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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I.A. in the Cellhouse -- April 20, 2011

When I returned from a visit yesterday, two members of Internal Affairs (I.A.) came in the cell house door. I was waiting for the female guard at the door to log in my name and did not even notice the people from I.A. initially. However, when I went to take a lunch tray they were standing not too far from me. I recognized both, and one was a man who last September helped search my cell and wheeled my two property boxes away. He did not write the investigative ticket that sent me to Segregation, nor the falsified disciplinary ticket I later received that resulted in my 3 months of confinement, but I still felt an animosity toward him. There is a lot of animosity toward I.A. amongst prisoners, and when the two men walked out from the entrance into the dome, prisoners yelled out "I.A. in the cell house!"

The Internal Affairs Unit is supposed to investigate the goings on of the prison for the institution's safety and security. They are also an independent group that is supposed to police the police, but are sometimes just as corrupt. They often overstep their authority, and exaggerate or fabricate claims. The only person to check their authority is the warden, but he often lets them do as they please. It is no surprise when I.A. enters any of the cell houses, their presence is announced. The people from I.A. regularly harass inmates and bother the guards as well.

Visits are almost always a drain on me, emotionally and physically. Fortunately, my visitor came early when the visiting room is not so loud and crowded. I cannot escape the loud, obnoxious, and crowded conditions in prison. There is no privacy and no time to get away from it all, especially in the Roundhouse. I said a few words to my cellmate before I put on my headphones and began to eat part of my tray of cold soy spaghetti. Later that day, I expected my commissary to be brought and that I would save my hunger until then. I had little food left in my box, but I opened up a package of tuna to add to the spaghetti.

I often dial through my radio searching for music or news. On a news radio program I heard that it was the anniversary of the Waco Massacre and Oklahoma City Bombing. I remember the ATF's assault on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco readily because it was such an outrageous use of governmental force. I also remember it because not long after the flames were put out and bodies removed, my former roommate was arrested for a murder in his hometown of Barrington. Mostly, the media was riveted by sources that said Bob Faraci claimed to have information on the still unsolved Palatine Massacre, where 7 people were brutally killed at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta Restaurant. I did not want to dwell on the past and had a lot of things I wanted to do.

My cellmate pointed out to me a number of cell house workers had been brought downstairs. He and I speculated they were going to be brought to the offices of I.A. to be questioned. Periodically, cell house workers are questioned by I.A. about various matters, or whenever I.A. is on a fishing expedition. Some of those workers are snitches, and that is why they have the jobs. Others can easily be squeezed by I.A. for information. It is odd to me that men with enormous amounts of time could be coerced. I am going to die in prison, and there is very little you can do to me. However, other prisoners love their pathetic jobs or are comfortable in their pathetic lives. Some seek special favors for telling on other inmates or guards.

First quarter corporate reports were just beginning to come out and I was greatly interested in those. For several years I have been following the economy and investment opportunities. It has been an enormous pastime for me, and in anticipation of the new earning and forecasts, I was making new charts listing over 500 companies. Many of these stocks I had records of going back to 2007. On Monday, Alcoa, and aluminum company, reported a revenue increase of 22%, close to $6 billion. They expected aluminum demand to increase about 12% this year, mostly coming from China. I did not care much about Alcoa, and it is not one of the stocks I follow, but I had to be prepared for other companies' reports. I only follow those with the best fundamentals, which are important from a shareholder's perspective.

A lot of men follow sports, TV programs, play cards, chess, or dominoes. Many will talk for hours and hours with their cellmates, or yell to each other in the cell house. Some at Stateville will read, and the publications will mostly be hip-hop, porn, or sports magazines. I would rather spend my time studying economics and investments and making intricate charts. I then give my advice to family and friends. Stateville is a place of meaningless existence, and I would rather use my time productively than lay around and watch TV or do other things popular in prison.

While I was making one of my new charts, I noticed across the cell house that Internal Affairs was going in a couple of the cell house workers' cells. When they went into the cell of the gambling addict I know, I said to my cellmate, "Look, they are in Dinosaur Head's cell." We have come to nickname the large black man with a big skull "Dinosaur Head" because he was big like a dinosaur, but we suspected he had a little nut of a brain inside that large misshaped cranium. He was not very intelligent, but had a voracious appetite for gambling, or trying to make money. Ever since football season ended, I ceased giving him advice. However, he has continued to bet on basketball and even baseball at times. I played about 7 seasons of baseball before my arrest, however, I do not follow it on TV and have no idea on a given day what team will defeat another.

