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: paulmodrowski@gmail.com
or write him at the address shown in the right column. He will get your message personally.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Midterm Elections -- November 4, 2010

This morning, the prison was placed on a level 1 lockdown. I was looking out my window trying to see past the prison buildings, fences, and razor wire simply to enjoy the autumn weather and natural world, when I heard inmates yelling about a lockdown. While in Seg without a cellmate, I have been trying to not think about prison and enjoy my solitude. However, I went to the bars to listen and see what was happening.

Inmate workers were being locked in their cages, and others were being sent out of the Roundhouse. Some workers live on the 4th floor, but others live in general population cell houses. F House was in the middle of passing out food trays, and only a few workers were left here to finish the job. During this time, inmates in their cells were yelling, trying to find out what caused the lockdown. I do not know who replied, nor if what he said was true, but a man said a counselor was attacked in E House.

I had my window open and heard the siren of an ambulance. I cannot say with certainty the ambulance was for whoever was injured, but Stateville is set apart from residential or commercial areas in Crestwood. There is little around the prison, and I must conclude the ambulance was here in response to the incident that caused the lockdown. There is a healthcare unit at Stateville, and whomever was hurt must have been seriously injured for an ambulance to be brought in from an outside hospital.

There are over ten counselors who work here. Most of them have a poor work ethic and care little for the inmates or are just indifferent. They do their jobs, and as little work required for them to earn their very handsome wages and state benefits. Possibly some get burned out working here, and I can see why they are not enthusiastic about their jobs. The inmates here are impolite, obnoxious, and unthankful, generally. They also bother the counselors about numerous petty matters. Furthermore, although I understand anyone who took a job as a counselor must realize they will be dealing with many low-lifes, scum, and various criminals, I am sure some may think the prisoners here are undeserving of assistance.

While I would say most counselors have a poor work ethic, there are a few here that are just the opposite. For a few years, I had a counselor who was always busy trying to help inmates assigned to her. She not only did her job, but always had a good attitude, even though I know she must have had bad days. This counselor impressed me from the very day she introduced herself to me. Although I heap praise on her, I will not mention her name because anyone who is an inmate advocate will not be liked by others who work here who see prisoners as "the enemy," including Internal Affairs. A man on my gallery last year threatened this counselor and later when I saw him, I spoke up for her. Unfortunately, prisoners can become very frustrated and lash out at people who are not to blame. There are a few other hard working and friendly counselors at Stateville, and I hope it none of them were attacked.

If I was not in Seg, I could have ascertained the details of what occurred today. Possibly it may take a few days to learn the facts. In Segregation, I am isolated and cannot witness events in general population or hear through the grapevine much. I rarely speak to anyone or even look out my cell. Internal Affairs may have been successful in silencing me to some degree. If I am kept in Seg, there is less I can report about. Indeed, my focus this week will not be events inside these walls, or even inside my cell house, but the midterm elections.

Tuesday evening, all I cared about was election results and political commentary. I tried watching NBC, ABC, and especially FOX and CNN. I knew CNN would have complete election coverage, and I may have spent much of my evening watching it. However, all these stations were out or almost pure static. I forced myself to listen through the heavy static on CNN to watch Rand Paul's victory speech. Rand Paul was the Tea Party backed senatorial candidate from Kentucky. His father is Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas who ran for President. They both share political positions I closely identify with. It was unfortunate Ron Paul lacked charisma or inspiration in the Republican primary for President. However, his son has much more appeal, and I knew he would win despite the liberal attacks and political pundits who said he would be defeated. After the speech by Rand Paul that I could barely discern, I turned off my TV. I had given up trying to get election coverage from TV with my terrible cable reception. I turned on an AM news radio station instead, and listened to the conservative reactionary wave sweep the nation.

