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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Roach War -- May 14, 2011

Temperatures have risen this week, and so have the roaches in the Roundhouse. Midweek, Stateville had afternoon highs of 90 degrees. The hot weather was humid, precisely the conditions roaches like. My cell had the vile bugs crawling all over the back counter, sink, toilet, floor and walls. I even found them in my bedding and property boxes. No where is safe from the cockroaches, and the Roundhouse has become a roach motel.

Roaches typically come out at night, but they are now crawling about in the daytime. Often when I am using the sink or sitting at the back counter, roaches will come out to greet me. I smash them quickly with my bare hand. The recently hatched bugs are slow and do not know they are in danger. It is easy to kill these, and I use a finger to crush one after another. The larger ones are quick and can sense your presence. These I must splatter with speed before they run into the holes in the steel counter top or into other spaces.

I have been living with the roaches for so long now that it does not bother me to have their guts smeared on my hands. Some prisoners may take toilet paper or use a sandal or rolled up paper to kill them, but I do not bother with this anymore. Often I do not have time to grab an object. After killing them, I just pick up their bodies and toss them into the toilet. Usually they are stuck to my hand, and I must scrape them off. The larger roaches leave a splatter, and I will clean that up later. However, I have forgotten a few times and will notice remnants of the bugs I have killed days later.

My previous cell mate, Iowa, would occasionally call me The Terminator for the way I splattered the bugs with ruthless indifference, and it reminded me of the detainees at Cook County Jail. They also called me the Terminator because of the massive media publicity I received in the Palatine Brown's Chicken Massacre. Iowa would not use his hands to kill the bugs but always tried to find some weapon or tissue. Apparently, he did not want the roach splatter on his hands. Sometimes he tossed disinfectant on them, and this would cause them to slowly die. I told him I would get him a spray bottle so he could shoot them with more efficiency. Then I could call him the gun slinger and he could pretend he was back in the Wild West. My prior cellmate transferred, and I never got him the spray bottle. However, I doubt now even Clint Eastwood could shoot down all the roaches in my cell.

Earlier this week, I was completing one of my last stock charts. The charts take me a long time to create, and they are meticulously filled with various data. A large roach crawled out onto my paper and instinctively I smashed it. The bug splatter ruined my chart, and despite how I tried, I could not clean all the bug guts off my chart. The paper was stained and I had to throw it out and begin over. I still have not completed rewriting all the information. This has been a busy week.

On Tuesday after I returned from a physical therapy session, I wrote out two grievances. The first grievance was about the mail. I have not received any mail in almost a month except for institutional mail and my subscription to the Wall Street Journal. The second grievance I wrote was about the infestation of cockroaches in F House. This was the third grievance I have filed about the roaches since being in this cell house. The replies I have received were dismissive of my complaints. I am not surprised by the responses. Almost nothing is resolved by a grievance. It is a procedure required by law, but only given lip service. The grievance procedure is mainly a facade to make it appear the IDOC is giving us due process rights. I was thinking of stapling a number of fat roaches to my grievance to get the attention of the automatons who read these grievances and care nothing about unresolved problems of inmates, but I decided it would be inappropriate.

Wednesday morning, the day started off hot and humid. As I went to make myself some coffee in the back of the cell, roaches scattered. However, when I returned after making my bed, they had returned. I smashed them with such force on the counter that I woke up my cellmate. I am always respectful of my cellmate while he is sleeping, and try to make as little noise as possible. However, the roaches disgust me, and I feel an irresistible compulsion to kill them. My cellmate looked about to see what happened, but then went back to sleep. This time, he put a rolled up blanket over a side of his head.

I was making myself a large breakfast, and lined up various jars and bowls on my bunk near the wall. I had a jar of peanut butter, a jar of bran cereal, and a jar of mixed nuts. On my bed I placed a couple of small packaged cakes that are given to us as deserts with lunch and dinner meals. Also on my bunk was a zip lock bag of bread I had also saved from earlier meals. After I sat down and began to prepare my breakfast, I was assaulted by roaches from nearly every direction.

Roaches, I have noticed, have a strong sense of smell. They also like peanut butter and will take risk in order to get at it. I only had a little bit of peanut butter left, and no one, let alone these nasty bugs, was going to take it from me. A roach crawled up the wall and I crushed him with a left elbow. Then two more came up the wall. I had poured milk into my cereal and had to be careful not to spill it. I kept an eye on them and slowly positioned myself to slap both of them with my hand. Now I had to wash my hands before eating, and I was hesitant to leave my food out. I closed the containers and fit my peanut butter sandwich into the zip lock bag before going to the sink. When I began to dry my hands, I noticed a roach crawling down my towel that was hanging over a bunk rail. It too, also apparently wanted to get my food. I smashed it between my hands so not to get its guts on my towel, and had to again wash my hands. I sat down to enjoy my meal and watch the TV news.

