You are reading a rare, detailed account of everyday life in Stateville Prison.

Click to read Paul's blog quoted on:
To contact Paul, please email:
or write him at the address shown in the right column. He will get your message personally.

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.


  1. I'm new to this blog and catching up on lots of good reading. This Cracker guy sounds like a real character. Pray for quicker bowel movements? Very funny!

  2. Wow, he takes an hour to poop? Hahaha


If you choose Name / URL, you can write any name and you don't need a URL. Or you can choose Anonymous. Paul loves getting your Comments. They are all mailed to him.