I was very excited by the election news, but my fellow convicts at Stateville could care less even about the state's governor race. Polls had Bill Brady up 4% over Governor Pat Quinn. As the gallery worker walked by my cell sweeping the floor, I told him we have a new governor, just to see his reaction. He responded, "I don't give a fuck!" I tried to tell him how the governor's race would have a big impact even on us prisoners. However, he could care less. The gallery worker was on death row until former Governor George Ryan commuted all prisoners with death sentences to natural life without parole. One may think that someone whose life was so affected by a governor would care just a little about who was elected, but he did not. It is probably because a natural life sentence only extended his suffering. Regardless of who was elected, his outlook was bleak and he will die in prison. Prison is miserable, and toward the end of your life, what does it matter how you live out those last years? He continued to sweep the floor with a zombie-like quality.

I often have this same demeanor. It is no coincidence my former cellmate in general population would sometimes refer to me as "Lurch." I have a natural life sentence as well, and will probably continue to suffer in misery until I die in prison. There is no joy living a protracted death sentence in maximum security. If a guard were to put a gun to my head, I would not blink or beg for restraint. He would only be doing me a favor by pulling the trigger. Despite this, although I may be a dead man walking, I still care about the living, and politics has always interested me, even before my arrest when I was a teenager. In 1992, I helped with presidential candidate Pat Buchanan's primary campaign, and when he lost, I supported Ross Perot's candidacy as an Independent in the general election. After my conviction, I wrote political commentaries for various magazines and small newspapers.

I was hoping for Bill Brady to win the Illinois gubernatorial race. I did not like Brady's "get tough on crime" rhetoric, or his repeated criticism of Pat Quinn's early release program. In fact, I despised these attack ads. I heard them, time and time again, on WLS talk radio. There is no way Governor Quinn made Illinois less safe by releasing convicts, on average, a month early. Does anyone really think the recidivism rate would change if a person did an extra week or month? This program did not increase crime, and saved the state millions. Odd that Brady would criticize a cost-saving measure.

Bill Brady spoke of slashing government spending without raising taxes. This is exactly what Illinois needs. The Illinois government has a $15 billion deficit, the second worst financial position in the United States, second behind California. It also has pension liabilities that have the potential of costing the state close to an incredible $200 billion. Pat Quinn was given the power to cut several billion earlier this year, but instead waived this opportunity. He may have done so for political expediency and to not make unhappy constituents before the election. However, what will he do after the election? I know Bill Brady, if elected, would have used the full power of his office to cut spending, despite making some people unhappy. I also know he would use his power of veto to stop any new taxes or government expansion. Bill Brady may have prisoners eating bread and water, and cut what little programs or other spending is left for prisoners' benefit, but it would be worth it. Everyone must suffer budget cuts, and although Brady's campaign seemed to target convicts for especially hard times, the overall good would more than make up for my hardship. My life is already austere and miserable anyway.

Not only did I seek a Brady victory because of his fiscal conservatism and uncompromising resolve to shrink government and put the state's finances in order, but because Governor Quinn would be more likely to grant my clemency petition if he no longer had to be a politician. When Pat Quinn faced criticism for his early release program, he quickly ended it, instead of standing firm and defending the policy. If Quinn backed off of letting some prisoners go a month early, how could I expect him to commute or pardon a man, even an innocent one, with natural life? I had little faith in the Governor acting on much other than political interests, even for an injustice as great as my own. During my clemency hearing, the board chairman inferred positive recommendations had been made before to the previous governor, or governors. With four more years in public office, there is little doubt Quinn will act like his predecessors.

At 9 p.m., I turned on WGN news seeking more election coverage. WGN is one of the few stations where I can get decent reception. I learned that Pat Quinn was still up in the vote. However, as the night went on, Bill Brady closed the gap. When I finally went to sleep, the gubernatorial race was a toss up. Even in the morning, the victor was still uncertain, and Brady was only down 9,000 votes. As I write this journal entry, Brady has yet to concede, but it is obvious he lost. The vote discrepancy is now 20,000 and remaining absentee ballots are from Cook County. Brady amazingly won every county in Illinois but two. However, Cook County was one of them. Although Brady lost the governor's office in Illinois, I must take solace in the fact that fiscal conservatives across the country won.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans picked up 63 seats. It was the biggest margin of victory since 1948. On Wednesday morning, the Rush Limbaugh talk radio show began with the Munchkins singing "Ding dong the witch is dead, the witch is dead, the wicked old witch is dead" from the Wizard of Oz, in reference obviously to the Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, whose position will be taken over by Republican John Boehner. Republicans will control the House next year, and be able to set legislative agenda. No longer will the U.S. be at the mercy of Democrats, forcing their liberal and socialist agendas down Americans' throats. The best news of the Republican landslide was that half of the new congressmen were affiliated with the Tea Party. I did not care to see just any Republican victory. It was especially important to me that a new Republican party emerge. I did not want to see the establishment neoconservatives of the likes of George Bush and John McCain win. I wanted to see liberty, and true classical conservatism victorious.

