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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Off Lockdown -- May 7, 2008

Today, my cell house finally came off "lockdown". Lockdown means that prisoners are in their cells 24/7 except for emergency sick calls. We are not allowed to use telephones or get commissary. After 48 hours, visitations are usually allowed, and after one week, we are allowed a shower. All lockdowns begin on a "level 1", but they can be brought down to a "level 4". A level 4 means we get full phone and commissary privileges. It also means that workers are allowed to go to their details, and health care passes are permitted.

During level 1 lockdowns, guards must pass out our meals, but on level 4, cell house workers must do this as well as clean up the galleries, which are often very dirty after being neglected for the most part. Guards seem to be happy when we come off a level 1 lockdown because they don't have to do the work that they think is lowly or beneath their status.

The prison was put on lockdown on April 14th when an inmate attempted to attack a sergeant. Although the incident took place on my gallery, I did not witness it. All I saw was the aftermath: a mob of guards on top of a prisoner, beating and kicking him. Even a guard who is friendly and you would not expect to act in such a way, was kicking the subdued inmate. After being beaten for several minutes, the handcuffed prisoner was quickly escorted to segregation and passed by my cell. He was moved so forcefully and so fast that his feet, for the most part, did not touch the floor. Possibly, he was not able to walk. He did not look in good shape and probably looked in worse shape before he finally got to his segregation cell.

From what I was told afterward, the inmate threw a punch at the sergeant and missing him, went to hit the lieutenant. The motivation for this attack is a mystery for he had just been moved to this cell house and never had contact with the 2nd shift sergeant nor the lieutenant before. I know the sergeant to be a fair and easy going man, but also a fan of mixed martial arts fighting. The inmate could have "bugged up". To "bug up" means to go crazy from the prison environment. I asked a guard who was involved why he thought the prisoner went after the sergeant, and he said, only half jokingly, that he probably did not get his meds. Normally, I would be suspicious of an inmate who attacked a guard for no reason, but in this case, I tend to believe it.

Stateville is often on lockdown, and some years I think we spent more time on lockdown status than not. So far this year we have been on lockdown 8 weeks out of 18. However, summer is approaching and for the last 3 years we have spent most, if not all, of our days in our cells. We were surprised to get off lockdown this morning. We were given no notice--it was just announced in the morning as: "regular operations." I was a little unsettled to try to adjust to being outside my cell, and the different routines. I don't like all the changes.


  1. Hello Paul,

    Quite a read.....I look forward to reading more of your blog. I spent many years in Stateville myself, although it seems our viewpoints differ when it comes to the guards & "inmates". I have to admit that I'm curious as to why you're in Stateville? Even if you've been there 16 years, you should be able to go elsewhere at this point.

  2. Guards seem to be happy when we come off a level 1 lockdown because they don't have to do the work that they think is lowly or beneath their status.

    You are wrong here. When the joint I was in went on lockdown inmates trasehd my gallery on purpose and start enjoying themselves in anticipattion of my cleaning it. Of course that I ignored the lassagna on the walls...but I did remind the happy inmates roaches will have a feast. they were not happy after that and the amount of trashing next day was almost inexistent.

    1. Yes, inmates sometimes intentionally trash the cell house while on lockdown, especially when they feel they have been treated unfairly. Guards will often ignore it allowing garbage and food to collect. Some inmates live in roach infested cells and they do not care if the bugs have extra food.


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