this prison and cannot get away from people who regularly bother me. My father tells me he is putting off another spinal surgery to go to his second residence in South Carolina and although I am concerned about my parents' abilities to live alone, it may be best for them to spend some time apart.

The log cabin home is spacious and I was told that I am welcome to stay there when released. Both my parents live in a fantasy world where they think I will be coming home. I did not bother to tell him how unlikely this was, however, I did jest that the last time we lived under the same roof it was far from ideal. Of course, that was over two decades ago and our relationship is much better now. Ironic that it was not until I was condemned to a lifetime in prison that we learned how much in common we had.

A couple of interests my father and I share are history and politics. In fact, despite his career in real estate, he has a major in history and a minor in political science. During our visit we spoke about both subjects and later in the day I watched news regarding the president's latest response to ISIS or what he calls ISIL. Barack Obama was insisting on an international coalition which included Arab states. He also again reiterated that the U.S. would not put any boots on the ground. A saying my father often told me as a child was "if you want something done right, you do it yourself" and this seemed very applicable in the crumbling states of Iraq and Syria. On CNN, however, the coverage of air strikes on Mobil Oil refineries tried to show the president's plan was succeeding.

I could not watch the biased news station's reporting for long. It was almost like a propaganda wing of the White House. After turning off my television, I wrote a 5-page letter to a woman I had gone to school with in junior high. Since I had not seen or heard from her in a few weeks, I thought she may appreciate it if I wrote in greater length. Short and shallow correspondence is not appealing to me, although I wonder if this is the new reality with texting, email, and tweets. I also wondered if my efforts to maintain ties with her were in vain. These prison walls create a barrier that is very difficult to overcome.

At 6 a.m. the following day I was awakened early by loud convicts. They were let out of their cells for the law library but then locked on the gallery when a distress call went out over the radio. Later, I learned cellmates in a different quarter unit were fighting. The situation was contained to one cell in one cell house and yet all the operations in the penitentiary were temporarily suspended. This hold on movement was over by the first shift and I went out to the yard. Soon after returning, though, the prison was placed on a low level lockdown. The lockdown prevented inmates in C House from attending evening yard and many were displeased. The warden had a memo posted on the cable system alerting that all night yards were over at the end of the month.

Although the penitentiary was on lockdown Friday as well, the administration was allowing 1 hour visits. Close to noon my name was announced over the cell house loudspeaker and I quickly changed into my state blues. My rush was unnecessary because a guard did not come to let me out of my cell and handcuff me for some time. All prisoner movement on lockdowns requires handcuffs despite what the reason may be. In this case, I was later told by a lieutenant that it was a "system's failure" which I assumed meant the guards' new radios were not working properly.

When I walked down the steps into the general population visiting room I was pleased to see Cindy sitting at a table waiting for me. It was unfortunate we would only be able to talk for an hour but on the positive side since everyone was being kicked out early, there were fewer people there. It was a marked contrast to the first time we met when every table was filled and there were over 100 people talking over each other. After a brief embrace I asked her how long she had been waiting. She did not say but mentioned that a guard had given her a hard time about a bracelet she was wearing. The bracelet had two tiny interlocking handcuffs which I thought was cute. Apparently so did another guard and he asked her if she had the key. There was no key and he then said, "I guess you're going to have to keep them on."

Cynthia had some complicated questions for me which were difficult to answer in such a short period of time. Regularly, I would look at the clock on the wall to see how much time we had left (the G.P. visiting room has a clock on the wall). One of her questions was if I felt sorry for the victim. I knew people expected prisoners, particularly those convicted of murder, to go on and on about their deep sadness if not shed a tear or two. However, the truth was much more nuanced for me. First, because I was not the least bit culpable or even aware of the murder, I did not have any feelings of regret. In fact, the longer I spent in prison the more bitterness and anger I had. Second, I did not know the victim well and what I did know I did not like. I remember the prosecutor confronted a witness at trial about his prior grand jury testimony where he testified that I had told him I did not like the man that much.  Although this was true, it was a far cry from wanting him to die or being indifferent about his death. I know some people will watch the news and have great amounts of empathy for those they have never met. However, I usually do not think about it.

Her second deep question was "Why was your co-defendant acquitted of the murder yet you were convicted of being accountable for his actions?" This is a question I get asked a lot and it cannot be answered in a sound bite. Our trials, while held simultaneously, were separate. There were two juries and they did not hear all the same evidence. For example, Robert Faraci's jury did not hear the testimony of his wife, Rose Faraci, when she talked about him coming home with his clothes soaked in blood the night in question and he asked her to burn them while he showered.  Or how they later conspired to frame me and Brian. Furthermore, my jury was unaware that Faraci was acquitted when they decided days later to find me accountable based on the testimony of the detective who interrogated me. My attorney was an expert at civil and corporate law but lacked experience representing clients accused of criminal wrongdoing. He was also arrogant and did not concern himself much with jury selection despite how heavily biased people were against me due to the enormous negative media exposure I had. My co-defendant's attorneys, contrarily, knew trials could be won or lost with jury selection and were able to win an important challenge preventing the prosecutor from eliminating favorable jurors. Finally, the befuddling results of our trials were also due to the state's attorneys office overzealous desire to have a scapegoat for the then unsolved Palatine Massacre. More money and resources were used to convict me than John Wayne Gacy, while there was little concern about the Fawcett murder and convicting Robert Faraci. Robert was the bird in the hand, while I was the bird in the bush. Considering the politics involved, they were more than willing to accept losing one for the chance to get the other.

Our visit seemed to go by very quickly. There was no way I could explain all the details of my case in an hour and I told her if she wanted she could come back before the month was over. I still had one visit left for September. On the way out of the visiting room, I was astonished to hear a prisoner talk glowingly of my current appellate lawyer who I was seeking to replace. For over 5 years I have been waiting for Jennifer Blagg to put together a post conviction petition and I had lost all faith in her competency. I assume the prisoner had just recently hired her and mistakenly took her initial enthusiasm and very personable style for results.

Returning from my visit, I discovered a new mattress on my bunk. Apparently, while I was gone, a couple of crates of them were brought in and passed out to prisoners who had submitted requests over a year ago. Imitating a scene from the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" I told my cellmate that the prosecutor finally caved in to my demand for a SertaPedic mattress. While laying on it comfortably, I said, "Don't get any ideas. This is a single." Anthony had heard enough of my jokes from the film about injustice and revenge. He responded that I should enjoy it while it lasts. He was given one a few months ago and already it was flat. By Christmas, I will probably be feeling the steel underneath, but for now it has been very comfortable.

Sunday evening I was concerned Cynthia would be turned away at the front gates of the penitentiary. The prison after being taken off lockdown was back on and various rumors were flying. According to an inmate returning from the Health Care Unit, a man committed suicide in the Roundhouse. However, I then heard there was yet another fight between cellmates where one used a shank to stab his opponent. Finally, a guard commented that there was a staff assault. According to him, a lieutenant in B House was struck. Possibly, all of the stories or none of them were true, however, the next day I was pleased there were normal operations and 2 hour visits were being allowed.

On my visit with Cynthia, she wanted to continue to talk about my case. Why did it say in a newspaper article that we spoke to a newspaper-magazine store owner in Florida about guns? Why did they insinuate I was connected to a group of criminals? How did I meet these men? I answered all these questions and then emphasized I had absolutely no involvement in the Fawcett murder. I was not even aware he was killed when I left with the Faraci's to Clearwater, Florida. I did not want to spend another visit trying to address every aspect of the underlying circumstances of the murder, my prosecution, conviction, etc. Instead, I said I will just send her my Petition for Executive Clemency which is 50 pages long and has even more exhibits. The Illinois Innocence Project had just returned my copy so I will put it in the mail for her to read.

The main reason why I like seeing Cindy is to talk about our years in junior high school and to be flirtatious. Other than my mother or sister, no woman has come to see me in years. I knew she had a crush on me in school and it may be 25 years too late, but I wanted to try to make up for it. When she mentioned finally finding some more photos of herself to send me, I inquired if they were naked. She complained that in a letter I said she was fat and asked why would I want to see her naked. I was about to say that maybe I like chubby girls, but instead told her she could lose the excess weight if she wanted to. This is always a sensitive subject with women and I got an earful of excuses including how it was genetic. This led me to playfully guess what her background was. Finally she gave me a hint: it was where people want to get laid (leid). I was baffled by her play on words and she then told me she was part Hawaiian. When I told her I thought she may be an eighth or quarter Eskimo she laughed. She also seemed amused when I asked if that meant she could hula dance.

I remained flirtatious throughout most of our visit. Sometimes I was serious and other times joking. The combination along with my flat humor threw her off balance. She probably still does not know what to think. Despite how she may be confused, other people watching us were not. As soon as she left, a guard asked me if she was my girlfriend. I answered simply by saying Cindy was a girl I knew in junior high. The guard then went on to say she married her high school boyfriend. Later in the week Snowman also asked me if she was my girlfriend. Apparently, he was in the visiting room on Monday or the previous Friday. My cellmate has never even seen me interact with Cynthia, but he will joke whenever I write her not to forget to say "I love you".

On the first of October, I had another set of 5 visits and my mother came to see me. She has been the most faithful person to stay connected all these years. I will guesstimate she has visited more than 800 times at various maximum security penitentiaries that I have been at over the last two decades. She also will write regularly and this week she finally was able to set up an account with the Dept. of Correction's collect call phone company. As I suspected, Securus Technologies is forcing people to give their credit card information or to pay in advance. They will no longer allow another phone company to bill for them. I assume there is some advantage for them, although the costs after taxes remains the same (about $4 for a 30 minute local call).

My mother and I visited for two hours and then I had to go straight to the Health Care Unit. Initially, the guard was not going to let me in. There was a hold on all health care passes due to the holding cages being so jammed full. However, when he saw my pass was to see a psychiatric doctor, he let me in the door. Mental health care passes are now mandatory and guards cannot refuse them or at least they are told not to.

