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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Guilty--3 Months Seg -- October 22, 2010

Last week on Columbus Day, I was served with a disciplinary ticket. The ticket was served on the 29th day of my 30 day "investigation." When a prisoner is sent to Segregation under "investigative status" for suspicion of violating an institutional rule, the guard has 30 days to make an official accusation. If one is not made, an inmate is supposed to be released. It is odd for a ticket to be served on the very last day, however, I was not altogether surprised. I knew Internal Affairs sought to falsify some type of charge against me.

The week I was sent to Seg, I spoke with a lieutenant who speculated that Internal Affairs was harassing me due to my blogsite. I did not know if he was serious when he mentioned it, nor was I certain this was the case. On occasion, people are sent to Seg for no justifiable reason. IA. is commonly known to send prisoners to Seg for dubious or false charges, and their reasons vary. However, when I finally received my small box and everything was present except for my blog writings, posts, and emails as well as my address/phone book, a recent journal entry I had written but had not sent out, and all my envelopes, I was fairly certain why I had become a focus of I.A. If there was any doubt, it disappeared when I was informed a few of my posts never made it to their destination. In my five years of incarceration at Stateville, never has any of my mail gone missing. Incoming mail is often late, however, my outgoing mail has always been timely (except with the use of money vouchers) and reached the person I mailed it to. It is apparent that I.A. sought to retaliate against me for my blog, and attempted to stop me from writing by seizing my outgoing mail, envelopes, and address book.

All of the journal entries I send out are numbered. This one, for example, is numbered 82. I have made 82 posts since I began writing. I number all my blog posts to make sure they are put in proper order, and so the people who help transcribe my blog are never confused. However, the main reason I do this is so they and I know if one ever goes missing. During the year and a half I have been writing, not one has disappeared. My editors have on a few occasions refused to type my entries, but they have always received them until a couple of weeks before I went to Seg. I wrote a journal entry entitled "Reevaluation at the University of Illinois" which was never received. Since I have been in Seg, other journal writings I have put in the mail also were never received, although one was received crumpled and with a shoe print several weeks later. I can only conclude my writings are the reason why I.A. sent me to Seg, and a month later falsified a disciplinary report against me.

The ticket written by I.A. accuses me of gambling, contraband/ unauthorized property, and trading or trafficking. In summary, the ticket says that on 9/12/10, they were advised I was gambling. My accuser is not named, and possibly a snitch or a prisoner who does not like me may have done this, but possibly not. I will never know. Anyway, the disciplinary report goes on to say that I.A. then began to monitor the video camera in my cell house and observed a prison cell house worker stop by my cell several times to pass me things. Apparently, from the camera they were unable to identify what was being passed because the ticket only says "object, item or something." After observing this, I.A. searched my cell and discovered various commissary behind the bunk. Later, I.A. inventoried my box and compared the contents to my commissary receipts. I.A. claims in their report that some of this commissary I never purchased.

The disciplinary report by Internal Affairs is falsified and invalid in several respects. Although I cannot say if a prisoner told them or not that I was gambling, I can say that I.A. never observed me personally taking what was passed by the cell house worker. It is impossible for anyone watching the camera to see inside my cell. The camera is situated about two hundred feet down, and can only view the front bars of the cells and down the gallery. Despite this, the ticket says "Modrowski was given things by the cell house worker." I.A. probably can identify the cell and based on their informant, assume it was me and not my cellmate who was also in the cell at that time, however, it is false to say I was observed taking these "things."

The truth is that I never took anything from the cell house worker on that day. The cell house worker is buddies with my cellmate and does repeatedly come to my cell to talk to him. I cannot recall now if he ever gave him anything, although that is very possible. Cell house workers are always passing things whether that be magazines, commissary, the phone, or supplies. Even as I write this, cell house workers are passing magazines, books, and food in F House.

Trading and trafficking is a ridiculous rule. It forbids an inmate from passing or trading anything. If I were to pass my neighbor a pen, magazine, soda pop, or even a roll of toilet paper, I would be guilty of this infraction. If this rule was enforced, everyone at Stateville would be guilty. There is not one person in prison that has never passed or traded something. Guards rarely ever write up a prisoner for trading and trafficking, except if they do not like you, or maybe, if you are passing a huge bag of store. Sometimes, cell house workers are warned about passing things, but this is so they do not look bad if a warden or other supervisor is watching them. Inmates that have details are occasionally wrote up for bringing commissary with them to have sent to another cell house. In any event, the person moving the object is written the ticket, not the recipient. I have never heard of an inmate in his cell who is given something being written up for trading and trafficking. On my way to a visit this week, I asked a guard if the receiver of an item can be considered to be in violation of this rule. He said he never has seen it done, but then added, "Internal Affairs could get away with it. Internal Affairs, could get away with anything."

