When we are not on lockdown, the prisoners usually get two "recreation" periods a week. Rec is about 2 hours long, and consists of groups of prisoners being herded into one of three yards or the gym. "Big Yard" is Stateville's south yard, and favored by most prisoners. The Big Yard is literally big with plenty of grass, a quarter mile running track, basketball and handball courts, tables, telephones, and weights. The other yards are small, and consist of just two basketball courts surrounded by fence and razor wire. It is very cramped and there is nothing much to do but play basketball. I rarely ever go to the small yards.
It was nice to be on the south yard after being confined to my cell for a month. The last time we had "big yard" or any "recreation" was in February. The best thing about south yard is the space. I look upon the grass in such a way that I can avoid seeing the fencing, razor wire, gun tower, prison buildings, or any of the prisoners I must live with. For a few moments, I will pretend that I am alone and free.
The weights and benches on the yard are in very poor condition. There are also not many of them so prisoners must share by taking turns, or at times, arguing about them. Four benches made of welded steel and bolted wood, a steel incline bench with no seat, an unstable preacher bench made for a midget, and parallel bars make up all the south yard's equipment. Along with this are about 30 bars with weights welded onto them. These bars are not weights you would find at a health club, but scrap iron exposed to the elements. They are rusted, some are bent, uneven, or broken. There are no free weights or dumbbells to prohibit, or at least discourage, prisoners from using them as weapons.
Like the weights, the telephones are in the same shape. There are eight telephones, but only two of them work. We are allowed to use a phone brought to our cells, and I almost never use the yard phones so it is not much of a loss for me or possibly for any one else.
After walking the track for awhile by myself, I went to the weight pile. I avoided any crowd of people and used weights or equipment not being used or by only a few. I was careful not to aggravate a herniated disk in my lower back. My back pain can be severe, but I pushed myself through it. Before working out, I had chewed a few strong anti-inflammatories, but even so, I paid the price later for exercising. I don't regret it, and today was a relatively good day.