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Friday, May 6, 2011

Cell Extractions -- April 9, 2011

Last Saturday there was a fist fight between a guard and a prisoner in F House. Although I saw most of the fight from my cell, I do not know what caused it. Some inmates say the newly hired guard has a cocky attitude, however, I have not noticed. Anyways, the two men scraped for a little while until it was broken up. No one was seriously injured, but the guard in the gun tower, for some reason, shot a round into the ceiling, and the Roundhouse has been on a level one lockdown ever since. The reason for the strict lockdown may be due, however, to all the disturbances in Segregation and cell extractions.

Cell extractions are performed when an inmate refuses to come out of his cell, or be cuffed behind his back. The extractions can be dangerous and Stateville's special tactical squad usually performs them. The special tactical squad, also known as the Orange Crush, are regular guards at Stateville who have some special training. When needed, the guards change from their correctional officer uniforms into bright orange jumpsuits and wear black body armor. They also wear combat boots and helmets, and carry a baton, shield and containers of mace.

On Wednesday, prisoners arrive from other penitentiaries. Some of them are Seg to Seg transfers. Many prisons across the state do not have the space to keep a large contingent of people in segregation. These medium and minimum security prisons also want to punish a prisoner with not only Seg time, but a transfer to a higher security prison. I believe there is a policy that anyone who receives more than 3 months Seg is sent to Stateville or Menard. Stateville also has a policy of sending out prisoners with more than 6 months Seg time to Pontiac or Tamms Supermax.

One man who arrived from a medium security prison was not well received by his newly assigned cellmate. The man refused to be handcuffed so his door could be opened and the medium security transfer could move in. It is policy that all Segregation inmates be handcuffed behind the back before their door is opened. Without his cooperation, guards put the new transfer in the shower cell and called the Orange Crush team.

Years ago the Orange Crush unit would announce their presence with the stomping of boots and military chants. I suppose this was to intimidate inmates, but I do not think it was ever very effective. Inmates often made fun of their grunts and it only increased the tension in the cell house. When the special tactical guards finally arrived in the Roundhouse, I did not even know they were here until my cellmate called my attention to them on the first floor. I was watching a Civil War documentary on PBS and eating a snack. All week long PBS was presenting an in-depth coverage of the war, and I was hesitant to miss any of it.

Many times when the Orange Crush is assembled in front of a cell, an inmate gives up and allows himself to be handcuffed. It is not easy to fight against six or more heavily armored men with weapons. However, on this occasion, the man was unwilling to acquiesce, and the guards rushed into the cell after ordering the control tower officer to open the door. Although the guards used mace, they did not easily subdue the inmate. I could not see into the cell, but the struggle continued for about five minutes. I then saw the inmate being manhandled out. He was cuffed behind the back, and his head was kept down as he was led to the other shower cell on the first floor.

In the shower cell, again I could not see what occurred, but the Orange Crush team was in there for a while with the inmate. My cellmate speculated that he was being battered, but there was a guard filming this event and I doubt this was the case. The prisoner was probably being forcibly stripped, and then searched. This was no doubt done with severe force, and possibly excessive, however, I do not believe the guards were beating him unrestrained with their batons and fists.

The mace used in the cell reached up to the upper galleries of the Roundhouse. My cellmate mentioned how his breathing was aggravated, and he went to the window. I noticed a raspiness in my throat, but it was not bad. While my cellmate was at the window, I heard a pounding on my wall and then my neighbor, Tattoo, yelled out. He asked me if the mace was bothering me and I said not really. He told me how he was breathing through his shirt but it was not helping. I responded that it would be better if he took deep breaths so his body would get used to it. Tattoo is not very bright, and it seemed like he contemplated the idea for a minute. Possibly he even did as I advised before telling me a person cannot get used to mace.

The medium-security transfer was taken out of the shower and sent into the cell that had just been maced. He carried with him a small laundry bag that had a few hygienic supplies. In the cell, I could see him pacing about after the door was closed. I think he knew his troubles were not yet over, and the man who did not want to be his cellmate was going to be put in the cell with him again. My cellmate briefly mentioned his rude awakening when transferred to Stateville's Roundhouse and he said, "Welcome to Stateville," seemingly directed at the man just locked in.