I.A. states the property behind the bunk is mine, however, I do not know how they came to this conclusion. In fact, it was my cell mate's, and he even filed a grievance on the matter and told I.A. while I was under investigation, that it was his. He even showed them his receipts. All of my property was in my box at the time. My cellmate is a slob, and often keeps property under or behind the bunk. He even stuffs his pillowcase with a jacket, magazines, a rosary, and sometimes fruit or commissary. I also noted Internal Affairs lied about what was in my box, and what was outside it, however, they could have mixed up the commissary by accident. I tend to doubt that is the case though. I.A. also lied about there being no indication I purchased any of the commissary they listed that was in my box. I just ordered some of the commissary they identified. In order to prove I bought commissary on their list, this week I asked my counselor if she can obtain copies of all my receipts.

Internal Affairs lists a considerable amount of commissary. According to their report, the cell house worker came to my cell several times to hand me several items. I do not know how they correlate everything they confiscated from my cellmate and I by what they observed. Possibly, though, I have been gambling and winning, or trading and trafficking for some time. Furthermore, I do not know how they correlate this commissary with the "indiscernible items" or "objects" they say were brought to my cell. Disciplinary tickets must be based on current observed events or at least they are supposed to be.

Nothing I.A. lists that was in my possession or my cell mate's was contraband or unauthorized property. Contraband or unauthorized property are things you cannot or should not have in prison. For example, if I had a hot pot, bubble gum (gum is not sold in prison), a Movado watch, or a tattoo gun, this would be contraband/unauthorized property. Commissary can never be said to violate this rule.

Last week on Wednesday, my ticket was heard before the Adjustment Committee. However, even before I went to the hearing, I knew I was going to be found guilty. Almost everyone who receives a ticket is found guilty regardless of the evidence. Stateville probably has a 99% conviction rate, and it is a very rare event when a ticket is dismissed. Not only did I know the odds, but a few staff members had told me they spoke to the lieutenant who is in de facto the "Adjustment Committee." They informed me I was to receive one month in Seg. Of course, I did not like this news because the charges were false, however, I was told that since I have already been in Seg over a month, I should be released soon. The time an inmate does under investigation status in Seg must be considered as part of their punishment, just like if you waited in jail two years for trial and were sentenced to two years, you would be immediately released. One person told me the maximum punishment I could receive was only a month anyway, and he would see what he could do to have me out of Seg even before my ticket was heard.

Most likely, I would only be moved upstairs in the Roundhouse to what is called "Kickout." Kickout is where the majority of people released from Seg are sent until they can be placed back in general population. I was not looking forward to a new cellmate or to be put in a cell that does not have any plexiglass to block out some of the blaring noises. Tex was a good cellmate especially considering the vast majority of people who live here I would not want to be trapped in a 5' x 10' cage with. The noise which is emitted from this cell house is terribly disturbing, and I also do not like the ability to see the goings-on in every other cell in the Roundhouse. The Roundhouse is infested with cockroaches, and as I wrote this paragraph, one crawled onto me that I smashed against my thigh. The only near term benefit would be getting back the rest of my property, including food. I am starving in here. Plus, I would be able to see my family on visits without having to be behind glass and handcuffed to a chain around my waist which is then chained to the floor.

Earlier this week, my mother came to see me. Inmates in Seg are allowed visits, but only two a month, and limited to one hour in duration. The non-contact visits are held in a different area than the main visiting room. It is merely a corridor with about 10 booths. Prisoners are separated from their visitors by plexiglass and must speak though a small vent in the glass. My mother and I were the only people in there that day, and although we had to speak through a vent, it was easier hearing each other than when in the main visiting room which is very loud and crowded. Often you cannot hear one another or must yell to be heard. Another benefit of non- contact visits is that I need not be strip searched before and after.

Time goes by relatively quickly in one hour, and if my parents did not live in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, it would not be worth their travel time. My mother had a lot to talk about, but then, she always does. Not long ago, my parents had to euthanize their dog, who was incredibly ill and dying of cancer. The dog, Charlie, was not merely a pet to them, but a part of the family. They were greatly saddened by the loss. I also was told about one of my cousins having complications during a back surgery that almost killed him. Furthermore, I heard about the various health problems of my elderly parents. I have always hoped I could be released before they passed away, but as the years pass by, I tend to doubt I ever will. My mother told me that she and my father were very distraught about my placement in Seg. Close families often suffer with the ones they love who are in prison. I informed my mother that although the first few weeks were rather bad, I was alright now and I should be released from Seg any day. I told her next week she will be able to visit me along with my sister in the main visiting room for two hours, and this seemed to brighten her mood. Unfortunately, this would not be the case.

My hearing in front of the Adjustment Committee was held in a cell inside the Roundhouse which had been converted into a small office. I was surprised to see another person there other than the lieutenant. Typically, the lieutenant is alone and serves as the "committee." Apparently, Stateville is becoming more concerned about appearances, although, no doubt, nothing has changed. When I entered the cell, the lieutenant began to read out loud the disciplinary ticket, and I told him not to bother because I knew what it said. I said, "I know you are going to find me guilty, but here is my written statement for the record." My hands were cuffed behind my back, so I turned around to give it to him. He glanced at it before giving it to his assistant. I went on to say the ticket was nonsense, and I went over some of the things I discussed earlier in this journal entry.

