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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time -- October 1, 2010

Serving time is mostly what you make of it. Most prisoners spend much of their time watching TV, socializing, or working some menial job in the prison. When men are sent to Segregation, they do not know what to do with themselves. There is no TV and whatever work assignment they had is gone. To socialize, men will yell out the cracks of their cell doors. I notice they spend enormous amounts of time at the front of their cells looking out into the Roundhouse, looking for someone to talk to. With nothing to do, they will often act out and some will begin to lose their sanity after long periods of time in Seg. The men at Stateville Seg have less than 6 months of time to do in the Roundhouse. If they are given more than half a year in Seg as punishment, they are transferred to Pontiac CC Seg. I have been to Pontiac Seg and inmates there fare even worse, but the atmosphere of the Roundhouse and the huge building makes it much louder and disturbing, in my opinion. This week, I have been without a cell mate, and I have only just today said a few words to a lieutenant. Solitary confinement does not bother me at all, and I am easily able to occupy my time. In fact, this week has been better than many I have spent outside of Seg.

Time in prison can be difficult if you are not able to keep yourself busy. From the time I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, I am preoccupied with one thing or another. I develop intricate routines for myself, and this is made even easier without a cellmate. A cellmate can be regularly disruptive, but without one, I can carry out my day in a systematic order. Being productive and keeping to schedules makes my time go by much quicker. It also makes me feel much better about myself. Many people seem to need someone else or a social group for motivation and to feel good about themselves. Since childhood, I have had an introverted personality, however, and I can thrive in situations of social deprivation. Despite my very austere and difficult environment, I am pleased to have been able to improvise and make the most of what I have.

Like in general population, breakfast is passed out at 2 or 3 a.m.. When the chuckhole is unlocked and the lid is slammed open, I get up to get my food tray. In Seg we are usually given rubber trays with lids. However, because we are on lockdown, the guards have been giving us styrofoam trays. They are too lazy to collect the rubber trays, stack them back into their movable units, and bring them back to the kitchen to be washed. It is much easier to just throw them into a trash bag. The styrofoam trays are less work for me as well because I do not have to remove the food onto a styrofoam tray to keep for later. The rubber trays are collected and I refuse to eat just to go back to sleep. I have a plastic bag I use to wrap my tray with to prevent any roaches from getting in. The roaches are not nearly as bad as the other cell I was in, but they are still present. After I wrap up my tray, I open my window and place my milk and juice cartons outside on the sill. It has been very cold at night, and the window sill acts as my refrigerator.

I wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. every morning. The first thing I do is make myself a cup of coffee. I did not drink coffee in general population, however I have begun to do so after a cell house worker gave me a double handful of instant coffee packs. No one or very few people drink the state issued instant coffee because it tastes more like tree bark than coffee. However, coffee, despite its taste, acts as a hunger suppressant. I also noticed the stimulant makes me feel warmer. I have very little food in Seg and the mornings are especially cold. All night I am cold sleeping on my blanket with a mere sheet to cover myself with.

I refuse to drink my coffee cold, or luke warm. The sink water in Seg rarely ever gets hot and therefore I have had to think of a way to heat my coffee. I have very little to work with here, but I was ultimately able to think of a creative way to heat the water. In fact, I am a little impressed with my ingenuity, however, I cannot tell you about it because Internal Affairs is monitoring my blogsite and my mail. I do not need to give them an excuse to write me a ticket on top of the one I know they plan to devise to justify my investigation.

With my hot coffee, I sit in front of my TV to watch the morning news and eat my breakfast. The coffee has a bad flavor and my breakfast is paltry. However, I save up the desserts from lunch and dinner to add to my breakfasts. For example, I crushed cookies and dumped the crumbs into my oatmeal to spread onto my waffles. Stateville has not given us syrup for months, so my cookie crumb oatmeal serves as a spread. Sometimes I will save bread to add more calories to my morning meal. The morning news is usually limited to channel 9, WGN, because the other stations do not come in or have too much static. Usually I scan through multiple stations catching the news while I eat breakfast, but not anymore. After eating I turn off my TV and turn on news radio while I brush my teeth and clean the floor. Every day I wash the floor with a tattered rag and some prison issued bar soap. I clean it because my next activity is to work out and I do not like to work out on a dusty or dirty floor. I also clean the floor daily and keep the cell very clean to give the roaches less incentive to come here.

