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Monday, November 15, 2010

Segregation - Week 2 -- September 25, 2010

Editor's Note: Internal Affairs recently decided to release the following journal entry, one of the many things they confiscated from Paul in September.

The first week in Segregation was terrible. From the moment the steel door was opened and I heard the deafening roar of the Roundhouse, I knew it was going to be an unpleasant experience. I had no property to keep my mind preoccupied, only 500 prisoners screaming, pounding their doors, and acting like they were insane. My initial cellmate was mentally unstable, but at least he was quiet. My second cellmate was friendly and generous, but the new cell was infested with cockroaches. It has been difficult adjusting to Seg, but I am better now than I was two weeks ago. Possibly the flames of Hades cease to be as tormenting the longer your skin is torched. There is some solace knowing that my life cannot get much worse.

On the fifth day in here, I was brought all my property that had been sent to the Personal Property Office, minus my investment newspapers. I am in Seg under "investigative status" and thus, I am entitled to all my property. However, Internal Affairs took my two boxes and left very little in my cell to be sent to personal property. I was given my radio, Walkman, television, and a few papers, a book, and a corporate report that I.A. had missed or did not bother to take with them. My cellmate, R.C., was jubilant I had a TV and was anxious to hook it up, but I was in the back of the cell where the cable hook-up was, bathing in the sink with a sheet up for privacy. I told my cellmate I did not watch much TV, but he could watch whatever he wanted most of the day. I asked R.C. if my Koss stereo headphones were in the bag, and I was glad when he confirmed they were. Those headphones are no longer sold and have a habit of being stolen. Headphones were my most valuable possession and with them I could block out a lot of the noise in the cell house. I do not understand why Personal Property did not send me the financial papers I had. These were not just any papers, but had recorded data on hundreds of stocks going back a year on which I had made numerous notes and meticulous evaluations.

After I washed my set of underclothes and cleaned up the back of the cell, I set up my television. We only had one extension cord, and I had to rearrange how it was being used. While I did this, R.C told me I could have the bottom bunk. I asked him why, and he said that was just the way it was done. The man with the TV gets the bottom bunk. In prison, the lower bunk is prized among most inmates. It is much more convenient, and when you have the bottom bunk you indirectly have more control, as well as space. My lower back has been bothering me more so than usual, and not having to climb up and down would have been beneficial, however, I told R.C., "Thanks, but no thanks." He asked me how I was going to watch TV and change the channels from the top bunk. I told him he will soon discover that I watch little television. While I eat my breakfast and watch the morning news, I will sit on the toilet, and at night if I watch any TV, I can see it just fine from the top bunk. I also mentioned how I preferred to be farther away from the roaches' reach, although they could easily crawl up the walls and bunk. In my mind, I also thought how R.C. liked to talk with various cell house workers through the crack in the cell door, and I would rather be out of his way.

The discussion about the bottom bunk was a waste of words. When I finally connected the cable and power cord, I discovered the TV did not pick up a single station. R.C. was very disappointed when he saw the blue screen and told me that many cells in Seg did not have working cable. Prisoners in Seg are not allowed TVs and radios at Stateville. It was only because I was under investigation and not written a ticket that I received my audio-visual property. Because prisoners do not typically have TVs in Seg, the cable wires are never repaired when they go out. My TV is many years old and is not digital. If it were, I could have stuck a wire out the window and picked up stations without the cable connection. The prison is charging inmates close to $300 for a 13" flat screen digital TV, and I never considered discarding my old one for it, however, now I see how it could be advantageous.

I had spoken to R.C. on occasion when he was a cell house worker and in passing, however, I never bothered to get to know the man. While he was in the cell with me I learned he was in prison for murder and concealment of a homicide. Like myself, R.C. had an aggravated sentence of natural life without parole. This gained my curiosity and I asked what caused him to get the enhanced sentence. He told me the victim was burned after he was shot dead, and the judge determined the murder was brutal and heinous, indicative of wanton cruelty. My judge also made this determination because the victim was dismembered after he was killed. Although I was convicted under a theory of accountability, the law states that accountable parties are liable for all of their co-defendant's actions. What I spoke to R.C. about, however, was that the law was meant for people who torture their victims while still alive, not for disfiguring the corpse afterwards. If possible, this will be one of my successive post-conviction issues, but I did not tell this to R.C.