The lieutenant was more civil this time than he was in January of this year when I.A. wrote me a similar disciplinary ticket. As I spoke, the other man in the room jotted down some notes. The lieutenant seemed most interested in the fact that my cellmate was never written a ticket or even placed under investigation. I.A. was not interested in my cellmate, however, and they did not even open his boxes when searching our cell. My cellmate had told I.A. earlier that the commissary was his, and at the hearing, the cell house worker told the lieutenant he did not hand me anything but only gave my cellmate some supplies. I knew none of this mattered, however. The due process, even if followed, at Stateville, is merely a facade.

A few days later, a guard came to my door. I was expecting him to tell me to pack up because I was being released from Seg. (Not because I had been found innocent, but because I had already done a month in Seg.) However, he said staff who work in the Personal Property Office wanted my box back. Supposedly, either I.A. or Personal Property had given me the wrong box. I never noticed, as all the boxes look alike. I did not even know guards kept track of the boxes and made sure you got the same one back. I know that before I went to Seg, and even before I was transferred to Stateville, I did not have the same box that I was assigned back in the late 1990's.

The following day, the same guard came back to my cell with a bag of my property. It was not all of it, and food was not enclosed, but it had most of my clothing in it, my electric razor, hair brush, and a few bars of soap. I asked the guard, "Where is my box?" He did not know, but wanted my big box, if I had it. I told him I was never given my big box, and he started to go away when I asked him if I could at least get a couple of garbage bags to put my property in and keep the roaches from getting into it. He said, "Sure," and had a cell house worker give me some bags.

On Wednesday, a different guard came to my cell and told me I was to be released from Seg the following day. Hence, Thursday morning, I packed all of my property into the garbage bags. I also unplugged my TV and wrapped up the wires. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. I took out a magazine to read and listened to the radio, but by afternoon I was wondering why no one had come to get me. The cell house lieutenant happened to walk by close to the end of the first shift, and I asked him if he heard anything about me being released from Seg. He told me he was not informed of anything. A neighbor must have overheard us, and he yelled out to me that the cell house worker I had gone to Seg with had been moved upstairs earlier. I had not noticed as I was reading in the back of the cell. I thought this was unusual, but possibly there was not another open cell in Kickout. At least, however, I should have been taken to Personal Property and the clothing room, to get the rest of my belongings and a set of state blues.

This morning, my confusion was put to rest. The cell house lieutenant came to my cell and told me I was given THREE months of Seg. He did not think, nor did I, that the charge of contraband/unauthorized property even applied, and the maximum punishment for trading and trafficking or gambling was one month. The maximum punishment for contraband, however, was three months. I said to him, "How the hell do they justify contraband for having commissary sold at the prison's store?" He tried playing the devil's advocate, and said, "Technically the charge could possibly apply, but it was senseless." I knew I would be found guilty, and I was told by several people who work at Stateville that the lieutenant was going to give me one month Seg, even before the hearing on the ticket. I can only conclude that someone of authority pressured the lieutenant to find me guilty of contraband, and give me three months instead. I speculate I.A. was behind this decision. Only they have the clout, influence, and motive to make sure I stayed in segregation longer.

I can grieve my disciplinary ticket and punishment, however, it will likely go nowhere. The grievance procedure, just like my hearing, is merely a facade and rarely acts as legitimate due process. It is basically there just for prisoners to vent their anger. Even if the supervising agency in Springfield, the state's capital, would overturn my ticket, I would have already done the three months. I am still waiting for the Administrative Review Board in Springfield to respond to the grievance I filed pertaining to the other ticket I.A. gave me in January.

This week, a lieutenant that normally does not work in F House, stopped by my cell. He said he had just heard what happened. This lieutenant is a good man, and I get along with him well. He was surprised, as many are, that I would be sent to Seg. I told him, "Last week I finally found out what I was back here for. They wrote me up for gambling." With a sarcastic tone he said, "Are you a gambling man?" Everyone at Stateville gambles or nearly most of the men. It passes the time and is entertaining, especially during the football season. I told the lieutenant, "Of course, I am a gambling man. I also 'trade and traffick.' However, this ticket I.A. written up was fabricated and nonsense."

Possibly, some people may think that regardless if I.A. caught me in the right committing a rule infraction or not, the fact I have done so in the past justifies my punishment. However, I do not see it that way. Furthermore, these rules are very petty and almost never are enforced. Why should I be singled out? Internal Affairs is not above the rules set in place by the Illinois Department of Corrections, and should not be able to make up charges in order to pursue some vendetta, or to stop me from reporting about the activities inside Stateville. I have a Constitutional right to correspond with people outside these walls, and these people have the right to publish my writings on the Internet.

This week, a pen pal of mine sent me a letter asking me if it would be best to go silent so as to not induce the wrath of security staff at Stateville. I am already in Segregation, and there is nothing more I.A. can do to me, but send me to Pontiac, or Tamms Supermax, where I would rather be anyway. If I.A. wanted to dissuade me from writing, they could have approached me before sending me to Seg and turning my life upside down. However, I think they realize I would not agree to go silent. I will never go silent. I am the living dead, the soul that is tormented and will not rest. And as the ghost that cannot pass on, I will continue to haunt the living with my story until I am set free.