One of the men from I.A. was known to be a very meticulous robocop. He had formerly worked in the visiting strip search room and would actually tell men to peel back the foreskin on their penises. Some people began to think he was gay for this, but he may just be overzealous in his work. My cellmate and I wondered if Dinosaur Head was dumb enough to leave paper transactions of his wagers behind. If he had been, the man from I.A. would be certain to find it. Although he had the gun tower guard close the door so their search could not be so easily seen by those in the cell house, I could imagine him going through every envelope, book, magazine, and piece of paper.

After making a chart of energy related stocks, I began to read the Wall Street Journal to see if I could glean any more important information relevant to my evaluations. The W.S.J. is one of the best papers I have read that combines economics and politics. The articles are very well written, and contain a wealth of information. I often find myself reading the paper almost from cover to cover. The only thing I didn't like in this issue were several articles written in appreciation of modern art in the Personal Section. There was nothing to appreciate about modern art, and I did not consider Picasso an artist. His Bulls Head sculpture of a bicycle seat and handle bars was not art, but garbage, like the rest of his works. I think the crazy man who likes to play and smother himself in excrement could create just as good pieces of "art." Possibly his cell that is full of garbage, roaches, and shit smeared on the walls could even be considered a work of art by modern art enthusiasts, I thought.

The men from I.A., after searching the cell house worker's cell, stood on the 4th floor watching the ongoings of the Roundhouse, and talking amongst themselves. There are two high tech cameras located on the gun tower I.A. can use to watch the cell house from the comfort of their headquarters, and it was curious they stood there. I assumed their business was not finished, and possibly they were waiting for the cell house workers to return. However, this apparently was not their purpose, and they left before Dinosaur Head and the others returned. However, not until they talked to staff in F House.

I was not paying much attention to the ongoings outside my cell, but my cellmate brought to my attention that guards were locking all the chuck holes. The chuck holes in Seg are already locked, and the guards were closing those rectangular holes in the doors on 3 and 4 galleries. This usually signifies the prison was being placed on lockdown, however, cell house workers returned, and operations continued as normal.

It was now taking the prison commissary several days to fill the orders of a single cell house. F House began receiving bags on Monday, but I did not get my two bags of store until yesterday. Instead of bringing the bags to each person's cell, guards were having cell doors in Kickout opened, and prisoners had to go downstairs to sign and pick up their commissary. I missed the room service, and thought workers and guards were being lazy. When I went downstairs, I asked one of the workers what happened at the I.A. offices. He mentioned only that they were given drug tests, and said he would talk about it later. I seemed to think there was more to the rounding up of a number of workers and dropping them. They were gone for a long time, and the guards did not lock the chuck holes unless there was a lockdown.

This morning I began my day like most others, watching TV news and eating breakfast. While yesterday was the Waco and Oklahoma City Bombing anniversary, today was the anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The news dwelled on the oil spill, although I find the spill to not have been nearly as destructive to the environment as initially thought by many. What I found more catastrophic was President Obama's moratorium and continued delay of drilling contracts in the Gulf. Many of the U.S. offshore oil and natural gas reserves remain untapped, or even evaluated. Many of the country's onshore energy sources remain blocked by the White House administration as well. The refining capacity has also been constricted by government. With oil prices at over $110 a barrel, the President's energy policy is ridiculous. The media spoke much about $4 a gallon gasoline, but spoke little of the reasons why. There was hardly a mention of Obama's obstructionist energy policy, despite its destructive effects being far greater than the oil spill a year ago.

My sister came to visit me today, and it was nice to see her, although our visit was far from pleasant. Initially, the visiting room was not too bad, but eventually it was packed. When I left the visiting room, I was put in a holding cage until a guard could be found to escort me back to the cell house. Not many guards were going in the direction of F House, and I had to wait in the holding cage with numerous other inmates who were waiting to go on their visits.

