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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reality TV -- September 10, 2010

I am currently watching various reality television programs. Reality TV can draw my interest in large part because I have no life. I live in a cage and have for over 17 years, so I like to watch people engaging in real life situations. Some men who have been in prison a long time can become hooked on soap operas. Others like dramas. My cellmate enjoys fantasy themes. I tend to like serious programming, documentaries or shows that reflect reality. I cannot get into fictional stories that are far fetched, goofy, or not well grounded in truth, history, or fact. I realize most reality TV is scripted to some extent, but because my life is devoid of experiences outside these prison walls, these programs can be satisfying.

Monday evenings I watch "The Bachelor Pad" and "Dating in the Dark" on ABC; the shows run consecutively. I tend not to watch TV for three hours straight, but I am most intrigued by romance and courtship. These parts of my life have been missing for quite some time and I feel a great sense of loss. The Bachelor Pad has a number of people who have participated in prior Bachelor or Bachelorette shows. Most of the people I recognize, and it is interesting to follow along with their lives some more. However, I do not like the money component to the show. These people are mostly not looking for love or romance, but fame and a quarter million dollars. I suppose the producers added the monetary reward to make the program sleazier and compel artificial romance. This has changed the dynamics of the show to one where popularity, deceit, manipulation, and alliances tend to dominate over true attraction and love.

On Monday's Bachelor Pad, the remaining men chose a female pair. The three females who were not picked, were sent home. Most of the attractive women who had bonded with a man in the house were selected and this was good. Although certainly some strategy existed to win the money, the men chose women who they had the best connection with. Pairing up the people on the show allowed some to be more true to each other because before they were mostly hiding their attractions or relationships due to fear of being evicted. It also should bring about closer ties and, in fact, one couple sneaked off into the bachelor suite to sleep with each other.

"Dating in the Dark" is a program where 3 men and 3 women go on a series of dates, however, they are never allowed to see each other until the very end. Physical attraction is obviously the most important aspect of courtship, but it is interesting how people size up each other without the aid of sight. On the dates which are conducted in a room without lights, they can touch and talk to each other about anything. Some, without even seeing the other, will kiss or make romantic overtures. It somewhat reminds me of women I used to write and never got to meet. Of course, pictures can be exchanged and all women who are pretty send a photo within a few letters, if not with their first. Women who did not send a photo until I asked for one, were almost always unattractive. But despite the photos, you do not know if the photo really resembled them. A few women even attempted to trick me by sending a photo of themselves taken 15 or 20 years ago. One of these women I had a lot in common with and liked, but after seeing her recent photo, I no longer had any attraction for. She was heartbroken that I did not want to correspond anymore, but she should not have deceived me. After "the reveal," I would not have met these women on the balcony.

Corresponding with a woman, even without seeing them in person, can create very strong and deep bonds. If both people are sincere, you are able to know a person at a level you may not if your relationship was based primarily on physical attraction. I have developed deeper bonds with women by writing them than I ever had before my incarceration. Before my arrest, I dated quite a number of girls, but typically only for short periods of time. I doubt I ever dated one girl regularly for more than a few months. My most serious relationship actually occurred after my incarceration with a woman who lived overseas. She sent me photographs regularly, and on her summer breaks, she would come to the U.S. to visit me. However, other than being able to briefly hold each other and kiss after a visit, the extent of our intimacy was through long and frequent letters plus occasional phone calls.

"Dating in the Dark" attempts to force people to develop a deeper relationship before becoming physical, or relying on appearance. Other than the dates, they will be able to examine the opposite sex's car, clothing, purse, wallet, or other personables. The host of the show does not give the people on the program any notice, and for example, on Monday's episode, they were told to immediately undress and their clothing was taken to the other side where the man or woman was. One woman immediately disliked a man for his choice of clothing and their smell. Men looked at style, but seemed more concerned about the sizes of clothing. None of these dating shows, in my opinion, create an opportunity for people to develop deep relationships. Possibly they can grow into something afterwards, but no one serious about finding that special someone can do so in that environment and short period of time. It is highly unfortunate that I was never given a chance to be with any of the women I wrote in prison, and I am sad that there is no opportunity for me to see a relationship through. There is no post showmance for me.