When I saw the psychologist I must have looked troubled or distant. She asked what was wrong. I told her I was just exhausted. In the last week, I had 4 visits and had in fact just came from one. The constant barrage of noise and people in the penitentiary is very draining. If I want to be engaging on visits I must push myself to the limits of my ability to be social. With Cynthia, I was drinking large cups of coffee before I met her so I would be more communicative. After all visits, I crash for an hour or longer. Having a son with autism, the doctor seemed to understand and ended our appointment briefly so I could get back to the cell house before I was stuck in the crowded Health Care Unit's holding cages. There is no movement between shifts and I may have been tormented for a couple of hours unless I just tipped over into sleep or my own little universe. I am glad to have had 4 visits in such a short period of time, but it was taxing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TO ALL BLOG READERS:

In April 2010, we set up a petition on petitiononline.com to gather signatures in support of Paul's Executive Clemency Petition. The petition letter was addressed Illinois Governor Blagojevich who later was prosecuted and sent to prison. The petition site refused to change the governor's name when Patrick Quinn replaced him because there were already hundreds of signatures.  We left it up with the hope that the new governor of Illinois would understand and periodically we sent the signature lists to him.

Paul's Petition for Executive Clemency was reviewed by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, and an oral hearing was conducted in July 2010.  (See 53. "My 5th Clemency Petition" and 67. "Clemency Hearing").  After the hearing, the board made a recommendation to then Governor Blagojevich, but he never responded to Paul's petition or hundreds of others.

Over the last year or two, Governor Pat Quinn has made decisions on some of these old petitions, but not Paul's. If you haven't already written to Governor Quinn, now would be the time to do so. Illinois will have a new governor in January.

Letters encouraging Governor Quinn to grant Paul's request for clemency should be sent to:

Governor Patrick Quinn
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL  62706
USA

With our thanks and appreciation to all of you,

Paul, the Modrowski Family, and Blog Helpers

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Return of SORT -- September 27, 2014

The SORT returned to the cell house to finish searching cells. There were only 2 galleries remaining including the one I am confined on. The experience is never pleasant, however, the tactical unit used more restraint than during prior mass conducted searches I have been through. Prisoners only spent a few hours in the chow hall wearing handcuffs and the guards were nice enough to place them in the front. Property was thoroughly searched but not thrown about and I only heard one complaint of damage. Furthermore, there was no pervasive looting of inmates' belongings and little of consequence was taken from cells. The treatment prisoners received in C House, however, was much different than that in an adjacent quarter unit. From what I am told, an enormous tactical team from outside penitentiaries was brought in to search their cells. The Orange Crush ensemble tore through the cell house in a single 8 hour shift.

Sunday morning I awakened near 7 a.m., and as customary, I ate my breakfast while watching the news. On my tray were a couple of small biscuits, a scoop of dry cereal, and some disgusting gravy I tend to believe only very hungry men in Segregation will consume. After the top news stories, I went about getting ready for the rest of my day. The penitentiary was on lockdown and I intended on working out, reading, and writing a letter or two before the late afternoon football games came on television. The Denver Broncos were playing the Seattle Seahawks in what would be a rematch of last season's Superbowl. This time, I expected a much better game.

My plans were for naught because a chorus of prisoners began yelling, "SORT on the walk!" Indeed, when I went to the front of my cell, I saw a group of about 40 guards going towards the front door of the quarter unit. I knew they would soon be on the gallery and banged on the metal bunk to wake my cellmate before I sat on the table. He did not expect the tactical unit to come until Monday and was possibly even buying into rumors that the lower two floors of the cell house would not be searched at all.

Guards conducting the search were not dressed in the infamous Orange Crush attire. They wore regular uniforms and were without billy clubs or body armor. The guard who stopped outside my cell bars seemed oddly casual. The first thing he mentioned was how clean and orderly the cell was. He asked if we were in the military. I told him my cellmate was in the Marine Corps for 4 years but I was arrested just out of high school. He was familiar with Lincoln-Way Central as well as their football team, the Knights. He asked me if I was aware there were now four Lincoln-Way high schools. Yes, despite being incarcerated 21 years, I knew of the additional schools, however, what was puzzling to me was why each town did not have their own school. It seemed to make more sense for there to be a Mokena, Frankfort, and New Lenox high school now that there were so many more students. The guard explained Lincoln-Way had such a good reputation the residents did not want to rename the schools.

Both my cellmate and I had to undergo a strip search. As I undressed, I placed my clothes on the bars and the guard checked them for contraband. Naked, I then raised my hands before opening my mouth and pulling my lips to expose my gums. Turning around, I lifted both my feet so the guard could see I was not hiding anything underneath them. The most humiliating part of a strip search is bending over to have the crack of your ass inspected. While dressing, I asked the guard how long the search was going to take. He said considering how ordered and clutter free the cell was, he thought he would be done within an hour, however, I should not expect to be back until close to noon.

Half the gallery of inmates were brought out of their cells in handcuffs behind their backs. Guards escorted us outside where we were lined up in two lines parallel to each other. Unlike chow or other movement lines, prisoners were quiet. It was a chilly autumn morning and strong gusts of wind made my eyes tear up. I tried blotting them but it was difficult with my hands cuffed behind me. I brought my shoulder to an eye and then a knee. At least prisoners were able to wear underclothes and shoes, unlike times past. Without them, I would have been cold.

Prisoners were led to the chow hall and told to sit at a specific group of tables. I was seated with my neighbors except for Hooch who sat at a table next to us to speak with Horse. In his place was a Mexican inmates call Memo. I thought it was interesting the pedophile who I regularly ridicule and give a hard time was sitting across from me. However, while I was thinking of all the crazy conversation I was going to have with him, he switched seats with a black man my cellmate will occasionally converse with. I said to Anthony, "What did you do? Why did you scare off my good friend John?" My cellmate had not said a word to him and blamed me for him bolting as soon as possible.

Not long after being seated, a few prisoners began to yell about their handcuffs. I assumed SORT had put them on too tight and they wanted them loosened. Handcuffs behind the back will always gouge into my wrists leaving bruises for a long period of time. If we were left in the chow hall passed noon, I intended to bring my arms under my feet so they would be in front of my body. However, this proved unnecessary and a couple of guards came into the fenced in area to re-cuff everyone with their hands in front of them. The guard who redid mine I knew from his working in the penitentiary. In fact, I recognized about a dozen guards on the SORT. They were all Stateville correctional officers and this may explain in part why they were not as malicious as those who are brought in from other institutions and suited up in Orange Crush attire.

The tables in the chow hall are made of metal and are hexagonal in shape. Six prisoners can sit on the steel stools which are bolted into the floor. To my left was Leprechaun and to my right was Anthony. Both men sat close to me and I could smell their foul breath. To the midget I said, "My cellmate just awoke, but what is your excuse?" He did not know what I was talking about so I went on to inquire what he ate for breakfast. He told me he never eats the gravy but had a couple of biscuits. "Were those shit biscuits?" I asked. Setting Leprechaun up for the zinger was all too easy, although I wish the pedophile was there to amuse me. I could ask him about his fondness for 10-year-old retarded girls and a lot more.

Memo worked in the kitchen and was being allowed to go to his assignment during most of the lockdown. Prisoners naturally wanted to know if he had heard anything the rest of us had not. Security had purportedly found some shanks and the administration was concerned about what their intended purpose may be. Was there a gang dispute? A plan to stab a correctional officer? Or just an inmate who had a vendetta? If weapons were indeed recovered, it could mean none of the above. Regularly, men at maximum security prisons prepare for self-defense or any eventuality.

Prisoners at the table were curious what changes in the IDOC would occur if Bruce Rauner was elected governor. The governor has enormous power over the state's prison system. He appoints the director and all the top administrators who effect policy. He also has the ability to close or open penitentiaries as well as curb or increase the number of people incarcerated. Recently, Rauner put out a deceptive campaign ad that accused the current governor of releasing thousands of criminals. The only thing Pat Quinn has done is reinstate meritorious good time credits for nonviolent offenders during their first 60 days which allowed some people to be released on parole a couple of weeks to a couple of months sooner. Personally, I think Bruce Rauner will keep the same policy in place if not think of other ways to reduce the state's bloated prison system. Although he has pledged to reopen Tamms, he also has pledged to shrink the budget by 10-20%. Thus, either prisoners or staff must be cut. Hopefully, the shrewd businessman realizes that both need to be greatly reduced.

After nearly 3 hours had passed, prisoners were brought back to the quarter unit. I was dreading what type of mayhem SORT would leave in my cell. However, it was not so horrible. My cellmate and I both had all of our property searched thoroughly, but it was not tossed about or damaged in any way. In fact, the guard seemed to carefully stack my property on my bunk and Anthony's on his. Furthermore, he did not tear the hooks off the wall, pull our televisions down, or pillage our meager possessions. I told Anthony he had me to thank. If it were not for my Lincoln-Way connection, the cell would have been ransacked. However, it seems the SORT was much more considerate than in the past.

Despite how the guard had neatly stacked my property, it took me about the same amount of time I was in the chow hall to put everything back into place. First, I had to clean the two boxes with soap and water. I generally do this once a month or every other month and since all my property was already out, I felt I may as well complete the task. After the boxes dried, I had the more arduous job of putting everything back in systematic order. My cellmate says that my autism is probably not as much as a problem as my need to have everything perfectly placed. Regularly, I am cleaning the cell and keeping things in immaculate order. I will even order his property when it bothers me.

While I was diligently working to get everything back in the cell to its previous alignment, the tactical team returned. This time, they took out the second half of prisoners on the gallery. Every gallery has 58 cells, but when the building was split into quarter units, that left only 28 in C House. I assume SORT searched the cells on the gallery by taking the first 14 cells' occupants and then the second. However, I was too preoccupied to look out my cell bars to take notice. I wanted to finish as soon as possible because I still wanted to watch the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks at 3:30.

The Superbowl rematch was as good as I had anticipated. The Broncos stunningly came back to tie the game in the last seconds and they lost in overtime. I was offered 6 points in a wager after I haggled for a couple of extra points. Initially I was only offered 4, but I insisted on everything short of a touchdown as a handicap to take the underdog who was routed 43 to 8 in February.