Before his arrest, I learned that R.C. had been an active gang member, and this was his second arrest for murder. The first time he was prosecuted, he had been acquitted. R.C. lived in one of the many gang dominated areas of Chicago's inner city. I asked him about his name and he told me it stood for Rastafarian Congo. R.C. read from the Koran, and had recently just finished the Islamic practice of fasting during the day, called Ramadan. However, he most closely identified with the faith of Rastafaria. I am not very knowledgeable about the religion, and I asked him to tell me about it. R.C. did not seem to be able to articulate it well, but basically said it came from an Ethiopian leader who defeated Benito Mussolini's invading army. Although I do not know about his faith, I do know history very well, particularly military history, and I know Italy's forces swiftly crushed the Ethiopians and other North African peoples before the British and U.S. troops came. I still remember watching the black and white war footage of Africans throwing spears that bounced off Italy's tanks before they rolled over them. Despite this, I let R.C. continue, and he told me how his faith is one of rebellion and of the oppressed. His long dreadlocks somehow symbolized this. I told him I thought his dreadlocks were to add to his mystique as a voodoo witch doctor, and when we ate chicken later that day, I told him to dry out the chicken bones. He could earn some money telling fortunes with them at Stateville. R.C. does not have the persona of a witch doctor, but of a marijuana smoking, Reggae music fan.

At about midnight, a black female guard woke me up to ask if I had received my property. I was half asleep and just told her I was brought some of it. In the morning, R.C. told me the woman worked for Internal Affairs. Had I known this, I would have told her I only received my audio-visual property, and you still had all the rest. Late the following night, a couple of guards woke me up again to give me my small box that held all my papers, books, magazines, pens and pencils. I did not sort things out until the morning. I am very picky about how I have my boxes arranged, and I went through it and put it back in meticulous order. I discovered that everything was there except for my journal papers, some Internet articles and emails, as well as all my stamped envelopes and correspondence. I also noticed my phone/address book was gone. This led me to believe that possibly the lieutenant I spoke to earlier may have been correct.

The day after I had been moved to the second floor, a lieutenant I have known for over a decade was making his rounds in F House. He happened to see me and in surprise asked, "What the hell are you doing in Seg?" I told him, "I.A. took all my property and put me under investigation. As of yet, I am uncertain what for." He commented that possibly they were messing with me because of my blog site. He said it in such a way, though, he could have been joking. A number of guards at Stateville seem to be aware of my blogsite, although he never said he had read it. I do not mind if the staff knows about my blog, although I hope that it does not become known among the prison population. On a visit once, however, an inmate approached me and said, "You're that guy with the website, aren't you?" I could not deny it, and confirmed his suspicions. He told me his girlfriend reads it all the time to see what is going on in Stateville. She was just on a visit with him and apparently pointed me out. My blog is not meant for the people who work or live here and know what it is like to be here, but for those outside these prison walls. I am not particularly pleased that I.A. is interested in my blog, but it is a public forum and anyone in the world can read it.

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and I noticed my cellmate gazing at the blank TV screen. I told him he could use my Walkman if he wished to listen to Reggae or anything he wanted, but he said he was fine. It seemed he really wanted to watch TV and earlier he had mentioned how he is addicted to certain soaps. I told him if the lieutenant does rounds again today, I will ask him if we can both be moved to an empty cell. R.C. did not think there were any empty cells, but I reminded him that my old cell was still vacant. Guards removed both occupants the day before, and prison workers had cleaned up all the blood on the floor and walls.

The lieutenant, as expected, made rounds in the cell house and I caught his attention as he walked by. I told him about the cable being out, and asked if we could be moved to another cell. Normally I would not bother asking for a favor, but as I mentioned before, I have known him a decade and he seemed to be sympathetic to my predicament in Seg. He told me he would check if there were any cells open and get back to me. Normally when a prisoner is told this, it means do not hold your breath. However, he came back to the cell and yelled at me to get some pants on. He was going to have me check the cable in my former cell. I went downstairs and connected my TV quickly. The TV picked up a few stations, but they were filled with static. The lieutenant said I will probably have to scrape off the paint on the wall coupling. However, after R.C. and I moved all our things into the cell, we discovered it was not the paint. The cable wire in the wall was bad, and most of the stations came in poorly, if at all. Regardless, I was glad to be back in my former cell which was cleaner, and not infested with as many cockroaches. Plus, I had my old window and view back again. As I write, the sun is setting in various gold and red colors.

Over the weekend, yard is run for inmates in Seg. Because of a federal mandate, all inmates must receive five hours outside of their cages, regardless of their status. However, the courts do not define how much space, or the conditions of the "recreation" area. At Stateville, there are several Seg yards which consist of half a basketball court surrounded by fencing and razor wire. It was a cool 60 degree day and the news said there was a possibility of showers. Even if there was no threat of rain and the weather was great, I doubt I would have gone out. There is nothing for me to do out there and I cared less to socialize with anyone in Seg. My cellmate went out, though. An hour later I looked out my window to see rain coming down heavily. I could see two Seg yards from my cell, and the people out there did not look too happy. I noticed a couple of them were wise enough to bring plastic garbage bags and were using them as raincoats.

