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Friday, June 25, 2010

Night Yard -- May 25, 2010

Today was my gallery's first night yard of the year. Throughout the year, yard is only run in the morning or afternoon. All inmates, with the exception of certain workers, are locked in their cells after 3 p.m. However, during the summer, yard lines are run on the second shift from the chow hall to almost 8 p.m. These yards are called "night yards" rather than evening yards because many years ago these lines were run later, and inmates were allowed outside till 10 p.m., well after it became dark. I still nostalgically remember these yards when you could watch the sun go under the wall, and see the moon and stars in the night.

Although night yard lines are run Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, a prisoner will only have an opportunity to go once every other week. There are 3 yards that are used at Stateville for general population inmates; one large and two small. Since the galleries of the cell houses are kept separate, it takes two weeks to run everyone to yard. Long ago, an entire cell house would go to the yard at the same time, and the small yards were not utilized. In fact, the small yards did not even exist for general population until this decade. Segregation inmates were the only ones to have these type of basketball court-sized concrete yards surrounded by fencing and razor wire back then.

Night yard is thought of as a special treat by many prisoners. Before the night yards begin to be run, there is much speculation and talk about when they will commence. Every administration begins night yards a little differently from their predecessor. Sometimes, night yard will not begin until after the official start of summer on June 21st, and it will last only till mid September. A couple of wardens did not run night yards at all. Last week, and over the weekend, I heard a number of rumors about night yard, and it was a well mentioned topic of conversation.

Yesterday, night yard was run for galleries 10, 8, and 6 in my cell house. Count did not check until late, and consequently feed and night yard lines were delayed. The upper galleries of men were anxious to get on the yard, and many of them rattled their doors or yelled from their cells at guards to get moving. It was disturbing to listen to all the commotion. However, after I returned from chow, the cell house was quiet. Until their return at 7:45, I read without my headphones on. Whenever I stay in from yard is a good time for me to enjoy silence, or at least minimal noise.

Earlier today, the count was cleared at 4:30, and chow lines were sent out soon thereafter. The lower galleries are customarily last to eat in the cell house. However, today we were first. The cell house and galleries that have night yard are always first to be fed. From the chow hall, they are sent to the three yards, and they stay outside until all the chow lines are run and secured in their cells.

It was very crowded in the chow hall. Many inmates who skip meals go to chow on days there is night yard. Prisoners are not permitted to go to night yard from the cell house and must go to chow first. One of the reasons I occasionally choose not to come out for meals is the most aggravating noise and crowds. However, today I had to endure it if I wanted to see the South yard.

Leaving the chow hall and entering the prison's main and central yard was a relief. I was glad to get away from all those obnoxious people. I quickly set upon a route away from the herd. I walked by myself for half the distance of the yard until a neighbor caught up with me. He is a rather sociable person, but I was not in a mood to talk, or have any company. I made a few responses out of courtesy, mostly, until we reached the far end of the yard.

At the fence, I took out the carton of milk and wrapped bread I had in my socks. I was planning to make a peanut butter and oatmeal sandwich when I returned to the cell house. I also needed the milk to eat the cereal I had in my cell. People may think a peanut butter and oatmeal sandwich is odd, but it tastes pretty good. I use a flavored packet of instant oatmeal as a spread instead of jelly.

Also at the fence, I took off my shoes and sweatpants. Underneath I was wearing shorts. For some reason I am unable to understand, prisoners are not permitted to wear shorts on the walk to yard, but can wear them once they get on the yard. I took my milk and bread and wound my sweatpants around them. I had brought out a bottle of water with me, and initially I just put this against the fence. However, when my neighbor placed his water bottle next to mine, I put my bottle inside my pants as well. I did not want my neighbor drinking out of my bottle accidentally or intentionally. My neighbor has sclerosis of the liver, that I suspect was caused by hepatitis C. He may deny it, but I was not going to take the chance. My neighbor has sores on his skin, and his complexion is almost as yellow as Bart Simpson's.

Yesterday, my gallery had gone to the gym, and while there, I worked on all my primary muscle groups: legs, chest, and back. Today, I had planned to use the free weights to target my shoulders and arms. I do not like using free weights to exercise my leg muscles because of my lower back injury. In the gym, I can use a leg press machine as well as a leg extension and curl machine that will not put pressure on my lumbar spine. On the yard, I would have to do squats, lunges, or steps, all requiring me to put weight on my shoulders.

I always come to yard with a plan of what I am going to do. I would like to make a specific regimen and order, but I do not because I dislike working out with certain people, or just too many people. Thus, if I go out with a general plan, I can just use whatever weights or equipment is not being used and work out by myself.

I began my exercise routine doing shoulder presses. The sun was strong, and I faced away from the light so I could see my shadow. In many gyms, mirrors are commonplace. While these are there mostly to focus people's attention on their bodies and encourage vanity, it is also done so body builders can perfect their form. Many people will not realize they are working out incorrectly, or unevenly. Even a person such as myself who has been lifting weights since their early teens can succumb to bad posture, and thus why I like to look at my shadow when exercising. Another reason I turn my back to the sun is to prevent sunburn. A lot of men will fail to consider the possibility of sunburn while out on the yard. Living in a cage with no sunlight for long periods of time, men will stay out on the yard for hours without any cover or protection. It is a common sight to see white men with severe burns in the summer, or even in the spring.

Although it was 5 p.m. and the sunlight was angled, it was very hot outside. The high temperature today was 90 degrees, and it was in the upper 80s when we first came out on the yard. The heat was accentuated by the fact the weight pile was on concrete or rock. I thought about summer days of upper 90s and 100s that were sure to come later in the year. Days so hot, soft hands are burned by gripping the steel barbells that have been baking in the sun all day. I told a Mexican man near me, who I know to be an Islamic radical sympathizer, I had had enough and was joining the Jihad. As I said this, I took off my tee shirt and made myself a turban of sorts which, tied around my head, fell back covering my shoulders and upper back.

My cellmate goes to far greater extremes to protect himself from sunburn. Even on the hottest days of the year, he will wear a sweatshirt, gloves and a skullcap to the yard. He looks like he is dressed for late fall or winter. Before he was my cellmate, I thought he was partly insane sweating profusely in all those winter clothes. But one day, I saw him after he had been outside in a sunny, but chilly spring day, and his face was sunburned fiercely where his skull cap did not cover. My cellmate's skin is so sensitive to sun exposure that he may be able to get a sunburn at night just off the reflective light of the moon.

Although I like to work out alone, on occasion people will want to join me, or follow my workout routine. Today, Dante, a black man who is in his middle thirties, but appears to be a mere 20 years old, wanted to be my workout partner. On prior occasions, he has sought me out, and I was not surprised to see him wanting to follow my lead again. As we were working out, he asked me for various advice, and even to write down a workout routine for him. I told him to send me some pencils that he was given at school, and I would consider the request. Pencils are not sold on the prison commissary, and I am always in need of them because of all the writing and chart-making I do.

After we finished a few exercises, I decided it would be a good time to run. This way, I would lose Dante's company. Dante plays basketball, and he would follow me all around the weight pile at least until he became distracted, but one thing he will not do is run the track. On the South yard is a quarter mile track I like to make use of. Some people will jog around the gym or in tight squares around the small yard. However, it is just too crowded and has too much commotion for me to enjoy. It is also simply just too difficult to truly run in these confined spaces because I do not jog.