A man in a yellow jumpsuit from NRC (IDOC's Northern Receiving Unit) asked me if there were any free tables downstairs in the visit room. I told him there were none that I noticed. One of the reasons Stateville's visiting room was so crowded was due to the fact the 2,000 prisoners at the NRC Unit were brought over here to have visitation. I asked the men from NRC why they did not use their own visiting room. He said it was empty Monday through Friday, but used by the Minimum Security Unit or MSU on the weekends. I again asked why they could not share the same visiting room instead of Stateville's. He said there was a problem of mixing prisoners being transferred to various prisons across the state with the minimum-security prisoners. This still did not make much sense to me because they were currently being mixed with maximum- security prisoners when that may not be their status. Furthermore, during the week the NRC prisoners did not have to share visitation with MSU.

When I finally was able to return to my cell, my cellmate told me I missed a lot while I was gone. First, he told me a major went around with the lieutenant, going cell to cell, checking if men were in cell compliance. For several months, prisoners in general population have been annoyed with cell compliance checks. A guard will demand a prisoner and his cellmate put all their property in their two boxes, except for their TV, radio, fan, and a few other things. Anything that cannot fit is confiscated. Many inmates cannot fit everything in their boxes, especially after shopping. Because commissary has become a rare event, men stock up with goods when they are able. Plus, many people do not like to live with all their properly tightly fit inside their boxes because it is an inconvenient way to live. Cell compliance checks are often a big aggravation for prisoners, and many in F house were glad not to be harassed with the rule. Most people in F House do not even have boxes because they are in Seg. Also, I tend to think guards have more to worry about in the Roundhouse than if all a prisoner's property fits in a box. However, apparently, the major wanted to act as the box police today.

The major, from what I was told, did not order my cellmate to put everything in his box. She simply told him to open his box to see if he had room to fit what was left out. This seems like a much more practical method to see if a prisoner had excess property. My cellmate had all the property out of his small box to use it to do his laundry. However, the major did not make him pore out his clothes and soapy water to see if his books would fit in the box. She did tell him though to take down a clothes line.

The other bit of news my cellmate had for me was that I.A. had returned to F House and went searching through a number of Seg cells. I.A. took many bags of commissary food and almost a dozen TV sets. The men in Seg are not allowed to buy commissary food, nor are they allowed to have televisions. Those in Seg who had food had been given the food by those upstairs who could shop. The TVs must have also been given to those in Seg by those upstairs. Some men will sell their televisions and buy new ones, although this is forbidden. A few people who are released will also give away their TVs. Not many people want to take their TV home with them.

Internal Affairs knew that the televisions and bags of food had to be transported by cell house workers. They also knew the guards must be compliant because there is no way to get a TV or so much food without a cell door or chuck hole being opened by a guard. Apparently, yesterday I.A. told guards to keep the chuck holes locked, and the new staff took that to mean all the chuck holes, including those not in Seg.

While I was in Segregation, I lost at least 20 pounds and looked almost skeletal with almost no body fat. I was always hungry, but not being in a gang, there was no one looking out for me. It was not until I began giving a cell house worker some gambling tips that I obtained some food. I was very appreciative, and because I know how difficult living in Seg is without anything but 3 meager, and usually distasteful, state meals, I had sent one man I know down there a bag of potato chips, noodles, packs of chili, and other foods he likes. Fortunately, I sent the bag a long time ago, and it was not taken by I.A.

Another cell house worker came to my cell a little before I began writing this journal entry. He owes me money, and asked me what I could use. I told him that commissary did not give me the peanut butter I ordered, nor did anyone in the cellhouse that I know receive any. Apparently, they ran out of it. If he could find me some, that would be fine. He told me what I asked for will be no problem.

Before he left, my cellmate and I were curious about the meddling of I.A. He told us that neither he nor any of the other workers could take commissary downstairs, at least until things blew over. The cell house worker had been warned that if they were caught taking anything to Seg prisoners, they were going to be put in Seg themselves. Apparently, I.A. had threatened the staff in F House, and the guards then told all the workers they can no longer move goods to Seg. Internal Affairs supposedly will be watching on the cameras to make sure everyone abided their commands. As soon as he left our cell, I heard someone ask him to move some food downstairs. The worker cut him off and said, "Hell no, it's not happening." Apparently there is going to be a lot of hungry and unhappy people in Seg.

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