There have been a few nights when temperatures fell into the low 40s. I have been miserably cold on those nights. I sleep on my blanket and I do not have many clothes. Before I go to sleep, I put on all of my socks, T-shirts and underwear. I also put on my tattered jumpsuit and for what it is worth, I wrap a sheet over myself. R.C. was able to get an inmate worker to bring him a new jumpsuit, but it is a 7XL. He has given me this jumpsuit made for a giant, and despite how big it is, I wear it on cold nights.

I received a pass to see the psychiatrist and I was expecting to be sent to the Healthcare Unit. However, I discovered that because there are so many people in Seg who take medications, the psychiatrist had an office in the cell house and came here to see patients. While waiting my turn to see the doctor, I was placed in the shower with R.C.'s former cellmate. (Apparently, the showers act as holding cages in F House). He had bandages across his arm and his face. I asked him what happened to cause my former cellmate to snap on him. He said he did not do anything to provoke him, and when he jumped off his bunk to rotate a T-shirt on his fan, he just sliced him across the face with a razor blade. He tried to get away, but the man cut him again across the body and arm. He then asked him if he wanted to die, and told him they could not be cellmates. Although the man told me he did not provoke my former cellmate, I tend to believe his obnoxious, loud, or inconsiderate behavior had something to do with it. The man rambled incessantly, and when I did not engage him, he began rapping to himself and moving about restlessly.

For the two weeks I have been in Seg, we have been fed beans at least once a day, sometimes twice. The prison commissary does not sell Beano or Gas-X, and even if they did, I.A. still has the vast majority of my property. I have been throwing most of those beans away. I also have not been eating all of the soy-turkey meal we are regularly served. There are days we have been served processed soy-turkey for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They make almost everything with this filler, including spaghetti, sloppy joes, tacos, stew, cheeseburger or cheesy macaroni. I despise this poor quality and poor tasting food and typically I would pass on most of it. However, I have been eating more of it lately because I have no choice. R.C. gave me a handful of peanut butter packets along with three Ramen noodles and two cheese sticks, but I have to make these last. Already, I have eaten all the food R.C. gave me except five packets of peanut butter. I am losing weight quickly without any of my commissary food. If I am written a disciplinary ticket, I will probably lose 20 or more pounds.

Monday, I was awakened in the middle of the night to be told I was going on a hospital writ. I was happy about this development because it meant the medical director finally authorized a cortisone injection. I have been waiting for this treatment for my lower back pain for a couple years. However, at about 7 a.m., two guards came to my door with boxed handcuffs. I have nerve damage in my wrists due to being put in these restraints for long periods of time, and the doctor finally made out a medical permit restricting their use on me. Problem is the doctor never sent me a copy, and the guards demanded to see it. I told them they will have to stop at the Health Care Unit to get verification, however, they had a bad attitude and told me they will do no such thing. I was not going out if that was the case. I was told "Fine," and the chuck-hole was slammed shut and locked. About 10 minutes later, one of the guards was back and he wanted me to sign a form stating I was denying medical treatment. "Sure, I will sign that," I said, and on it I wrote "I am not going on this hospital writ because the guards refused to honor my medical permit prohibiting boxed handcuffs." About an hour later, two different guards were at my door to take me to the hospital in a different type of restraints.

While waiting in a room before we left the prison, there was a man sitting on a table facing away from me. When he turned around, we recognized each other. This was a man I knew when I first came to prison. I was told he was dead, but as he explained to me, he almost died because of prison doctors who continued to dismiss his medical problems and did not diagnose his lymphatic cancer until it had spread to various parts of his body. He was now being treated with chemo therapy and he seemed to be optimistic about a recovery. I was skeptical he would live much longer, however, and my opinion was not just on how terrible he looked, as he seemed to presume. Lymphatic cancer was almost always fatal. To temper what I said, I told him many people who knew me over a decade ago told me I looked like I had cancer because of all the muscle mass I lost and my gaunt appearance. He said I did not look too bad, and he was glad to see me.

At the University of Illinois Hospital, my appointment at the pain clinic was for noon, but I spent a long time waiting in a doctor's office with two escorting guards. I was not paying attention to their conversation and was off into my own thoughts when I realized the female guard was complaining about injuries she received when training for the Orange Crush special tactical squad. I was surprised that a woman, especially one who was so small, was interested in such a job. Already she had broken a couple of fingers, and injured her ankle, hip and ribs. I had seen this female guard for a few years while at Stateville. She was formerly a member of Internal Affairs before becoming a part of the writ team. It seemed like she was driven by excitement and could not be content working a regular shift as a "turn-key" like the other guards. I felt like asking her to find out why I.A. continues to harass me, but I did not approach the subject.