The quarter mile track is ideal for me to time myself. Before I left the weight pile, I went to my Al Qaeda sympathizer and asked for his watch. With the band on my wrist I counted down the seconds to 6 p.m. at a crack in the asphalt, and then took off. This year, I am seeking to break a 5-minute mile. As I sped past a few acquaintances that were socializing as they walked around the track, one yelled at me, "Run, Forest, Run!" I paid him no mind, and continued to push myself. Exhausted, I finished my four laps in 5 minutes 45 seconds. Clearly, I still have a long way to go to break that 5 minute milestone.

After my run, I lifted the preacher curl bench from its spot next to the handball courts. Apparently, someone was using it as a seat while being a referee to the games, or just waiting his turn on the court. Most of the people who play handball are interestingly white. It is rare to see any of the black inmates there. They will play basketball, lift weights, cards, chess, or just socialize, but it has been a long time since I have seen one play handball. As I brought the preacher bench back to the weight pile, I noticed that there was not a single white man lifting weights. I looked for my cellmate in his winter gear, and saw that he was socializing near the guard tower. It did not bother me to be the only white man in the area. I have been alone quite often during my years in prison and the county jail. There are very few white people in the maximum-security institutions of Illinois. This is particularly true at Stateville.

The preacher bench is broken, like most of the equipment here. The part you lay your arms on to curl has come off from the part you sit on. I placed the two parts together and then used a strip of a garbage bag, which I happened to find, to tie the pieces together. It was not a perfect fix, but it was good enough to do some curls on so long as I placed my arms directly on the pad. Even before the preacher bench was broken, I had difficulty using it because it was too low to the seat. The equipment would be fine if I was a midget, but since I am 6'2", I must go onto my knees to use it. I wish I could use the equipment I hear is available at private gyms these days. However, this is probably not in my future, and it is especially not in my present, and I must work with what I have.

After a few hours, the people lifting weights began to drift away. In the end, I was the only person working out. A man walking by asked me if I was still working out. I replied until the guards call us off, or my back goes out, I will. He made a comment that I was a machine, a description I have been told before. Bodine, a man I knew from the county jail, said, "Of course, he is a machine". With a grin on his face he said, "Did you not know that's the Terminator?" I did not like being called the Terminator again, but Bodine went on to tell the other man of my notorious past.

It was another good time to take a run, and so I left my company towards the track. I sought out the person I borrowed the watch from earlier. He was at one of the steel tables with a few other Mexicans. I asked if I could see his watch again. He handed it to me, and I asked if he had jogged at all today. He said he did a couple laps. I had formerly seen him jog much longer stretches, and asked him if he wanted to do a few more. He said, "No. You're always trying to show me out." I told him I could not help it. I am the Ubermensch. " This got a smile from him and I went off to my starting line.

The weather had changed greatly since we had first come on the yard. The temperature had dropped, and cumulus clouds now scattered the sky. The large cotton-like clouds contrasted over a deep blue background with sunlight streaming in from the west. In the distance, I could hear the rumble of thunder. I did not like spring, but it was evenings such as this that made me appreciate the season.

As I began to run, it began to rain. It was a light rain, but the rain drops were heavy. I saw them fall and hit the track as I ran with a splash. Wind of an oncoming storm crossed the yard at times, making my run more strenuous. However, the rain and wind only invigorated me, and I felt an inner strength to run even faster. During my final lap, my heart was pounding, and I thought that it would be nice if my life just ended there and then. I finished my run and collapsed on the concrete of the handball court. There was no one playing on it, and most everyone had taken cover. Catching my breath, the rain came down in sheets. It did not bother me. I felt alive, and free as I looked over the vacant lawn and saw lightening flicker over the cellhouse. Unfortunately, the feeling was fleeting because guards soon came to corral us back into our cages.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Snail Mail -- May 19, 2010

Earlier today, I received a letter from my father. The letter was written April 11th, and there is a postmark on the envelope of April 12th. All of my mail, with the exclusion of my subscription to the Wall Street Journal, is received at least one month after its postmark. On the yard today and in the chow hall, I heard inmates complaining about how long their mail is taking to reach them. Rumor has it there is only one person currently working the the mail room. It is ironic how the IDOC has found money to hire 50 new guards, but cannot add a few people to sort inmates' mail. If true, it is absurd that one person is responsible for searching and sorting through the outgoing and incoming mail for the 3,000+ prisoners here.

The delays of mail is not a new problem at Stateville. When I was here in 2000, mail was regularly late. I have heard inmates say that even in the 80's and 90's, Stateville has always been behind in the mail. It may be so that only one person currently is working in the mail room, but the culture of laziness and incompetence at Stateville has been present for decades. Even if Stateville had five people working the the mail room, our mail service would probably only improve minimally. Union and nonunion workers intentionally work at a slow pace. The priority of getting inmates their mail is one of the last things the administration is concerned about, particularly during fiscal budget constraints.

It is no secret that Stateville is IDOC's most inefficient and costly prison. More money is spent to operate Stateville per inmate than any other penal institution in Illinois. This is not because of the extra security needed to run a maximum-security prison. Menard Correctional Center is run with considerably less money, and inmates there get their mail within a few days--even at Christmastime, the busiest time of the year. Every prison in Illinois, except Stateville and Dwight (the state's maximum security penitentiary for women), receive their mail in a timely fashion.

I spoke with an inmate who lives on my gallery earlier in the week. He told me his family had sent him a money order in the month of March, and he still has not received the letter. He was complaining that he was unable to place a commissary order due to not having any funds. This is a complaint I hear quite frequently. At Stateville, letters found to have a money order in them are sent to the business office first. A money order can sit there a month before it is processed. Thus, the mail will sit a month to be searched, and another month in the business office before it is delivered to the inmate.

Last month I received a letter from a penpal who lives in Canada. This person had thought I ceased corresponding because he had not received any letters from me in many months. I had, however, sent him two letters, but they just had not reached him yet. Although incoming mail is incredibly slow, outgoing mail is rather quick. My parents receive my letters within a few days after I mail them. Even my aunt in Arizona will receive my mail in a few days. However, when I write people outside the U.S., my mail will take months to arrive because I must use a money voucher for the extra postage needed.

Inmates are sold envelopes pre-stamped with postage. They are not permitted to buy stamps. Thus, any mail requiring more than 44 cents postage, must be accompanied by a money voucher attached to the letter. This letter will then be routed to the business office where it will sit until processed. The letter will often not go out for over a month, and a two month wait is not unusual. When I transferred from Pontiac to Stateville, I was writing a number of women overseas. They were very concerned when my mail ceased reaching them all of a sudden. I did not know that money vouchers took a month or longer to be processed at Stateville. At all the other prisons, mail goes out immediately, and money vouchers for postage are processed later. If an inmate does not have the funds, it is just deducted when they do. Inmates get a small stipend from the state every month to buy hygienic and other commissary. An inmate who was never sent any money would still be able to cover the costs of postage eventually with the stipend.