After the game, I worked out for an hour. By the time I finished bathing out of the sink, it was past 8 p.m. Exhausted, I sat on my bunk and contemplated going to sleep early. However, I had a letter I wanted to send out in the mail and worked on it until mail pick-up. Half way through my letter, I stopped and made a chocolate pudding-peanut butter sandwich. For dinner, we were served pudding as a dessert and I had saved my tray. The high calorie snack was enough to keep me awake for another hour, but then I crashed for the night.

The following day, prisoners shouted for showers early in the morning. On lockdown, men are still supposed to get one shower per week. Even my cellmate had his laundry bag full of shower supplies and a clean set of underclothes ready. However, staff told inmates they must wait until the 2nd shift. This did not satisfy men on the lower galleries because they knew the 2nd shift would say it was the 1st shift's job. The argument, though, became mute when another group of SORT rushed into the unit to search the remaining cells on the lower floor. Getting these men out and to the chow hall took some time because of how many are elderly or crippled. Looking out the window it looked like a line of men from an old folks home.

While the first half of the lower floor was being searched, Internal Affairs walked into the building. The security unit went upstairs and brought back down with them about a dozen inmates. I assume they were taken to I.A.'s headquarters across from the kitchen to be questioned. Most convicts will not give I.A. any information but a few can be coaxed especially if pressured or if they have leverage. There are also snitches in all of the quarter units that security personnel rely on for information. The men taken in for questioning did not return until 1 p.m. and I do not know if I.A. is any wiser.

Monday the mail room was nice enough to process all my newspapers from the previous week. I always enjoy reading old news. At least the USA Today's and Barron's are not as outdated as my personal mail. Blog readers are probably annoyed that my posts are sometimes 2 months old. Most of this delay is not due to blog volunteers who type what I send them. In any event, I spent most of my evening reading. There is news I may have missed or more elaboration on a story that was sharply edited on TV. Weeks ago I heard about Bill O'Reilly's new book Killing Patton, however, I was not able to read more about it until I saw a piece about it in the newspaper. The book is a conspiracy story that concludes that the WWII general did not accidentally die after a truck crash but was poisoned by Soviets. George S. Patton was very popular in the U.S. and could have made a bid for president, as Dwight Eisenhower did. Unlike Eisenhower and others though, he was brashly anti-communist and may have decided to crush the U.S.S.R. and Red China before either developed the atomic bomb. I am skeptical of conspiracy theories, however, I may still read the book because I like the general and am also fiercely against communism.

Another article I read with interest was regarding the U.S. president's refusal to give military aid to Ukraine. Barack Obama was the antithesis of General George S. Patton. If Patton was in control of U.S. forces, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would not have to beg for assistance. Already NATO would be on Russia's doorstep just waiting for any provocation. There would not have been any Russian forces ever entering Ukraine in the first place. Vladimir Putin would have accepted the revolution and been happy he was still in power. After all, his dream of recreating the Soviet Union would not even exist had Patton had his way in 1945. From Berlin, U.S. forces would have stormed right through to Moscow. Communism, decades of cold war, etc. never would have occurred. Yet due to the pacifist-socialist in the White House, American power is retreating globally and withering within.

While I read about Petro Poroshenko not being able to win a war with blankets, the vast majority of prisoners watched the Chicago Bears play on Monday night football. At Stateville, 20 miles from the city, there are a lot of Bear fans and they cheered whenever a big play was made. With my headphones on, I could still hear the shouts and applause. I changed positions from the table near the cell bars to the bunk. Just moving several feet into my cell could lessen the noise, although not greatly. Using my small property box in lieu of a table, I finished most of the newspapers before going to sleep. For the night, I put ear plugs in despite how the cell house became quieter. I always wear ear plugs to sleep.

On Tuesday, prisoners in the quarter unit thought we would be on a low level lockdown with visits, access to phones, showers, and some health care passes. However, the prison was still on a level 1. In fact, early in the morning men could hear the rumble of the Orange Crush storming into B House. I was not able to see it from my cell, but according to others, a small army of guards dressed in full tactical gear was about to ransack the unit. These guards were bused in from other penitentiaries and, from what I was told, were not nearly as friendly. They also looted and damaged a great amount of property. Later, prisoners speculated why the cell houses were treated so differently.

On the 9 p.m. news, WGN reported a prisoner from Vandalia had escaped. Vandalia is a minimum security penitentiary in southern Illinois. I was not surprised the inmate who escaped was in prison for stealing a car and only had 4 months left to serve. The administration for IDOC has a tendency to overreact, however, I highly doubted convicts who yelled from their cells were correct in drawing a correlation between the Orange Crush raid and an escape.

Most likely, B House was where the weapons were found or where the investigative leads of I.A. led them. The quarter unit I am in is less violent and has more elderly prisoners. The following day, the penitentiary was let off lockdown a few hours before the escapee was apprehended trying to catch a ride on the interstate. For the first time in nearly 3 weeks, Stateville has normal operations.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cleaning House -- September 20, 2014

Last week the Orange Crush ransacked the cell house. SORT was dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits and black body armor including helmets with face shields. The 100-man force also carried batons and canisters of mace. Prisoners were strip searched and handcuffed before being escorted to the chow hall. Once removed from the building, SORT rummaged through their property for a few hours. Only a quarter of the cells were searched and inmates who thought they could rest easy were mistaken. This week, SORT returned without tactical gear to go through cells again. They began on the upper floor and seemed to be working their way down systematically. My gallery has yet to be searched by this second round, but I expect them to toss my cell soon.

After the Orange Crush searched the quarter unit, it was placed on a level 4 lockdown. A few inmates were allowed out of their cells to assist guards with work such as sweeping and mopping floors, passing out food trays, and picking up garbage. One hour visits were permitted and prisoners were also able to use the telephone. Surprisingly, the administration even told staff at the commissary building to bag up store and have it brought to the cell house where it could be given to inmates in their cells. Most wardens would make prisoners wait until after a lockdown. Despite this, men were not happy and I overheard some shouting to one another that they did not receive their complete orders. I thought they should not look a gift horse in the mouth.

A better gripe for inmates and staff alike would have been the lack of heat. Day time highs were in the 50s, but at night temperatures dropped to under 40. I have been sleeping under two blankets and miss the warmer clothes I sent to the laundry building. Laundry bags were picked up on Monday but not returned for a week. I did not even have clean underclothes to wear and was forced to wash some in my sink several times. Last weekend, guards on the midnight shift complained about the cold and how they should have a space heater in the sergeant's office. At least they had warm clothes to wear and could go home after their shift. I was confined to a cell and had to persevere the austere conditions in the prison, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

A new sergeant began working the first shift in the cell house this week. She is a middle aged black female who was recently promoted. Rumor has it that administrators wanted her in C House because the inmates here are older and generally cause less trouble. The quarter unit was a good place for her to learn how to run operations. Over the lockdown, I was not able to see if she was up to the task or learn her disposition. The previous sergeant was a good manager of affairs. He was never rattled by convicts and had a strong, cool, and collected personality. His experience allowed him to do his job well and I tend to think his presence will be missed. For the time being, he has been assigned to the movement team.

Throughout the week, prisoners have been fed meals in their cells. Some kitchen workers are making the food, but it is still as unpleasant as usual. For lunch on Sunday men were served tamales, and I do not believe they are the same the public at large eats. Regardless, I gave them away to my neighbor and ate a package of sardines with Ramen noodles. During my meal, I watched the New England Patriots destroy the Minnesota Vikings 30 to 7. The Patriots were going to win the game regardless, but the Vikings would have performed much better if their star running back, Adrian Peterson, was playing. Peterson was suspended due to allegations of child abuse. When did parental discipline even with a switch become unlawful or the business of the NFL? The NFL needs to resist pressure from the liberal media to become involved in the family matters of its players.

Prisoners' favorite football game was that between the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. There are many Bear fans here and men cheered loudly when quarterback Jay Cutler led a come-back to win in the second half. I missed most of the game watching an episode of Naked and Afraid on the Discovery channel. A fat female bartender tapped out after only a couple of days in the wilderness of Botswana, Africa. Even the man could not make it for the full 21 days in the state's most violent and oppressive penitentiaries. Living a few weeks in the Kalahari Desert would be a piece of cake. In fact, I may have more difficulty living in modern society given how much it has changed over the decades.

Monday prisoners were allowed to use the shower for the first time in a week. My cellmate after being handcuffed walked down the gallery and stairs to the shower area. Handcuffs are required during any movement on a lockdown despite how unnecessary it may be. While he was gone, I used the toilet. It was more for his benefit than my own. Prisoners regularly must defecate in their cellmate's close proximity even when not on lockdown. Unless sleeping, we will go to the front bars of the 6 by 11 foot cubicle, however, this is still similar to being in the same bathroom. Occasionally, I think of the cell as a standard sized bathroom in most American homes except for a shower and tub there is a steel double bunk.

When prisoners returned from showering, I was at the bars shaving with my Norelco electric razor. Men told me rumors of the tactical unit continuing to search the penitentiary. Purportedly, some weapons were found last week and the warden thought there may still be some hidden. There are always weapons available at maximum and even medium security prisons. They can never be totally eliminated. This does not stop administrators from trying with ridiculous safety precautions or ever continuous searches. Every now and then, they clean house and it is expected by incarcerated men that have done a lot of time. However, what was odd was cleaning house again after just having done so.

Tuesday was another brisk morning and I did not warm up until I began my exercise regimen. While at the bars, I occasionally looked down on the lower floor. The lieutenant was joking with a couple of prison workers. He told them the administration thinks they were getting too close and therefore he, like the sergeant and other staff, were being reassigned. The lieutenant went on to say the next thing you know convicts may be asking me for weed. Later, he said loudly whenever approached by cell house help, "No. I will not smuggle you in a cell phone!" To another he said, "Stop asking me for a hair weave!" The shifting of staff was indeed the administration's efforts to prevent relationships forming between guards and inmates. However, it was counterproductive in the fact they had to learn an entirely new group of prisoners or job they had become good at.

