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Monday, April 21, 2014

Editor Note to Blog Readers:

The prison mail room is delaying Paul's outgoing mail again for some unknown reason. Keep checking this site--we publish Paul's writings as we receive them.  He told me he has written and mailed 6 new posts since March 1st.  Hopefully, a new one will be up soon.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Transition at Stateville & Revolution Abroad -- Feb. 22, 2014

The penitentiary was on lockdown for part of the week to conduct a massive move of inmates. All prisoners with jobs that had been sent to the Roundhouse last summer were reassigned cells in the quarter units. The upper galleries in the large domed building were then filled with convicts deemed by administrators as staff assaulters, highly aggressive, or weapons violators. They joined those in Segregation to be collectively punished and isolated from general population. The moves could not be done easily and required a shuffling of prisoners across the living units of the penitentiary. Stateville's SORT was used to escort the movement of men and was done slowly in small groups. I was not able to watch the major transition from the confines of my cell and instead was preoccupied with the revolutions occurring in Venezuela and more so the Ukraine. Over the week, I paid attention to the coverage on television and radio. I hoped they were successful in overthrowing their corrupt and oppressive regimes.

The prison administration rarely informs prisoners of changes in policy or even radical shifts in placement. Thus, on Monday morning I had no clue why the penitentiary was on lockdown. I considered there may be fewer staff than usual because it was a holiday and there was snow. However, not many guards would take a day off work for President's Day and the snow was light from what I could see outside the dingy cell house windows. Later in the morning, I heard a prisoner shouting to another man that he regretted telling the assignment officer to take him off the waiting list for a job. Like many prisoners, he did not want to be sent to the Roundhouse, but would gladly go to E House. He wondered if he could get his name back on the list without it going to the bottom.

When my cellmate awakened, he asked me why we were on lockdown. I told him I did not know but some obnoxious loudmouth upstairs was rambling about trying to resubmit for a work assignment and was under the impression he would be moved to E House rather than F House. For a couple of months, there have been rumors the administration was reconsidering the move of prisoners with jobs to the Roundhouse and instead filling all the cells in quarter unit E with them. Several times, Internal Affairs has found segregation inmates in possession of food and other items they could have only received from workers. If these men were moved to a quarter unit, they would be unable to intermingle with Seg and be isolated. The main purpose of moving prisoners with jobs to the Roundhouse was so they could function separately from the rest of the penitentiary particularly during lockdowns. My cellmate dismissed the rumors as well as the prisoner I told him about, at least until the evening.

On the 2nd shift, a few workers were let out to help with the labor in the cell house. When one of these prisoners gave me a couple of food trays, I asked him about the lockdown. Little Johnny told me workers from F House were being swapped for those inmates in E House. When he left, I speculated the prison was placed on lockdown not only because of the enormity of the task but because two galleries in E House held men designated as staff assaulters and weapons violators. Although many of these men were no more dangerous than others at Stateville, the administration treated them almost as if they were Hannibal Lectors or at the minimum deserving of super-max security precautions. They had been given special black and white striped jumpsuits to wear and were greatly limited in movement. Many of their privileges also had been stripped away. They were basically prisoners in segregation, although not in Seg. However, this week they were all put together in the same building.

Confined to my cell, I watched and listened to the unfolding unrest in Venezuela and the Ukraine on various TV and radio stations. After Hugo Chavez died last year, I was hopeful the South American country could regain its freedom. Chavez had seized power in 2002 and sought to reign indefinitely. He claimed to be a populist with his welfare state, nationalization of industries, labor and price controls. Oil revenue largely helped subsidize the poor and gain their favor. However, the corrupt and heavy handed socialist government increasingly caused more poverty and discontent. His successor, Nicholas Maduro, was struggling to keep the left wing totalitarian stats bound together. He lacked the clout and cult of personality and I was hopeful his regime would finally be toppled.

The events in the Ukraine were of greater interest to me. Despite the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia continues to exert enormous control over its neighbors. Repeatedly, elections in the Ukraine were rigged to keep a puppet government in power. Vladimir Putin even had a popular presidential candidate who sought independence poisoned with dioxin. Along with these villainous tactics, the Russian government used economic and trade extortion including shutting off the flow of natural gas in the midst of winter. The growing animosity in the Ukraine boiled over when pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign legislation increasing trade with the European Union which would give the country greater autonomy. Another revolution was in progress and I was riveted to news reports covering it.

On Tuesday, I sought out more discussion and commentary on the Rush Limbaugh show. However, during the half hour I listened, he spoke about the fraud of global warming. Researchers had a self interest in perpetuating the myth and even when they were unswayed by benefactors, the data was manipulated for public consumption. Liberal and international organizations wanted to deceive and scare people to advance their goals of greater government intervention. These facts were all well known to me but Limbaugh occasionally had to speak to the "low informed voter".

Later in the day mail was passed out and I was handed five letters. They were all marked with post dates from early January and I spent most of the evening reading them. However, because I did not want to be a low informed voter or simply a political ignorant (prisoners cannot vote), I momentarily turned on my TV to see if a Republican gubernatorial debate was going to be broad cast. Last week, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford was the subject of a blitz of local news when a former member of his staff accused him of sexual harassment. The claim stirred much controversy because the person was a man. Rumors that Rutherford was bisexual have been around for some time but now that the Republican base was made aware of them, his campaign was doomed. The debate was not telecast and I was unable to see how he squirmed and dodged the issue while denying the accusation.

Although Stateville remained on lockdown midweek, prisoners were permitted visits. They were limited to one hour and I spent three times this amount of time waiting in holding cages. During those hours, I listened to other inmates speak about the moves occurring in the penitentiary. According to what I heard, workers in F House were not simply being swapped with prisoners in E House. They were being assigned cells in all of the quarter units. Instead of isolating and confining inmates with jobs, the administration sought to do this with all the purported bad apples. Convicts labeled as staff assaulters and weapons violators were going to be housed with those in Segregation. Furthermore, those men considered the most likely to act hostilely were also being sent to the Roundhouse.

The transition at Stateville was taking a long time not merely because of all the juggling of prisoners to different cells but because the SORT was conducting the moves. Guards dressed up in full tactical gear moved a handful of men at a time. There was an excessive concern about security as well as prisoners not having extra property. For example, the Orange Crush demanded that men being moved were able to fit all their property in their two state-issued boxes except for a TV, radio, and/or fan. Numerous prisoners had excess property and tried various tricks to fool the SORT. One man put on several pairs of pants, shirts, thermals, and sweat shirts. Despite already being puffed out like the Michelin Man, he tucked other property into his pockets and under his layers of clothes. The Orange Crush team pulled him out of line and after strip searching him they took all his extra clothing and property he was carrying.

My cellmate immediately awakened when he heard my name called for a visit and eagerly waited for me to leave. Even when the prison is not on lockdown, I rarely leave the cell and he has little time to himself. It is liberating not to be trapped in a small cubicle with another person. Anthony has been calling the days I am gone on a visit "naked days" insinuating he strips naked and does whatever he wants. I do not concern myself with what "Quagmire" does while I am away, but on my return I could not but noticed he had shaved his head. The day before I had told him one of my blog readers commented that his hair cut looked ridiculous and apparently it go under his skin. I made fun of his sensitivity and told him he looked worse now.

Anthony was interested in what I had learned in the holding cages about the moves. Not long ago, he requested a cell house help job because it did not require being moved to the Roundhouse. Last year, he had quit his detail in the kitchen to avoid the unpleasant and dilapidated building. The Roundhouse had smaller cells that commonly had electric, plumbing, and cable problems. The circular domed building also was extremely loud throughout the day and night and was infested with cockroaches. My cellmate, like many inmates thought it was a form of punishment to be celled there and the extra $18.80 earned each month was not worth it. However, if he can stay in C House, he will ask if he can regain his job in the kitchen. Already supervisors there were trying to persuade him to come back.

Contrary to my cellmate, I care little about the transition in the prison as long as it does not affect me. My interest continued to be the growing upheaval in Venezuela and the Ukraine. Massive demonstrations had changed to violent clashes with the police. In Caracas, there were many casualties and a few deaths including a popular beauty queen who was shot dead by Maduro's police. Her bloody body was seen on television being dragged across a street. The violence was little to what was occurring in the Ukraine. Forces loyal to the puppet government of Viktor Yanukovych stormed areas occupied by those demanding his removal. Assault vehicles and police were bombed with Molotov cocktails, fireworks, and various crude explosives or weapons. They in turn fired into the crowds and beat others with clubs.

Although the White House had intervened meekly in other revolutions, there were no steps taken to help those in the Ukraine and Venezuela. Barack Obama merely admonished Yanukoych not to escalate violence or use military forces to crush the popular uprising. The Ukrainian military was never going to support their corrupt leader who was a Russian stooge anyways. Barack Obama and the people he delegated authority to in the State Dept. were weak and abhorred the use of force. The military was largely disdained by him and his inner circle of liberals. Furthermore, I speculate he was sympathetic to the socialist government in Venezuela despite how repressive it was to its people and antagonistic towards the U.S. In the Ukraine, Obama continued to want to reset relations with Russia and appease Vladimir Putin. If he thought the ruler of Russia was going to be happy simply winning the Olympics, he was greatly mistaken. Losing sway over the Ukraine meant a lot more than gold medal count.

On Thursday morning, I heard a "10-10" called over guards' radios. Generally these were given when a brawl erupted and they were seeking immediate assistance. I was not certain if it was associated with the move of prisoners, but later the penitentiary was briefly let off lockdown. A couple of programs were run along with chow lines. Yard was initially announced but then was cancelled and in its stead I exercised in the cell. While working out, my cellmate watched the gold medal match in women's ice hockey. Earlier in the week, I had watched the Finns defeat Russia and take them out of contention for a medal in the men's tournament. It was a grudge match worthy of the cold war and it was obvious animosity still existed between the two countries. Although I watched a couple of male hockey games and will do so tomorrow when the Swedes play the Canadians, female hockey was yet another event the Olympics could eliminate. I cared less that the U.S. women's team lost to Canada 3 to 2.