To continue writing internationally, I began juggling letters. Letters were taking a month or longer to reach me, and my outgoing letters were the same. Thus, I had about a two to three month gap. Instead of waiting for replies, I just began writing once a week, and soon I always had several letters in route. It was not an ideal system, and I often forgot what I wrote to cause the replies I received. And because I was writing to multiple women, it also became difficult keeping track of what I wrote to each, and not repeating myself. Eventually, I had enough, and spoke to my counselor about the problem. She told me that I could give her envelopes and she would have them pre-stamped with the international rate. This way, at least my outgoing mail would go out without delay, and I would cut the time lag in half. This was a terrific solution, and I quickly handed her 50 envelopes.

My family sometimes finds writing me redundant because they will see me on a visit, or I will call before their letter arrives. They may spend an hour or two writing a letter only to repeat what they had already written during a call or visit. I have noticed during the time I have been in prison, letter writing has become obsolete. I used to be a freelance writer for several magazines and papers. I mainly wrote political editorials, but various other subjects I wrote about were published as well. However, when the Internet became popular, these publications no longer wanted to bother with me. It was much easier and faster for publishers to use material that came to them online. I was surprised that I could even interest a woman to write to me when there were so many forums on the Internet. Who wants "snail mail" anymore? Fortunately, I found there was still some interest. Some women find writing more romantic than email, despite the love story "You Got Mail," with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Prisoners' legal mail is supposed to take top priority in the mailroom. Inmates are sent mail from the courts, their lawyers, and prosecutors that often requires an immediate response. At prisons across Illinois and the country, legal mail is separated and brought directly to prisoners. The mail is searched in the inmate's presence and given to him or her. At Stateville, however, I find even legal mail is delivered late. I have received legal mail weeks after its postmark, and several times over a month later. I have filed grievances on the matter, and the problem is never resolved, despite the administration in Springfield reprimanding prison staff at Stateville.

The grievance system, particularly here at Stateville, is largely a facade. Grievances, no matter the issue and how well substantiated, are regularly denied and dismissed. One of the grievances I filed on my legal mail being over a month late was answered by my counselor in the following manner: "According to mailroom staff, all mail is being processed, including legal mail, as efficiently and timely as can be, considering the volume of mail coming in, going out, shortage of staff, and the necessity of mail to be searched." They also stated that no legal mail is being held intentionally. Even if this is true, the administration is responsible for hiring more staff to work the mailroom. Why do I always see numerous guards and lieutenants standing around doing nothing? Should they not be sent to the mailroom? Should the administration hire mailroom workers instead of more redundant guards? This grievance was sent to the Grievance Officer who denied my grievance. He stated that my legal mail was not marked "legal" despite how I had enclosed the envelope that had "Attorney at Law" printed as part of the return address, and in large bold letters on the front highlighted: "ATTENTION: LEGAL MAIL." I sent the grievance to the Administrative Review Board in Springfield, and I received the following response: "This chairperson partially affirms grievant's appeal in this matter. It is recommended Warden Hardy counsel mailroom staff of the importance of processing legal mail in an appropriate manner when it is so labeled." This was signed off by the Director of IDOC, Michael P. Randle. However, nothing has changed at Stateville, and things continue as usual.

What is an inmate to do about such a problem? A number of inmates have complained to the Postmaster General. Listening at them at a chow table today, I heard about the response one inmate received. He said the Postmaster General said he can only enforce and make sure mail gets to its destination. He did not have authority over IDOC. I told this to a neighbor of mine and he did not believe this. He told me that delaying mail is a federal offense, and Stateville can be forced to give inmates their mail on time. Both inmates are probably correct. However, a lawsuit must be filed in federal court. I would do this, but I am preoccupied with many other matters including filing a successive post conviction appeal. My freedom takes priority over timely mail.

As mentioned earlier, my Wall Street Journal is given to me usually within a few days time. Popular publications are sent to inmates without much delay. However, if a book, newspaper or magazine is not well known and accepted, it will be sent to the Publication Review Committee first. This committee, which in fact is usually just one person at Stateville, will take their time reviewing the material. An inmate will be lucky to get this publication three months later. My cellmate has a subscription to a few tattoo magazines that are on the "approved publication list" and these he usually gets in a timely fashion. Many publications are on an IDOC banned list, and when an inmate is sent one of these, the mailroom will send them a notice it was received, but the inmate must have it destroyed or sent home at their own expense. I received Soldier of Fortune, Guns and Ammo, and a few other publications that are now banned. At Pontiac, some of the guards read the same magazines and would retrieve them from the property room for me, or give me their copies to read. At Stateville, however, I have not established relations like the ones I had there, despite being here five years.

Guards are not always so nice about the mail we receive. A few times, I have heard about guards throwing away inmates' mail. Last year, there was an incident where a guard took the entire mail bag for my cell house and threw it in the garbage. He was mad at prisoners for a reason I cannot recall now. A cell house worker taking the trash out spotted the mail and brought it back in. Inmates were furious at this guard and he quickly was assigned to work in another part of the prison.

In the mailroom, staff often get bitter, careless or uncaring about prisoners' letters. On a number of occasions, I have been given letters sliced in half by envelope cutters. I never grieved the matter, and am sure they would claim it was unintentional. My outgoing mail has often been left unsealed. This is most likely due to staff's attempt to go fast, and not intentionally just to be mean. I have had some of my letters returned to sender for violating petty rules here. For example, a woman's letter was sent back to her for being "perfumed." Another letter was sent back for having a heart sticker on the flap. People must place a stamp on letters, and I do not know the purpose of forbidding stickers. Recently, I was given a bound copy of my 5th Clemency Petition. Some moron in the mailroom spent the time to remove the binding, and then wrapped a rubber band around the pages. What was the security threat about a plastic binding? I do not know, but I can use this thick rubber band for more devious use if I wanted. I suppose I should just be glad it was not returned to the sender.

Because the mail is so delayed at Stateville, I do not receive copies of my posts for over a month. Readers may notice that I make corrections, additions, or minor edits to old entries. This is not done in a timely fashion because of my mail service. Furthermore, I am unable to read your comments or emails until long after they have been sent or posted. If you send me an email, consequently, do not expect a reply for a long, long time. Sometimes, I will respond to posted comments, and these also may take a month or two to appear on the blogsite.

My cellmate often bothers me about the mail. Almost on a daily basis he will ask me if the mail was passed out, or if he got any mail. "Did the mail come? Did I get any mail?" He will ask anxiously. Over the years, I have become annoyed with his redundant and repeated questions about the mail. I will tell him, "No, you did not get any mail. No one loves you. Go back to sleep." Or, I will say, "Do you see any mail on your shelf?" Or, "Do you think I have nothing to do but stalk the gallery all day watching for mail?" On occasion, I will tell him he received mail which will get him excited until I change my tone to sarcasm, and say something like, "You get mail everyday; I have just been intercepting it all this time. For months now I have been writing to your mother. Has she not told you?" Today, he again asked me if he got any mail. I told him that indeed, he did get a letter, and it was on his shelf. He jumped off his bunk to search through all the clutter there until I went on and said, "It was a love letter from Johnny the Queer". I could trick my cellmate time and again, just like Charlie Brown repeatedly being duped by Lucy with the football.