Most men in prison write women for money and not for any true feelings or attraction. Prisoners often have no money to buy commissary. A few times, I have given the addresses of fat or ugly women to these men. I told one man about a plumper who had written me and described her as being similar to a Goodyear Blimp. He excitedly said, "Those are the best women to write! The fat girls are like fat piggy banks," he said. These men remind me of some of the men on "The Bachelor Pad" who are only seeking to win a quarter million dollars, although there are now no ugly women remaining. Possibly, these men are just being practical considering these shows, particularly this one, are not ideal circumstances to find a serious relationship. Sometimes I have thought myself foolish for searching for my princess via online ads and developing relationships from prison. Not only am I painfully aware I will probably never get out of prison, but I wonder what will the chemistry be like outside of these prison walls? Will the dynamics that make a couple feel like soul mates while one is in prison change after? Unlike most men in prison, I would have certainly liked to have found out.

On Wednesday, I watched "Fan Versus Wild" with Bear Grills, while switching over to ESPN during commercials to watch Caroline Wozniacki play Domika Cibulkova in the U.S. Open. I have been following Wozniacki, the Scandinavian tennis player, throughout most of the sports event. My cellmate caught me watching tennis and was surprised that I would take the time to do so. Normally, I am writing, reading, developing stock charts or other things. I watch very little TV, and the sports I watch is limited mostly to football. My cellmate peeks over the bunk, on occasion, if I am not at the table at work, to see what could get my attention. He tells me tennis is boring and is always surprised to see me watching it. It certainly is not football, but the game is not boring to me. I also like the individual and national element to it. Furthermore, I find Caroline Wozniacki very pretty. I am impressed not only by her beauty but her abilities, particularly on a concrete court. Concrete courts have the advantage to players with strength and power. Wozniacki is very fit, but still feminine, unlike some of the Russian brutes or the Williams sisters who I often refer to as the gorilla sisters. Hopefully, Kim Clijsters from Belgium will defeat Serena Williams on Friday, but regardless, I will look forward to the U.S. Open title going to Caroline Wozniacki.

"Fan versus Wild" is a spin on "Men versus Wild," where two fans get to join Bear Grills survive in the wilderness. Bear Grills is a former British Special Ops soldier. He is very resourceful and talented. I am always impressed by his ability to survive in the most dangerous and difficult environments. He often reminds me of a real James Bond, although I know the reality show is edited, and Bear Grills always has a film and safety crew with him. A few seasons ago there was controversy over just how real and how dangerous the show was when viewers learned about the crew that accompanies him. Now, all shows begin with a disclaimer, but I always reasoned that "Man Versus Wild" had at a minimum, a film crew, and that the show was staged in part or edited. Regardless, I am still impressed by the nature and the things Bear Grills does.

Despite the nice figure and good looks of Caroline Wozniacki playing in wind gusts of over 30 mph lifting up her skirt and throwing her long blond hair around, "Fan Versus Wild" was my focus. This special reality program had been advertised for months, and I had been looking forward to it since the show announced they were looking for fans to join Bear Grills in the wilderness. I often have wondered if I could keep up with the former British Special Ops solder. If I was not in prison, I would have entered my name. I care less about being on TV and would rather not be, but I would like to learn from the survivalist and challenge myself. I also would love to be put in the wilderness away from civilization.

"Fan versus Wild" was filmed in the wilderness of British Columbia, Canada. The two men chosen to be on the show did not strike me as being particularly athletic or skilled. Possibly they were specifically chosen for being average men to contrast them with Bear Grills, and so they would be seen struggling. These men did not even seem strong willed, or spirited. Were these real fans of the show, I thought. I know I would have been more enthusiastic to be there and determined to surpass or at least be Bear Grill's equal. The show seemed to be less exciting, and slower with the two fans in tow most of the time. I think if it was the producers' intent to find average men, they should have been put into more dangerous and precarious situations. I was looking to see them tested to the limits and sent out in a medical helicopter if they failed. However, it seems the producers did not want to face any liabilities and the show limited the danger.

Yesterday I watched a reality TV show on CBS called "Big Brother" that is very popular among inmates at Stateville. In this show, a group of people live in a house that is filled with cameras and everyone is forced to wear a microphone. There is no place in the house a contestant can go to escape monitoring except the bathroom. Every week contestants face competitions for food, head of household status, and veto. Head of Household is the most important competition, and the winner gets to put two people on the chopping block. They are also safe from elimination. The winner of the show receives a half million dollars, which after taxes is probably only a quarter million. Big government seizes half the winnings of even "Big Brother" winners.