In the evening, prisoners were fed in their cells due to the fog. Looking outside the cell house windows, all I could see was a hazy white. While eating my prison meal, I watched the CBS news. Viktor Yanukovych was attempting to pacify the mobs demanding his immediate removal from office. He claimed he would allow early elections and made other conciliatory concessions. However, the people of the Ukraine had been tricked before and there was no peace. I was glad to see their resolve. Freedom as I personally knew was not easily won.

Yesterday, the prison returned to full normal operations. Commissary and yard make up lines were even surprisingly run in C House. I speculated most f the moves had been completed and this was confirmed when I went to dinner. Briefly, I spoke with a kitchen worker who said he and the rest of the prisoners he worked with had been moved. Big John was pleased to be out of the Roundhouse but seemed to be annoyed by the way the move had been carried out. At least he was able to keep his cellmate. For me this was most important unless I did not get along with the person, then it was a blessing.

Earlier today, I was pleased when a religious volunteer who I have spoken o in the past stopped by my cell. I did not seek any spiritual discussion but political. The 70+ year old man had ties to both the Ukraine and Venezuela. He had been born in the Ukraine but was eventually able to flee the oppression of the Soviet Union. He then lived about 20 years in the South American country before gaining citizenship in the U.S. I was intrigued by his insight in the underlying conflicts in the countries which has led to their uprisings and I could only learn about through news programs. I also was impressed by his difficult journey towards ever greater freedom and opportunity: from communism to socialism and then finally to America. However, ironically, once arriving in "the land of the free" it was regressing in similar order. At the end of his life he was walking the galleries of one of nearly a hundred maximum security prisons in the U.S.  America has more people incarcerated than any other country in the world.

Before writing this post I learned the Ukrainians had taken back their country and puppet President Yanukovych has fled. In his abandoned palace people were finding lavish riches ad paperwork demonstrating his corruption and graft. Parliament had voted to put the House majority leader in power until elections can be held. Arseni Yatsenyuk seems like a wimpy person to hold power in the interim, but he was a part of Ukraine United which backed the revolution. Ukrainians were happy and I was as well. Despite being behind bars, I felt in some part that I had been liberated as well. Certainly it is fleeting, but hopefully it is not for Ukraine. They have won independence time and again before, only to have it taken away. Freedom is precarious and must be vigilantly fought for and defended, whether it be in America, Venezuela, Ukraine, or elsewhere.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Question of Happiness -- Feb. 15, 2014

I am often confounded by how many prisoners at Stateville can be happy. They live under very austere and oppressive conditions. There is no meaning to their existence and the vast majority have sentences of LWOP or the equivalent. It is a slow, protracted, and miserable death sentence. Yet often I notice these condemned men appear to be content or even joyful. There is even plenty of humor and laughter. How can this be when I am so gloomy and bitter? A psychologist brought this to my attention this week, but it is something I have increasingly pondered for years.

On Monday, half of C House was permitted to shop. My gallery was the first to be sent to the prison store and we left before 8 a.m. Inmates were excited to spend the money family or friends sent to them on various items, but particularly coffee, sweets, and other snacks. How much joy could some honey buns or potato chips give a man? The food served in the penitentiary is distasteful and regularly unhealthy. I also prefer not to go to chow if possible. However, despite this, I was not jubilant to be at the store. I limited myself to meals I could substitute for those served in the chow hall and were not overly priced. Although some men spent a hundred or more dollars, I bought a mere twenty and left the commissary building as soon as possible.

Close to 10 a.m., chow was announced over the cell house loudspeaker. Prisoners once again were very loud and excited. They shouted to one another from their cells and when walking down the stairs. On the menu was burgers, but I did not see any reason to be happy about it. It was not ground round nor were they even made with any beef. They were turkey-soy burgers fried in grease. The huge oven in the kitchen was broken and all food was being boiled or fried this week. The thin burger did not come with cheese, tomato, onion, or any condiments. It was just plain with bread and if I recall correctly there was some lettuce. I brought my processed turkey-soy burger back to the cell to run water over it and attempt to wring out as much grease as possible before eating it.

On days commissary lines are run, the noise in the cell house is much greater. As I read about master limited partnerships in a Barron's  newspaper, I listened to cassette tapes on my Walkman. The headphones I typically use were taken by the counselor this week to be shipped back to the company to be repaired. In their stead, I had to use ear buds which continually slipped out of my ears. Eventually, I crushed some toilet paper to stuff in my ears to not only keep them from falling out, but to muffle the noise in the building. Despite this, I still occasionally heard shouts including from one obnoxious prisoner yelling, "Send me something!" Every commissary day, he will shout to his fellow gang members for charitable contributions. His demands can be amusing if I am not attempting to focus on anything because they remind me of all the free loaders on government aide who expect "something" for nothing. However, on this day he was quite annoying and I turned up the volume on my radio.

At night the clamor in the unit began to fade as men increasingly were preoccupied by television programming. Television can be the greatest source of entertainment for prisoners at maximum security institutions. My cellmate will watch numerous hours of TV every day and even has a subscription to not one but two TV guides, despite how men at Stateville do not get even one fifth of the listings. Guards made him and about ten other prisoners very unhappy when they decided to search some cells during prime time television. While standing in the cell house holding cage for nearly a half hour, I overheard a few men complain they were going to miss the ending of a TV show called "The Following".

Overnight temperatures dropped to -20 and I did not expect yard lines to be run in the morning. It was sunny, but news stations still reported negative temperatures across the Chicago metro area. Because I had turned in my sweat shirt, pants, and thermals to be washed I did not go outside. The thin jacket prisoners are supplied was not nearly adequate for the brutal cold and therefore I exercised as usual in the cell. Later a biker was to ask me why I did not go outside. He was the only white person on the yard and I suspect he was lonely. Bone is very talkative to the point of being annoying. He did not as much want someone to lift weights with but to talk to.

At noon I had a pass to see the psychologist and as usual I waited a long time in the cell house as well as at the Health Care Unit's holding cage. The cage in the H.C.U. was packed and numerous men spoke over each other to be heard. I went to the back where I planned to stare out one of the narrow windows, but was addressed by a prisoner who said he recognized me from 20 years ago at a different penitentiary. I was skeptical at first because of how much older and different I now look, but he remembered details no one could have known. He recalled how my hair was lighter and I was much more muscular. He also spoke about my cellmate at the time in great detail as well as his own. I remembered his cellmate Motorhead and was surprised to learn he was in prison for the brutal beating and rape of an 8-year-old girl. He had told me he had a murder case, but almost all prisoners with child offenses will lie.

In the psychologist's office, the subject of my own conviction was brought up. Like many people she could not understand how my co-defendant could be acquitted of the murder but I was held accountable for his actions and on top of that given the most severe criminal penalty. I had to explain to her that we had separate juries and my jury was not aware Faraci was let go two days earlier. I also had to explain how at the time the media and state's attorneys office depicted me to the public as the prime suspect of a mass murder at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta Restaurant in Palatine, Illinois.

I assume the psychologist was interested in the subject because this was probably our last meeting. The provider of health care for prisoners at Stateville was hiring a couple of extra mental health care staff and the case loads of the two current psychologists will be shuffled. The new staff will not be technically psychologists but LPNs. These employees have less education and clinical experience, but they are of course cheaper to hire. Wexford is increasingly relying on LPNs to do more work in the IDOC. I did not like the idea of having a psychologist with less capability or authority. Already, the current staff has little to no understanding of autism and they generally are not helpful.

Before I left the psychologist's office, she asked me about the prisoner who committed suicide and how I felt about it. It was an ambiguous question and I asked her to be more specific. I was told just to begin talking about it and she will direct my monologue. I made the mistake of saying that I believed he made a rational decision based on his circumstances. Given a choice between being miserable for an untold number of years and a quick death, the latter was preferable. In fact, I would have killed myself a long time ago if I believed in a hereafter as Garcia did. This was not something you admitted to a prison psychologist because they have the power to put you in the "butt naked room." However, unlike most people, I have little deceptive ability and tend to speak with brutal honesty.

I was not isolated in a barren cell without any clothes, but the psychologist definitely wanted to probe my thoughts. One of the more interesting questions I was asked is why many other incarcerated men at Stateville did not share my view that it was better to be dead than to suffer in prison indefinitely. As a follow-up question, she asked if I had not noticed how most prisoners seemed much less despondent and unhappy as me. I am not the best person to interpret feelings, but I had to admit I saw a disparity. At the time I mentioned that a great deal of this is probably correlated to our backgrounds. Those middle and particularly upper class people who are condemned to prison for the rest of their lives have lost a lot more and thus their grief is greater as well. Most of the population at Stateville came from the ghetto or other poor neighborhoods. However, I had just scratched the surface of the matter and throughout this week I continued to dwell on the matter.

For dinner, prisoners were fed barbecued friend chicken and if readers thought turkey-soy burgers excited the men at Stateville, they would be astonished by the reaction to BBQ bird. As chow lines were about to be run, I mentioned to my cellmate we should be careful not to get in the way of the African-Americans and their fried chicken. It was ridiculous and one may think the kitchen was serving steak and lobster. Even if men were regularly served good meals, I did not see how this could make prisoners not only complacent but happy.