After washing up in the sink, I heard inmates yell, "I.A.in the cell house!" The 10 man crew, however, I believe was just a contingent of SORT. They were simply not dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits or other tactical gear. The group searched a handful of cells on the upper galleries and then left for lunch. In the afternoon, they returned and attempted to catch some prisoners off guard. Some of the SORT quickly perused galleries looking for anything suspicious, while others went directly to cells. The occupants were strip searched and placed in the cell house holding cage for a couple of hours or sent to the offices of Internal Affairs to be questioned. One prisoner was sent to segregation, but I do not know the reason.

Last week, SORT had the cold water turned off to prevent prisoners from flushing contraband. However, this week, this was all incarcerated men had. The hot water button only dribbled cold water and the plumbing problem was not resolved until the following day. It was particularly chilly in the cell house and cold air blew out a vent so strong that I had to block it with a floor rag. My neighbor was disappointed he could not drink any hot coffee and when he complained to me about the matter, I told him he needs to watch more survivalist programs. "Rub a couple of sticks together and make a friction fire," I said. Apparently, this Leprechaun not only lacked magical powers, but could not improvise the least bit to make a cup of hot instant coffee.

Stateville's tactical unit did not meander about searching cells or other parts of the prison during the second shift and prisoners could relax in the evening. I spent my time responding to readers comments. When this blog began, I only received a few comments weekly, but now there are dozens. They also are spread out amongst a couple hundred stories. This makes it very difficult for blog handlers to "cut and paste" commentary to send to me. Furthermore, because of the volume of comments and emails I can no longer respond to all of them. However, I did read all the messages posted or sent to me from the month of August and just in time to watch an ongoing series on PBS about former Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.

SORT returned on Wednesday to finish searching the 5th floor. Most of these prisoners had already been through a thorough shake-down the prior week. Despite this, I noticed bags of property and garbage being removed. A cell house worker later told me that the SORT was not only searching cells but making prisoners go through what was called a "compliance check". This meant all their property except for a TV, fan, and radio had to fit in their two state issued boxes. What men could not fit was being confiscated. Neither I nor my cellmate were concerned about a compliance check because neither of us keep a lot of property. Most of our belongings were kept inside our boxes even when we were in the cell.

General mail was a few weeks behind, both going out and being delivered to prisoners. However, legal mail was a priority and is generally processed within a week. Before I went to sleep, I was surprised to receive a letter from the Illinois Innocence Project. They notified me the petition for Executive Clemency I sent to them earlier in the month was in their possession. They will make a copy before sending my original back to me. I was glad there was no confusion this time. I had already sent them the petition in January and somehow it was sent back to me without anyone at the law school seeing it.

The following day a group of about 50 SORT rushed into the building early. Once again they were not dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits and black body armor. They also did not have any billy clubs in their hands or on their belts. I was not certain where the tactical unit was headed until I saw the inmates they led down the stairs in handcuffs. Juan Luna was amongst those prisoners being sent to the chow hall to wait while his cell was searched. Despite how he has cut his hair and now wears a bald head, he will always be easily recognizable to me. It was the mass murder he committed along with James Degorski that I was blamed for. If not for suspicions in the Palatine Massacre, I would have probably never been prosecuted let alone convicted and sentenced to an eternity in prison.

Half of the 4th floor was searched in the morning and the second half in the afternoon. The SORT removed a considerable amount of property, however, much of it was extra state issued items. For example, about 10 mattresses were brought downstairs and inmate workers stacked them on top of the segregation office. Extra pillows, sheets, and blankets were also confiscated. For a moment, it seemed like there was a snow storm in the building as I noticed numerous white bed sheets fluttering down from above. Prisoners are only allowed to keep two sheets, however, most men keep at least four because when laundry is sent out there is no telling when it will be returned. No one wants to sleep on a vinyl mattress or not have anything to cover up with especially in this chilly weather.

It was apparent SORT was only going to search the 4th floor and my cellmate and I went about our day as usual. Stateville now has a contract with Netflix, but the DVD player is broken. The LTS (leisure time service) supervisor brought in another DVD system but it is an old model which cannot be programmed to play automatically. Thus, the supervisor must manually start the disk and he is playing movies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. During the day I use my energy to work out, read, write, and do other things. Thus I doubt I will be watching any new movies in the near future, but my cellmate does not mind the early DVDs and spent a couple of hours watching a film.

While I read a newspaper, I listened to the Rush Limbaugh show on my Walkman. The subject of discussion was a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Federal Appeals. Incredibly, they ruled a high school principal in California was not violating students' constitutional rights by forbidding them from wearing T-shirts with the U.S. flag on them. Principle Miguel Rodriguez argued the Caucasian students could anger Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo, a day they celebrate their country's independence from France. Ironically, Hispanic students could wave the Mexican flag or wear T-shirts, buttons, or other foreign patriotic symbols. The court ruling demonstrated how white Americans were losing their Constitutional rights and their country in general. Already, non-white Hispanics make up a greater percentage of the population than any other racial group in the southwest as well as in Texas.

In the evening, I noticed prisoners on the lower two galleries including my own having cell house workers move property upstairs. The bags were filled with excess property they could not fit in their 2 boxes and did not want to lose. Incarcerated men assumed the SORT was not going to search or conduct compliance checks of cells they already went to. Some prisoners also sent quasi-contraband to people they knew on 8 and 10 galleries. Amongst those items were rolls of tape, good writing pens, and bowls with lids. Nothing I saw was anything the SORT would write disciplinary tickets for. However, they were most likely going to throw the property out.

I forgot to take all the medication I am given at night to help me sleep and woke up early. The sun had yet to rise and the cell house was quiet. The calm in the 300 man quarter unit, however, abruptly ended when the SORT rushed into the building. The shakedown crew went directly to the 3rd floor and I could hear them giving orders to prisoners above my cell. About 20 minutes later, half the men on the gallery were led down the stairs in handcuffs to the chow hall. Their cells were searched for a couple of hours before they were brought back. In the afternoon the second half of the gallery was searched. Mostly garbage and extra state issued property was taken. No contraband to my knowledge was found by guards. They also did not conduct compliance checks before searching cells and inmates who had excess property moved had did so in vain.

NFL Live was still talking about the issue of domestic violence rather than football. Because I did not care to hear any more about the subject or liberals demanding that Roger Goodell resign as commissioner, I watched Jeopardy with my cellmate. Anthony likes the game show and it is only from time to time that I will give him any competition. He was able to answer more clues than me although I ran the gauntlet on a couple of categories. On afternoons prisoners are not on lockdown, guards will announce "night yard" just after shift change at 3 p.m. Unsatisfied with the Jeopardy play, I thought I would play with staff. Looking down into the sergeant's office, I saw one guard and yelled to him like the common convict, "On that night yard!" It was prisoners appointed day for yard after dinner, but of course due to the lockdown there was no movement. The guard commented after seeing me at the bars, the extra yard period was probably over for the year. It was only a privilege enjoyed during the summer months.

In lieu of yard, I wrote my mother a letter. The Dow Jones Industrial average had hit another record high of 17,280. I advised her to put automatic sell orders on many of her stock holdings. I also recommended selling immediately other equities, although I have been doing this for some time since the Dow hit 17,000 or lower. The bull market is about to wane as government security purchases end and investors see interest rates moving higher in the next year. Any trouble in economic data will increasingly have the potential of setting in motion a correction.

This morning, I was anticipating the SORT to search my cell and the others on the gallery. Early on the midnight shift, I overheard a guard saying he was mandated to stay at the penitentiary. Regularly, guards are told they cannot leave and the IDOC pays them time and a half for unnecessary overtimes. However, I had a suspicion the administration wanted extra manpower to continue their search. When the tactical team was indeed assembled again today but sent elsewhere, some prisoners speculated the lower 2 galleries would be skipped. These galleries cell the oldest men in the unit and are less likely to be involved in a staff assault or conspiracy to commit one. Furthermore, the only weapons they may have are crutches. However, although older prisoners are probably considered less of a priority, I tend to believe it is just a matter of time before SORT is back to finish cleaning house.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The NFL Under Siege -- September 13, 2014

Prisoners were happy for the professional football season to begin. At the maximum security penitentiaries of Illinois there are few activities to keep men preoccupied and lock downs are common. For many inmates, football is an escape from the doldrums of prison. Weekly, there are exciting games to be watched on television and the accompanied programming. There are also fantasy leagues, parlays, and other types of wagers. The sport, however, much to men's dismay, has come under siege by liberals intent on transforming society. Manipulating the public through mass media is central to their nefarious plot to tear down traditional values and institutions. Instead of communist revolutions where governments are overthrown, the radical left in Western democracies engages in a culture war where nothing is off limits. Led by militant feminism, the NFL is currently in the cross-hairs.

Since mid-summer prisoners have been eagerly anticipating the first week of pro-football games. For me personally, however, it was not in my thoughts. There are many other preoccupations and interests which consume my time. I exercise nearly every day whether in the cell or on one of the prison yards. I am regularly reading newspapers, magazines, and corporate reports. Following the stock market and economy along with crunching data into various charts is an enormous effort without access to the Internet or a computer. This blog also takes up a lot of my time writing not only posts but replying to comments and emails. Lastly, there is the continuous struggle to be exonerated from a murder I was not the least bit peripherally involved in or even aware of. Adding football into my busy schedule was not a priority and I did not begin to pay any attention to it until the news media began to barrage the NFL for being indifferent to domestic violence.

In February, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiance (now wife) Janay Palmer got into a fight at a hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Despite making up soon thereafter, both were charged with non-felony assault for the incident. Rice plead guilty and was sentenced to court supervision where he participated in a behavior therapy program. Nothing was heard of the matter until the sleazy television show TMZ released a video of the NFL superstar pulling out his unconscious girlfriend from an elevator. The video went viral with the help of the liberal media, and before the football season began. Ray Rice was suspended for two games. Feminists demanded more and last week the NFL created a new policy of automatically suspending any player accused of domestic violence to a minimum of six games. How little NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell understood that the culture communists can never be appeased and they would soon be calling for his head.