Although most of the modern world cares little for letters, inside the prison walls snail mail is greatly appreciated. There are numerous lonely men inside, especially at maximum-security prisons. They have done long stretches of time, and many have enormous amounts of time remaining to serve. These men have often lost contact with friends and family. Prisoners spend great amounts of time in their cells, and a letter can be the highlight of their day. Quite a few inmates here are angry and frustrated with the month long delay of their mail. Snail mail at Stateville almost literally moves at a snail's pace.

September 3, 2010

Today I received a letter from a family member post dated August 30th. In the last couple weeks, mail has caught up dramatically. I do not know the cause of improvement, but I speculate that finally more staff have been placed in the mailroom. A number of inmates have expressed surprise about the speed of incoming mail now. Stateville has, on occasion, caught up with the backlog of mail, but this has never lasted. While it is nice we are currently receiving mail in a timely fashion, I am skeptical that it will continue.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Changing Lockdown Status -- May 12, 2010

On Monday, the prison was placed on a level 4 lockdown. I did not realize the change in status until I heard prisoners yelling for the telephone. Shouts were coming from the upper galleries, all demanding the phone. On the gallery above mine, I heard people yelling to the phone man for time. This quickly led to arguing amongst them for various time slots. The phone man is for the most part elected to the post by the inmates on the gallery. It is his job to hold the phone, and give it to people at specific times as requested. It is also their job to make sure people do not go over their time slots when others have it after them, and to make sure the phone and wires are in proper working order. I was the phone man for a time while I was on 6 gallery. It was not a job I cherished, and I did not even ask for the job. My former cellmate distributed the phone for a while, but when he was moved, I inherited the job. There were a few people who coveted the control, but others insisted that I keep it. People tend to believe I am firm, but fair. I am not gang affiliated, and would not entertain the arguments I was hearing on the floor above mine.

The change to a level 4 lockdown was not immediately recognizable because we were formerly on a modified level one. Usually, when the cell house is put on a level 4, prisoners are aware because workers are out. However, workers have been out since last Monday. The previous week was Officer Appreciation Week and the guards did not want to do any of the menial work required of them on a level 1. For the most part, guards at Stateville never want to do any extra work, but especially last week.

My cellmate and I were surprised by the change in status. Earlier I had heard that following Officer Appreciation Week, the modified level 1 lockdown would return to a normal level 1, even though this would not make sense from a security perspective. However, many policies at Stateville make no sense, including a level 1 lockdown that permitted workers to be out. My cellmate had believed because two guards were assaulted, the prison would be on a punitive lockdown for a long time.

A level 4 lockdown changed very little for my cellmate and I. We were still in our cells 24-7. My cellmate works at the barbershop, however, the barbershop is not opened on lockdowns regardless of the level. Late in the day, my cellmate received a visit. Visitation had begun 48 hours after the incidents, but on a level 4, he should be given a 2-hour visit. When he returned I asked him if he was given more than an hour, and he said by the time he got to the visitation room there was less than an hour's time remaining before it was closed for the day. My cellmate's mother visits him frequently, but often she is very late because she comes to the prison after work. I was told the guard's almost did not let her sign in. At 1:30 p.m. visitors are turned away She signed in five minutes after.

I was glad to be rid of my cellie if only for a short period of time. He is not a bad cellie, particularly for Stateville, but it is just nice to have some space alone, or relatively alone, I should say because there are inmate workers and guards regularly crossing in front of my bars. I appreciate the space if not the privacy. I often feel claustrophobic sharing a cell. It is nice to be able to move in this 6 x 11 foot space where ever I want, and whenever I want. Repeatedly, I must consider what my cellmate is doing before I can act. For example, if he is working out, I am at the other end of the cell. I will not bother him or get in his space during that time unless necessary. I know I hated it when a cellmate invaded my space, and thus I am considerate of others' space.

I did not make much of my time in the cell alone. After pacing the length of the cell a few times, and stretching out, I went back to the stool and table in the corner to continue my reading of the Investment Business Daily. The IBD is a newspaper that tracks stocks according to various financial data. It is a paper that mostly day traders, and those looking to make a quick buck in the market would find very useful. Instead of seeking out businesses that are sold at a good value and have good long-term growth prospects, this newspaper looks to ride the coat tails of a stock just long enough to make a 15-20% profit before jumping ship. I am not that type of investor. Contrarily, I seek out stocks whose business I believe to have excellent fundamentals for many years to come. I also do not favor buying when a company is already overpriced and simply riding a temporary wave. Lastly, I seek businesses that I personally value and like. The IBD is not meant for an investor such as myself. However, I am able to use a lot of the data in these papers, and manipulate their numbers to my own own goals. Making my own stock charts and valuations is a time-consuming process. Every week I spend hours analyzing data or making charts and graphs, especially when quarterly reports come in.

At 4 p.m., I turned on my TV to CNN's Wolf Blitzer. I saw that the Dow Jones Industrials was up 400 points. This was not surprising to me. After the massive sell-off last week there was bound to be some fools who were willing to get into the market thinking there was some opportunity. There is no opportunity, however, in the market at this time. The market will correct substantially more before the prices of stocks are set appropriately to the double-dip recession that the West will experience.

I spent most of the evening analyzing stocks and reading financial papers. Around 7 p.m., I took a break to watch some TV and eat a snack. After scanning the TV stations with my new remote control stick, I settled in to watch the program "House." "House" is a medical show primarily about the main character Gregory House. I like the science interwoven within the show's plots, and I like Dr. House--I admire his abilities, and can identify with his wit and personality. Unfortunately, as the series has progressed, it has changed its cast and moved away from a medical focus. It now dwells too much on the drama, interplay and exaggerated or weird development of characters. Apparently, either the show's director or writers thought these changes would enrich the show, but I feel it has only detracted.

If my cellmate and I were surprised by the level 4 lockdown, we were more so when on Tuesday morning, all details and school programs were announced on the loudspeaker. My cellmate had just about a half hour earlier returned to his bed to sleep. He had awakened at about 5 a.m. to eat breakfast and use the toilet. Using the toilet for my cellmate is an hour long process, and he likes to get this done before the first shift comes in and I arise. He had then read from his Bible, and said a redundant amount of repetitive prayers on his Rosary. If I were him, I would pray for quicker bowel movements. In any event, the monotony of prayers after an early rise apparently made him sleepy. But, he would not get any rest for as soon as he heard the announcement, he had jumped off his bunk and began getting ready to leave to the barbershop. I was a little amused to see him attempt to rush with his property box--it was such a mess that he could not fit in all his things that he had out during lockdown. Ultimately, he just piled various items into it and then smashed it down until the lid fit over it. My cellmate has been tying down his box lid, ostensibly to prevent any mice from getting in through the gap. However, when he went to tie the lid down this time, it left at least a two inch gap. A hamster could have easily fit in there, not to mention a tiny mouse. As the guard was opening up our cell door, my cellmate was still scrambling. A few people passed by and said, "Come on Cracker! Let's go!"