Although Republicans swept the House, they were unable to take the Senate. After the election, Senate minority leader Trent Lott and some others blamed the Tea Party. Republicans gained seven seats, but fell three short of giving Republicans control of the entire legislature. The focus was put on Sherry Angle's loss in Nevada against Harry Reid, as well as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. Both won their primaries against moderate establishment Republicans. Mike Castle was the Republican Party's choice in Delaware. He had broader support and was thought to easily win the state's senate seat. These Republicans that shun the Tea Party and see the movement more as an albatross than an asset, however, could not be further from the truth, and missed the forest for the trees.

The reactionary fire that swept the electorate was ignited by the Tea Party. It was only the excitement of the Tea Party and their true conservative principles that created the overwhelming Republican victory. The Tea Party motivated the base and inspired Independents. Certainly, a few seats could have been won if the Tea Party movement did not exist, but many more would have been lost without them. Furthermore, it is better to lose than win nothing. What change or difference would it make if the likes of Rand Paul were not elected?

I had the same argument with my aunt from Arizona when she came to visit me in September. I was aghast that she voted for John McCain in the Republican primary. I asked her why the hell would she do such a thing. She responded because McCain will win the general election while the Tea Party candidate may be defeated. I told her this was not true, and even if it did occur, what would be really lost? John McCain was another moderate career politician backed by the establishment. "He was in the same mold as George Bush and sought an amnesty bill for millions of illegal aliens. He will have your state be a part of Mexico just to get elected," I told her.

On talk radio programs since the election, there has been debate on what caused the reversal of the 2008 electorate. Some blamed the economy, and certainly this is true in part, but moreso how the Democrats and formerly fiscally irresponsible Republicans handled it. Some also blamed the Democrats, especially Obama, for not communicating to the people better and explaining policy. Obama is an effective communicator, and one of the more articulate presidents the U.S. has had in a while, however. In fact, it was Obama's charisma and ability to talk that was not only refreshing to voters after eight years of George Bush, but his ability to sell snake oil. The U.S. electorate wanted change in 2008. They did not want the stale old fart McCain to continue in the direction America was headed. McCain did not inspire the Republican base or anyone. Obama, however, was a new charismatic figure who energized the liberal base. The liberals' excitement brought with it independents. However, the independents did not want the socialist policy Barack Obama brought. They just wanted change. Unfortunately, they were misdirected. In 2010, they discovered the error of their ways.

Today I heard Nancy Pelosi, the socialist wicked witch of conservatives, will attempt to keep her status as leader of the Democratic House. I tend to agree with Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators that this is probably good. Nancy Pelosi is symbolic of radical liberalism, big government, and out of control spending that the electorate voted out of office. She will make a good Piniata for Republicans and cause greater political division. Today, I also learned that half of the Democrats who lost elections were moderates, and half of the Republicans who won are affiliated with the Tea Party. Finally, America will have a true choice in the direction they want this country to go in 2012, after two years of gridlock.