"Big Brother" is less of a show about competition than the social interactions of the people trapped inside the house. There is a lot of drama, and I think producers intentionally choose a diversity of people as well as people who are excessively emotional. Many people believe I am stoic, but even for average folks, I think these people are overly sensitive. The diverse group of people form friendships and coalitions to carry themselves further in the game. Ultimately, the last two people remaining go before contestants who have been eliminated. This jury picks the winner. The show is not only over-dramatized, but goofy. I do not know how I first began to watch this show; it is definitely not my forte. However, it is sometimes entertaining to watch people interact, and I always pick a person to root for who I can most identify with. This season, it is Lane, the oil rigger from Texas.

"Big Brother" often reminds me of prison. Almost every area of Stateville is covered with cameras. Internal Affairs or other guards can watch virtually everything you do. For the most part, the only place you are safe from the prying eyes of your captors is the shower rooms and your cell. Not only are there hundreds of cameras in Stateville, but all phone calls are monitored and recorded. From what I hear, recordings of telephone calls will be kept for a year or longer. Advances in data collection probably make it possible for all recordings to be kept for eternity. All incoming mail is checked for contraband and money orders. Letters are also read indiscriminately and discriminately. Some prisoners' mail may be flagged to be read and photocopied. In the visiting room, there is not only a camera being closely watched, but signs on the wall (written in English and Spanish) say that your communications may be monitored and recorded. Although I know guards watch the visiting room camera at all times when the visiting room is open, and move the camera around and zoom in on people, I highly doubt sound recording systems are used because it is so loud in there. Sometimes my visitor nor I can hear each other unless we shift forward and yell. By the way, there are also many snitches at Stateville that keep guards informed even if they do not see or hear you.

I have often thought the show "Big Brother" could be easily replicated here at Stateville. There could be 24-hour live feed on the Internet, an after dark show on Showtime, and during prime time, an edited version with the most dramatic or interesting cuts. Instead of losers being kicked out, they would remain, and the winner would win his freedom. The final show could be a prisoner walking out of Stateville a free man. Unfortunately, I doubt I would win the show. I may be good at competitions, but I am a loner and unpopular loners always lose in the Big Brother house. Hopefully, however, Governor Quinn will use his clemency powers to release people based on merit, and I will not have to depend on a Big Brother Stateville TV show.

Earlier today, Kim Clijsters defeated Serena Williams. I was initially not aware the semifinal match was on until I heard applause in the cell house. Several times I heard loud cheering and clapping. There was no football, basketball, or even soccer on TV, so I knew it had to be the U.S. Open. Tennis is not well watched by prisoners here, however, many black men like the Williams sisters and root enthusiastically whenever one of them play, especially in significant matches. When I turned on the TV, Serena Williams had just won the first set. However, thereafter, Kim Clijsters turned the tide and won the next two to be victorious. The cell house grew quiet as Clijsters won repeated volleys. I did not care to cheer, but I did just to annoy the Serene Williams fans. I heard another lone clapper, and that came from an older white man down the gallery from me. Also, today was the semifinal of Wozniacki and the Russian, Zvonereva. Wozniacki had not lost a single set the entire U.S. Open, but she lost in two straight sets in this match. I do not know if I will bother watching the final without the pretty Danish contender. I went back to writing at my desk and continued to do so until 8 p.m.

The reality show "Man Woman Wild" comes on Friday evenings, and I have yet to miss an episode. "Man Woman Wild" is an offshoot of "Men Versus Wild" with Bear Grills. In this show, however, a former special forces soldier with exceptional survival skills takes his wife along with him. His wife has no knowledge about surviving in the wilderness, and she is often dependent on her husband. Many men in prison seek out women who will send them money, and they talk about finding a woman to use when they get out. These men are degenerate low-lifes, in my opinion. It is the man's responsibility and even duty to take care of the female in their lives. I would be ashamed to be dependent on a woman, and have never asked a female to send me money. Many of these prisoners believe they are macho gangsters, but a masculine man would not want to use women but protect, provide, and care for them. What I love about "Man Woman Wild" are the dynamics of the relationship and higher values promoted. In the wilderness, outside of corrupted modern liberal society, traditional roles of the sexes is reestablished. This reality show fulfills a part of my life as a prisoner I cannot live myself, but can merely daydream about.

"Man Woman Wild" is also a good program to learn survivalist skills. Bear Grills often moves very quickly and does not explain survival techniques. It is a fast paced survivalist show whereas "Man Woman Wild" is slower, and more in-depth. There was another reality survival show that had its season finale a few weeks ago called "Dual Survival" which also was more comprehensive. Instead of the interplay between a man and woman, however, there was the contrasting styles of an ex-marine and a hippie naturalist who refused to wear shoes. I often told my cellmate that we could be the "Dual Survivor" team of Stateville. The ordered, nonsocial prisoner with conservative politics forced to be partners with the disorganized, social extrovert with liberal Marxist politics to survive the concrete jungle of Stateville. Sounds like a good reality TV show, yes?