When I was a teenager I read a book on psychology that went over Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs". According to the psychologist, there was a pyramid of needs all people strive for. At the bottom were the basic necessities like food, shelter, and safety. When those were met, people sought out higher needs although not everyone was motivated to reach the pinnacle of their abilities. The majority of convicts at the prison were probably satisfied with having the lowest strata of these needs met whereas others needed to reach higher levels of achievement to be happy. Often I attempt to be productive and to having a meaningful existence in prison. I am highly goal orientated and speculated that because I could never attain "self actualization" in captivity, I would always be incredibly unhappy.

In the chow hall I sat with a full table of prisoners.  The main topic of discussion was "Colonel Bill". Colonel Bill was an old black man whose property was packed up on Monday.  After serving 40 years in prison, he was finally being released.  I asked my cellmate if he knew who he was and he said that he had seen him a few times in the cell house.  He rarely left his cell because he could not walk and was always moved around in a wheel chair.  At one time he was a robust soldier who served in the Vietnam War,  but now he was a cripple in his 70's who had major health problems. He doubted he would live another 3 years at most.

The release of Colonel Bill spread like wild fire in the penitentiary. The following day when I went on a visit, I met various other men, staff and inmates included, from other cell houses who knew about it. While I thought being released in my 70's as a cripple was horrific, this brought great hope to many prisoners. I came to the realization that what made a lot of inmates more optimistic and cheerful was their belief that eventually one day they also would be released. They still had appeals yet to be filed or decided upon and even those that did not have any legal avenue dreamed of changes in the sentencing statutes which would be applied retroactively to them. The vast majority of these hopes were fanciful, however, they clung onto them. Contrarily, I am a realist. Despite my innocence, I know very well that most likely I will die in prison.

It was a state holiday limiting visits to one hour and my mother was still sick but she came to see me anyway. She wanted to tell me that hundreds of people were writing about my case on a website called "Reddit". Furthermore, my attorney recently sent her a message that she will soon be sending me a copy of the appeal she has been working on. I was very impressed by the number of people who were moved enough to discuss my prosecution at length on that website and I told my mother to send me a copy. I was told it would take almost a hundred pages to print the thousands of comments and because my mail is so slow I would not receive it until March. She was very happy about these developments, however, I was skeptical. I hope that many people sent letters to Governor Quinn in support of my request for executive clemency, but I knew it would be a very risky decision for him unless he waited until after the election and lost to a Republican opponent. As for my attorney, she has repeatedly told me "the check is in the mail". I have little faith in her and for the most part I think of myself as being without counsel. Even if she was not crying wolf yet again, a post conviction petition takes 5 years or longer to be adjudicated in Cook County. I may even be near my 50th birthday before I am released if my case must go through all the legal proceedings and continuances.

My cellmate was sleeping when I returned and this was just as well. I was in a sour mood and may have ranted about my conviction for an hour or longer. In retrospect, another reason that I am so angry and bitter is because I am innocent. When you have not committed any crime and yet are convicted anyway, you have an enormous amount of hate built up. The longer I languish in prison and grow older, the more this hatred grows. Many prisoners have been over sentenced, however, there are only a few who are innocent. Guilty prisoners do not feel the injustice and their time is generally easier to bear.

My cellmate eventually awakened to go out for dinner. When he inquired if I was going as well, I curtly told him no, and then made fun of him for waking up out of a sound sleep to get a meal. He regularly did this and I told him a fat dough boy like himself could afford to miss a chow line. He claimed that he was emotionally hurt by my mean spirited words, although I could tell he was playing. He then went on to say maybe I was not so unhappy because of being unable to fulfill Maslow's hierarchy of needs but because I was just simply an unhappy, grumpy person. I contemplated this and that may be true to some extent. Even before my arrest, I tend to believe most people probably thought I was serious and melancholic. Other teenagers seemed very immature to me. They seemed goofy, unfocused, and generally took life casually. Even men in their mid-20's could strike me as having the same attributes.

The following morning I was enjoying the relative peace and quiet before prisoners were stirred. It was abruptly ended when a man began yelling for a med tech. When guards did not respond about twenty other prisoners began shouting. This went on for about 10 minutes and I said to my cellmate, "Just let the man die." I could not understand why anyone at this prison would want to be resuscitated. I told my cellmate if I ever fallout from low blood sugar, a heart attack, or just accidentally splitting my skull when exercising because my back gives out, not to say anything until he knew I was dead. He said, "Like how you left Little Bobby?"  Bobby was my former cellmate who died in his sleep from a heart attack. I was not aware he was dead and may have been on the yard at the time. Regardless, my cellmate had jokes.

Humor is often a way people deal with a grim reality. Joking in prison can be akin to comic relief. Sometimes, I will engage in the same morbid or satirical humor myself, although people may not always recognize it. My jokes are often said or expressed flatly. I recall once a prisoner saying a minute after I made a joke that he finally got it and began chuckling before he went on to joke about how uncommon or imperceptible my humor was. Occasionally, my jokes are just for my own amusement and I care less if others recognize it. My prison psychologist may sometimes misinterpret the laughter and jokes of prisoners as demonstrating they are happy. However, this as well as how most people wear masks to conceal their true feelings, I suspect distorts perceptions. Not many people are as transparent and truthful as me.

Thursday, while in line at the chow hall, I could not help but make fun of all the drawings posted on the wall in support of Black history month, regardless of who was listening. To one prison worker I inquired if any of them were his masterpieces of art. Most of the drawings were ridiculous in their message or poorly drawn. I assume they were made during one of the volunteer programs they have at Stateville. Last week when I heard "black skills" announced over the loudspeaker, I had to ask my cellmate what that was. We came to the agreement it must be how to teach black people how to make crack, conduct stick-ups, and braid hair. Apparently, though, they also draw things as well.

Above the rudimentary needs at the base of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is social interaction and relationships. I was a nonsocial person and could do without any friendships. In fact, while many prisoners would be greatly disturbed to be in solitary confinement, I would enjoy it. I could go years without speaking to anyone and not be bothered. What bothers me is being in a cell house with over 300 people stacked on top of each other. However, it seems many prisoners like this. African-Americans make up over 3/4's the population at Stateville. Because many know each other from neighborhoods in Chicago and have the same cultural background, it helps them form friendships and makes life much more comfortable for them. This may in part explain why they can be so happy or more content than a Caucasian who is a tiny minority and has little appreciation for socialization.

This week I finally read the book "The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum" by Temple Grandin. Most of what she wrote I already knew or suspected. However, it once again reminded me of the problems many people with autism have and how these are made incredibly worse in prison. Most men will agree life in a maximum security penitentiary is miserable, but for those with ASD it can be torturous at times. I do not just dislike prison, I hate it. Physical pain is nothing compared to the mental anguish I experience due to having autism.

Like most Thursday nights, I will watch an episode of the TV show "House". Despite being reruns, I still greatly enjoy the program. In this episode a patient was found to be using cough syrup to dull his intelligence. The man was extremely brilliant, but apparently it made him depressed. Ironically, he would rather be dumb than a genius. Sometimes I wonder if instead of having autism I could simply be an idiot. If I were retarded, I could just be oblivious to how wretched my existence was and drool on myself with a smile. Retards do not dwell on all their hopes and dreams being crushed or their inability to attain self actualization. They are not even aware of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Ignorance is bliss and (ending removed by editor).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

State of Fear -- Jan. 10, 2014

A mass of arctic air has dropped into the U.S. causing frigid temperatures across a great swath of the country. On Sunday, the cold front brought snow followed by extreme wind chills that had the potential to cause frost bite within 10 minutes on exposed skin. The penitentiary was once again placed on lockdown and only recently have normal operations resumed. Confined to my cell, I spent time watching the NFL Playoffs. Mostly, however, I read a novel by Michael Crichton which debunked the theory of global warming. Reading State of Fear seemed very timely after I heard a few news reports that seemed to attempt to attribute the brutally cold temperatures to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. All types of inclement weather are commonly used to manipulate and scare the public to serve a political agenda. Ironically, the only truth is that climate change exists, but it has existed for millions of years and a warmer world is probably a better world.

Saturday afternoon, I watched the Kansas City Chiefs play the Indianapolis Colts in the first NFL Playoff game of the year. At the end of the first half the Chiefs led by 28 points. Most prisoners including myself thought the game was over and went to the chow hall for dinner. Outside the cell house snow was already falling, but the Arctic blast of cold air behind it had yet to arrive. Over a tray of soy-spaghetti, I listened to men talk about the blowout football game as well as a new vending machine service company. The visiting room's vending machines had been replaced last week with new ones that charged double the previous prices. To some prisoners the soda, snacks, and other food offered was a big treat and they were angry that family or friends who came to see them would be forced to pay much more. With a natural life sentence, however, I had greater concerns. If the prices were too high, I would simply not eat anything.

Upon returning to my cell, shower lines were immediately run. Although my cellmate left, I turned on my TV to watch the rest of the game even if it was going to be a lopsided victory for the Chiefs. To my surprise, the Colts were catching up. The game reminded me of some college football bowl games where there were many turnovers, little defense, and offenses racked up points with reckless abandon. In the end, there were over 1,000 yards of offense and an almost record breaking 89 points were scored. The Colts in the second largest comeback victory in playoff history won by a single point. Only inside a dome and on artificial turf did I think such an outcome was possible. Quarterback Andrew Luck was very lucky to overcome such a deficit. Tomorrow, he plays outdoors against the New England Patriots and he should not expect to do the same.