I will exercise for exactly one hour, and I time myself on my cheap Casio hand watch that I keep wrapped around a bar on my bunk. Since having a cortisone injection, my pain levels have diminished and I do not have to pop so many anti-inflammatories when I eat my breakfast. In fact, my lower back is so much better I call my exercise routine the "Modrowski P90X Chaos Workout" after the exercise infomercials that I regularly see on TV. It is amazing that people will pay a hundred dollars for a series of videos showing them how to workout! My exercise routine is more intense, improvised, and will get you better results, and I am trapped in a cage without any weights or equipment. And yes, I have the six-pack abs and sculpted muscles to show for it. In fact I may be unhealthily lean now. I noticed in the mirror that I can not only see the veins in my arms, but throughout my entire body. My chest, legs and even back and abdomen have a spider web network of visible blue veins. I am probably down 15 pounds by now and it may be wise for me to cut back on the exercises. However, working out is a part of my routine, and to keep boredom at bay I have been exercising since I was a child; I will continue to do so until I complete this natural life sentence.

Modrowski's P90X Chaos Workout often draws the attention of guards or other staff walking by. We are on lockdown now and there is little movement, but every now and then I notice staff will glance into my cell while I am working out. I do a lot of unusual exercises to charge up my routine and because I must improvise, I do not have a universal machine in my cell but I try to get just as good of a workout as if I did. Part of the cardiovascular exercises I do mimic mixed martial arts fighting, and certainly got the attention of the F House lieutenant as he walked by. I now place my towel over the bars in front of my window to darken my cell when I work out. This makes it difficult for people to see in with the bright lights in the dome interior and the dirty plexiglass in the front of my cell reflecting that light. Not only do I not like the guards watching me, but the hundreds of inmates who have nothing to do but stare out their cells all day. They should have to pay the $100 to learn the Modrowski P90X Chaos workout. Seriously, I despise the lack of privacy in the Roundhouse.

During my workout, I listen to a heavy metal tape that is exactly one hour long. It is actually two tapes dubbed into one, and each one is a half hour long. Metal is my music choice when working out, but it is also the only tape I have. Internal Affairs took my other 9 tapes and the only reason why I have this one is because it was inside my radio, and not in my box when I.A. took my property. I have tried to listen to the radio when working out, but I do not like commercials and I will ruin my exercise plan by stopping to change stations.

After my self-styled P90X workout is completed, I have over an hour of bathing and washing of clothes to do. I like to quickly wash up while my body temperature is still warmer because it is so cold in the cell. I use a piece of cardboard to stop up my sink, and hopefully fill it with warm water. It is more difficult washing up in the Roundhouse because there is less space to maneuver in the back of the cell. I only have one small thin rag to soak up water on the floor and I try to get water and suds to fall into my toilet. Afterwards I must mop up all the excess water and this takes some time, but even more time consuming is washing my clothes. I only have 3 T-shirts, 3 pairs of socks, 2 boxer briefs and 2 boxers. I am not going to walk around the cell in tight fitting boxer briefs, or exercise in them, so I must wash the ones I just finished wearing so they are clean and dry for tomorrow. I must also wash the T-shirt and socks I was wearing because at night I become so cold that I need to put on ALL my clothes plus the state's jumpsuit. Most people are probably used to throwing their clothes in a washer and then a dryer with little effort. However, scrubbing clothing with a bar of soap and slowly rinsing them in a sink that dribbles out water is a bit more time consuming and difficult. I also must then dry my clothes on a fan, which takes more time when it is only about 50 degrees in here. I cannot rinse my clothes in my toilet like I did in general population because there is a timer on it. I can only flush the toilet once every ten minutes. This is to prevent, or at least make it difficult, for prisoners in Seg to flood their cells.

I am preserving the little bit of shampoo my former cellmate gave me. Men in Segregation are allowed to shop if you have not been placed in restriction. I will not be permitted to order food, but I can order writing supplies and hygiene items. Unfortunately, however, the lockdown will prevent me from getting any store for two weeks, at the earliest. Prisoners are not allowed to shop during a lockdown. On October 12th I will have spent a month under investigation status and if I have not been served a disciplinary ticket, I will have to released. When I am released, I will be given my property along with my shampoo. Until I am able to shop or gain my supplies in my property box, my hair will not be washed often. I will have greasy, uncombed hair until then, as I have no comb, shampoo, or hairbrush.