The Orange Crush eventually let the man in the other shower cell out. I could not tell if the man was injured, but all his underclothes and shoes were missing. He was merely dressed in a jumpsuit, and walked barefooted. My cellmate said it was bogus for the tactical squad to take away all his clothes and make him walk on the gallery without socks or shoes. Orange Crush guards kept a tight hold on him as they escorted him back to his cell.

I told my cellmate it was stupid to put the men back into the same cell. You cannot force two men to live together. Many of the men at Stateville were never going to be released from prison. A Stateville inmate who is in Seg already has lost all his privileges has nothing to lose. All of Segregation in maximum security should be single man cells, or at the minimum, only doubled up with the consent of the inmates. Of course, the administration does not want prisoners to have any control, or be accommodated in any way. They would rather have violence, and this is exactly what occurred after the Orange Crush unit left the building.

I went back to watching my TV program, but it was not long before I heard a commotion in the cell house. Guards rushed to the cell and had the door opened. The lieutenant went in first, followed by a number of other officers. After several minutes of struggle, the guards came out with the two fighting prisoners. Once again, they were put in separate shower cells on the first floor.

My cellmate said he respected the lieutenant for going in first and not leaving the job to his subordinates. Possibly the lieutenant was not a coward and had leadership, but I was not impressed by his decision. These two men should never have been put back into the same cell again. All of the problems could have been avoided had the transferee been given a different cellmate or his own cell. Many inmates in Seg may decline a cellmate if given the choice, but so be it. Too many people are put in segregation due to minor rule infractions, and those that need to be placed in disciplinary confinement should not be forced to live with one another in maximum security institutions. There are some very violent, criminally insane, and sharply hostile anti-social prisoners at Stateville's Roundhouse.

On Friday, I was sent out on another medical writ, however, on my return, I was told about another extraction. There is a filthy, deranged, and unruly prisoner who lives in segregation on the first floor. The man is continually smearing himself and his cell walls with excrement. He also continually floods his cell and shoots urine and fecal matter at the guards. Numerous times I have seen this man taken out of his cell by force so it can be cleaned, and so welders can attempt to seal off his cell entirely. Welders have added strips of metal to the outside of his cell, and guards have stuck paper in the cracks of his door and in other various places. Despite their best efforts, the prisoner is still able to squirt out vile substances, and nothing can prevent him from living in filth or flooding.

If it was my decision, I would place the bug behind an entirely steel wall and door like those at Pontiac Segregation. Then I would put all his plumbing on a 5-hour timer. If he smears himself with shit or harbors garbage, so be it. Let him live in his filth. With a toilet that only flushes every 5 hours, it will be exceedingly difficult for him to flood the gallery. However, I suppose there are laws that forbid such restrictions and indifference, and so guards have to continually deal with him.

From what I was told, yesterday the deranged prisoner flooded his cell yet again. Instead of bothering the Orange Crush Unit again, staff in the Roundhouse took him out of his cell. Apparently the guards were rather brutal, and the cell house did not like how he was being treated. Prisoners banged on their doors and shouted threats. There is some unity among prisoners, and even my cellmate voiced anger over the matter, however, I have no sympathy for the nut case. I do not think just because I am an inmate, I must identify with all inmates. Often I do not.

Later yesterday, I was in my cell completing a letter when I heard a commotion. I was very tired from my trip to and from the hospital and was trying to relax. I intentionally wanted to remove myself from the distractions and noise in the cell house. However, the prisoners erupted in a roar, and I looked out to see what was happening. There was another cellmate fight that guards had to rush in to break up. Initially, I thought it was the same man who was fighting earlier in the week, but it was two different people. Once again the incident happened in Segregation, and I thought how segregation cells should not be forcibly doubled up. I also thought how fortunate I was to go most of my time in Seg alone, and the cellmates I did have I got along with. My current cellmate, however, is soon to be transferred and I hoped I did not have to deal with a hostile situation.

