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Friday, February 12, 2010

Guard Stabbing -- January 18, 2010

Last Monday, Internal Affairs finally gave back my two property boxes. The boxes were so light that I had an easy time picking them up, and put them on a cart to bring to my cell. I told a polite man from Internal Affairs that I did not really need a cart, now that they had pilfered all my property. I had spoken with him in the past, and he was aware that I have a back injury. I was told, more or less, that it was better to be safe than sorry, so I took his advice, although I believe his overt kindness was due to how his colleagues had robbed me.

In my cell, I looked at my near empty box. I was unhappy, bitter, and felt powerless against a system that has repeatedly treated me poorly and unfairly. My prosecution, trial, sentence, and nearly 17 years of incarceration never had any semblance of justice. I have never had the illusion that life was fair, or had an expectation that it should be, but despite this, it has not prevented me from a developing a deep animosity. Having hundreds of dollars in commissary taken from me in comparison to an unjust conviction and a protracted death sentence is minuscule, but it is like the frosting on top of the cake. With resentment, I organized the little bit of property I had remaining in my boxes.

Early in the evening, commissary was passed out in my cell house. I finally received the gym shoes I have been ordering for months. I was pleased to get them at last, although not with the price. The plastic and leather running shoes cost $53.43 and I knew they were made in some Asian country for a few dollars. Not only was Nike making an exorbitant profit, but the Illinois Department of Corrections was getting their mark-up as well.

The gym shoes I bought will not be used until the summer, or possibly not until next year. The shoes I have now will serve my needs for many months to come. I bought the shoes now because this design of shoe may not be offered in the future. Furthermore, I like to plan and prepare far ahead of time. I am a frugal person, and possibly I tend to hoard property as well. As I wrapped and sealed my new shoes for storage in my box, I thought about those at I.A. who say I must prove my purchases. I will have to save the receipt for a long time.

To get my mind away from the property confiscated from me, and prison in general, I turned on my television and put on my headphones. A new series of "The Bachelor" was on ABC. This one was subtitled "On the Wings of Love" because the bachelor in this program was an airplane pilot. I did not appreciate how scripted the show began, and in the first episode I definitely saw images from the movie "Top Gun." However, the bachelor seems like someone I can relate to, to some degree at least, and they gave him a better set of females to chose from than previous shows.

I was completely absorbed in that program when I noticed numerous guards and a line of inmates being escorted to the cell house holding cage. I put my headphones down to find out what was going on. From inmates yelling on the galleries, I learned that a guard was assaulted by a prisoner, and apparently he was beat up quite severely. I could not understand why half of the gallery above me was sent into the holding cage. I could not see all those people being involved, or even fitting in the cage. I got my mirror and tapped it on my neighbor's bars to get his attention. I asked him what happened. He said, "Where have you been? Will just got his ass beat on 4 gallery." (4 gallery is the second level, and although I am on the first floor, my gallery is called 2 gallery.) I asked him what else he knew, and he said, "Well, I know he was body-slammed, as some inmate who witnessed the incident upstairs said so."

There were a lot of guards and lieutenants moving back and forth on my gallery. However, I never saw who attacked the guard, or the guard himself. I assumed they must have come off the front stairs rather than the back. Not long thereafter, I saw the back half of four gallery being led back to their cells in handcuffs. A week later, it is unclear to me why these inmates were moved. Possibly, a quick search of their cells was conducted to locate a weapon.

Since the attack occurred, I have learned that the guard was not just beaten, but stabbed. A few guards who worked that night have informed me that the victim was stabbed multiple times, including in the face. One guard told me he had over 20 stab wounds, but that must be a lie. The victim was able to walk to the hospital on his own. Although he was seen leaving the bathroom shaken up and clearly injured, he was not noticeably bleeding. A very crude and small makeshift shank must have been used. Had any well-made knife been used, that guard would have been dead, or at a minimum, bleeding profusely. In the shower yesterday, someone joked that the weapon must have been a dull pencil. The guard who was attacked stayed in the hospital overnight. He was treated mostly for scrapes and bruises, but also did get some stitches.

I am not surprised by the exaggeration of the guard's injuries. Not only do stories become more melodramatic the more they are told, but it is a tactic by correctional officers to make their lives or injuries more dangerous or worse than they actually are. I have seen inmates who bump into guards get written up for a violent assault, and then sent to Pontiac segregation. This is done as a cowardly and petty way for guards to retaliate or seek workmen's compensation, but also to support the union's demand for more staff, money or benefits. At a time when state budgets are being reviewed to reduce spending, the union is fighting even harder for their workers and to maintain the status quo. That fight is done with manipulated data, propaganda, and heavy lobbying in Springfield. The truth is that this is a maximum security prison where violence and staff assaults will occur. Truth is also that Stateville is well overstaffed, and could be run just as safely with far fewer guards, lieutenants, and administrators.

A member of my family came to see me on Thursday, four days after the incident. I was told that some news agency had reported the guard was stabbed at the prison's commissary. Anyone who has family here knows, however, that inmates do not go to the store, but have their orders brought to them. The incident occurred while commissary was being passed out, not at the commissary. In order to give us our bags, inmates' doors are opened. This is when the guard was attacked. I am not certain about the attacker's reasons, but most likely it had something to do with his store. Something was wrong with the attacker's order, and he was refusing his store. Inmates at Stateville have been angry about how infrequently they are allowed to shop. Lockdowns and commissary workers' intentional delays to pressure the administration to give overtime has caused cell houses to only shop once or twice a month. If an inmate's order was incorrectly filled, or missing a number of items, it is understandable that he would become upset. However, it is not understandable for that inmate to take out his anger on someone who had nothing to do with the mistake, especially Will.