When I awakened Sunday morning, the cell house was quiet except for the whir of the hot air blower across from my cell. Through the dirty, opaque windows I could not determine how much snow had fallen during the night, but news programs reported over a foot. They also spoke of a "polar vortex" which was moving down from Canada and causing temperatures to plummet. Currently, it was 10 degrees but the lows Monday through Wednesday were expected to be between -15 and -20. Weather news reporters warned people of the dangers of frostbite and even hypothermia. I was not surprised later when an announcement was made over the cell house loudspeaker that there would be no movement for the day. All programs, religious services, health care passes, etc. were cancelled. I did not mind the lockdown. There was no where I wanted to go within these walls and I had another day of football to look forward to.

I watched all the playoff games over the weekend, but none were more anticipated than the last. The great media attention was mostly due to the brutally cold weather expected. The sports event was being held at Lambaugh Field nicknamed "the frozen tundra" and for good reason. The open stadium in northern Wisconsin was the coldest place professional football players in America competed at. At kickoff the temperature was a mere 5 degrees and it slowly dropped to just above zero. Wind chills were -10 to -20. The San Francisco 49ers had a formidable defense, but more than anything it seemed the frigid temperatures were constricting the explosive offense of the Green Bay Packers. Players on both sides regularly ran off field to huddle around heaters and assistants threw heavily insulated jackets over them. In the second half, however, the Packers began to overcome the cold and began moving the ball down field. They took the lead and seemed poised to win. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and other Packers looked confident on and off the field. Some did not even bother to warm themselves and were focused completely on the game. Unfortunately some lapses in defense caused them to lose the game by a field goal.

Afterwards, I wrote my father a letter. He had relocated to South Carolina for various reasons, but one was because he never wanted to deal with freezing weather again. I thought it was ironic that the first winter he was there the state was expecting snow showers. The polar vortex which was currently approaching Green Bay, Wisconsin was to continue to drop south and to the east. My father was physically impaired, but I doubted the weather would be much trouble for him. I was more concerned about my mother who continued to be very ill. Before I went to sleep, I gave her a call. She told me a neighbor had shoveled a clearing on the walkway and my brother-in-law stopped by to do the driveway. Despite this, she was very weak and did not intend to go anywhere.

Monday morning I awakened to discover the temperature outside was minus 16 degrees and there were -40 degree wind chills. Once again the penitentiary was on lockdown and except for a few workers, prisoners were kept confined to their cells. Unexpectedly, though, my cellmate was allowed out to make an unmonitored legal call with his attorney. Apparently, the lawyer had set up the call in advance and the administration generally tried to accommodate them. Anthony had the call placed through the counselor in the sergeant's office and was not gone long. Afterwards I asked him what his attorney had to say. The lawyer planned to file an appeal to the 7th Circuit, but as for his most important issue of involuntary intoxication, he would have to file a successive post conviction appeal himself. More than likely, I will have to do the same. My attorney has made little to no progress in over 4 years.

The cell house had a totally different group of staff working due to how many guards did not show up for work. A lieutenant who typically works a different shift and quarter unit was also present. I was not surprised the man I occasionally will debate politics with called up to my cell. He joked about my beard and asked if I was protesting something. I retorted I was protesting the removal of Phil Robertson from the reality TV show "Duck Dynasty." Until he was re-contracted, I was not going to shave. In reality, however, I grow a beard every winter. Usually, I keep it trimmed short, but due to the unusual cold, I was keeping it a little longer.

After talking to my political antagonist, I tuned into the Rush Limbaugh show. One of the subjects of discussion was the research vessel which was on its way to measure the thickness of ice on the Antarctic continent. Due to heavy ice in the waters, it became trapped and two other ships were sent to rescue the team only to be trapped themselves. An American icebreaker was now on its way to free all of the ships and environmentalists were complaining about all of the fossil fuels burned. They claimed 5,000 trees needed to be planted to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions. This was just ridiculous but even more so was a theory they presented about why the U.S. was experiencing one of its coldest winters in many years.

According to their theory, strong winds circle the Arctic and generally contain the extremely cold air at the North Pole. Because of the warming of waters, however, the "polar vortex" has been weakened. Slower wind speeds permit Arctic air to escape and reach lower latitudes such as in the contiguous U.S. This conjecture of warmer temperatures causing colder temperatures reminded me of an absurd movie which has been being repeatedly broadcast on the USA network recently. The Day After Tomorrow is based on another theory that if too much fresh water empties into the Atlantic Ocean it will stop its clockwise current bringing warm air from the equator to the east coast of the U.S. and northwestern Europe. The idea is extremely farfetched, but the movie spins it even further. Scenarios of New York City and the U.K. being abruptly hit by air so cold people are frozen in place is preposterous.

After taking a nap, I decided I was going to finally read a 500-page novel that has remained in my property box for months. Michael Crichton's book State of Fear was a work of fiction, but it incorporated many facts exposing the myth of global warming. What I like most about the author is that he does comprehensive research before writing a novel. At the end of State of Fear is a long bibliography of sources he used to create his story. Crichton often studies a fascinating although usually obscure or complicated bit of science, history, or other topic to be the basis of a book. He has done it repeatedly in other novels of his I have read including Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead, Sphere, and Rising Sun. His most famous work was probably Jurassic Park. While all of these books were made into movies, I doubt State of Fear will be. Not because it is any less entertaining but because Hollywood fully embraces the environmentalist movement and the theory of global warming, despite how much of a farce it is. Politics always outweighs truth.

With a hot mug of tea by my side I read the first chapter, Akami, which was 180 pages before I realized the premiere of the TV show "The Bachelor" was on. The novel was captivating and I may have continued reading but I wanted to learn more about Juan Pablo Galadis. If he was not a man I could relate to in some fashion, I did not plan to watch the show at all. The fact that he was Venezuelan made me think I may not. Furthermore, I had suspicions the producers did not seek reality but wanted to promote diversity. They seemed very pleased the last bachelor gave his last rose to a Filipino woman and were hyping their marriage which will be broadcast. Juan Pablo Galadis seemed to be of European lineage without black or aborigine heritage. However, he gave his first impression rose to a mulatto woman which made me question if I would watch any other episodes.

Tuesday morning, sunshine was streaming into my cell from a southeast angle, but from television news I learned it was still extremely cold outside. A town adjacent to Cresthill where Stateville is located was reporting minus 15 degrees. Temperatures were expected to stay below zero again the entire day. News reporters were in various locations, even outside the Chicago metro area, bearing the frigid conditions which had moved deeper into the U.S. and to the east. It made me think how news programs hyped extreme weather for ratings as well as how much more interconnected the world was. News was no longer local but national and even global. Even without liberal or other influence groups, this type of reporting was going to skew peoples perceptions of reality or their values. Fears of global warming, terrorism, or crime can be inflated along with the acceptance of homosexuality, miscegenation, and other foreign or valueless ways of life.

With the penitentiary on lockdown a third day, I intended to complete the rest of Crichton's novel. Lockdowns presented an opportunity to have fewer distractions. The day began quiet, but gradually became louder. By the time lunch trays were passed out, I had put on my headphones. This did not prevent me, however, from hearing prisoners screaming for toilet paper. Once a week, supplies are passed out. Inmates are given a roll of toilet paper and two small bars of soap. Sometimes, a little tube of toothpaste and a 3" toothbrush are also handed out. When prisoners continued to yell for their toilet paper, the lieutenant jokingly shouted back that a cell house worker was selling rolls for a dollar. After some jeering, he said they better pay up now because tomorrow the price goes up to $2. My cellmate and I never understood the urgency and always had extra toilet paper. I told Anthony that even if I ran out there were plenty of things I could use to wipe my butt with, including his wash cloth.

With only a few breaks and distractions, I read almost nonstop. As the novel progressed it became increasingly more informative and I highlighted facts I found interesting or important. For example, Antarctica is 1-1/2 times the size of Europe and holds 90% of all the ice on the planet. Greenland, in contrast, has only 4% and if current trends continue it may lose its glacier mass albeit in a thousand years. Ice levels all the while on the South Pole are growing and are well over a mile thick. Carbon dioxide which many environmentalists believe contribute the most to the "greenhouse effect" represent less than a half of 1% of the atmosphere, or 375 parts per million. Records of carbon dioxide in the air do not correlate with temperatures. Furthermore, trends of temperature readings going back to the 1800s vary greatly globally and even between cities and their suburbs with some going up and others down. The most important fact to take away from the book, however, is that for millions of years, long before industrialization or even humankind, climate change has occurred. Scientists still do not understand all the factors which cause it and any long term projection is purely speculative. In fact, in the 1970s, there were worries of another ice age.

For fun, I boldly highlighted a sentence that read: "The American Indians were responsible for the extinction of the mammoth and other large mammals." The issue has been a matter of contention between my cellmate and me. Like many people, he has this misconception of the aborigines being peaceful, environmentally symbiotic people. Upon my showing him the highlighted area, he exclaimed it was a lie. The entire book was a lie to support the energy industry and my Lex Luther plan to destroy the planet while buying up oceanfront property in Alaska. Going along with his joke, I sinisterly laughed as if I was "Dr. Evil" in an Austin Powers movie. However, the truth is just the opposite and there are many groups which are trying to manipulate the public to believe in global warming even in the midst of what may be the coldest winter in decades. In the novel State of Fear, the villain with the diabolical plan is a radical environmental group, similar to the Earth Liberation Front.

I was glad to finish my reading before I went to sleep because the following day the penitentiary began most normal operations. The relative peace and quiet I had enjoyed was gone. Furthermore, I no longer had the benefit of room service and had to go out for my meals. Outside temperatures were just above zero and snow was piled up two feet on both sides of the walk bordered on both sides by cyclone fencing topped with razor wire. The path left only a small clearing wide enough for a double line of men to pass through. It made me wonder if I was not better off skipping meals. However, even in my cell I could not get away from annoying prisoners. One man stopped by my cell bars to ask me if I had been given any of his newspapers by mistake. The question insinuated I was keeping his mail, although he denied it. After he left I said to my cellmate, "Yes, they always give me your mail and I have been writing your mother for months. She hasn't told you?" The mail at Stateville is even more behind due to the holidays and winter weather.