The University of Illinois is a hospital where students learn through watching other doctors, or practicing on patients. The person to give me my cortisone injection was a student, and several others stood in the room listening while an experienced doctor gave instructions. I was not particularly fond of being some student's guinea pig. Why could they not practice on someone else? For the injection, an x-ray machine was used and the doctor took maybe 50 x-rays while the student jabbed a needle in my back at various angles to get to the correct position where the nerves came out of the spinal column. It was difficult to get the needle at the right spot because my last lumbar disc had deteriorated to such a great extent and the vertebrae were fusing. Afterwards, my lower back felt strange and a little tender. As I write this journal entry, I can tell the injection was successful to a certain degree and my level of pain has been significantly reduced.

When I returned to the prison, I was given a dinner tray. It was a small serving of soy-turkey scrap meatballs on noodles with a side serving of canned peaches and lettuce. All day I had nothing to eat but the bread I peeled off two imitation bologna sandwiches. There was a donut in the bag lunch surprisingly, but I took mine out and put it in the bag for the man I knew undergoing chemo therapy. He will be dead soon, and he will certainly get more enjoyment from a donut than I will. I dislike the meatballs served at Stateville and did not eat. I would rather set up traps to catch mice, like I see on reality survivor programs. More and more, I find similarities between those programs and living in Seg -- difficult environment, little food, and need to improvise on a continual basis.

This week, R.C. was moved, and I am currently in the cell alone. It is nice to have a cell to myself and solitary confinement does not bother me at all. In fact, it is very peaceful and makes my life much better. It is very difficult to live in a 5'x10' cage, 24 hours a day, even with someone you get along with. The downside of R.C. leaving is that he took with him our only extension cord, his two fans, and various other things that made life easier and more convenient. Before he left, I had to ask him if he would leave me a little bit of shampoo because I did not have any. It will probably be some time before I.A. gives me the rest of my property and I have no idea what they will take from me. Another thing I lose with R.C. is his ability to get commissary food. Not all of F House is Seg. The top floor is "kickout," or those people waiting for a cell to open up in general population. These people have all their property and are able to shop for food. A few of these people have been sending R.C. supplies on occasion. I am not in a gang, and I have no friends in this cell house. No one will be sending me anything in this crazy house, except grief.

The continual noise and movement of the cell house is very disturbing. I notice some men standing at the front of their cells all day, yelling or watching the going-ons in this huge round domed building. No wonder they are mad, or maybe they were mildly crazy before and that is why they act the way they do. Lately I have been trying to avoid looking out of my cell. Along with using my headphones or earplugs, I have found that my time in Seg is much better. Without a cellmate, I can withdraw almost completely into my own world. I do not want to be in Seg. I do not want to be in prison. Blocking out this place is the best way to escape from it. I hope I am not given a cellmate for a long time, but this is probably temporary and odds are the evil outside will be brought inside my cell to torment me.

During my time alone, I have been studying stock charts and investments. I am not looking for investments to purchase, but on the contrary, those to sell. The stock market has taken an upturn that is unsustainable. The Federal Reserve and Obama administration are intent on making the economy appear better before the mid-term elections. The Fed is again putting more liquidity into the system. The Democrats have also passed more stimulous packages including easy small business loans. The government cannot continue to spend more and more money. Eventually, these checks will come due, but this does not bother the President, apparently. I have been advising family and friends to sell some investments the closer the DOW gets to 11,000. Hopefully, they will listen to me this time.

On Thursday, F House was put on lockdown when a large fight broke out on the yard. While Seg inmates go to yard on half-sized basketball courts, men waiting placement in population and court writs go on a large yard with telephones, weights, basketball and handball courts. It also has an impressive field of grass that is lumpy with groundhog holes. When the yard line returned, a number of people were in handcuffs. Later that day, they were moved downstairs with the Seg inmates. What does lockdown mean to Segregation inmates that are locked in their cells 24 hours a day anyway? Not much. Inmate workers are not let out, and we lose our once a week yard and shower. Guards are now passing out the trays and picking up trash, as well as other labor normally done by prisoners.

Yesterday, the guards began to search the entire cell house, cell by cell. They began on the first floor and today are working on the upper galleries. I am not sure if they are looking for weapons which may have possibly been used in the fight, or if it is routine to search the cell house whenever it is put on lockdown. My cell was searched yesterday, and it did not take long. I do not have much property. I saw another lieutenant I have known since I was at Joliet CC. Like the other one, he was surprised I was in Seg, and asked me what I was doing here. I told him that I.A. had put me here while I was being investigated. "Investigated for what?" he asked. I told him, "I do not know. It is a mystery." The lieutenant said that sounds a lot like them, and as I was locked back into my cell, he began to tell some guards that he had never seen me in trouble before, and he had known me for many years.

This may be the last journal entry posted for a while. I am using my last stamped envelope to send this out. Until I receive my property or am allowed to shop, I will not be able to mail anything. Possibly if we come off lockdown, I can get an inmate worker to give me some envelopes. I will continue to write regardless. My writings will just remain in my folder until then.