A day before the first regular season opening game on Thursday, a cell house worker came to my cell bars ostensibly to talk about football. He was annoyed about the media distraction. Instead of talking about the sport, he rambled on and on incessantly about the issue of domestic violence. I could not agree more and was looking forward to the Green Bay Packers - Seattle Seahawks game which seemed to get lost in all the self created media controversy. Mentioning the game, I gave the gambling addict a segue to ask me who I liked. When I told him I would be rooting for the Packers, he told me he would give me 9 points in a wager. I accepted the bet but later he reneged. This was fortunate because the former Superbowl Champions won 36 to 16.

Sunday morning I delayed my cell workout to watch "Colin's Football Show" on ESPN. Colin Cowherd has an amusing half hour program and I knew he would not mention Ray Rice or the plight of all the women who live in abusive relationships unless to joke about it. What I like about Colin's Football Show was not only the off-kilter humor, but that he always had a Las Vegas insider as a guest. This guest discusses what teams the public and professional gamblers were putting their money on. The professionals are called "sharps" insinuating they are sharper in picking winners. The sharps liked a number of teams including the Saints who they thought were a "lock". From my experience, there was no such thing as a lock unless a better was privy to a game being fixed and sure enough the Saints lost.

Continuing our tradition from last year, my cellmate and I pick all the games with the spread. We do not wager any commissary and just do it for bragging rights. Out of a total of 16 games, I won 11 including the Sunday night match up between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts which I thought I lost when going to sleep at half time. The score was 20 to 7 and I was too tired to see if the Colts made a comeback. When I awakened in the morning, I saw a little folded piece of paper on my breakfast tray. It said, "24-31 Broncos". The Broncos had won but because I had a 7-1/2 point handicap, the game went to me.

Monday morning, prisoners were brought back from assignments and a pre-GED class. The penitentiary was again on lock down for reasons which were unclear. I heard rumors of an inmate dying from a drug overdose to weapons being discovered by security personnel. Maximum and high medium security prisons in Illinois go on lock downs regularly and sometimes for the most absurd reasons. While I was shaving at the front bars of my cell, I heard convicts shout "Warden in the cell house!" In fact, the warden along with a couple of his assistants was making rounds. One of them I knew as a former member of Internal Affairs and also as a guard at Joliet Correctional Center. If he walked by, I thought I may ask him although administrators will rarely say. Anything remotely considered a security matter is treated as top secret information.

It was my neighbor's birthday and I debated making him a Leprechaun or Mini-Me card. Celebrating another orbit of the earth around the sun seemed strange to me particularly when you were 54 and would die in prison, but I knew other prisoners appreciated the special attention. My neighbor never receives any mail and no one cares that he exists outside these walls. At least I could do is draw him a few silly pictures and give him a cinnamon roll. Thus, I took out a sheet of white paper and folded it in half. On the front I wrote "Happy Birthday Leprechaun" in Celtic script. Beneath it I drew a leprechaun using the advertising on an O'Brien's sausage package. On the inside, I drew a rainbow with a pot of gold using various colors in my colored pencil set. Above the picture I wrote, "I hope you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but if you don't...." and pondered a clever ending. I was simply going to say "here is a cinnamon roll," however, my cellmate said he ate the treat I had been saving. I told him he was a fat bastard and now I had to come up with a new present and ending to my card. My cellmate associates rainbows with queers and suggested I write "Here is a big fat juicy pickle". Since the last time we went to the prison store, I have been making fun of Anthony for buying several pickles that had advertising on the packaging in bold letters as being "big fat and juicy". I laughed at his joke, but then erased the "but if you don't..." and put at the bottom of his card, "From your friends next door". Leprechaun seemed overly happy when I gave him the card and I was uncertain if he was being sincere.

My sister's birthday is next week and I thought she may possibly appreciate a nicely written letter as much as my neighbor liked the card I made him. I have not seen my sister in over a year nor have I spoken to her on the phone since Securus changed its collect call policy. Occasionally, I wonder if she even wants to be reminded she has a brother in prison. It has been over 21 years since my arrest and since that time family has slowly faded out of my life. Thinking about me may be similar to thinking about those who have died long ago. Thus, I do not encourage family members to stay in touch or visit my tombstone.

I took a nap but made sure to awaken in time to watch the football show "NFL Live". I was looking forward to seeing all the highlights from Sunday's games and the commentary, however, the program was cancelled. In its place ESPN had continuous reporting of Ray Rice being indefinitely suspended from the NFL. What could have possibly occurred for the NFL to take such an absurd measure? It was not long before I was to see a newly released video of the football player punching his fiance in the elevator. Apparently, TMZ had it on their show and once again the liberal media was in a frenzy. The power the radical left had was repugnant to me and I quickly turned off the television.

Former football player Delon Sanders was a guest on the TV show "Running Wild" with Bear Grylls, but I did not want to think about football. The sport has declined so much since I was a child and watched Mike Ditka's Chicago Bears win the Superbowl in 1986. There were numerous new rules to make the game safer and less violent. Penalties for unnecessary roughness had come to the point of absurdity. They may as well just be playing flag football. For the entire month of October, they have players dressed in pink and this year for the first time in history an open homosexual was drafted. The media was jubilant when Michael Sam was picked up by the St. Louis Rams, although mum when later released. The sport of football has been pansied greatly already and yet man hating feminists are still pressing for their castration.

In lieu of football, I read a couple of financial newspapers until I went to bed. In a Barron's I was stunned to read that a court had ruled British Petroleum was guilty of gross negligence in connection with the 2010 Gulf spill. The events which led to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig seemed to be a series of accidents where no party could be held to such a high standard of liability. I assume the vast negative media coverage had swayed the lower court and the ruling will be appealed. However, in the meantime, BP is potentially liable for billions more in damages and the share price dropped nearly 10% below $44. I suppose it was good I recommended a family member to sell it at $50 albeit on fears of losing its 20% stake in the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

For breakfast Tuesday, prisoners were given a couple of rolls, canned pears, and an uncooked soy patty. As customary, I watched the news while I ate. The top story on all the news stations was, of course, Ray Rice and the video of him south pawing his fiance causing her to fall over hitting an elevator handrail. The mass media liked showing that left hook, but generally absent was what happened just before. In the casino, a drunk Janay Palmer was acting uncouth and belligerent. Once in the elevator, she struck and spit on Ray, and when she went to hit him again is when he blasted her. Feminists like to have their cake and eat it too. On one hand, they propagate that the sexes are equal. However, then it is always wrong to hit a woman. The day before, my cellmate watched the beloved black female tennis star Serena Williams defeat Caroline Wozniaki in the U.S. Open Championship game. I asked Anthony what he thought the liberal media's reaction would be if her boyfriend slapped and spit on her and she responded with an upper cut. "Nothing," he said. "There would be neither condemnation nor demand on the Women's Tennis Association to ban her from playing."

Because all the television news stations available to watch at Stateville have a liberal slant, I often listen to conservative radio. My favorite radio talk show host is Rush Limbaugh and at 11 a.m. I tuned into his program. He also discussed the irony of feminists claiming equality of the sexes but demanding special treatment, rights, and victim status. On television he went on to say how men were depicted as buffoons and women were smart, strong, and responsible. If this was indeed the case, why do they need preferential treatment in relationships, the workforce, sports, and etc.? What struck me as most observant was the public reaction to imagery. In the case of Michael Vick there was no video of him mistreating dogs or at a dog fight. Had there been one, he may never have been allowed to return to the NFL. Then Limbaugh turned to global events and politics. It was not until pictures of starving Somalian children were publicized that the Clinton administration sent troops in which eventually went sour as depicted in the movie Blackhawk Down. There was also the Obama administration which only reluctantly is becoming involved in Iraq after videos of beheadings by ISIS were shown on the Internet and widely reported about on television. Pictures stir emotions in people. The facts in the domestic fight between Ray Rice and Janay Palmer were well known yet feminists were not able to use it as a war cry until the videos were released. I doubt the feminists were happy to learn that Janay and Ray got married shortly after that incident.

After only a couple of days, prisoners were annoying guards with inquiries of how long they thought the lockdown would continue. I overheard one guard tersely respond that he did not know, and he probably was telling the truth. The administration makes the decision and the reasons for the lockdown were obscure. I knew guards enjoyed relaxing most of the day with no movement but that they disliked doing all the work inmates normally would be doing such as passing out trays, picking up garbage, and distributing supplies. Thus, I will occasionally razz them when they must do the menial labor. On Wednesday morning while I was working out, a guard dropped a breakfast tray on the gallery spilling the soy gravy which was inside. I told him, "Now go clean that up you clumsy turnkey". He returned with a rag to wipe up the mess whereupon I told him he was doing a good job.

The cell house was uncannily quiet on Wednesday and I assume prisoners stayed up late watching TV or were beginning to adjust to the lockdown status. Even my cellmate did not awaken until noon. I do not change my routine, however, and had gone through my normal morning ritual. I also again tuned in to Rush Limbaugh to hear more of the bombastic, although very entertaining and frank, radio talk show host's opinions on the Ray Rice scandal. Liberal television news was now demanding that Roger Goodell be fired for not suspending Rice indefinitely long before the video was publicized. He already knew what had occurred and why did he not get the tape? Why were all these other men who allegedly struck their wives or girlfriends not punished? Goodell had increased the punishment to 6 games and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead an independent investigation. However, the more he pandered to the left wing radicals, the more they smelled blood. Militant feminism was at war with the very sport of football because of its glorification of violence, brute force, and athletic excellence. It was a masculine sport which had to be done away with. America had to be changed until men were castrated, wore pink, and sat down to take a piss.

The USA Today is a liberal rag of a newspaper, however, for the NFL season I had subscribed. In the evening, I was handed 3 issues all of which attacked the professional football league and promoted feminist issues. The Tuesday paper even had a bold front page headline of "SACKED" and a photo of Ray Rice underneath. I had purchased this newspaper solely for its coverage of sports, but throughout it were editorials from groups like INCITE, a coalition to end violence against women and transgender people of color. As I read the vile propaganda, I could not help but write my opinions and humor in the margins for all the men who thereafter would read it. Underneath the photo of Ray Rice I wrote "MY HERO!"