For the rest of my day, I read or write until about 7 p.m. This week I have read 4 corporate and 2 mutual fund annual reports. I have also reviewed the earnings reports for a few hundred companies. Two of the corporations I read about had poor 3rd quarter profits. These companies were Prudential and Suncor Energy. I do not like either of these businesses. Prudential had a run up in earnings earlier this year, but this was only temporary and mostly due to such a terrible 2009. They also sold part of their business operations which made their numbers look more appealing. When the double-dip recession comes around, Prudential will be hurting again. They have a motto of "solid as a rock" and possibly they offer good and dependable insurance policies, but the company is not profitable from stock holders' perspectives. Suncor Energy is a Canadian oil sands company. Oil is being depleted rather quickly and most of it remains in the Middle East. It would be nice if America could get its energy supply from our friendly northern neighbor, however, although oil sands are plentiful, they release many pollutants when trying to gather that oil. It is also very expensive to convert oil sand into oil. I see better energy sources than the oil sands, and Suncor is not a wise investment now, in my opinion. Two better investments are the oil giants Conoco Philips and Royal Dutch Shell. Conoco is taking advantage of $80 a barrel oil, and their earnings per share growth was impressive in the 3rd quarter. Shell was not as good, but Shell is a much bigger and more diversified company. It is truly a global company with investments in about 100 countries. It also is not an oil company per se anymore, as half its production is from natural gas. Natural gas is very plentiful in the U.S. and is currently very cheap. It will be America's fuel of the future.

Although I have run out of stamped envelopes, I wrote and sent out a few letters with money vouchers attached for the postage. I have some holiday envelopes to use, but the problem is, as I wrote about in my journal entry "Snail Mail," money vouchers take over a month to be processed here. When I sent out these letters I wondered if I should enclose Christmas cards as well. I would not be surprised if they did not reach their destinations until late December. I will not send out this journal entry with a money voucher, but keep until I am able to procure more stamped envelopes. It annoys me that Internal Affairs has about 30 of my envelopes. Not only did they take my envelopes, but they also kept my address book to prevent me from communicating with the outside world. Internal Affairs cannot punish me directly for having a blog site, however, they can harass me with investigative Seg or fabricated charges. They may also try to have me transferred to Menard CC, and this probably would have been done already if I did not have a medical hold.

While in general population, I ate four meals a day trying to space them apart by hours. On lockdowns, I ate at 8 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. However in Seg I do not have any commissary food to supplement my state diet. The meals in Seg, particularly on a lockdown, are very small and it would be difficult to pick them apart to make a 4th meal. I believe the prison is mandated to give us 2,000 calories a day by federal courts, however, there are times on lockdown that I am certain there is not that many in the 3 meals given us. This week I will guess that we were only given 1,500 calories total per day. The quality and quantity of food can change on lockdowns because the prison kitchen workers are not making our food or trays. The minimum security unit on site was brought in to help in the kitchen, and they have no experience making food; they also do not care how many calories we get, or if we eat beans and turkey-soy kibble every day. The supervisors in the kitchen make most decisions, and they are responsible for our diets on lockdowns. In any event, I eat only three times a day now: 7 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

I took time out from my reading and writing this week to settle into my cell, and I rearranged my property. I had my TV on the back counter, but this is not the most convenient place for it. I like to have the counter clear to write on because it is made of hard steel and is favorable to write on with my dull pencils. My pencils are all worn down now and I have been peeling down the wood or scraping it off with a metal edge I found in my cell. I have my plastic small box to write on or a hardbound book, but when your pencils are so dull, these surfaces make my writing difficult to read. I have a stool, or part of a stool, to sit on by the counter. The seat has been busted off, but I fold up the blanket I sleep on as well as my jumpsuit to put on the seat. I like having my TV at the end of my bunk, and I wedged it between a horizontal beam and the top bunk with a couple of books; it is in there pretty solid, but I also tied a shoelace from the back of the TV to the plumbing door just as a precaution. The shoelace also serves as a place I can hang my tattered cleaning rag.