In the evening, I watched the reality TV program "Survivorman." In this episode Les Stroud was in Grenada, an island in the Caribbean I did not think was much of a challenge to survive on. During commercials, I skipped through Crichton's novel reviewing segments. A part where an environmental group strategizes how to spread propaganda and move the public was interesting because it corresponded with what these groups do. All types of inclement weather is linked with global warming, even frigidly cold temperatures, so it is thought of as pervasive and so it is repeatedly reinforced in people's minds. Furthermore, it must be seen as catastrophic and imminent to instill fear. The fact that carbon dioxide emissions could increase to 500 parts per million and temperatures may go up a global average of a few degrees over the course of a century was not very frightening. It did not take an expert survivalist like Les Stroud to make it through any infinitesimally small gradual warming. In fact, it was like him taking a vacation in the Caribbean.

Finally, yesterday, the ominous "polar vortex" was beginning to recede back to its northern lair. Despite this, though, temperatures remained very cold and the day began at zero degrees. On the news, I learned parts of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie were beginning to freeze over. Meteorologists speculated that if the frigid weather persisted through the winter, most of the Great Lakes could ice causing shipping and other problems. The news made me think about the Pleistocene Epoch (last ice age) when a quarter of the Earth was covered in glaciers including most of North America and Europe. This was a very harsh and desolate time period unless one lived along the equator or the Fertile Crescent. Many plant and animal life died. It was not until 12,000 years ago when the glaciers retreated, leaving the Great Lakes they had carved out, that humans began to populate the northern latitudes. A greener, warmer world has been a benefit to not only mankind but to all life on this planet. Even if all ice melted as has happened before multiple times, there would be no catastrophe and more than likely the world would be a better place. Climate change is nothing to be feared. What people should fear are groups which try to manipulate public opinion to support their destructive political agendas.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Two Dental Passes -- Feb. 8, 2014

In prison, convicts only receive the most rudimentary dental care. There is no orthodontist and procedures for any type of cosmetic purpose are never done. Cavities are occasionally drilled and filled, but the pulling of teeth is more often the preferred option of prison dentists. Many men at the maximum security prisons in Illinois are missing teeth or have none at all, however, this may in part be due to their poor hygiene. Convicts can wait months for dental problems to be treated even when they are in tremendous pain. Check-ups are perfunctorily done every other year when dentists may order dental work. This week, I spent two mornings at the Health Care Unit or in holding cages. The waiting before and after being in the dentist office was not pleasant, but I was glad to finally have my teeth cleaned.

In the mail last Saturday I was given a dental pass for early Monday morning. As usual, I awakened just before 7 a.m. and looked in my breakfast tray. Inside were some generic Cheerios and three small pancakes with syrup. It was one of the better breakfast meals served to prisoners and I made myself a cup of hot coffee. Hot coffee was not only a good compliment to the food but could be used to warm my syrup and pancakes. Breakfast trays are passed out around 1 a.m. and if they were ever warm, they were not by the time I woke up. With the CBS news reporting it was -15 degrees,   I was pleased to have a steaming cup of coffee in hand.  However, before I began to eat I noticed the carton of milk I was about to pour on my cereal was sour. Disappointed, I dumped it into the toilet and ate just my pancakes.

Every Monday morning, property lines are run and those men who are on the list have their names called out over the cell house loudspeaker. One of the prisoners on the list happened to be my cellmate. Minutes later, he jumped down off his bunk and ruined my preparations to get ready to leave. I needed to wash my face, shave, use the toilet, and brush my teeth among other things. To my displeasure, Anthony stood in the middle of the cell going through his property box much of the time. Even when I went to use the commode, he stood a few feet away. Fortunately, I was able to do everything I wanted before a guard opened the door.

Downstairs there were numerous prisoners waiting to leave the cell house. Men were going to the personal property warehouse, school building and other places. Everyone who had health care passes or visits was put in a small cage near the door including myself. I hate being packed in the cage where I rubbed shoulder to shoulder with other men. Prisoners were very talkative and yelled over each other to be heard. They also had bad body odor and/or foul breath. A few were sick and coughed or sneezed without any consideration of others next to them. A prisoner I have nicknamed Lunchbox was not annoying, but he had a catheter connected to a bag of urine. I could see it was nearly full and I avoided being near him.

In a corner of the cage I stood next to Steve and occasionally tried to talk to him despite the noise. Steve's father died the day before from a heart attack while shoveling snow. A counselor had notified him and Steve wanted to attend his funeral. The prison administration will sometimes authorize this from time to time, but to my knowledge, only for men who are classified low escape risks. The vast majority of convicts at Stateville are rated medium or high including Steve. I told him I doubted the warden would approve it and regardless he will be very disappointed. Prisoners are shackled, handcuffed on a waist chain, and led along like a dog on a leash. He will not be able to attend the funeral service with family but only before it begins and only for 15 minutes when he is alone except for his prison guard escorts. Their salaries along with all other expenses which can exceed a thousand dollars will have to be paid by him. Steve did not care. He wanted to see his father one last time.

I asked Steve why he was in the holding cage. Earlier I had heard his name called along with my cellmate's to go to the personal property building. Steve told me he was being forced to see a psychologist at the H.C.U. A couple of years ago when my cellmate's sister died, he was offered mental health care services but it was not mandatory. I speculated that after Angel committed suicide by jumping off the 5th floor, however, staff may be more insistent on prisoners being evaluated. Steve asked the sergeant's permission to attend Catholic services instead and see the shrink another day. I do not know if he was given this, but not soon thereafter he left to join prisoners going to the gymnasium.

Eventually, a guard escorted prisoners to the H.C.U. It was extremely crowded in there as well and I was glad the guard was using all the holding cages. There is one main cage for general population and across from it are two other smaller cages. These were primarily used to hold prisoners in segregation or protective custody but none of these groups kept isolated were there at the time. In the cage, I listened to the gripes of men about poor health care, food, mail, and a litany of other things. Joe Miller, a serial killer, complained about cold air drafts in his cell and others on the lower floor of the cell house. The windows do not close tightly and some are broken. A few have been taped, but apparently this was not working well. I do not like Miller and he could be made to sleep outside I thought.

After my name was called a guard came to the cage and asked if I wanted to see the dentist or not. I told him it would help if someone unlocked the door. Acknowledging his stupidity, he had the guard in control of the gates let me out. I walked down the corridor to where the dentist office was and met a woman who told me to have a seat at one of the reclining chairs. Several minutes passed when a dentist with a file in her hand approached me and said I was there to have my teeth drilled. I replied, "No, I am not! I am scheduled for a cleaning." Puzzled, she looked back at her paperwork and then at my pass. At the top of the pass was scribbled "procedure" and she pointed this out to me. A procedure meant anything in my opinion, but I was told it did not include cleanings. I was given a "refuse treatment form" which I quickly signed and then angrily left. I had gone through all this aggravation and my morning was ruined for nothing.

Since my day had already been lost, I went to the chow hall despite the unappealing meal being served. Sliced turkey ham may not sound too bad, but the meat given to prisoners was mottled with various processed parts of the bird including organs, veins, gristle, and occasionally bone chips. A prisoner must be careful not to bite too hard or he may break a tooth, and a cracked tooth would most certainly be pulled in the dentist's office if and when they were given an appointment. Typically, no drinks other than water are offered at lunch, but on this day kitchen supervisors were trying to get rid of the spoiled milk and prisoners could take as many as they wanted. Surprisingly at the end of the line was a box of salt packets. The prison has not offered salt to us for almost a year.

The prisoners at the table I sat at were all talking about the Superbowl. They all thought it was the worst NFL Championship game they had ever seen. I was also disappointed and was looking forward to a titanic struggle between the league's most explosive offense and its most dominating defense. My neighbor asked me if I lost any money because he knew I liked the Denver Broncos who were crushed 8 to 43. It was true I personally like the players on the Broncos more, but from previous Superbowl's I knew defenses typically won the big game. Thus, I only wagered and lost a honey bun which I do not even eat due to the high fat and sugar content.

When I returned to my cell, I was surprised Anthony was still gone. I quickly began my workout so we would not again be in each other's way. It was well past noon when my cellmate came back and I inquired where he had been. He said movement lines were halted twice. First for a fist fight on the walk and second for an extraction in the Roundhouse. An extraction is a forcible removal of a prisoner from a cell usually conducted by the SORT. While I bathed in the back of the cell, he put away the legal papers he had taken out of storage. He is planning to file a successive post conviction appeal pro se.

I did not speak to my cellmate about the specifics of the appeal he intends to file, but later after watching the news, I spoke to him about the Amanda Knox case. Last week, an Italian appellate court astonishingly reversed the reversal of her conviction. She has been free and living in the U.S. for a couple of years, but now may face extradition. The reason why the reviewing court overturned her acquittal was not given and the judges do not have to release their opinions to the public for a few months. Most Americans think this could never occur in the U.S., but I know a man who was released on a sentencing error only for this ruling to be overturned by a higher court.  A warrant was issued for his arrest and foolishly Larry Mack turned himself in. He currently resides in a cell above mine and will die in prison.  Hopefully, Amanda Knox is smart enough not to trust the legal system or the American government's power to refuse extradition.