"Beyond Survivor with Les Stroud" comes on after "Man Woman Wild" on the Discovery channel. I used to like watching Les Stroud a lot when the show was called "Survivorman" and Les Stroud was in the wilderness by himself without a camera or safety crew. But now he joins Aborigine tribes untouched by civilization to learn their ways, including ways to survive. I am not so much interested in how those people live and their poor survival skills. I want to learn from the world's best, not primitive tribes that are on the edge of extinction. I want to see the survival skills of British Special Ops, Navy Seals, Rangers, etc., not people who put bones in their noses and live in huts because they know no better. As I write this journal entry, some native tribe of Indonesia has been sitting on poles in the ocean for hours upon hours, trying to catch fish. Despite about 30 of them, I tend to believe they will go home hungry using such primitive and foolish techniques.

I doubt anyone wants to live at Stateville. However, possibly, my journal entries are interesting to the public at large. Just like Big Brother or other reality TV shows, I attempt to provide people with a very real look into Illinois' maximum-security prisons. I doubt IDOC will ever open up Stateville to cameras and audio to the public, and even if they did, it would be very edited and biased. I don't see a "Big Brother" or "In the Big House" show coming to cable any time soon. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my journal writings.

The Law Library Ambush -- August 24, 2010

Details and other movement were delayed in my cell house this morning. There was a fight in another part of the prison where a guard working the catwalk fired a warning shot. From what I was informed later, the cell house lieutenant told the guard to stand down because everything was under control, but the guard was trigger happy and fired a shot into the ceiling anyway. Guards too often fire their rifles, endangering not only prisoners, but staff as well. Although a guard may shoot into the ceiling or into a warning shot box, the pellets they use as ammunition often are scattered and have the habit of bouncing off objects. Last year, when the new director of IDOC walked through, there was talk of taking all the weapons out of the prison, or at least in the cell houses, but this was never implemented. Director Randle is under pressure to step down now, and he may soon resign.

Eventually, inmates were let out in B House to go to their work assignments, the Health Care Unit, and other destinations. The warden had decided not to put the entire prison on lockdown, but only the cell house where the incident occurred. E House had just been taken off lockdown for another fight which occurred Friday evening. Because of this fight, night yard was cancelled for 2 and 4 gallery in my cell house. I was in the chow hall when this fight occurred, and we were just about to be let out onto the South yard. Instead, we were sent back to our cells and locked in our cages for the night.

Around 10 a.m., the afternoon law library list was announced on the loudspeaker. Inmates never know if they will be allowed to go to the library until the list is called out. Many people fill out request slips, but only 30 names make the list. One of the staff members who works at the library decides who is allowed to go based on court orders, deadlines, and most urgent need. She is not always fair in the list she creates, and there are usually several disgruntled inmates. I had some legal work I needed to do in the library, but my name was not called. That was just as well, because after last Thursday's visit to the library, I was not eager to go back there.

On Thursday, the 19th of August, my name was surprisingly called on the loudspeaker for the law library. I never put in for Thursday library because it is run during the morning. Mornings are my time to have some cell space alone when my cellmate leaves to work in the barbershop. I had already put on my shorts and gym shoes to exercise as soon as my cellmate left. I often get visits on Thursdays, and today I was expecting my family to come early. I probably would not be called until after I returned from library, but this meant I would be out of my cell the entire day. I did not like having to deal with Stateville's inmates, guards, and others for long periods of time only to return to my cell occupied with my very talkative and hyper cellmate. Furthermore, legal boxes are not taken out of storage for inmates at the library on Thursdays. One of the reasons I go to the law library is to gain access to my legal materials which I am unable to fit in my two cell boxes. Unhappily, I took off my shoes and shorts, and dressed in state blues. I came very close to waiving my privilege to go the law library, and if I had E.S.P. I would have.

The law library line was very noisy. On the walk over to the building, the sun was already beating down hard. It was only a quarter past 9, but the temperature was already a muggy 85-90 degrees. Inmates in the library and school lines which are run together in the morning, were talking loudly to each other and yelling to those on the South yard. The line was stopped to allow prisoners from other cell houses to join the line, and while standing there I looked over some of my legal papers to remind myself of what I needed to do in the library. I did not have time to make a list before I was let out of my cell, and did not want to waste time. Inmates are given only an hour or two to conduct all their legal work before they are told to leave.