When I heard which guard was attacked, I was upset and saddened. Officer Williams, whom those who know him call "Will," was one of the better correctional officers at Stateville. I have known Will for a few years, and he has always been friendly, polite, and respectful toward me. It is nice to have, on occasion, a guard who will treat you like a person, and not just another stereotypical "offender" (as we are now officially identified as), or worse yet, an animal. Once Will spoke on my behalf when a cell house lieutenant was thinking of walking me to segregation for taking his hat. The scull cap was just laying seemingly abandoned or dropped by someone on the walk. I picked it up, not knowing it was his, and later was patted down with it in my pocket. Officer Williams performed his duties as a correctional officer while simultaneously being reasonable, fair, and personable with the inmates he held power over. It is a shame that he was assaulted, and I hope he is well and will return to B House.

On my way out of the visiting room Thursday, a guard told me a story of a lieutenant who was indiscriminately stabbed to death in the 1990s on his last day on the job. From what I was told, this lieutenant was well liked by both inmates and staff. However, when a gang put out a hit on another lieutenant who did not show up for work that day, the orders changed to stab any white shirt available. The innocent lieutenant, who had never wronged the gang, tragically happened to be in the new target. I do not know the circumstances of why the guard was attacked last week, but I tend to believe that Will had not instigated the incident.

There is a tendency for guards and prisoners alike to have an "us versus them" mentality. Often prisoners are the subject of abuse, mistreatment, and oppression by guards. Petty and unreasonable rules made by the administrators who have no practical experience, are regularly enforced by automatons at Stateville, and elsewhere. Prisoners' lives at maximum-security prisons are already miserable, but can be made worse by mean and unjust correctional officers. Possibly, many guards can justify such acts and bad attitudes. Some of the worst scum are incarcerated at Stateville. No doubt, some of the prisoners here deserve the worst treatment, and should dwell in a hell-like place, or perhaps be executed to save the state money. However, not every prisoner is a worthless, unrehabilitatable, or irredeemable convict. Not all convicts are even guilty of the crimes that have brought them here. Likewise, not every guard is an asshole bent on making prisoners' lives miserable. Many wrongs have been heaped upon me in the last 17 years, and I cannot deny my anger. Despite my feelings, I can see those whose employment is my captivity, on an individual basis. There are good, and there are bad guards. Will was one of the better ones. Get well soon, Will.

February 4, 2010 -- On Monday, the prison was taken off lockdown status for the incident involving the assault of Officer Williams. Since then, I have been able to speak to and hear conversations of others. At the chow table, I learned the guard was initially stabbed with a pen, but his attacker let go of it and began to just beat the guard with his fists. A man at my table said that much of the incident happened in front of his cell, and he did not see the inmate with a pen at all. He saw the guard body-slammed to the ground, and pummelled with punches. From what he said, Officer Williams gave little defense or fight. Since we have been off lockdown, I have also learned the guard attacked was not well liked. From sources of inmates on the upper galleries, Officer Williams could be disrespectful and a "bitch," to quote some. A few prisoners mentioned a time last year when an inmate had been subdued on the ground, and Officer Williams continued to stomp on him. I have been surprised by what I have heard others say about the guard who has always been polite, fair, and friendly towards me. Possibly I was one of the few inmates who had a good relationship with him. Regardless, I hope Will recovers quickly.

2 comments:

  1. Remember Sgt. Hosey? Great guy, respected not only by staff but inmates as well. So here I am trying to be fair and stuff then bastards jumped Hosey for no reason. He spent a year rehabilitating and when he was back he was not Hosey we al knew. Now you know how good, decent guards turn out to become bastards ten times worse than the inmates. When we heard of trouble our heatrs raced and we all felt fury and desire to crack heads open...survival instinct I think. After the Hosey incident Joliet was a little less nicer...I understand guards behave rude and stuff for no reason but it is the inmates who turned good guards into assholes. After Hosey's incident I never looked at an inmate the same and gone was my small-talk and, with great effort, I managed not to mess with the inmates who were clearly out of the fighting business. Yeap, it was us v them and is still is...and that's why kicking continues a few more minutes after the inmate is cuffed...animal instinct in guards waken by some violent inmate and now someone else will pay as well. Paul, you are smart, I tell this for other readers not for you...Correctional Academy spits out good people...prisons though is slowly changing them from State employees into "stick together and survive gang" and no amount of reasoning will convince me guards are wrong here. After all...we're humans not robots and act on instincts. (Remember Major Johnson? No one more fair than this guy yet, during a West Seg fight he really let loose and pummeled some motherfcker into lala land...us v them syndrome. I respected Johnson some more after that...the syndrome I guess...

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    Replies
    1. Sgt. Hosey was an assistant warden at Stateville several years ago. He was not liked by inmates. Possibly, hostilities in the past changed him as it seems to do other staff and inmates alike. Hosey was sent to NRC to be the head warden before retiring recently. I do not like the "them vs. us" mentality and think of staff on an individual basis.

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