I waited until he left to get off my bunk. I was in a hurry to exercise and wash up before chow was run. My cell number and name had been called during the morning announcements for law library. I knew the library line would be run around 11 a.m., and this would give me about an hour after chow to go through my legal papers and plan what I needed to do. Before chow, I wanted to exercise because later I would only be able to do so in my cellmate's presence. This is something I do not like to do if at all possible.

It was a tight fit, but I managed to exercise, wash up, and clean the sink, toilet and floor before chow. I was also able to neatly put all my belongings in my property boxes with plenty of room for my lids to slide over. In fact, I had a few minutes to spare and thought about pillaging through my cellmate's property; then, when he returned I would tell him that I did not know what happened--perhaps some large-sized rodents had gotten in there, and eaten all his foodstuffs.

After yet another soy-turkey meal, I returned to the cell house to prepare for law library. My attorney had sent me an outline of appellate issues, and I wanted to make a copy to write my comments on, and send back to her. I also wanted to once again research sentencing laws and statutes. Yet another prisoner told me a defendant cannot be eligible for death unless he was found to actually have committed the murder. I was almost 100% positive this only applied to the aggravating factors of felony-murder and multiple homicides not relevant to me, but I had to be certain. Although I was not given a death sentence, I was found death eligible, and the eligibility could affect one of my sentencing issues. I mostly wanted to research improper communications and interference by trial judges. This is an issue I was unaware of that my lawyer brought to my attention. I had been under the impression that a judge could say basically anything to defense counsel and it would not be improper or considered an error. Lastly, I needed to gain access to my legal box that is at the law library. Prisoners cannot be restricted to the amount of legal papers they have. However, a prisoner can only have two boxes inside their cell. Thus, those prisoners who wish can have other boxes to store their legal materials, but they must be stored at the library. As I went over my to-do list, a worker walked past my cell talking about lockdown.

A guard was locking up workers, and as he passed my cell I asked him if I should forget about going to the library. He said he was not sure, but it was looking that way. I continued to go over my legal papers just in case, but when I saw my cellmate at my bars, I knew I would not be going anywhere. My cellmate informed me that he overheard a guard speaking to another at the barbershop. He told him the radio tower was out, and because of this everyone had to be locked up. I had never heard of a radio tower malfunction before, and I did not know whether or not to believe this.

Tuesday evening, the prison was on a level 4 lockdown. Prisoners speculated that possibly there was a conflict between administrators in Springfield, and the warden at Stateville. The prison had quickly went from a modified level 1 to having regular movement. Dinner trays were passed out by inmate workers, and I did not complain about the room service. Hopefully, the prison will remain on a level 4 for the week. The only thing I was disappointed about was missing law library.

This morning at 8 a.m., the cell house loudspeaker announced details, school, and visits as usual. They also announced the yard schedule of this afternoon. The prison was off lockdown once again. During the day, I was to learn from guards that their radios were not working the day before. The ones I spoke to did not know the reason for the malfunction, and the problem still seemed peculiar to me. As a prisoner, you often do not know what to expect or why things happen as they do. Word travels fast inside, however, such information is not always credible. It is not a happy existence to be a piss-ant, let alone a blind one totally at the mercy of your captors.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dow Jones Plummets 1,000 Points -- May 6, 2010

The prison is on a level 1 modified lockdown. A level 1 lockdown is the most restrictive lockdown, during which prisoners are not allowed out of their cells except for medical emergencies. After 48 hours, visitation is permitted, but inmates are brought to the visiting room in handcuffs, and visitation is limited to one hour. Prisoners are not allowed to place orders for commissary during a level one. Normally, no prisoners are let out of their cells to work, however, it is Officer Appreciation Week, and the guards do not want to do any menial work. Thus, the warden has made this a modified level one lockdown to permit inmates to pick up trash, pass out food, pick up laundry, and other necessary work that the guards would be forced to do.

Most inmates do not like being on lockdown, and locked in their cages 24-7. However, when I have a decent cellmate, I prefer lockdown. I do not like going out for chow and would rather have trays brought to my cell. It is very aggravating dealing with all the loud and obnoxious prisoners. In my cell during lockdown, all I have to deal with is my cellmate. Any time the administration wants to give me room service is all right with me. As for missing recreation, showers, or chapel services, they do not outweigh the peace of being able to get away from the commotion in a maximum security prison. Our recreation consists of two 2-hour periods of time on a yard, or in the gym. Typically, we are put on a small yard which is merely two basketball courts surrounded by fencing and razor wire. I do not even bother going to these yards. Typically, I do not go to the shower room either, but wash up in my sink. I never go to chapel services. Thus, lockdown only means not having to go to chow and possibly missing a gym day.

Another reason I like lockdowns is that I am able to set my own schedule. Feed and yard lines are never run on a predictable time schedule. Lunch can be any time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and dinner from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. I like having a regular routine, and I plan a day down to minute details. A former cellmate of mine remarked not long ago that even though we have not been cellmates in years, he could wager exactly what I would be doing by the time of the day. This may be an exaggeration, but lockdown permits me to have a very ordered schedule without worry of interruption.

While many prisoners become bored in their cells, I never do. I am always busy throughout the day with numerous activities. I exercise, read, write, clean the cell, prepare meals, organize my boxes, wash clothes, fix electronics, feed the sparrows, and if I run out of things to do which is rare, I turn on my television. I listen to my Walkman for a number of hours each day, usually while I read or do other tasks. As I write this journal entry, I have my large headphones on and surf radio stations for music I like. I also despise commercials, and switch channels when they come on. I do this so often with my TV that after seven years my TV channel buttons are wearing out. Hopefully, the dial on my Walkman never wears out.

At noon, I prepared some tuna burritos. My neighbor had given me some shells and I needed to use them before they became moldy. From my blog posts, someone may think that I am a fan of Mexican food, but I am not. It is just a food I can prepare in my cell with commissary foods. I used store bought tuna, instant cheesy rice, refried beans, and tortillas to make the burritos. I used small packages of ketchup and relish to make a salsa sauce. While I eat, I am unable to read or it is difficult, so I put away the corporate reports I was studying to watch TV.

It was 1 p.m. as I searched the stations for news. Only CNN was on, and although I did not like this particular news anchor, I watched this program as I ate. The news was still focused on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This news was of interest to me because my family owns shares of British Petroleum. In fact, B.P. is my favorite large integrated oil company because of their superior earnings and dividends. I also recognize the British government still goes out of their way to assist the pursuits of the oil company. After the rig exploded on April 20th, I searched all the TV news and radio stations to learn what companies were involved. Not only does my family own shares of oil and natural gas producers, but offshore drilling companies. I hoped it was not any they owned, however, after two days I finally learned the rig was owned by Transocean and the oil reserve by B.P.

Eleven employees of Transocean were killed in the explosion that destroyed the largest rig in the gulf. It was a year ago that I read the corporate report from Transocean which illustrated that rig on the front cover. The Deepwater Horizon was capable of drilling miles below the water into the seabed. Transocean was proud of their achievement, and the amount of oil they were able to bring up to the surface. More and more, Western oil companies such as B.P. were drilling in deep offshore waters because other deposits had been depleted or were off limits by governmental laws. Years ago, the oil being drilled by the Deepwater Horizon would have been beyond the capabilities of technology. Barack Obama recently stated he would permit more offshore drilling. This catastrophe had the potential of closing off this much-needed policy change, which would be unfortunate because energy independence is possible for the U.S. and not with expensive, heavily subsidized alternative energy sources that the liberal establishment endorses.