Eventually, the law library and school line made it to the library building. Those going to grade school or high school classes continued on their walk while inmates going to the library waited outside. There is usually a wait before we go inside, but this morning it was a little longer than usual. As I entered the library, I found out why. About 20 guards quickly came out from around the corner and closed in about us. They shouted at us to put our hands in the air and line up along the wall. We were then ordered to place our papers on the floor and face towards the wall. People began to do as they were told, but lowered their hands. We were then shouted at to keep our hands up and put them on the fencing. I felt like I was a victim in a bank robbery and thought about how I knew I should have stayed in my cell today. For the next couple of hours, I was not going to be able to do any legal work, but be continually demeaned and harassed.

One side of the main room of the library is a painted cyclone fence. This fence is here to lock in inmates from Segregation who have court orders to have law library access. There are about 8 small cages that are kept locked. Some of the cages are also used to store some inmates' legal boxes as well. The cage I stared into was empty and was used to hold Segregation inmates. I grabbed onto the fence above my head as I waited to be searched.

This was not a routine shake down. The major was present along with several members of Internal Affairs. Most of the guards, however, were from the movement team, or pulled off of other assignments. The guards went meticulously from inmate to inmate. We were not strip searched, but we were thoroughly patted down and told to take off our shoes. The guards went page by page through a number of prisoners' legal books and papers. Some inmates had a stack of papers and numerous books with them. Several guards looked through their property, but most inmates only had one guard search them and their papers. Some guards stood by just for security and to make sure prisoners did not move out of position. I assume the library itself was searched before we arrived, but some guards may have been searching while we were lined up against the fence.

The major and other guards shouted at prisoners who dared to look behind them, or turn their heads. The major told one man, "Why the fuck you keep looking back here! Face forward. If I see you glancing around again, I am going to take you to Seg." To another inmate, he shouted, "Face the fuck forward! What is your problem?! No one is reading your legal papers." A guard also snapped on some man who pivoted his head to the side. The man said he had a pinched nerve in his neck. The guard told him if he kept on turning his head, he will have more than a sore neck and be taken to Segregation.

Guards can search through inmates' property, but they are prohibited from reading privileged legal documents and correspondence with their attorneys. Many guards do not care about this rule, and do so anyway. An inmate can write and file a grievance on any staff who reads their privileged legal papers, although grievances typically are dismissed and written in vain despite the issue or any corroboration. In guards' defense, though, determining legal product from other papers is not always readily apparent.

The prison population in maximum-security has become increasingly older. There are many men now over 50 years old with various medical conditions. Even I was feeling lower back pain and sciatica pain as I stood there against the fence for over a hour. The man who spoke about a pinched nerve in his neck was an older black man, and I do not believe he was lying. However, our comfort is of no concern to our captors. The major and guards were obviously trying to make a statement of force and control.

After a half hour into the search, some of the guards began to make jokes. I heard one say to another, "Is pornography legal material?" Another voice asked to no one in particular, "Do these inmates know what they are allowed to bring to the library?" He was now looking at the porn magazine and said, "I think this is contraband. I may have to take this." The major shouted that the prisoners know what we can and cannot bring to the law library. A guard then said, "I don't know. This centerfold could be an exhibit to an appeal." Another guard then told the other they will never get done if they continue to search porn magazines.

The library is not just a law library. It is an all purpose library, and men can bring any type of reading materials with them, even porn, I suppose. I have never heard of any prohibition against Playboy or other magazines and books. I am not certain what was taken by the guards during the search, but when it was over, they did have a few bags of property. Later I was told by an inmate that the guards took his pens. There was more than pens in those bags, however.

It was some time before a guard began to search me. I was in the middle of the line, and the guards began searching at the ends. They also focused their attention on the inmates who had brought over a lot of property. All I had brought with me was one 9" x 11" envelope containing about 1" of papers in it. In my pockets, I had 8 pencils bound in a rubber band, tissue paper, and a small instant oatmeal package with a teaspoon of garlic powder in it. After library, I assumed we would be taken directly to the chow hall, and I wanted the garlic to season the soy spaghetti I heard was on the menu. I bring all my pencils to the library because this year a pencil sharpener was put out for inmates to use. I will easily dull 8 pencils in a week, depending on how much writing I do. I am currently writing with one of those pencils.