The day after the election, I learned the Federal Reserve plans to buy $600 billion in treasuries, and an additional $300 billion in other securities. This means the Fed will be printing close to a TRILLION DOLLARS in new money to add to the U.S. currency supply. Not surprisingly, the Dow Jones jumped 250 points on the news and closed at its highest point in nearly two years. However, what I did find interesting was the Fed waiting until after the election to make this announcement. I must assume the Fed sought to take the politics out of the decision, or to protect the White House and Democratic controlled legislature from facing further criticism about their handling of the economy. The trillion dollars added to the economy will definitely add liquidity to the system and give a boost to the stock market, however, the boost will mostly be only temporary, just like many of the other stimulous efforts of the legislature. It will also devalue the dollar and American's standard of living. I see the trillion dollar expenditure more of a sign of desperation than confidence in the economy. The government can throw trillions of dollars into the economy, but until fundamental problems are resolved, the economy will not strengthen and America will continue to lose its global dominance.

Although a trillion dollars poured into the economy will act as a stimulous, it will destroy the value of the dollar, American's living standards, and the savings of Americans. Along with the inflation, it will probably cause other countries and investors to sell their treasuries, or at a minimum, think of other ways to invest their money. America could lose its AAA credit rating, and be forced to pay higher rates of interest on its debt. Obama and the Federal Reserve have basically sold our souls for a temporary reprieve. The future has been sold for the present, and the present may be very short lived. There are fundamental problems with the economy that cannot be fixed by government spending. Throwing money at the problem seems to be the liberal way, however, this only exasperates the problem in the long run.

Governor Quinn has already spoken about raising taxes as the first order of business. I have heard some euphemism being peddled that it will be called an "education stipend." No question, education is important, much more important than locking up 50,000 people in over 40 prisons across the state. However, the education system's problems, especially in the inner city of Chicago, cannot be solved with more money. The poor education received in Chicago's public schools is not due to a lack of funding but the culture, values, and aptitude of the students, schools, and teachers. Just like you cannot throw money at the economy and see fundamental improvements, you cannot throw money at public schools.

It is unfortunate that the conservative wave that swept through the U.S. legislature missed the State of Illinois. Indeed, 10 of 19 U.S. Congress seats in Illinois are now Republican, the first time in a couple of decades. However, state government in Illinois remained largely intact. The state house and Senate Republicans picked up a handful of seats, though Democrats still solidly control the legislature. The only thing state Republicans can be thankful for is that they will no longer be totally impotent in the Senate any more and Democrats have lost their super majority. However, with a Democratic Governor, this will be mostly irrelevant.

News media have noticed how although Mark Kirk was able to win the statewide federal senate seat for Republicans, Bill Brady was not. Polling data indicates many people who voted for Kirk did not vote for Brady. The conclusion offered by many political newsmen was that Brady was too conservative, and no conservative can win a statewide election in Illinois. Bill Brady was attacked hard in the final days of the campaign on social issues, especially his deep held view that abortion is wrong in any circumstance. Certainly, I believe Brady's social positions hurt him to some extent in the election, however, what I see missing from Illinois was the failure of the state's Republican Party to ride the momentum of the Tea Party movement. I do not think the Republican party in the state motivated its base or independents like in other states. Some conservative pundits put the blame on Tom Cross and Cristine Rodagno, Republican House and Senate leaders, however, it went well beyond their offices. It is very difficult for Republicans to win in districts created by Democrats and the demographics presented, where Chicago always is a Democratic stronghold and its metropolitan area equals the population of the entire state. A grass roots Tea Party movement, however, could have helped Republicans overcome the imbalance. Liberty, freedom, less government and taxes created the U.S. and is a winning message anywhere.

For prisoners at Stateville and across the state, it is probably thought a Democratic control of government will be to their benefit. Democrats are typically less hostile toward the inmate population. However, I sometimes question this widely held opinion. It has been in the last ten years while the Democrats have held both houses of the legislature that the Illinois Department of Corrections has been the most oppressive and miserable. I look back to the years under the Republican administration with nostalgia. Is there a connection? I cannot say with certainty. However, I did hear Republicans are willing to reform the sentencing statutes if the next governor is on board. The draconian laws and sentencing statutes do need to be greatly revised. The current financial problems of the state also should encourage state government to dismantle some of the prison industrial complex. Hopefully, Governor Quinn will work on bipartisan legislation to fix the problems in the criminal justice system.