I could not eat in peace. A roach was creeping across my wool blanket toward my zip lock bag. I had already removed my sandwich, and let it go inside whereupon I sealed him in it. After I finished my meal, I crushed the roach in the bag and put it in one of my milk cartons to be taken away as trash when the prison workers were let out. Cell house workers typically begin their day picking up garbage on their assigned galleries. I left the milk carton and other garbage on the chuckhole ledge of my door.

Later Wednesday morning, I found a cockroach in my property box. I was putting something away when I saw it scrambling for cover. I quickly tried to find the bug, even throwing property out of my box. However, I was not able to find him. It greatly disturbed me to have a roach in my box. I wondered if there were more in there. I kept my box very clean and organized, and there should not be any bugs in it. For an hour or two, I took everything out of my box searching for roaches. All I found was one, and it was smashed. Hopefully, I thought, that was the one I saw earlier and in my attempts to get at it, I had crushed it. Not long after I put my box together, I was informed that I had a visit.

The visit room did not begin loud and crowded, but by noon it was packed. I could barely hear my mother speak, and she often did not hear me. It was an annoying morning, and visit. My mother, although usually a nice person, can be difficult to deal with. She still does not respect my decisions regarding my appeal and attempts to exonerate myself. I reminded her that she had picked all my attorneys who were utter failures, and the reason I am still in prison. I am the one languishing in maximum-security prisons, and I want things done my way for a change. Oddly, I was glad to get out of the visiting room and return to my hot, roach infested cell.

When I returned to the cell house, I was given a lunch tray. I had eaten some vending machine food on my visit and was not hungry. However, I had to be careful in storing my lunch for later. Fortunately, I had a Tupperware container to put my baked chicken in. Although the container had a lid, I put a zip lock bag over it before putting it in my box. I did not want the roaches smelling it. Baked chicken was a decent meal compared to what we have been fed lately, and I looked forward to eating it later. Dinner was a couple of slices of imitation bologna, and I was wise to save my lunch for later.

For an hour during the afternoon, I exercised. It was a muggy 90 degrees, and I sweat profusely. Periodically I had to wipe off the floor so I did not slip on the concrete. I had a fan blowing on the floor so it would dry quicker, and my cellmate had both of his fans running. While doing some double crunches on the floor, my cellmate asked me if I had seen any of my friends. No, I had not seen any roaches, but it would not bother me if I did. My former cellmate refused to do any exercises on the floor because of the bugs. If I saw a roach, I would just kill it and continue working out. This was not Bally's and I had to deal with my environment, despite what it may be.

Inmates are now allowed an evening yard every other week, and F House Kickout was not excluded from the privilege. After the mystery meat dinner trays were collected, the upper floor was let out for yard. It was nice to be on the big yard, and I did not let obnoxious prisoners annoy me while I lifted weights. I took a welded barbell to the other side of the basketball court where no one else was. The evening began with sun, but by 7 p.m., the sky was black. In the distance, lightning could be seen crossing the sky. Without much warning, gusts of wind whipped across the yard, and rain fell down fiercely. Men ran to the large concrete walls or to the gate, hoping to be let in. I continued to lift weights and was happy to be alone, and in such awesome weather.

My cellmate came toward me wrapped in a jacket, and said I might be hit by lightning. I replied, "I could not get so lucky. If only Thor would bless me with a lightning bolt." After finishing my set of shoulder presses, I continued by saying I would much rather be in Valhalla than Stateville. Josh, who is an Odinist, said I would be led to the great hall of Odin by Valkyries. I told him, "If Valkyrie girls come to escort me, we are taking a long detour." The conversation amused my cellmate, but we both know all that was waiting for us was death.

Back in the cell, my cellmate and I were drenched in water. I let Josh hang up his clothes first while I stood at the door in a puddle of water. A roach crawled under the door seemingly to get a drink, and I stomped on it. When my cellmate finished, I hung up my clothes and then bathed in the back of the cell. Occasionally, I looked out the window at the fast passing storm.

Thursday was another hot and humid day. Once again, I had to battle with the cockroaches in the morning. I hit one so hard on the floor that I hurt my hand, and may have broken some blood vessels. I thought about ways to trap the bugs, but did not have long to dwell on it. Thursday was our regular yard day, and I was going back out to complete my weight lifting regimen. My exercise was interrupted unexpectedly twice. The first time, a guard came to the yard to get me for a legal call. I sat in a shower cell for about an hour before the counselor showed up to make my call. Attorneys can have unmonitored calls with their clients if they make arrangements. The counselor places the call through a separate line that is not listened to or recorded. All calls made by prisoners are recorded and kept for months, if not for eternity. Therefore, if a lawyer wants to have a private conversation, they must have it done with the assistance of the counselor. I was looking forward to talking with my attorney, and I had a lot to discuss with her. However, the counselor, after trying multiple times, was not able to connect me. Disappointed, I returned to the yard where the sun was now directly overhead, and heat reflected off the concrete surface the weights were on.