The guard searching me was a respectful and polite black man I have known for some time. His pat down was light, and he did not pull out my pencils or packet of garlic for inspection. He did tell me to take off my shoes, and he did go through my papers, but rather quickly. I tend to believe the guards know who the troublemakers are, and search them more thoroughly. I also tend to believe the guards do not like certain men and seek to harass them more than others. A few people were taken out of line for special treatment. I could not see who they were with my peripheral vision, and I did not dare to look back. None of these people were taken to Seg, despite the threats I heard.

The last two days, the library was closed, purportedly because library staff were taking depositions in a lawsuit filed by an inmate at Stateville. However, possibly the library was being searched from top to bottom. In the past, I have heard of knives being found in between books, under shelves, or elsewhere. Other potential weapons and drugs have been found in there as well. Later, while I was taking care of some legal work, I happened to pass by a guard talking to the major. The guard was showing him a very old rusted pipe elbow. I overheard him say, "This was found during the search." I can't say if it is something an inmate stashed away, or if it was just a part a union plumber left behind when making a repair. I speculate the latter, however.

Inmates were lined up against the fence for about an hour and a half, before the major told us we could go about our business with the remaining time left. There was only a half hour remaining though, and I heard inmates griping. Some had court deadlines pending, and had to have appeals or other legal filings made. We were not allowed to go to library earlier in the week, and this probably put a few people in a bind. Ultimately, the major gave us more time, but I was notified that I had a visit not long after that.

While I waited for an escort, I sharpened my pencils and then gave them, along with my legal papers, to a person I knew on the gallery. I asked him to put them on my desk for me when he returned so I could go directly to the visiting room. There have been some long delays in visitation lately, and I wanted to get to gate 5 as soon as possible. If I had to return to the cell house, I may be trapped in a holding cage until another escort was going that way.

In the last few weeks, prison officials have greatly increased searches of inmates, cells, and various areas of the prison. My cell and others in my cell house have been shaken down at least twice. Some inmates have told me their cells have been ransacked several times. Having your cell searched is a big inconvenience. Not only is your property scattered about and must be reorganized, but you must stop whatever you are doing and immediately leave your cell. I hate disruptions to my routines. A couple of weeks ago, Internal Affairs and cell house guards searched a number of cells on my gallery and the one above mine. I was in the middle of working out, and was dripping in sweat. My shorts and T-shirt were drenched when I came out of the cell. There was an I.A. guard waiting near the cell house holding cage to frisk me. This is a guard that is known to be extremely thorough, even absurdly so. If he is in the visiting strip search room, he will want to look at your nails, inside your ears, between your toes, and even your butt crack. He even tells men to pull up the foreskin of their penis. While he was working the strip search room, rumors abounded that he was gay. I do not know if he is, but he definitely takes his job too seriously. Anyway, he was not so thorough patting me down. Apparently, my body odor or dripping wet clothing dissuaded him, and I only received a couple of taps to my sides.

For several days last week, the major had come to our cell house to personally supervise cell searches. Usually, cell searches are infrequent and conducted by cell house guards along with a sergeant. The major brought over some new cadets to conduct cell searches during the evening. The new guards are looking to impress their boss and go by the book. They took their time searching cells. Some cells were searched for an hour. During all of these searches, nothing serious was found and no one was sent to Segregation. The only person I have heard to go to Seg in the last couple of weeks from being found with contraband in their cell was a loud mouth black man and his cellmate who lived above me. From what I am told, Internal Affairs found bottles of hooch, or prison wine, in his cell.

I spoke with a worker who lives in another cell house and was informed cell searches were being conducted there as well. He also told me that their morning yard had been cancelled so guards could search the grounds for weapons. Guards use metal detectors and go about the yard searching for knives or shank materials. Years ago, inmates would plant knives in the ground until they were needed. Before then, inmates commonly carried knives on them wherever they went. Stateville was very dangerous in the 1990s and earlier. Even I would have kept a weapon on me at all times back then, if I had been here. However, now stabbings rarely occur, and shanks are not commonly stashed or carried.

I do not know what has caused the major's new vigilance on security. Possibly, a snitch has made accusations to Internal Affairs. Possibly, dangerous contraband of some sort has been found this month that I have not been made aware of. Possibly, the major is acting on orders from the warden, or attempting to make a statement to inmates or to the administration. I tend to believe, however, the ambush of inmates at the law library and repetitive cell searches are unnecessary and will not make Stateville C.C. any safer.