It was an exhausting morning for me and I took a nap in the mid afternoon. I was abruptly awakened when a guard began beating bars. At the beginning of the 2nd shift staff have been running a steel stick across all the bars in the cell house. It is incredibly noisy and irritating, as well as stupid. No prisoner during my incarceration has ever cut through the bars of their cell and escaped. Even if they were to get out, there would be no where for them to go because the galleries are locked and so is the cell house. I was too mad to say anything to the automaton who was banging bars when he came to my cell. However, later in the week I joked with a different guard. As he was going across the bars, I said, "Wait! Don't hit that one" as I pointed to a bar at the bottom.  "I have been working on it for months!"  This got a laugh from the guard and he went to the next cell.

In the evening, mail was passed out. I received a Barron's newspaper and ironically another dental pass. This one was identified in large letters "CLEANING".  The only thing I could think of that led to the confusion was that about four months ago I had a check-up.  The dentist recommended that I should probably have a couple of small shallow cavities filled.  Although they were not a problem currently, they could get worse.  I told him no, and that I preferred if my teeth were just cleaned, treated with fluoride, and then a sealant put over my molars.  Possibly there was a miscommuni- cation, but then again, it could just be a mix-up.

The Dow Jones dropped another 260 points on Monday bringing the index down to about 15,300. Since the beginning of the year, it was down nearly 6%. The huge run in 2013 I thought was due for a correction. With the Federal Reserve tapering security purchases by $10 billion a month, it seemed the froth in the market would inevitably be blown off. I had already sent a few family members my evaluations and advice on their investments, but now I went over all energy stocks. I have had little to no contact with my family and did not know if they even appreciated the work I did. However, there is little purpose to my existence and I do it anyway albeit with less motivation.

I took a break from my work to eat a snack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The prison had received donated bread and I used these slices to make them. The bread is made of whole wheat sprouts and was much more textured and richer than the stale IDOC bread commonly given inmates. It made for good sandwiches, although my snack was interrupted by a cockroach crawling on the back wall. I quickly got up to smack it with my bare hand. In the past week, I have killed three and I hope they are not breeding en mass in the plumbing area behind the cells. In the Roundhouse, there is a pervasive infestation, but the general population cell houses have largely remained free of them.

Tuesday morning I was able to get ready for my dental pass without any disruption by my cellmate. He was awake but waited for me to leave before getting down off his bunk. Once again, I was put in the crowded holding cage for nearly an hour. Steve waited with me as well as Lunch Box just like the day before. This time the former was going to the H.C.U. to see the shrink. He did not have anything to say except that he was OK and not going to kill himself. He thought he would be in and out of the H.C.U. quickly but I knew this would not occur. While I was talking with him, Lunch Box approached me fortunately with his urine line and bag under his clothes. In a whisper, he asked me if I could find out if a Caucasian prisoner on the gallery he acquainted with was a pedophile. He had heard a rumor the man had numerous counts of aggravated sexual assaults against a minor or multiple children. John M  was standing just a few feet away from us and I just said I will see what I could do, but I had the desire just to confront him right on the spot. I have been in prison over 20 years and he has the characteristics of a child molester.

The bubble camera in the H.C.U. had been activated and the guard working the door wanded all the prisoners who entered. This was done the prior morning as well. It seems staff are self conscious of everything they do now that they may be monitored. The cameras will just lead to more redundant security and have no practical effect. I noticed in the cell house only 7 prisoners at a time are let out to take a shower now. This will probably end the crowds and waiting as well as prisoners playing various games. It may even decrease fights in the shower room or holding area. However, running three galleries of inmates now takes three times the amount of time. Once this week my cellmate did not leave for a shower until 10 p.m.

Waiting in the H.C.U. holding cage, I spoke again with Steve. He asked me if I got walloped betting on the Superbowl. Sometimes I will bet up to $100 in commissary on the game but not this year. He told me how his cellmate had a bet with a man for $50 but this other prisoner had "chickened out" the day of the game. After the Seahawks scored a touchback on the first snap, however, the man had yelled down to him "game on." Chubby was not going for it though and said the bet was off. He cannot renege on a wager and then change his mind after his team scores. I told Steve the same person had spoken to me about betting, but I knew he was a "shady" or untrustworthy person.

In the dentist office, I met an older white woman with graying hair. She was friendly and very personable. In fact, she spoke to me almost the entire time she cleaned and polished my teeth. It was basically a monologue though because I could not often respond. A few times, I pulled out a suction tube so I could speak or comment. She was greatly looking forward to the Olympic games. I did not say so or was not able, but I thought the majority of the events were not even sports. I probably would watch the opening ceremony to see what message Vladimir Putin wanted to display to the world as well as to his own country. I may also watch the biathlon, ice hockey, and some figure skating if the women were attractive. In fact, after I wrote this post, I watched the pretty Russian girl, Yulia Lipnitskaya, skate. I do not think any of the women can compete with her for the individual gold metal competition.

When the dentist finished polishing my teeth, I asked her if it was possible that I be given a fluoride treatment. She said they do not do these but there was some in the paste she used. Then I said, "I suppose sealant is also out of the question". Again, I was told the prison does not do this and she seemed amused. Just having my teeth cleaned was probably a service the IDOC did not want to provide. I reasoned the dentist I saw four months ago was naive being new, and I was correct. Various treatments available to the public were inaccessible to prisoners despite their $5 fee. I imagine with the way the State of Illinois is racking up debt, prisoners are fortunate to get any dental care at all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Riddle of Steel -- Feb. 1, 2014

From copper to bronze and then into the Iron Age, the quest for the strongest metal has captivated man. It is believed the riddle of steel was first solved in China some 2,500 years ago, although small groups across Eurasia also learned its secret. Steel was so coveted, tribes would go to war for it. Entire villages were slaughtered just for the metal which could wield more power than gold. This is the era where the fantasy adventure Conan the Barbarian begins, however, the movie is mainly not about the forging of iron but of men. The character, Conan, played by a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, endures through captivity, great hardship, brutality, and sorrow. His tribulations rather than weakening him only made him stronger and more resolute. During my struggles I have learned the riddle of steel and I think society at large could as well.

Sunday, I did not leave the confines of my cage. Over the two decades I have spent in prison I know how to constructively preoccupy my time without any outside stimuli. In fact, at Stateville, I prefer the solitude. However, at about 9 p.m., I turned on my television just in time to see the band Metallica take the stage at the Grammy's. It was not the same group I remember as a child, but they played a song I knew all too well from their satirically labeled album "And Justice for All." The song is called "One" and it greatly resonates with how I feel.

I can't remember anything
Can't tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
this terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up I can not see
That there's not much left of me
Northing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me

Back in the womb its much too real
in pumps life that I must feel
but can't look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I'll live
fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me

Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute Horror
I cannot live, I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

 Often I have thought of killing myself and have even sought out death rather than living in prison. The brutality and physical pain I have been subjected to has been only a small part of my suffering. The real horror was being condemned to a slow death in captivity and the increasing oppression which followed. Similar to the soldier in this song, it is life after the war that I loathe and that torments me. After a land mine had blown away most of his body, he finds himself paralyzed. His injuries and the pain from them are extreme but what is worse is being fully cognizant and realizing he was doomed to suffer a wretched and miserable existence void of all meaning and joy indefinitely.

There is little difference to me from being behind the wall of a maximum security penitentiary and being bed bound. However, over two decades of incarceration has only made me more bitter, angry, and callous. In the lakes of fire, I have burned until there only remains a hot ingot of metal. Most of the soft carbon has been seared away and then hammered out on an anvil. My prosecutor described me to the jury as being cold and unfeeling. Purportedly, I let the victim go to his death and he sought to impress upon them my indifference to gain a conviction unsupported by criminal statute or law. I was never told Dean Fawcett was going to be killed, however, if the assistant states attorney thought my eyes looked soul less then, he should peer into them now. Indeed in another 20 years, he may only see the black hollow sockets of a skull.

Before I went to sleep Sunday night, I stared out into the blackness outside the cell house. Through the dingy windows, I could see snow blowing. A light off the side of the monolith prison building where over a thousand men were entombed alive reflected off the gusting white flakes. In the morning, there was not only a significant amount of snow built up but temperatures below zero. The prison was placed on lockdown and there was an announcement that there would be no movement. Even an inmate who yelled to guards that he needed to take a blood test before going out for a procedure at an outside hospital was told "no."

Later in the day I was surprised to be told to get ready for an in-house sick call appointment. Apparently, although there was no movement outside, prisoners could see a visiting nurse inside. Despite this, I was put in handcuffs and locked in the cell house holding cage for an hour. Being handcuffed and confined is a regular part of prison, however, I have never been accustomed to the bondage and loss of freedom. Fortunately, I was not crammed in the cage with numerous other convicts and waited alone, although cells of men were only feet away. I heard their complaints of being cold and could see them bundled up from head to toe. There was a draft of frigid air on the lower floor, but cold with a sentence of LWOP seemed insignificant.

A counselor stopped by the cage and asked how I was doing. I do not like these broad questions but appreciated his thoughtfulness and or possible concern. I am not used to kindness in prison and am generally skeptical of motives or sincerity. The nurse was also friendly and spoke to me as if I was just any other patient in society rather than another condemned prisoner. Reality quickly was reinforced, however, when I noticed the multitude of cameras installed last year had been connected with cables. The administration now can have almost omnipresent power. How Americans can acquiesce to Big Brother developments outside these walls I will never understand. I have been repressed for over two decades yet it is society that has forgotten what liberty is.

For lunch, I ate a tuna fish sandwich while listening to the Rush Limbaugh show. I cared less about the Grammy's and after listening to the Metallica song "One" had again turned off my TV. However, the talk show host informed me of some of the decadence which occurred on the program that I had missed. Apparently, the Grammy's were not just about music but promoting degenerate values. Homosexual weddings were presided over by Queen Latifa and Madonna. Incredible how much American culture has been debased since I was a child. Russia may still be fiscally and politically restrained from its years under communism, but kudos to Vladimir Putin for not allowing homosexuality to be glorified in his country even as it is about to host the Olympics.