It seemed the TV news was bent on sensationalizing and reporting about the oil spill. The coverage was biased, and politically motivated. B.P. was being portrayed as a corporate villain, despite the rig not even being owned or operated by them. But, even if the blame for the spill was correctly assigned to Transocean or Cameron International (the company which did the cement work at the sea bed that was to prevent natural gas and methane from coming upward), it was an accident. Accidents are unavoidable and will occur on occasion, despite how many safety precautions are taken. When I read corporate reports by drilling companies, one of the main issues they write about time and time again is safety. Drilling is a dangerous job, but these companies try to have as few accidents as possible. Not only for the safety of their workers, but for their bottom line. A drill company with a bad record is not going to be hired by oil and natural gas companies. Certainly, if B.P. could have foreseen the explosion of the Transocean rig, they would have gone with a different company. This catastrophe will cost B.P. a lot of money, not only in clean-up costs, but public goodwill that the company has spent years and millions of dollars developing. This disaster may also cause the Obama administration to prevent energy companies from fully developing the oil resources in the Gulf and elsewhere--oil that the U.S. and the West needs for a vibrant economy without continuing to add to the cash reserves of the Middle-East or Venezuelan governments.

Because of the massive negative TV reporting aimed at B.P., earlier I had told my family to buy more shares of B.P. if the price fell to $45. On Sunday, I had heard Democratic political pundit James Carville say he actually felt sorry for B.P. because when it is all said and done, B.P. will be known as L.P.--Louisiana Petroleum. He went on and on about all the money B.P. will lose. However, although most of the public does not know it, this was a joint venture between BP and Anadarko Petroleum. There are many companies that will share liability. Furthermore, during one of my readings of corporate reports of offshore drillers in the Gulf, I learned of a government law that caps liability of oil spills. I also remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill which, although plaintiffs won an enormous sum, was eventually cut to a tiny fraction by a higher court. Earlier in the week, I read in the Wall Street Journal that AIG was to face enormous bills this quarter on top of the enormous amount of money they owe the federal government due to being the insurer of the companies involved in the drilling project. The sell-off of B.P. stock was done on emotion, and I hoped to profit off the overreaction. I did not realize the market was about to have a sudden correction, however.

While listening to the news anchor go on and on about the potential hazards to the ecosystem by the oil spill, and then on to the riots in Greece, I watched the Dow numbers in the background. The numbers began to fall at a pace I had never seen before. The Dow was actually in a free fall, and in two minutes, I saw it fall over 500 points. I said to my cellmate, who was sitting on his bunk reading another fantasy novel, "Turn on your TV -- the Dow has just fallen a thousand points in a couple of minutes!" My cellmate did not stir. He did not care or understand what this meant. I told him that millions of dollars have just disappeared, and the American market has lost 5% of its value! He still did not turn on his TV, and I began voicing the falling numbers as they happened with incredible speed: "Minus 600, minus 700, minus 800, minus 900!" I told him this must be the sharpest free-fall in market history, and I am surprised they have not suspended trading on the NYSE. Finally, my cellmate made an obligatory comment. Although he may be unconcerned with the historic market correction, I was riveted to my TV.

The Dow Jones fell with such surprising speed that the news anchor did not even notice the developments until it was brought to his attention. By the time he turned around, the Dow had already lost 600 points. This newsman was just a filler for more competent journalists who were on during the most watched TV hours. He began to talk about the free-fall, but really had no understanding or background in economics. My cellmate may as well been reporting the news on CNN, I thought. It probably became apparent to the CNN news directors as well, because soon other news people were pictured and the comments of specialists were procured. I did not need their input to know what was happening, however. The market was well due for a correction, and many investors knew it also. They had placed automatic sell orders, and when some investors began selling on the news of Greek debt and riots, it began a chain reaction that was unstoppable.

For a long time I have told friends and family to beware of a pending market correction. I told them to begin selling when the Dow hit 11,000. Some of them listened to me and sold off a few stocks and mutual funds. However, I was upset they took such limited action and expressed their belief that the market was going to continue to rebound. I adamantly told them, "No! This is only an artificial bounce created by huge government stimulus, intervention, and virtually free cash lending by the Federal Reserve." Corporate reports came in very good for the first quarter. News reporters and investment advisers hyped up the economic data, failing to mention how precarious it was. Despite the rosy news I was hearing, I knew the double-dip recession was over the hill. Although I knew it was there, I could not see it and I could not time it exactly. The U.S. government had thrown so much money into the market, it could stay afloat until 2011 before stalling.

As I listened to the news on CNN and the Dow numbers gyrated, I was disappointed that people I knew did not liquidate more of their investments. It is very frustrating for me to spend vast amounts of my time reading about the economy, analyzing stock companies, and even making detailed charts when my advice is largely ignored. My family sends me massive amounts of investment literature. I read it all, and give my opinion. I have given specific advice on what to buy, when to buy, and what to sell, and when to sell it. Sometimes they listen, and sometimes they don't. I wish I could invest my own money and did not have to depend on others. I hate having to depend on others. As a prisoner, you have no money and no control over anything. You are always at the mercy of others.

I figured the enormous drop in the Dow Jones would not close 10% down. The drop was an emotional and auto-pilot reaction to the images coming out of Greece. Nevertheless, I know the drop will wake up investors to the realization the markets' rebound is not based on sound fundamentals. People will scrutinize the U.S. market now, and many will jump ship. Many investors were riding the rebound and were not in it for the long term. I doubt the Dow will again see above 11,000 for years. I anticipate a volatile market with investors not sure if the U.S. economy can stand on its own feet without continued massive government spending and stimulus. Ultimately, they will see it cannot. You either pay now or pay later. The administration has kicked the can down the road as far as it was possible. The double-dip recession and long term stall of the U.S. economy is, in my opinion, inevitable.

I watched the news until 2 p.m. when I tired of the poor CNN coverage. I decided to see if the Rush Limbaugh news radio show was discussing the Greece riots and economic repercussions. More and more, I have found myself going to radio for news to avoid the liberal bias. The Rush Limbaugh show had just gone off, but that was just as well. It is mostly an entertainment program rather than a news program. I searched through AM radio stations until I found what I was looking for. I listened or watched the news for a few hours today. Not only was there the economic news to hold my interest, but I was waiting for the polls to close in England. Britain had parliamentary elections today, and I was interested to see if the Tories took power after being in the minority for almost 2 decades. It was not until 6 p.m. that the Big Ben Tower was shown on CNN with the results. The Conservatives did indeed win, but they did not have enough seats to form a government by themselves.

After seeing the Big Ben Tower, I turned off my TV and wrote my family a quick letter. I revised my B.P. purchase price from $45 to $40 a share or lower. I was caught a little off guard by the sudden drop in the economy. With the drop, and assumed continued selling, my family should not buy any more shares of B.P. unless it was selling below $40. I would have called, but we were on lockdown and there are no telephones on the gallery. In any event, I was probably still in C grade from the disciplinary ticket I received in January. Inmates have their phone pin number made inaccessible when they are given C grade. Even if I tried, I could not get through on the telephone. Also in my letter, I reiterated my opinions about the stock market and what investments I thought were good, and which ones I thought should be on the chopping block. I can only lead a horse to water, but I cannot make him drink, I thought as I put my letter on the cell bars for pickup.