After an hour passed, I again heard shouts of inmates. They thought I did not hear them, but I did. I just was not going to drop what I was doing to run to the gate only to wait to make another legal call. After finishing a couple more sets, I walked to the gate and was let out by a different guard. When I reached the cell house, I asked him if the counselor was here, or if I would be stuck in the shower another hour. He said he did not know what I was talking about. I had a visit.

Upon hearing that I had a visit, I quickly went up the three flights of stairs and to my cell to get ready. I did not like unexpected calls or visits, but I cleaned up and changed without haste. I had an idea who it was, and did not want our visit cut short. However, despite how quickly I returned back downstairs, I was stuck in a holding cage for a while, waiting for an escort. In the cage next to me were two prisoners just arriving from Pontiac in handcuffs. One of them looked like the actor Mark Wahlberg, and I knew him from the distant past. The other man looked oddly not like a man, but a woman. I said to the Mark Wahlberg look-a-like, "I know you." He said, "Yes, we once lifted weights together years ago." I jokingly asked him who his girlfriend was, and he shook his head. I could not resist, and asked the sissy, "Are you in the wrong place? Shouldn't you be in Dwight, or Dixon Psych?" He responded, "Dwight." Apparently the man thought he was a woman.

My visit was short, as expected, but better than the one I had the day prior. Upon my return, I had to clean up the mess I made in my haste to leave, and wash all my soiled clothes that I had piled up and kicked underneath my bunk. I was half expecting roaches to come out of them, but this did not occur. However, while laboriously washing my clothes by hand, I saw a few in the back of the cell. They were fortunate that I was too tired to go after them.

During the evening, I thought about various ways to trap the roaches. I had heard a method prisoners have utilized to catch them, but I was not sure if it worked. It seemed plausible, though I had never tried it before. When dinner was passed out along with bags of potato chips, I thought it was definitely worth a try. If it did not work, then I did not lose anything, and they were easy to make.

According to rumor, if potato chip bags were taped to the wall upright, the roaches would crawl in, but could not get back out. The smell of the grease lured the bugs into the bags. They ate their fill of potato chip crumbs, and then when they tried to climb upward, the grease and smooth surface inside the bag caused them to slip and fall back to the bottom. I told my cellmate to carefully open the bags of chips, and give them back to me when he was done.

There were a few areas the cockroaches seemed to congregate. It was in those places that I taped my traps to the wall. I felt like Bear Grills in the show "Man vs. Wild" when he set traps in the wilderness to catch prey. Bear Grills used dead fall, snare, and various other traps, but I never saw him use the potato chip bag trap. I wonder if the former British Special Ops and survivalist would be impressed, and I waited in anticipation.

Before I went to sleep, I checked my traps. Initially I did not want to remove them, but found that I was not able to look inside without taking them off the wall. My cellmate watched me as I took down the first bag and looked inside. There were 6 roaches at the bottom, and a couple were trying to get out but they continued to slip. I was greatly pleased as though I had just caught a rodent out in the wild. I took off the other bag, and there were 5 roaches in it. I told my cellmate my findings, and he was impressed that it worked. He said something silly like, "The Bug Meister Modrowski," and I said, "Now it's time to give these terrorists a proper funeral at sea, just like Osama Bin Ladin." I dumped the roaches into the toilet and flushed them away.

This morning I found I had captured more "terrorists." With a few more bags possibly I can win this war against them, I thought amusingly. However, I knew despite how many traps I set, and how many bugs I caught and killed, there would always be more. Even if I snuffed out all the roaches in this cell, they would keep coming from others. If I realized this, I wondered why the U.S. administration did not. Maybe they thought as I did. Some dead roaches were better than doing nothing. Although my potato chip bags did not cost me a dime, nor a single casualty. Despite the conundrum, I looked forward to watching "Dual Survivor" after this writing, and musing over more ways to win the war.


  1. If California courts can let thousands of prisoners out for overcrowding and lack of medical care, why can't Illinois courts do the same? IDOC has poor medical care, is over capacity, and has roach infestations! Perhaps the threat of releasing prisoners, or shutting down Stateville, would spur IDOC into action.

  2. I like your passion dealing with bugs. I have a job for you when you come out :). When I go for mice I imagine they are inmates trying to escape Joliet CC...You could imagine they are guards trying to infiltrate the cellhouse hahahahha. We'll make a good team...pests will make up legends about us. Until then...keep the fan on facing the sink. Roaches hate air movement. Oh next time IA fucks with you tell them in exchange for extra commissary you'll tell them about me: I charge $10 per cell for initial, $5 for rebait, repeat every 4 months. I'll give you 20% finder's fee and besides, you will learn a skill that won't go to China...job outsourcing and all :)

  3. This is totally ridiculous. Why can't they take care of the roach problem.

  4. They should put those Roach Motel traps in each cell.

  5. Found this from reddit. Paul is obviously very smart and I hope it gets better for him.

  6. Such a sad post.


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