Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The prison went on lockdown four times during this week. The first three times, we were only on lockdown briefly. However, it appears that this one will be for a long period of time.
On the 23rd, a couple of men fought in the shower. The shower is the ideal place for people to fight, or attack someone. A line of inmates, from half to a third of a gallery, is run to the showers at the same time. Not long ago, guards were lazy and ran an entire gallery at one time. There are not enough shower stalls for everyone to take a shower at the same time. When this is done, and if you do not get a shower, you must wait until someone leaves. The two shower rooms only have a total of 14 showers, and two are usually broken. The shower rooms are not that large, and have low ceilings. If I were a few inches taller, my head would hit the ceiling. These rooms are locked, and the guards leave to tend to other business. At times, an inmate can be trapped in there for up to an hour.
The fight occurred between two prisoners on a different gallery than mine, but from the same cell house. I did not learn about it until later. Apparently, the fight in the shower did not resolve their differences, or injure either man too severely. Chow was run soon afterwards, and both men went out and began fighting in line. Guards were there to witness this fight. The man in the gun tower fired a warning shot, and the fight was quickly broken up. Both men were handcuffed and taken to segregation.
My gallery is the last to be fed in this cell house, and guards brought our meals to our cells. The prison had been placed on lockdown, and all details were brought back to their respective cells. When a rifle is shot, even just as a warning, it is standard procedure for at least that cell house to be placed on lockdown. However, the new warden decided it was unnecessary, and after a few hours, inmates were let back out of their cells. A guard informed me that the fight was more like a square dance, and possibly that is why the warden cancelled the lockdown.
On Wednesday, when I returned from the dinner meal, I witnessed an odd occurrence. A female guard rushed past me, and ran into the lieutenant's office. I saw her through the window. She was clearly upset, and talking to the lieutenant in an emotional way. My gallery was locked up, as we normally are, but a little later the sergeant came by collecting phones. I was told we were on lockdown, and that some inmate on the fourth floor had spit in the guard's face.
I did not think the matter was that serious, although in Illinois' prisons, they now consider spitting to be an assault. A few hours later, I heard the Orange Crush special tactical unit marching into the building, and chanting like they were in the military. I thought bringing in the Orange Crush Team to ransack cells and intimidate prisoners was overblown, and I was not looking forward to being handcuffed, manhandled, and returned back to my cell hours later to find all my possessions thrown about. However, I soon realized the squad was only headed up to the fourth floor. The prisoner who spit on the guard refused to go to segregation, and the Orange Crush Team was here only as an extraction unit. The man quickly acquiesced to being handcuffed, and the guards stormed into his cell and hog tied him. He was then carried out to segregation. Workers were let out later that evening, and the lockdown was called off.
The following morning, I thought there would be standard operations. However, a guard came by and told my cellmate that he might as well undress out of his state blues because the prison was on lockdown, and he would not be going to the barber shop to work. Initially, we assumed it was due to the incident the previous day, but we eventually learned that the administration called a lockdown because they believed there was a shortage of staff. Either a number of guards did not show up for work, or were being used as writ officers to escort people to court. Regardless, I find it difficult to believe there were not enough guards to run the prison. There is an overabundance of guards, lieutenants, majors, and assistant wardens. I was not happy to hear of this excuse to put the prison on lockdown because I was expecting a visit that day. I hope my visitors did not travel to Stateville only to be turned away.
On the second shift, prison operations were returned to normal. Chow was run, and workers were let out. Friday morning, workers were also let out, and chow lines were run. I went out for the dinner meal, and while eating, I noticed a few lieutenants, a major and a nurse rush by with a stretcher outside the chow hall. A few other prisoners noticed as well, and we all knew something had happened, but we only knew that it happened in the Round House.
It was not long after when we saw a lieutenant being rushed the other way on a stretcher. He looked dazed, and his arm was dangling off the stretcher until someone took his hand. This lieutenant is nicknamed "Baywatch" by the inmates because he almost always wears mirror, or very dark, sunglasses. The sunglasses give him a cold, militant look, and most inmates think he is a mean person. My cellmate also does not like the man, and has told me this lieutenant once ordered him into a segregation cell with a semi-nutcase who was wearing no clothes. Personally, I have gotten along with him, and I tend to believe his cold look is his way of dealing with the bad elements within the prison. I have spoken to him on a few occasions, and he can be friendly on an individual, or one on one, basis. Nevertheless, at the table, I could tell prisoners were happy to see this man injured, and they looked with anticipation for their hero.
The "hero" was an average looking black man in a segregation jumpsuit. He was handcuffed behind his back, and was being escorted by a couple of guards from internal affairs. After he went by, some other lieutenants and guards rushed through the tunnel, and people assumed they were following to beat up the offender. Typically, inmates are beat up if they assault a guard, and sometimes quite brutally. A person next to me began to speak of the two zippers he had on his head from being beaten by guards.
We were in the chow hall for a very long time. The guards had left us in there alone, except for the man in the gun tower. The guards were obviously herding back in anyone outside their cells for a declared lockdown, and there probably was a stop to all prisoner movement for awhile. The people in the chow hall became restless, and even though I realized I would soon be locked in my cage for some time, I wanted to leave. It was noisy, and I was irritated by all the continuous and loud chatter. I turned away from my table, but there was no escaping it. Such is why I do not like going to chow. Finally, a guard opened up the chow hall gate, and we were let out. I wanted to quickly get back to my cell, but had to endure the slow movement of the herd.