A terrible meal was served for dinner and I set about making burritos with food purchased from the commissary. It was not an easy task given the limitations in a maximum security prison and I had to improvise as well as be creative. This time I made extra food for my neighbor in lieu of a birthday gift. When I handed him the burritos between the cell wall which divided us, he had the nerve to ask me if I put any fish or mustard in them. Leprechaun was purportedly allergic to fish and hated the taste of mustard. I told him of course not, however, later after he ate them I asked if he needed a med tech. "Why?" Leprechaun asked. I told him that I had mixed a little tuna in the burritos and thought he might be breaking out in hives or gasping for breath.

Thursday morning I prepared for a raid by the Orange Crush. There were rumors of the SORT conducting searches and I did not want to be caught off guard. Sure enough, after lunch trays were passed out approximately 100 men dressed in full tactical gear and their infamous bright orange jumpsuits rushed into the building. The only heads up prisoners got was when the cold water was turned off. Everyone who has been in a maximum security penitentiary for any length of time knew what that meant. The Orange Crush did not take everyone out of their cells, but only about a quarter of the unit. Fortunately, my cellmate and I were not targeted, but for the 3 hours they ransacked cells, I was too distracted to do anything except observe the goings-on and bitterly talk to my cellmate about my case.

The Orange Crush was not as loud, intimidating, or destructive as they typically are. They did remove about 50 trash bags of miscellaneous property and garbage as well as one TV and radio. Later I heard prisoners complain of things they took. It was mostly trivial stuff such as pens, bowls, some food, pop bottles, and extra state property. Few disciplinary tickets were written and only one prisoner was sent directly to Segregation for having contraband. From what I could discern, the guards were not only doing a sweep but searching for weapons. With much bravado, I told my cellmate I had no need for them because I had these and held up my fists. After a couple of combinations ending in a left hook, I asked him rhetorically if he saw the Ray Rice video and then said, "That can K.O. the most militant feminazi."

I was hyping my cellmate up for the Thursday night NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. I never really liked the Ravens, however, because of the attacks by the liberal media on the team I was now a big fan. I was also symbolically wearing a Ray Rice jersey simply because thousands of people were brainwashed to turn theirs in. What happened in his relationship was none of my business. What mattered was how he played on the field and the integrity of the sport. The Baltimore Ravens crushed the Steelers 26 to 6 and I cheered mightily. I wish that the cultural communists could also be defeated so decisively. There is a civil war going on in the hearts and minds of Americans. The NFL is not only under siege. We all are.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The First Week of September -- September 6, 2014

I have kept calendars with notes for several years. They were meant to assist me in writing posts and also to remind me that my life in prison has not been completely empty. However, this week I destroyed them all. I care not to remember my miserable and meaningless time within the penitentiary. The only calendar I kept is a tiny card which I have taped to the inside of a gusset simply for quick reference to the day and date. It is one of those card calendars sent out by the Salvation Army and on the opposite side it has the story "Footsteps". Looking back in time, neither Jesus nor anyone has carried me. Throughout most of these decades I have walked alone. However, I continue to post here so that people can trace the footprints I have left in the sand before they are washed away by the tide. In this story, readers can follow my path during the first week of September 2014.

Sunday morning I was let out of my cage for a health care pass. At the bottom of the stairs I noticed the lieutenant dribbling a basketball. Before I stole the ball away from him, he pretended to go up to make a shot. He then inquired if I had a visitor. It was uncommon for me to be out of the cell unless it was in a chow line or to be escorted to the visiting room. No, I told him. I had an appointment with the psychiatrist. He asked if I was hearing voices whereupon I said, "All the time and they will never shut up."

The psychiatrist I see is a little East Indian woman who despite being in the U.S. for many years has a slight accent. The small office she has was completely rearranged and for some reason this bothered me immensely. Her job was to prescribe or adjust medications as needed by her patients but I was more interested in knowing why all these changes were made. Eventually she ascertained there was no need to modify the melatonin or Klonopin I was taking before going to sleep. I returned to the cell house with a loud group of prisoners coming back from Islam services. Like those in Iraq I thought they may be ostentatious, but there was little to be feared.

My cellmate was in a cheerful mood. He does not regularly receive visitors, but his sister and niece came to see him. I inquired if the visiting room was as crowded and noisy as it has been for me the last couple of weeks. He said on the contrary, it was almost vacant. Prisoners are only permitted 5 visits a month and only 2 of them can be on the weekend at Stateville. I assumed that this was the reason why his visit was much more pleasant.

In the evening, Anthony was excited to see a segment on 60 Minutes regarding former Serbian soldiers who had been nicknamed Pink Panthers after a series of brazen burglaries across Europe. The news program showed a clip from the movie The Pink Panther which I had been imitating a couple of months ago. It was where the actor Peter Sellers asks a man, "Does your dog bite?" and when he says "no," Sellers reaches down to pet the dog only to be mauled. He then calmly says, "I thought you said your dog does not bite" and he is amusingly told that the dog was not his. Anthony never saw any of the Pink Panther movies and was perplexed by my French voice imitation that Peter Sellers uses as well as the humor to the scene until finally seeing it for himself. Hopefully, he will someday get to see the movie Dr. Strangelove where the actor plays a German scientist the U.S. cooperates with after WWII.

On Labor Day, the penitentiary was placed on lockdown. Initially guards claimed it was due to security reasons and a pipe was found in X House. However, it was apparent operations were restricted for the holiday. Prisoners were kept in their cells except for some workers. Bucky, who is cell house help, stopped at my bars to give me bleach and the cardboard case that Boost drink boxes came in. I used the bleach with laundry detergent to scrub my gym shoes which often become dirty and stained by rust. The weight lifting equipment on the yards is corroded and the iron easily gets on clothing including footwear. The biker sent the cardboard case because he knows how meticulous I am about trying to keep my property box in order. Prisoners' state issued property boxes do not come with any dividers or compartments. They are just thick plastic containers with a sliding lid. While seeing how I could use the cardboard to order my belongings more effectively, I thought about the declining condition of Bone. Bone is dying of liver failure and all health care staff would do for him was treat the symptoms including his great amount of weight loss.

Lunch was passed out to prisoners in Styrofoam trays. Towards noon, I ate the baked chicken with a slight glaze of barbecue sauce. A black inmate who lives a few cells from me was shouting loudly and to block him out I put on my headphones and listened to Rush Limbaugh. On Friday he was ridiculing Barack Obama for having no strategy in the Middle East and that his spokespeople were in full damage control. The liberal media were very accommodating to the excuses. On Monday they also tried to slant polling numbers to emphasize the low approval ratings of Congress instead of the President's. Obama's approval rating has dropped to its lowest level ever during his tenure, but Americans had an even lower opinion of the legislature. Hopefully, this will result in Republicans taking control of the Senate.

After the talk radio show, I read while listening to music until the television show "Running Wild" with Bear Grylls was telecast. I enjoy watching the former British Special Ops soldier innovate to survive in some of the world's least hospitable places. However, I am disappointed how this TV show is meant for the least capable survivalists and focuses attention on various semi-famous people who I could care less about. During this episode, Tamron Hall accompanied Bear Grylls in Utah. They did some mild repelling and ate a dead squirrel. Hall was fearful of the loose rocks they climbed down and disgusted to eat a squirrel. I wondered what her fear would be locked in a maximum security prison and how she would enjoy the slop generally fed the inmates.

The following day I went to the large prison yard to lift weights. My cellmate played basketball and left me in the company of several black convicts. I thought it was amusing Big Jr. gave me advice on how to increase my bench press. The black man has an impressive bench, but I have been lifting weights since I was in middle school. I was fully aware of techniques to increase strength and was more intent on my overall fitness. Later, Keon joined us after attending his GED class. Keon and I both had LWOP and were arrested around the same time. Fortunately for him he was 17 rather than 18 and should be re-sentenced to a term of years between 20 and 60. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that natural life without parole for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional and the black man with a gold tooth was already making plans for life outside these prison walls. Initially, he intends to be squeaky clean and work hard as a truck driver. Eventually he aspired to save enough money to buy his own tractor trailer when he may become a smuggler. I have no idea what he planned to smuggle but I did not inquire.

After exercising, I was exhausted. During these workouts, I ignore back pain and push myself to the limit. In the cell, I took a little nap. When I woke my cellmate asked me if I heard the ruckus. No, I had used earplugs thick enough to muffle the noise of jackhammers and I was very tired. Apparently while I slept two convicts fought each other in a cell on a gallery above us. The commotion was followed by screams of the defeated. Cell fights can be extremely brutal and at a maximum security prison a man is fortunate to have a cellmate he gets along with. I asked Anthony if the guards or any medical staff responded. He said the incident occurred during a shift change and went unnoticed.

My neighbor who is a pedophile has surprisingly not been beaten. In prison, child molesters are regularly the target of violence. Occasionally even I contemplate striking him, but instead display my repugnance in other ways. In the evening I heard his squeaky voice ask my cellmate or me to pass a bag of potato chips. I went to the bars and grabbed the bag he held out in front of our cell. Then I asked him whose chips they were. When he told me they were his, I crushed them up and tossed them on the ground in front of his cell. I told the pedophile to get a cell house worker to pass things and to never bother me again.

After the incident, I jestingly asked my cellmate if our neighbor could be innocent. Based on his prior record, what I knew of his current conviction and his overall demeanor in prison, it was a big stretch. However, recently, he has been telling guards he is going home. Guards seem to indulge the intellectually challenged man and I overheard one say, "Don't come back". I assume he still has appeals to go through and has unwarranted optimism. Later in the week, I asked my jail house lawyer to look into the matter. He is always sniffing in the law books. He will be able to tell me where the pedophile is in his appeals and the issues raised unless the case was unpublished due to protecting the identity of the minor or have yet to be ruled upon.

Prisoners were fed a very paltry meal for dinner but later I made a tuna sandwich on rye bread to eat. Stateville occasionally receives donated bread and when served I will bring it back to my cell to make sandwiches. I thought it was unfortunate that I could not make a Reuben sandwich while I watched a PBS documentary on Fidel Castro, and that John F. Kennedy did not have Castro overthrown from power or assassinated. The Cuban communist dictator was a menace to the U.S. for decades and I was perturbed by the way he was nicely portrayed. The government run television station, financed with public money and contributions, generally is heavily slanted to the left. Occasionally, it almost seems like a propaganda outlet for liberals.