Another day went by without me watching any television until the evening. Yet again I was disappointed to find another disagreeable program. This season's Bachelor on ABC features a man I cannot relate to. Although he was purported to say there should never be a homosexual bachelor, Juan Pablo does not seem to be a very masculine person. He seems to be a very average person with few admirable attributes. Despite this, the women on the program appear to like him and in this episode eagerly sought out kisses. The bachelor mostly rebuffed them except for a mongrel with disjointed Picassoesque features. I told my cellmate if the producers were so set upon a Hispanic bachelor, they could have at least picked the man who does commercials for Dos Equis and is proclaimed to be the world's most interesting man amongst other things. He replied that the man is not real and only an actor. I said I tend to think this show is fake anyway and went on to imitate the voice of the man in the commercials, "I don't always drink, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis."

Tuesday was another frigidly cold day to again make global warming believers scratch their heads. Yard was subsequently cancelled as were all activities. Confined to my cell for a third straight day, I began my routine as I regularly do. After a vigorous workout, I bathed from the sink and then washed clothes in the toilet. I had many more clothes to wash this time because laundry bags had not been picked up and apparently will not for some time. I was initially told a pipe in the laundry building broke and thereafter the washing machines were not working.

Prisoners were excited earlier when they heard chicken dumplings were going to be served. However, I think they changed their minds when it was brought to their cells. I have eaten chicken dumplings before my arrest and this was nothing close. It appeared kitchen workers just dumped entire chickens into large cauldrons to be boiled. After the bones, gristle and meat separated, it was all scooped out for prisoners to enjoy. The meal was disgusting and later when I watched Conan the Barbarian, I remarked to my cellmate that it was the same green soup of boiled human bodies served to the followers of Thulsa Doom except it was made of chickens.

President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address and I watched it despite how repugnant I find his Marxist rhetoric. He continues to pitch his snake oil to the American public with the hopes they will all succumb to it eventually. Obama does not have the imposing physical presence or voice James Earl Jones had, however, he does have a sorcery of words. Like Thulsa Doom, his oratory skills have had a hypnotic effect on the masses. Many fervent followers are misled by his illusive utopian visions, ideas, and dreams which are laced with poison. Many of his goals are meant to undermine the Constitutional Republic and the values of its forefathers. Limited government, rugged individualism, and freedom are to be replaced with socialism and a ruling class similar to the politburo. Rather than a meritocracy which promotes self independence and strength, he seeks a nanny state with people dependent on government. President Barack Obama does not believe in the riddle of steel. He believes in seducing the public so they can be his servants at his "Temple of Doom" where they can partake in debauchery and eat his green head soup.

After the president spoke I listened to Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers give the Republicans' response. I was disappointed that she was chosen simply because she was a woman and not her ability to deliver a powerful message of opposition. Not only did I dislike the gender politics but the catering to the people who believed in "the right to live." I too oppose abortion, however, to exalt yourself for having a child with Downs Syndrome was despicable. For the rest of that child's life, he or she will have to be tended to and suffer. In ancient Sparta, the righteous thing to have done would be to immediately crush its skull or toss it off a cliff. However, in today's twisted modern society that would be considered murder, although nearly a million healthy babies are killed within the U.S. every year in utero and this is just fine.

Wednesday, I got to listen to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn give his state of the state speech. It was mainly a campaign opportunity for him to rally his Democratic base and paint a very rosy picture. Like Obama, he called for a minimum wage hike to $10 an hour, although he lacked the president's oratory skills in deception. Increases to the minimum wage may sound nice to low income earners, but it only distorts the free market causing prices of goods and services to rise while reducing employment or moving business out altogether. Quinn failed to mention that Illinois has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the country and there is expected to be a shortfall of state revenue of between $1.5 and $3 billion at the end of the fiscal year. Nothing also was said if the governor plans to continue the 67% tax increase which was claimed to be temporary so the state could clean up its massive debt, although this never occurred. Clearly, Illinois has a spending problem, but it would be unwise for any Democratic governor to talk about cuts before an election. Explaining the riddle of steel to constituents does not go over well particularly amongst liberals and dependents on government.

Thursday morning, my neighbor Leprechaun began tapping on the side of my cell with a plastic mirror. He was interrupting me, but I went to see what he wanted. He told me the movie Conan the Barbarian was on the weekly DVD list and would be played later that day. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the LTS supervisor asking him to rent the film. The midget next door seemed envious that he responded to my request, however, unlike him and many other prisoners I have never written him before and I probably never will again. To watch Conan the Barbarian uncut with all its brutality was all I wanted.

Close to noon for the first time in the week I left my cell to go to the gym. I happened to notice the lieutenant on the way out the door and briefly stopped to ask him if he could call the laundry department to get the clothes prisoners turned in two weeks ago. He said he was already way ahead of me but thanks for telling him how to do his job. He went on to say if I ever needed advice about how to be an inmate just let him know. I tend to think he was just trying to be funny. I did not know and did not have any words for him at the time.

The gym is on the other side of the penitentiary grounds. It was a long frigidly cold walk particularly without my jacket. Gusts of wind also picked up snow which lashed against me. At the gym, I improvised to use the broken machine weights. I was determined to work out regardless of my circumstances. After I did all I could with the equipment, I did calisthenics and ran. My cellmate joined me doing push-ups and although I did sets of 50 with my feet elevated, he struggled with regular ones. I put my foot on his back and pushed him down to the floor. I needed to teach him the riddle of steel. He was getting too soft. Throughout the gym period, I thought about the struggles and adversary of Conan the Barbarian. I knew the movie and every scene by heart.

Laundry bags had been returned when rec lines came back to the cell house. After dusting the snow off my sweatshirt, I yelled down to the lieutenant, "Good job on the laundry" and gave him the thumbs up sign. I was trying to be patronizing after what he had said earlier. His sarcastic mood seemed to have abated and he was to eventually ask if I was staying out of trouble. I do not know what kind of trouble I could get into being in my cell most of the time or how it could be any worse than being damned to a protracted death in prison. If I were to kill ten people, I would still have LWOP and be in a cage.

After a brief mid afternoon nap, I waited anxiously for the DVD to be played on the prison's cable system. Conan the Barbarian was one of my favorite films, and I still recall when I first watched it as a child with my father in the mid 1980s. The film was to have a strong impact on me and continues this day to be inspiring. When the movie began, I was riveted to my television screen. Friedrich Nietzsche was quoted, "What does not kill me, only makes me stronger," and then the forging of a sword was dramatically depicted. It was the tribe's ability to make quality steel and weapons which made it a target of Thulsa Doom and his army. They butchered everyone and sold off Conan who was a boy to toil in slavery. He was shown pushing a mill in circles until all the other slaves perished.

From years of hard labor, Conan became a muscular young man. He was sold yet again to a person who wanted him to be a gladiator. Initially, he did not know how to fight, yet he was forced to learn. After many victories, his owner paid for him to be taught by experts making him even more lethal. Eventually, the man who bought him had made more money than he could ever spend and he cannot even find other opponents. Out of pity, he released Conan who had been a captive most of his life.

The skilled warrior and former slave did not know what to do with his freedom and he wandered until chased into a tomb by wolves. Inside, he found a sword amongst the dead. The sword gave him purpose and he sought out those who killed his entire clan. Over the years, Thulsa Doom had created a huge cult following. His followers traveled hundreds of miles to serve him. They were a lost, delusioned people spellbound by the sorcerer. The hippies had been misled to believe in a nihilistic, utopia and followed him blindly. Conan almost single handedly killed his entire army before going to Thulsa Doom's temple and beheading him. The masses were finally free from their spell and Conan had his revenge.

Learning the riddle of steel has served me well all these years. I do not know if I could have persevered all this time without it. I have lived a cruel, brutal, and austere existence and will most likely continue to do so for some time, if not until my death. It is doubtful the governor will ever take pity on me and a successful legal challenge of my conviction in the courts is probably almost as unlikely particularly without a good attorney. Nations, empires, and entire civilizations can remain powerful for thousands of years forged in steel. However, time will eventually bend and break the strongest men.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Week of Back Pain -- Jan. 27, 2014

Since December, I have been requesting that my prescriptions be renewed. One of the medications I take is Indomethacin which is an NSAID similar to ibuprofen, but more potent. The drug helps relieve the sciatic and lower back pain I experience from two crushed lumbar disks. Not surprisingly the requests I submitted were ignored and I went through my supply of pills despite rationing them. For the last couple of weeks I struggled to exercise and occasionally moved about like a cripple. I have endured over 20 years of imprisonment yet the physical pain added to my misery. My already unhappy life is made worse and the bitterness I feel being wrongfully convicted deepens.

In the IDOC, most medications are given to prisoners in cardboard sheets rather than little pill bottles. The sheets have clear plastic bubbles where the pills are contained and can be popped out from the back side. On the top is information such as the name of the prescribing doctor, inmate's name, and when the prescription expires. Noticing my prescription expired the first week of January, I began to fill out medical request forms in December to see a doctor. From prior experience, I knew how slow the Health Care Unit was to make appointments. By mid-January, I had turned in 5 requests and still had yet to receive a pass to the HCU. I was considering filing a complaint, but prison grievances are a joke.

Before the NFC and AFC championship games the Sunday before last, I was determined to work out despite how my back felt upon waking. I began by stretching for ten minutes but this did not help much without an anti-inflammatory. The intense callisthenic and cardio routine I do nearly every day I expected to be a particularly grueling challenge, and it was. I had to push myself past periods of great pain and the muscles around my spine constricting. A few times I almost lost my balance and cracked my head on the steel and concrete surfaces which surrounded me. It is difficult when not in any pain to do a P90X type workout without hitting any objects let alone when your back feels like seizing up.