After completing my letter, I turned on my TV to channel 3, which is the prison's video station. The movie "Avatar" was set to play at 8 p.m. I had heard much about the movie's special effects, and being a fan of science fiction, I was interested in seeing the film. It was released on DVD a few weeks ago, and prisoners, including myself, were anticipating its playing. Instead of popcorn and soda, I took out a few apples and a jar of peanut butter. I also made some instant apple and cinnamon oatmeal which I tossed some peanuts into. These would be my snacks for movie night.

The film was a little unrealistic, but had very real-looking imagery. The special effects even without the 3-D glasses were impressive. I was reminded of when I was a child and saw Star Wars for the first time. Star Wars was certainly a greater movie for its time, but I could see many similarities in style, substance, and graphics. The movie was very good, however, I found myself with a bad aftertaste because of the film's moral message. The producer of Avatar had attempted to portray mankind, or empirical capitalism, as evil. A resource company was mining the far away planet, and they wanted the land that the alien aborigines lived upon. After they learned of the aliens unwillingness to move, they set out to destroy them. The heroes are traitors to the company, to their country, and even to their species. They would rather live in their avatars as aliens than as humans. They successfully defeat the portrayed greedy resource-hungry villains from Earth. I am sure this story was loved by tree-huggers and liberals alike. They would rather we use solar and wind energy, despite its enormous expense and disastrous consequences to our economy and power. Despite seeing this propaganda film, and the media condemnation of BP, I still say, "Drill, baby, drill!"

June 18, 2010

This week, I watched the presidential address, the congressional hearing on Thursday, and continued massive negative media publicity against BP with growing dismay. Readers may find it odd that a prisoner would be so concerned about such matters, and the vast majority of prisoners do not care. However, although I have been condemned to die in prison and will probably never be a member of this or any society, I cannot but be alarmed about the descent of the United States and for that matter, most of Western civilization. I realize that there is more meaning than just my own fate and limited scope within these walls.

On Wednesday, Barack Obama addressed the nation regarding the Gulf oil spill. Instead of outlining how the U.S. government was to more effectively respond to the disaster, I heard how BP would be forced to pay, and how more Americans would continue to be out of work due to his moratorium on drilling. I also heard the President use the oil spill accident to promote his carbon tax and alternative energy policy. The U.S. does not need more taxes and a disasterous expensive so-called "green" energy policy. What the republic needs is more drilling and now. When an airplane crashes, all air traffic is not grounded to a halt. Accidents happen, and will continue to happen. While learning from this, America needs to press forward. America has more natural gas reserves than any other nation on the planet. America also has enormous amounts of coal and untapped oil off the coasts and in various places now off limits to drilling. If the U.S. wishes to remain a superpower, it must have access to large and larger amounts of cheap energy.

The U.S. legislature needs to understand the causes of the Gulf oil spill. I do not have any problem with law makers grilling the executives of BP, Transocean, Halliburton, or Cameron International. I also think it is wise to review governmental and oil industry policies to see if better regulation, and not necessarily more regulation, can be found. However, what I found mostly on Capital Hill was political grandstanding and public flogging of Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP. Blaming and focusing all people's anger on BP is not productive, but is contrarily counterproductive. BP is not the enemy, despite how the liberal media may want us to believe so. If it were not for the BP's, Exxons, and other Western energy companies drilling for oil in a mile deep of water, Americans would be paying much more for the commodity, and they would be paying that money to our real enemies.

This week, BP was coerced to put $20 billion into an escrow account. This huge amount of money, I have no doubt, will be dispensed by government unwisely to pay legitimate and nonlegitimate, or even fraudulant, claims. Other than clean-up costs, BP was only supposed to be liable for $75 million in damages. There is a good reason for this law, and it was not made to solely protect big oil. It encourages companies to invest millions of dollars into drilling exploration so they can bring oil onto the market at cheaper prices, and bring jobs to the Gulf area. Just like tort reform will help lower costs in the medical field, these liability caps have benefiical cost reduction consequences.

Last month, I recommended to friends and family to buy shares of BP at $40 a share. The price has dropped to below $30. I did not foresee the enormous media campaign against BP continuing for so long. Even today, I see CNN still has live footage of the oil spill and a day 60 count. At least, their speculative tally of gallons of oil released has been done away with. I also did not foresee BP being pressured to give $20 billion, and cancel their dividends for the rest of the year. However, despite this I have encouraged family to continue to purchase BP stock at under 30 a share, less than half its April highs. BP will survive this spill and the emotional sell off of its stock. Dividends will resume in 2011 and it will not surprise me if the stock price is back to $60 a share before 2015. A 100% return in 5 years is not a bad investment, in my opinion. And although I did not like BP's capitulation to Obama, nor its alternative energy movement with their "green" facade, investing in BP will be supporting a policy advantageous to the United States. Responsible acquisition of fossil fuels, and not subsidized alternative energy, is America's best hope to retain its power and financial wealth.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Staff Assaults -- April 30, 2010

This morning I awoke with the knowledge I have been incarcerated 17 years. It was this day, 17 years ago, that I was paraded in front of the news media as the man who killed 7 people at a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine, and sent to the Cook County Jail. I remember that day clearly, despite how much time has passed. I was escorted, in handcuffs and shackles, by police to a squad car surrounded by dozens of news reporters who were shouting questions and snapping photographs. I recall the unfriendly welcome and processing at the county jail--I did not know it at the time, but at 18 years old, my life was, for all practical purposes, over.

As I ate breakfast and looked at the news images on my TV, my thoughts drifted again. Two days prior to my detainment at the Cook County Jail, I was arrested by numerous gun-wielding members of the Palatine Task Force and FBI agents, as Chicago police tried to block traffic. Between the 28th and 30th of April, 1993, I was interrogated by two police officers: John Koziol and John Robertson. I spent hours upon hours enduring their intimidation, abuse, and other coercive interrogation techniques in their attempts to get me to answer their questions. I was not cooperating, and in vain, I continually asked for a lawyer. However, this did not prevent John Robertson from ultimately fabricating a story that I admitted being told by my roommate that he planned to kill someone, and that I lent him my car. This lie cost me my life; there are some days that I can forget this, but on the 28th and 30th of April each year I think of what happened.

Near midnight on that April 30th, I was taken to the Barrington Police station. The two days prior, however, I was at the Rolling Meadows Police station where I was being secretly held. My interrogation was conducted there to prevent any lawyer from finding me and to avoid the scrutiny of the press which was following the unfolding news very closely. No, I would not be allowed to see any lawyer, and no, the media would not have access until after I was charged with murder.