The following morning I delayed my cell work out to watch the president give a speech from Estonia which was meant to reassure East NATO countries that the U.S. was fully committed to their defense. Russian forces have moved into Ukraine and Vladimir Putin was talking about creating a new country in the areas his military occupies. The speech was not very comforting to Poland and the Baltic states in my opinion considering Obama's failure to respond to other foreign crises. In fact, despite the U.S. having a treaty to protect the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, the president said there was no military solution. If this was the case, there would be no military solution to Russia pushing its military to cold war boundaries.

Towards noon I was told by the sergeant that I had a visitor. His office is below my cell and rather than get on the loudspeaker he will occasionally just tell me in person. I was not just ready to leave and told him I needed 5 minutes. About 10 minutes passed before a guard unlocked my door and then I spent a half hour in the holding cage waiting for an escort. When I did finally make it to the visiting room I noticed my mother patiently waiting alone at a table. I cannot imagine what it is like for her to visit her son in prison for two decades. It was probably made worse for her that the people at Stateville are so radically different than those she interacts with in her sheltered upper-middle class neighborhood. Everyone in the visiting room was either black or Mexican. Many of them were from the inner city of Chicago and wore the most bizarre clothing. One woman wore a bright red shirt, had ruby red lips, and bright green hair. If she was not black, I would have thought she was the Joker's sister.

After jokingly asking my mother if she thought that was the woman's natural hair color, we spoke about a new petition drive. The online petition is old and addressed to the former governor, Rod Blagojevich. Many people seem to believe because it is addressed to him that Governor Pat Quinn will not receive the signatures or be moved by them. It is extremely important the current governor knows there is a great amount of public support for my request for executive clemency. Granting pardons or even commutations of sentences is highly political and most governors will not even contemplate releasing a prisoner unless he is leaving office or not seeking another term. Furthermore, Governor Quinn has been inundated with thousands of requests and I not only need my case to be uniquely deserving but one that will catch his attention. My mother spoke to me about a petition website called "change.org." She believes it is the best way to gain the largest number of signatures, however, we disagreed about what it should say, as well as the wording. Hopefully, by the time this post is printed, it will be up and running. Quinn may lose the election to his challenger, Bruce Rauner.

On Tuesday, I received a bundle of letters including two from lawyers. I did not have time to read or respond to all of them immediately. With the cell house being very noisy I looked through my collection of cassette tapes to listen to as I wrote. I have owned these tapes for a long time and I sought something different. I asked my cellmate if he had anything other than "Insane Clown Posse". He listed a few and I told him to give me Bob Seger's Greatest Hits. There were some classic rock ballads on the tape and I listened to them until I fell asleep.

Thursday I was looking forward to prisoners going out to yard and having a couple hours of quiet time in my cell. However, Rec was cancelled for all the upper galleries to give these men commissary they did not receive on Labor Day. For nearly the entire day, prisoners were let out of their cells to collect their bagged purchases downstairs in front of the sergeant's office. The lieutenant supervised the slow process and seemed to grow increasingly irritated. He was not the only one to be annoyed and I was disappointed not to have the least bit of peace while my cellmate was at the gym.

Prisoners were angry they lost their yard time and early the next morning they began throwing a fit. They screamed from their cells, threw some garbage off the galleries, and rattled their doors. The sliding barred doors to cells can be shaken and the reverberations could be felt throughout the quarter unit. Prisoners demanded that the Rec period they missed be made available to them. Eventually, a major walked in the building and he was not greeted with any reverence. Contrarily, I was told he almost was struck with a milk carton. To prevent inmates from protesting in the chow hall, lunch trays were brought to the cell house. The prison was also placed on a low level lockdown due to a fight erupting in one of the dining rooms when men from the Roundhouse were being fed.

Despite the lockdown, visits were still being permitted and I was surprised to receive another visitor in the same week. While being escorted, I met Wild Bill who was going to the Health Care Unit. Bill asked me if I had a blog and after I told him I did, he told me some convicts were accusing me of writing about "all their secrets". I told Bill that I do not publish anything Internal Affairs is not already fully aware of. Some inmates have a perception that security personnel at the prison are deaf and dumb. On the contrary, Internal Affairs is similar to the NSA.

I was not certain if Cindy would continue to visit me, but there she was again. As we did before, we spoke about junior high and classmates we knew. I finally recalled the Jason she met earlier in the year and his elf-like appearance. I saved my most disparaging remarks for her first quasi-boyfriend. I was easily amused telling her stories about Ryan and making fun of him as well as her for liking him at least at the time. Our light hearted conversations about our school years, however, eventually were overcome by sadness. I had been wrongfully convicted and will spend the rest of my life in prison.

Last night I woke up having a dream I could not easily pass from my thoughts. In the dream I was in junior high school and was happy to be there. I remembered many of my former classmates nostalgically, including Cynthia. However, all of a sudden, they were taken away from me. In fact, everything I once had was taken away. I did not know the reason why I was arrested but it was for some horrific crime I knew nothing about. This did not matter to the police and with dread I thought I would be condemned to prison forever. When I awakened, I was of course in a cell at Stateville and, yes, I did have a sentence of natural life without parole. The dream had blended fact with fiction. The only significant difference was that I was only 13 years old, not 18.

Along with my dream, a cold front had moved through overnight. It was a chilly 60 degrees and my vacant cell felt like a tomb. I noticed the sun is rising much later now and is farther to the south. Very little of its angled rays now shine through the opaque windows. It is only the first week of September, but already the warm weather of summer seems to have abruptly ended, similar to how my brief life was snuffed out long ago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Last Samurai -- August 30, 2014

For centuries Japan had evolved into a powerful feudal system. During the era of the shogunate, the emperors were merely figure heads with warlords exercising authority over their fiefdoms. The power of the warlords derived from a warrior class known as the Samurai. The Samurai conducted themselves under a strict code which emphasized the values of loyalty, bravery, and honor. From early childhood, boys were trained in combat and their ethics were comparable to the ancient Spartans. They were not only the defenders of their lords but of a way of life. In the 19th century, however, a movement largely created through interaction with the U.S., caused a shift towards modernization. Feudalism was replaced with a centralized state under Emperor Meiji Tenna. Along with military technology developed in the West, Japan became a world power defeating China and Russia in two successive wars. Unfortunately, it then had the audacity to challenge the U.S. which led to its destruction; the Empire of the Sun had risen only to be quickly blotted out.

On Sunday, the highlight of my day was watching the Little League World Series Championship game. Jackie Robinson West had amazingly been given the national title after barely winning their last 3 games. It was doubtful that they were the best kids baseball team in the U.S. considering that they squeaked by their competition and then tied with Las Vegas. Both teams had the same record in the regional playoffs double elimination round losing one game to one another. There seemed to be a need for a third game where either Jackie Robinson West or Las Vegas would have the opportunity to break the tie. However, this was never questioned by liberal media which adored the all black inner city team from Chicago. They never cared who was most deserving to succeed, but only in promoting equality.

Japan was ultimately brought to its knees in World War II when two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the country was to rise from the ashes largely emulating past U.S. values and culture. Oddly enough, although baseball has ceased to be America's favorite sport, it remains to be in Japan and South Korea. Furthermore, unlike the U.S. which has moved away from a competitive meritocracy, the Japanese and Koreans still strive for excellence. Despite having only a third the population of America, I knew any baseball team they fielded in the Little League World Series most likely would win based on merit. When I turned on my television to watch the championship game I looked forward to seeing the South Koreans crushing Jackie Robinson West.

I surmise a quarter of prisoners in my cell house watched the game. Black inmates enthusiastically cheered for the inner city team throughout the series and they hoped Jackie Robinson West would be crowned world champions. I relished cheering for the Koreans as their pitcher struck out player after player and they tallied points when at bat. I thought the game was going to end by slaughter rule, but Korea played conservatively. I was reminded of the Samurais strict code of Bushido. Grandstanding was not acceptable and they played with strong self discipline and respect. The final score was 8 to 4, although this did not reflect how the South Korean team dominated.

After eating a "breakfast of champions" the following day, I began my cell workout. I was not a fan of karate which I did not think was as lethal as other martial arts. The Japanese sport relied too heavily on strikes regardless of how disabling or destructive they were to an opponent. Instead I had my own mix of martial arts which has served me well in prison. I practiced some of these movements in combination with my cardio vascular exercises. It was a hot humid day and by the time I finished my clothes were drenched in sweat. The sink in my cell had broken again requiring I wash with cold water. Getting a lather in cold water was difficult, but otherwise I did not mind.

The sergeant announced "chicken bones with noodles" for lunch over the cell house loudspeaker. I think he and other staff take joy in mocking the food prisoners are served. I did not intend to go to the chow hall, however, and would eat a package of sardines with a Ramen noodle later in the day. South Koreans and prisoners in the U.S. apparently share the commonality of eating the instant noodles regularly. According to a newspaper I read, it is the most popular food in that country and they were upset that a college in America conducted a study which concluded it was very unhealthy. I have noticed it does have a high fat content, but assume the worst aspect is the level of sodium. In every seasoning packet is 4,800 mg. of sodium which is two times more than the FDA recommends in an entire day. This does not matter much to me, as I rarely use the salt.

Towards 11 a.m., I was allowed out of my cell and I walked down several flights of steps to the front door of the quarter unit. Steve was at his cell bars and asked me where I was going. Before I could answer, he said, "Crazy doctor?" Indeed, the high functioning autistic prisoner had a pass to see the psychologist. This time the doctor seemed more engaging and tried to be constructive. I was asked about my case and mentioned how I was convicted largely because the jury was misled to believe that I knew the victim was going to be killed. Members of the jury later remarked how awful they thought it was that I did not attempt to intervene or just warn him, allowing him to go to his death. I was impressed the psychologist remembered they also held me accountable for purportedly lending my car to my roommate. Occasionally, I do not know how much mental health care staff care or pay attention to their clients in prison as long as they are not hearing voices, about to kill themselves, or kill someone else.