After exercising, I again stretched my spine to loosen it up and reduce the pain. I still had many activities to do before being able to sit back and watch the big games. The first of these were bathing and washing clothes. For most people, this meant just taking a shower and tossing some clothes into a washing machine. However, for me it meant a 2-3 hour ordeal. I had to bathe out of a sink which dribbles out water and then after scrubbing out my toilet with soap and disinfectant, using it as a basin to wash clothes by hand. Occasionally, I will use my small property box but the toilet still had to be cleaned because this was the quickest way to rinse clothes.

Throughout the playoffs, I have done amazingly well picking teams with the spread, but my luck was at an end. A gambling addict who has repeatedly pestered me throughout the football season gave me 6 points to take the New England Patriots. I thought the team had a chance to win the game outright let alone for them to lose by a touchdown or greater. Unfortunately, their offense sputtered and they lost by 10. Part way through the second game, the same prisoner offered me another wager. He liked the Seattle Seahawks and was willing to give me a field goal to take the opposing team. The San Francisco 49ers were already up 10 to 0 and thus I agreed. "Double or nothing" I told a prison cell house worker to relay back to him. The 49ers gave up their lead ultimately and lost 17 to 23 and I thus lost double. I sent him a bag of commissary goods and then went to sleep. I did not mind losing a little store and was pleased to lay down taking pressure off my spine.

Monday, I waited for my cellmate to leave before exercising. With him gone, I had the entire cell to workout in rather than just a small space near the bars. Furthermore, I thought it was considerate of me so he did not have to be bothered with the noise I made or any body odor. I use a deodorant but I doubt this is 100% effective particularly in a little cubicle. Cellmates continually have to deal with not only each other's body odors but the smell of their shit and gas. Unlike in medium security prisons where men can leave into a day room, prisoners are trapped with their cellmate nearly 24 hours a day unless one or both have job details. Even prisoners with jobs will complain of their cellmates and this week I heard my neighbor, Hooch, gripe that his cellmate's gas was bad enough to peal the paint off the walls.

When my cellmate returned from chow and the prison store, he was disappointed I had not finished washing up. However, after working out, I shaved and then gave myself a haircut. Pushing myself through my exercise regimen was not easy nor was tapering my hair with beard trimmers and only a couple of small plastic mirrors to use. I have given up trying to find a prisoner at the barber school who can cut my hair properly. They sometimes are not even able to do a bald fade. My cellmate just had to wait by the bars to put his store away and go back to sleep. I took a nap myself after eating a lunch of salmon and uncooked Ramen noodles which were a substitute for crackers.

Monday night my choice of television shows was a Republican debate on PBS. This April, a primary will be held to choose a candidate to run against current Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. The election will have significant impact on the residents of the state but even more so on prisoners in the IDOC. Bruce Rauner is the current Republican front runner with his millions of dollars to spend on the campaign and message of breaking up politics as usual. However I do not know how effectual he will be in Springfield. Congressman Bill Brady may be a better choice, although he lost narrowly to Quinn four years ago.

Tuesday morning there were wind chills of -10 and yard was cancelled. Apparently, administrators did not want to be liable for any prisoners afflicted with frost bite. Ironically, though, they care little about men under their authority receiving adequate medical care. Health care passes were backlogged and grievances filed by prisoners for lack of medical treatment or mistreatment were systematically dismissed by the warden. Recently, I received a reply to a grievance I filed last year about yet another delay in prescribed medications. According to the warden and review board, my grievance was without merit because I finally did get the pills even if a month later.

At noon, my cell along with five others adjacent were searched. My cellmate was sleeping and I woke him up to walk downstairs into the cell house holding cage. In the cage were other prisoners whose cells were being searched along with a man I knew who lived on an upper gallery. I asked what he was there for and he explained he was just informed his grandmother died. The counselor had also offered him the use of a telephone to make a call. All my grandparents had passed away long ago and now I wondered when I would get news a parent had died.

For dinner I put these ruminations behind me. Actually, it was difficult having any deep thoughts during chow lines because of the crowds and noise. For pizza, nearly everyone in the cell house came out and they were louder and more rambunctious than usual. At a table in the chow hall, I pocketed my small slice of pizza and was bored listening to everyone talking over one another and about nothing of importance. I turned around to notice a long shoe lace dangling from the back of a cell house worker's jumpsuit. The shoe lace which went through a loop on his waist I tied around the underside of the stool he was sitting on. When guards shouted for prisoners to leave, he tried to get up but was stuck. I said to him, "Come on Little Johnny. It is time to go." Walking away with a stiff gait my cellmate told me I may not want to play around with my back in bad shape. I replied, "That's why I tied him down. He will be lucky to get out of that knot before we are back in our cells."

After returning from the chow hall, mail was passed out. I received 5 letters and 2 Christmas cards. All of the mail was post marked from mid-December. I looked at the cards but then put the other mail away to boil some chicken breast meat to use as a topping on my slice of pizza. While I ate my dinner, I watched the female Australian Open quarterfinals. Most prisoners at Stateville had ceased to watch the tennis tournament after Venus Williams and then her sister Serena lost. However, I did not care for either player and hoped Agnieszka Radwanska would contend for the win. I was pleased to see her smart and finesse play defeat Victoria Azaranka who was an ugly butch from Belarus.

My cellmate, as customary, slept through my morning workout on Wednesday. I have told him I will wait until later in the day if I am disturbing him, however, it seems he prefers to lay in his bed while I exercise and do other things. There is only so much space in the cell to share. Even when he sleeps late, we will oftentimes get in each other's way. I do not like playing the game Twister and can get annoyed or angry when he is intentionally crowding me. Before lunch, he was getting ready to go out and repeatedly invaded my space before I punched him in the gut. I did not hit him hard, just enough to express that I had enough of his antics. He said, "Listen old man. You are in no condition to fight" referring to my back pain and the way I have been hobbling around the cell. He is a fan of the movie Rambo and so I quoted a part of the film saying, "I was trained to ignore pain."

Outside the cell on the gallery waiting for the chow line to leave, a guard recognized me. He asked if I was the same person he once took out on hospital writs to get cortisone injections. Yes, that was me but I had not had one in a couple of years. He went on to say I had to look friendlier and show some emotion. It was no wonder the jury found me guilty despite how there was no connection to me and the crime. If I ever get another trial, he advised faking some emotion just so I looked more human. Another guard who is a regular in the cell house commented that maybe I did not have anything to be happy about. There was probably some truth in what both of them said.

I was reading over some of the mail I received the following day when a nurse dropped off a couple of sheets of pills. I told her I was surprised the doctor finally wrote out a new prescription. She replied that they were behind due to the holidays and winter weather. Lockdowns and many medical personnel not coming to work were causing delays. I thought this may slow my prescription to an extent but not well over a month.

Oddly, later I was given an in-house sick call pass for Friday. I assumed it was in response to the repeated Health Care request forms I filled out despite having finally had my medications renewed. Periodically, nurses will come to the cell houses and act as intermediaries for doctors. Stateville only has a couple of doctors and they spend time both at the N.R.C. Unit and maximum-security prison. The nurses do not get paid nearly as much and can address many health issues themselves. If they cannot, they will schedule an appointment with a doctor.

Friday afternoon I spent an hour in the cell house holding cage waiting to see the nurse. While in there, men in the shower area began to yell the water had been turned off. They were furious because it had stopped abruptly and they still had soap on themselves. Guards said they would look into the matter, but I heard someone say a pipe burst. There was no hot water in the cell house and even the central heating system seemed to not be working. Cool air was blowing out a vent I was standing by.

Eventually, my name was called and I walked through the sergeant's office to the first cell on the ground floor which served as a makeshift medical office. A friendly nurse greeted me and asked what she could do for me. I already had been re-prescribed my medications, but I wondered if the Zantac could be switched to Prilosec. The Zantac did not work well and I was concerned the NSAIDs I took were eating away at my stomach lining. Furthermore, Zantac seemed to have undesirable side effects the Prilosec did not. She said she would see what could be done but Prilosec was no longer on Wexford's pharmaceutical list.

Earlier today I spent another hour in the cell house holding cage in handcuffs this time. The prison was on lockdown due to the extreme cold and purported lack of staff. While in the cage, I spoke with Fat Pat who was in a cell directly across from me. He and all his neighbors were dressed heavily and some even wore jackets and insulated hats. The heat had been fixed as well as whatever hot water pipe broke, but temperatures outside were below zero and a draft of cold air was rushing in. A major came by to take temperature readings and I do not know what the thermometer read but it felt like it was in the 40's on the lower floor.

In the sergeant's office talking to the nurse was "Lunchbox," an intellectually challenged prisoner with a litany of other problems. I said to him, "I have been waiting all this time for you?" Before he replied I told him there was no cure for his ailments. To the nurse I joked and asked if the retard was giving her any problems. She assured me no and we walked back to the quasi-medical office. The nurse had done some research on the types of stomach acid inhibitors. Prilosec was a blocker while Zantac just reduced some acid. A drug which was on Wexford's list called Protonix was much stronger and apparently they all had the same side effects. She asked if I was willing to try it. I agreed and thanked her for her time.

The health care at Stateville is deplorable. Wexford and the IDOC continue to be more concerned with costs than providing rudimentary care to a growing elderly and sick population of prisoners. My inability to get a simple prescription in a timely fashion is only a microcosm of the pervasive problems in the prison's health care system. I can understand to a degree the neglect to treat convicts particularly in max security. However, many prisoners are vastly over sentenced or prosecuted. Some are even innocent. Fortunately, there are also some intelligent and caring medical staff who try to do their best in a less than ideal place.