I would probably have been interrogated for days longer had I not tricked my interrogators to let me speak with the states attorney. The police were very interested in finding the weapon my roommate used to kill the victim. I told them I might be able to help them, but I would only speak with a states attorney. When Patrick O'Brien arrived, I told him about the two days of abuse by police, and the violation of my Miranda rights. Pat O'Brien will probably never admit this, however, nor the fact that he ordered John Koziol to take down a light blue sheet that he had put up over a two-way mirror in the interrogation room. On the evening of April 30th, I was transferred to the Barrington Police station where I was finally treated civilly, and allowed to use the telephone.

About 11 a.m. today, chow lines began to be run. I was not in a good mood to go out and deal with the noise, the herding of inmates, and the obnoxious behaviors of those who live here. Furthermore, on the menu was Sloppy Joes made out of turkey-soy meal and beef seasoning. However, I got ready to leave my cell because this week the kitchen was putting yogurt on ice and inmates could take as many as they wanted. The yogurt was meant for the guards next week during Officer Appreciation Week, but, the yogurt arrived early and would go bad if not used immediately. Thus, instead of letting all the yogurt spoil, it was given to the prisoners. Instead of eating the imitation Sloppy Joes, I planned to eat several servings of yogurt. I also planned to bring some back to put in my toilet to keep cold and eat later tonight.

The outgoing chow lines were run as they normally are. The first gallery to go out was the top floor, or 10 gallery, followed by 8, 6, 4, and then my gallery, 2. I tried to avoid the loudmouths when I came out for chow, and I lined up next to a couple of older white men, one of whom readers may remember as Hawkeye, or as I have nicknamed him "Chickenhawk." I try to line up near people I want to sit and eat with. The inmate lines go into the chow hall in order before becoming a herd that leads to two feeding counters. When you leave these counters with your food, a guard is usually waiting to direct you to a seat. I do not know why this seating cop is necessary. Inmates can easily find a table to sit at, and what difference does it make where they sit? In any event, if you do not want to be seated next to a person you dislike, or conversely if you want to sit with someone, you should pay attention to who is around you while in line.

As I left the feeding counter behind Hawkeye, I heard someone yell, "Modrowski! Modrowski!" It was the lieutenant who works the 2nd shift in my cell house, and at times, I debate politics with him. The lieutenant was apparently working two shifts today, and had been assigned to work in the chow hall during the day. I stopped with my tray in hand, and the lieutenant walked over to me. He asked me if I had a visitor yesterday. I said yes, indeed, I had. My mother had come to see me. The lieutenant then said, "God, that is how the other half of society lives?" Last night during a political discussion, my Marxist cellmate had told him how I came from an upper-middle class family, and that I did not understand the woes of the poor. I remarked to the lieutenant that with all the double overtime he works, I knew he must be pulling in six figures easily and he should know very well how the other half lives.

I was concerned with who I would be forced to sit with and left the lieutenant quickly before he could respond. I need not have been in a hurry today though. There was no seating cop, and I was able to sit where I wanted. At the chow table, I offered my tray to those who were seated with me. No one, however, wanted any extra soy-Sloppy Joes. I ate the lettuce on my tray and opened up one of the containers of yogurt. A few people commented on how they thought the yogurt tasted horrible, particularly the plain kind with no fruit in it. I responded that it tasted better than the turkey-soy meal they were eating, and it was more healthy too. After I finished eating, I slipped two yogurts into my socks. The guards do not want prisoners taking food back to their cells from the chow hall, and thus I have had to think of unique ways to smuggle food out without being noticed.

Something happened in the prison--after 6 gallery was sent back to the cell house, line movement had stopped. Inmates are usually given little time to eat, and there was obviously some unplanned delay. I noticed the lieutenant on his radio, and his attention seemed to be raised. About 20 minutes passed before 4 gallery was sent back, and then we waited again. An inmate shouted that a Latino had been seen handcuffed by Internal Affairs and was going to Segregation. At the tables, people began talking about a lockdown.

We had been in the chow hall over an hour before the lieutenant finally opened the gate. Then, instead of being sent back to the cell house, we were put in chow hall number one. There, prisoners talked at tables near the exit until a large contingent of guards and lieutenants came into the building. They shouted at us to line up facing the wall. I heard people say another guard must have got his ass whooped. As we line up facing the wall, I knew we would be searched, so I took the two yogurts out of my socks and dumped them on the floor. I was correct in my assumption, and guards began to pat down all the inmates. Then five inmates were handcuffed behind their backs, and escorted to the cell house by several guards. Groups of five continued to be handcuffed and taken back. I was at the end of the line, and as I waited I thought how the police were being rude and overly security conscious.

When I was locked in my cell, I asked one of my neighbors who stayed in from chow if he knew what happened. He told me that a movement officer and a man from Internal Affairs had been assaulted. I asked him the circumstances, and which guards were involved. He told me the name of the movement officer, but was uncertain which I.A. staff was hit. He also had no idea why or exactly what took place, but was happy, regardless. Any time a guard was assaulted, it made him happy, and two guards assaulted made him especially so. I did not share his sentiments, but did not disclose this to him. A prisoner may not be liked if he does not always side against the police. Instead, I sought more detailed information from him. Again, he said he could not provide any. He only knew what he had overheard being shouted on the galleries above.

My cellmate returned from the barbershop along with others from their assignments. Everyone in the prison was being locked in their cells for a level one lockdown. My cellmate had no news to tell me about the incident, other than he had heard that two guards were assaulted. He began to complain about how we will be on lockdown for months, and the Orange Crush Unit will be sure to come. I did not expect such a long lockdown, particularly if no one was seriously injured, and it was an isolated incident. More than likely, I thought, an inmate had thrown a few punches and had been quickly subdued.

Over the course of the day, I learned the details of what really occurred. Contrary to what I thought, there were two separate incidents. The first occurred when 6 gallery was returning to the cell house. Apparently, an inmate had words with one of the guards in control of movement lines. This escalated into a physical confrontation, and the inmate knocked the guard onto the sidewalk. He then got on top of him and began to pummel him with punches before being seized by a number of guards. From what I was informed, the guard was badly beaten, but able to get up unassisted.

After 6 gallery was secured in their cells, 4 gallery was brought back. Because of the previous incident, Internal Affairs was called, and on the walk. For some reason unclear to me, the head of the I.A. unit grabbed a prisoner out of line and began to handcuff him. The inmate swung the hand being cuffed, and punched him in the eye. The cuffs apparently hit the lieutenant causing his skin to split. He was seen after the incident with a large bleeding gash to his face. The lieutenant in charge of I.A. is a big guy, and I assume he was caught off guard. The Hispanic that hit him was the one people saw in the chow hall being sent to Seg. I know who he is, and he is a rather little person. However, I am told that he knows how to fight very well, despite his size.

With the two staff assaults occurring one right after the other, I see now why we were taken back to the cell house in groups of five with handcuffs behind our backs. However, I still tend to believe the administration overreacts and is overly security conscious to the point of being ludicrous. Never have there been so many rules, regulations, and staff in the history of the Illinois Department of Corrections as exist today. And yet, I would not be surprised if the guards' union lobbies to have more staff and overtime pay due to these incidents. I do not, however, believe that my cellmate is necessarily correct in his opinion that the warden will order an Orange Crush invasion or a 3-month lockdown. This warden seems more reasonable, and wiser than some of his predecessors. The previous administration was particularly crass, dogmatic, and asinine.