Today the Roundhouse was filled with ever more drama. It started early in the morning while I was eating breakfast and the first shift had not long been in the building. The deranged man in the now extra secured cell was forcibly taken out of his cell. He may have been flooding the gallery again, or smearing excrement on his walls or himself. In any event, guards stormed into his cell when he would not be handcuffed and led out. The guards were aggravated and used a little extra force than necessary. On the way out of the cell, one of the guards smacked the nut in the back of his head almost in disgust rather than anger. I could not tell from the fourth floor, but the prisoner had smeared shit all over his body. Guards involved in the extraction took off their button-up collared shirts later, and were merely wearing black T-shirts for the rest of the day.

The prisoner was put in one of the shower stalls while guards cleaned out his cell. F House was still on a level one lockdown, and correctional officers had to do all the work from passing out food trays, picking up trash, and cleaning deranged inmates' cells. Taken out of his cell was a bunch of miscellaneous garbage and a mattress that had been torn into bundles of stuffing. I had seen other torn up mattresses taken from his cell in the past, and apparently it is a rule that an inmate must be provided with one.

After the litter had been taken out and the cell mopped, the inmate was let out of the shower to return to his cell. Apparently, however, he got away from the guards and ran wildly across the cell house. I saw the crazed look in his eyes as he ran. He had the look of an animal that was set upon freedom. It was sad and comical. Where did he think he was going? The cellhouse is round and there was no escape. Slowly, guards surrounded him before the lieutenant maced and punched him in the face. This brought a "boo" from the cellhouse, but I do not think this was improper, and I do not know what else the lieutenant could do. If I were staff, I would have probably acted even more aggressively.

Not long after the man was secured back into his cell, I was notified by the guard in the gun tower that I had a visit. I was not expecting a visitor today and had already begun my workout, testing how much the cortisone injection I received the day before was working. I wondered how guards' attitudes would be just after the odd spectacle. The man who let me out of the cell was friendly and not overly security conscious. He joked that he was not going to chase the man down so he could then smell like shit all day. At the cell house door, the guard needed his handcuffs back and staff seemed momentarily hesitant to take them off me. I said to them they need not worry. I was not going to take off on them, which gained a few laughs.

In the holding cage waiting to go on my visit, I saw the lieutenant. He was in a hurry to go somewhere, but I had to remark about the start of his day. I could tell he was aggravated, and he cussed about the animals in the Roundhouse. I told him I hope his day improves, and he thanked me as he continued walking. The lieutenant is not a bad man, despite the "boos" from the inmates in the cell house.

My visit was brief because it was a weekend. Weekend visits are cut abruptly at one hour, even if the visiting room is almost completely empty, as it was. Although normally the visiting room is crowded and extremely noisy, it is not so early in the morning. My visitor told me she had come the day before only to be told that I was not there. I appreciated her return, but was disappointed by the brevity of our visit.

Back in the cell house, the excitement of my day was not over. The warden happened to be touring the building. He stopped at the crazy man's cell that had extra sheets of metal welded to it and pieces of paper wedged in other spots, seemingly to figure out what to do with the man. For his curiosity, he was squirted with some urine and fecal matter. The cell house inmates were greatly amused, and laughter broke out. I even saw some guards laughing. The warden took it with good spirits though, and simply removed his sweater before moving on. I give him a lot of credit. Other wardens would probably have not been so cool and collected.

It is evening now, and I was planning to close my journal entry here. However, while I was writing, the loony prisoner again flooded his cell. The guards who work in the cell house were not going to deal with the matter like those on the first shift, and the Orange Crush is currently here to remove him yet again from his cell. It seems cell extractions will be a never ending story in the Roundhouse.


  1. I like the warden already! Then again, by the time I get to the postings of 2012 the warden might be gone :) Hope not, he seems to be a real "police" and is good for the normal inmates to have such a warden. And very bad news for the crazy inmates :) because smart people have long memories and I doubt the warden will forget, or forgive, the incident.

  2. "but I do not think this was improper, and I do not know what else the lieutenant could do. If I were staff, I would have probably acted even more aggressively" hmm you dont think thats harsh

    1. There are many occasions when guards use excessive force. However, in this situation, staff did what I thought was more than appropriate.


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