Radio reception is very poor from this cell. I surmise it is due to all the steel and concrete I am surrounded with. Although I can see the sun and moon set in the west, a west facing cell also means radio waves from Chicago must go through this entire building. I have moved my radio from various points in my cell, or at least as far as the cord will permit, and have found the position that gives me the best reception. The best reception is not very good, and I am only able to get several FM stations, the best of which is a rock station, CPQ. It probably comes in well because it's radio transmission is not from Chicago, but a small town south of here, Coal City. Mostly I have been listening to WLS, however, and it always comes in clear. AM radio has a much stronger signal and I can get a number of stations without static.

Although my TV is more conveniently placed now, this week I often thought I should have just put it under my bunk. There was very little to capture my interest on the few TV stations that I am able to get. At 7 p.m. when I eat my dinner tray, I like to watch TV, but I often found myself at a loss. On Monday, however, there was Monday Night Football: the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers. It was to be a good game, although I spent most of the time watching a long PBS documentary entitled "Spain and the New World." It was a very comprehensive and intriguing history of the American Indians, Spain, and the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

Today, I began my day like all the others this week with a cup of coffee, however, when I filled up my container, I noticed the water was a brownish-orange color. At Stateville this is not an unusual event. The plumbing in this institution is very old, and rust at times builds up in the pipes. After a few minutes of pressing the hot water button and continuing to get a dribble of brown water, I used the cold water button. It is a good thing I have devised a way to heat my coffee. Tree bark does not taste great when it is hot, let alone when it is cold.

I went through my rituals that I developed throughout the week. While cleaning the floor, I noticed cellhouse workers were out. They are easy to spot in their Smurf blue jumpsuits, but any prisoners out and about would have caught my attention because we have been on lockdown. Apparently the prison is off lockdown. Hopefully the food will improve.

During my workout, the lieutenant stopped by my door. I do not like having my workout disrupted, but I thought I would say hello to this man I have known much of my adult life. It was the first words I had spoken all this week. He made a comment about my workout and how I seem to have a limitless amount of energy. I told him no, contrarily, my workouts leave me exhausted, and we made a little more small talk. Before he began to leave, he asked if I was all right or needed anything. I do not like to ask for favors, but I asked him if there was any way he could find me a new mattress, or one in good condition with the cover still on, and no piss stains or tears. He said, "I will see what I can find."

Later in the day while I was rigidly following my schedule and absorbed in reading, the lieutenant banged on my door, startling me. He told me he could not find a brand new mattress, but he had one that was fairly new and in good condition. I thanked him and he motioned the gun tower guard to open my door. It was nice to finally have a mattress, after sleeping on the metal slab and suffering in the cold without a blanket to cover myself with. On the news I heard that this weekend was to have the coldest temperatures yet, and to expect frost in the suburbs of Chicago. I took a soapy rag and washed the vinyl covered mattress because it was not new, and who can say who slept on it. However, I was appreciative of the mattress and expect to be more so when I go to sleep tonight.

In Seg there is nothing but a lot of time. For some, the hours, days and months can drag by at a maddening pace. Most prisoners tend to desire a cellmate to talk with and share their austere lives together. Contrarily, I love the solitude and the ability to shape my days independently, even if my life is very limited and I am confined to a 5' x 10' space. At times throughout the week, I thought about the yard, TV, visits, or food that I was missing. However, time is time regardless of the privileges. Seventeen years have been stripped from me, and next April, 18 years will have been lost. I can be put in Supermax Tamms and my life will waste away just the same. In fact, I think I would like Tamms where prisoners truly have solitary confinement, and do not have the Roundhouse 500 inmate big tent circus to contend with. I am sure the cells there are bug free, and there is better food as well as drinking water. There I would also be guaranteed a cell to myself. This week has been a relatively good one, but I should not get used to my routines or the solitude. Soon, I will be put back in general population, or I will get a cellmate.

It is 7 p.m. and time for me to eat my state tray, and see if I can find some diversion on my TV. For those that are free, time is a precious commodity, and I hope readers do not squander it.


  1. This is one of the best yet. I enjoyed reading this so much.

  2. Roaches need water like crazy. Make sure there's no water in sink, toilet covered and the word will get around roaches...and leave your cell alone. (They also need food but you seem to have than angle is water you need to remove and roaches will remove themselves. Why do you think NASA tells people it is looking for life when in fact is looking for water?)

  3. Part Animal Part Machine.

    1. Henry Rollins in the house?

  4. Modrowski P90X Chaos Workout!!!!! The best!!!!


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