Before my arrest, I had fewer problems dealing with the idiosyncrasies of autism. In prison, I cannot escape my environment and the persistent aggravations accumulate and prove to be greatly disturbing. The psychologist told me that the IDOC was considering opening up a ward in what once was the juvenile penitentiary in Joliet. The details have yet to be worked out but if appropriate she would recommend that I be transferred there. Because of my natural life sentence, I can never be eligible for a medium security prison where conditions would be better. However, it was clear to her that I should not be at Stateville.

In a Barron's newspaper which I read recently, there was an editorial condemning Germany for not returning all the artwork, property, and other valuables or assets taken during WWII. The editorial greatly annoyed me because never before in the history of warfare have countries been held liable for the seizure or expropriation of property. War is raping, looting, and killing. Furthermore, no other country has been held accountable for their conduct including the Soviet Union which by far committed the most horrendous and wide scale malevolence. On the yard while waiting for my turn to bench press, I spoke to Steve about the matter. He eventually receives my newspapers with the angry comments I made in the margins. Steve readily concurred with the hypocrisy and for a few minutes we also discussed the atrocities the U.S.S.R. committed in eastern Europe yet are commonly ignored by the media and writers of history.

The serious nature of our conversation was interrupted by prisoners around the bench. Another inmate, Horse, had gotten everyones attention talking about the show "Dating Naked" on VH1. According to him, there was an episode where a woman's genitalia and anus were shown without being blurred. She was suing the program for the indiscretion and claiming her current boyfriend dumped her after seeing the show. Apparently, he did not have a problem with her being on a naked dating TV program, but he did have a problem with the gaping expanse of her orifices. The Elephant, yet another inmate, stupidly asked me if there was a correlation between how big a woman's mouth was and the size of her "box". I would not entertain the silly question and told him to ask my cellmate "Quagmire".

The talk of prisoners abruptly ended when a torrential rain began to pour down. There is no cover on any of the yards and men did not know how to escape it. The Elephant took the top off of an ice bucket and put it over his head. Others seeing him with the improvised umbrella tried to get under the lid or his enormous 350 pound body. However, not everyone could get under The Elephant and they complained bitterly about being soaked. Amusingly, on the parallel yard a prisoner dumped ice water over another man's head. Inmates on the yard threatened to give Dr. Smith the ALS challenge as well but simply joked that he could not avoid a shower today. Smith was an old disheveled and filthy black man who was often the butt of jokes or ridicule. Personally, I did not care if it was pouring rain and lightning zigzagged across the sky. I continued to work out and was pleased I no longer had to share the two barbells. Unlike many people, I have a tremendous amount of self-discipline, fortitude and after 21 years, enhanced perseverance. A thunderstorm only had the effect of invigorating me.

Typically guards will take prisoners off the yards at the first sign of lightning. However, later I learned they were distracted by a fight in the chow hall. From what I was told, two men housed in the Roundhouse began to exchange blows and would not disengage. Guards had to subdue, handcuff, and take them to segregation. Since segregation is in the lower two galleries of the Roundhouse, they were simply sent back to the same unit but separated by placing them in different cells without their property. Eventually, they will be given their books, clothes, and hygienic items. After a month they will be moved yet again to the upper floors. Fighting is only disciplined by one month in Seg, although they could be cited with assault if anyone was seriously injured; assault carries more Seg time.

While my cellmate's wet clothes and my own dried in the cell, I took a nap and then watched news on CNN. The television station had on Bernard Sanders, a socialist congressman from Vermont. He was ridiculing U.S. companies like Burger King for moving their headquarters out of the country to avoid paying taxes. The practice of buying a foreign business and relocating is known as an "Inversion". I did agree inversion laws should be narrowed, however, a company's first loyalty is to its shareholders and they cannot maximize profits while paying the highest tax rate in the world. As former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan proposed, tax rates need to go down while closing loopholes. Strength through fair competition was not understood though by socialists like Sanders or Barack Obama. They appear to despise capitalism and most everything the U.S. once represented.

While not winning the Little League World Series, Jackie Robinson West was still given an enormous salutary celebration in Chicago. All local television stations broadcast the event and even CNN gave it some live coverage. Many of the prisoners at Stateville tuned in Wednesday to listen to the undeserved praise and tribute. Although I had my headphones on, occasionally I would hear them yelling to each other from their cells about the superiority of the black athlete. One convict claimed the only reason why the Asians beat them was because they cheated. He accused the South Korean Little League players of being older. This was preposterous and also ironic. All the players in the Little League tournament were between the ages of 11 and 13 and if there was any favoritism it was towards Jackie Robinson West. The Urban Initiative and other affirmative action programs or charities gave millions of dollars to advance baseball for inner city children. Also, the support given the team went well beyond financial aid and reminded me of how pervasive liberal ideology was in America.

Marxism sought a utopia where all people were equal despite how this was inherently false. Thus, the weakest groups of people had to be uplifted while the strongest were pushed down. They wanted to invert the natural order and along with it the values and culture which came with it. This was a great contrast to free and traditional societies where the strong prevailed and their ethics were emulated. During the era of the shogunate, it was the Samurai who reigned and their values were passed down within Japanese culture. The founders of the American Republic also sought a hierarchical order but without the rigid caste system. They created a two house government and a Constitution which espoused a system where individuals succeeded and failed on their own merit. The ideals of meritocracy are now embraced by conservatives and fought by liberals.

I left my cell to go to the chow hall. Had I known I would be waiting almost an hour for some plain turkey-soy tacos, I would have stayed inside. The reason for the delay was a prisoner in the line in front of me was knocked unconscious. I watched as guards gathered around him laying on the concrete bleeding. What I did not see was him being blindsided. Apparently it happened so quickly that guards did not know what occurred either. Later, in the chow hall, they collected all the IDs from inmates who were in line with the man who needed to be helped to the Health Care Unit. I believe they later used video footage to learn who struck him. Cameras are almost everywhere at this prison and although they may not be all monitored 24-7, they are always recording. In the serving line an inmate whispered to me that the man who was struck was a snitch. The code of convicts has deteriorated over the years I have been in prison, however, snitches still risk being the target of violence.

Later, mail was passed out and I received an old email from a private investigator I had been attempting to reach on the phone for a couple of months. Apparently, one of the blog processors misplaced it or had forgotten to forward it to me. John, the investigator, said that he would be willing to help investigate leads which will further corroborate my innocence except he was very uncomfortable seeking evidence which will demonstrate that my trial attorney was ineffective. The P.I. worked with William Von Hoene at Jenner and Block many years ago and he continued to feel a loyalty towards him. This is a problem I am beginning to realize. No one wants to cross the lawyer whose failure to contest the lies of the interrogating officer caused my conviction. However, I respected his sense of loyalty and will appreciate it if he is willing to work on other matters.

The following day I visited with my mother. She informed me that she spoke with the Illinois Innocence Project's case coordinator. The coordinator said they never received my Petition for Executive Clemency and suspected Stateville staff of tampering with my mail. The mail room staff is very slow and can occasionally mix up mail, but they did not open up my package, drive to Springfield and remail my petition using the unique return address sticker of the IIP. The only conclusion was that faculty or a student had mistakenly sent the petition back to me without making a copy for themselves. The confusion upset me. I will remail the thick brief. I think it is important the IIP sees my request to the governor for a pardon or commutation of sentence because it is very comprehensive and contains all the exhibits that show my innocence.

Before my visit with my mother I was listening to the John Kass and Laura Cohn radio talk show. It was amusing hearing them make fun of Governor Quinn's reception at the Jackie Robinson West celebration. When he was introduced there was dead silence and even when someone said, "Please give it up to our governor!" you could hear a cricket chirping. The humor of the show was disrupted when news reported thousands of Russians with tanks were crossing into Ukraine. This was reprehensible and can be fully blamed on the weakness of the Obama administration. Incredibly, he later addressed the nation beginning with an upward revision of the country's 2nd quarter GDP before talking about the crisis in Iraq and Ukraine. The country of Iraq was falling into chaos due to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He responded that he had not yet developed a strategy. As for the invasion of Ukraine, perhaps he will increase economic sanctions against Russia. The incompetence and aloofness of the U.S. Commander and Chief was amazing.

The U.S. had to retake Iraq not because people had been decapitated or any humanitarian mission. It also was not necessary to react to ISIS because they were a significant threat to the U.S. The purpose is to control a strategic position in the Middle East and oil. America cannot be a dominant power using solar panels and wind mills. The European Union needs to be beefed up and expanded to counter the power of Russia. This is the most significant purpose of NATO, very similar to the military presence the U.S. had in Japan and S. Korea. When Japan surrendered, it left a power vacuum. The Empire of the Sun was a counterweight to Chinese and, to a degree, Russian hegemony.

Having not secured a new lawyer to represent me on appeal, I asked someone to contact a few on my behalf. Yesterday, I was informed this was done but their responses were not very promising. One said he would look into the matter which I took as a polite way of saying he was not interested. Another wanted a minimum of $50,000 up front which I also took as a rebuff as it was well beyond my means. The last attorney had the most haunting words for my former classmate and they continued to reverberate in my thoughts into the night. He suggested that she quit chasing ghosts. Often I think of myself as a dead spirit from a bygone era.

Before I went to sleep I watched the film "The Last Samurai" which is what gave me the inspiration to write this post. The movie takes place in the late 1800's when Japan's power was influenced by a young Meiji Tenna causing him to dismantle the feudal system. U.S. military equipment as well as some personnel were sent to help the emperor consolidate power. In one of the ensuing battles an officer played by actor Tom Cruise is captured by the Samurai. Because of the courage and skill he displayed, they allow Cruise to live. In the Japanese village, he begins to admire the warrior class and that of their traditions and values. He knew modern society was going to vanquish it and would battle alongside them, as a Samurai. They fought gallantly, but were vanquished in the end. The Japanese troops were armed with the same weapons which had created fields of blood in America's Civil War. The Samurai knew they would be defeated. However, as I learned over the decades, it was better to die with honor than live an empty and sorrowful existence.