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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Longest Day -- June 21, 2012

Yesterday, I awoke to glaring hot sunlight streaming into my cell. Although I prop a pillow up on a property box to prevent early morning light from hitting me in the face, it only gives me limited shade. It was already 80F at 7 a.m. and for the first time this year I kept my fan on all night. For the last several days, day time highs have been in the upper 90's and television news networks were forecasting 98F for the SW suburbs of Chicago. Across most of the U.S., temperatures were expected to exceed 90F even in the typically cool upper New England states. It was the first day of summer and while the temperatures were uncommon, I expected a lot of sunlight. On the summer solstice, the angle of the planet gave the northern hemisphere the longest and most direct amount of sun. There was in fact exactly 14 hours, 14 minutes, and 28 seconds from sunrise to sunset at this latitude. It was going to be a long day both literally and figuratively for me at the maximum-security prison of Stateville.

I began making myself an alternative breakfast rather than eat the corn flakes, soy-turkey patty and bread which was served prisoners in the middle of night. The hot water I boiled was used for not only instant oatmeal but a mug of tea. While I ate, I watched the CBS morning news which had an interview of Marco Rubio, a Republican senator, from Florida. Recently, I have been infuriated by President Obama's announcement that he will usurp Congress by executive decree and cease to deport young illegal aliens. It is outrageous how the president refuses to enforce immigration laws and in fact brings lawsuits against county sheriffs and states who are trying to prevent the nation from being overrun by Mexicans, along with the social costs, crime, and drugs that come with the open borders policy. Obama has made a number of announcements recently to pander to special interest groups and raise campaign cash. Mark Rubio is the Republicans' counter political chess move and the Cuban is a feigned vice presidential running mate. It is not only foolish but embarrassing for Republicans to mimic the lowly racial pandering of the left. They should unwaveringly maintain their social and economic conservative ideology which can cross racial lines and appeal to everyone.

My cellmate rises before the crack of dawn even on the longest day of the year. I do not know how he can function with only a few hours of sleep. I always find him near the cell bars reading, listening to his Walkman, or just staring outward when I awake. I noticed yesterday he taped a page of newspaper to the bars to prevent the sunlight from hitting him in the face. My cellmate will usually spend the morning sitting on his property box with a folded state-issued blanket underneath him. Although we have been cellmates for 5 months, it is still odd and uncomfortable sharing a small space with him. We have nothing in common and I rarely speak to him. However, the latter is greatly appreciated. I am glad not to have a cellmate I need to continually engage or socialize with. Hopefully, I thought he would spend most of the day on his bunk and out of my sight and thoughts. With the extreme heat forecast, I suspected he would be laying down lazily watching TV with his fan directly upon him.

I spent my morning writing a letter to my longtime Canadian penpal. His last correspondence dwelled mostly on religion which was not unusual. He is a fervent Christian and over the years has spent much time attempting to make me a believer. I do not mind a theological debate every now and then, but I have become bored with the subject. In my response, I largely wrote about other topics including last week's Orange Crush search, politics, economics, and investing going into a double-dip recession. Because he lives in Canada, I must fill out a money voucher form for the additional postage. Prisoners in Illinois are not permitted to have stamps, and envelopes are purchased from commissary with domestic postage already embossed on them. If I were at any other penitentiary the mail would go out immediately, but at Stateville, my Canadian penpal will be fortunate to receive my letter before August.

While writing my letter, I listened to the Don Wade and Roma WLS radio talk show. Don Wade was making fun of Illinois democratic federal senator Dick Durbin. Durbin had recently spoke sympathetically about prisoners at the state's supermax facility in Tamms and planned to visit the penitentiary on Wednesday. Inmates at Tamms, he said, lived a terrible, monotonous, and solitary life. They never leave their four walled cell except for one hour a day where they were allowed into another four walled concrete cell which was even smaller but 30 feet above was a square of sky. Durbin supported closing the prison as the governor has proposed along with Dwight Correctional, but the guards' union and small towns they are built around fervently oppose. The union always opposes the loss of jobs, but they also cite security concerns for the IDOC.

Don Wade snidely spoke about how the prisoners at Tamms deserve to be there and must have done something wrong. He then went on to misspeak that those being disciplined are only there for a few weeks. The men sent to Tamms are sent there not for weeks, but years. The purpose also is commonly not for their committing a serious disciplinary infraction. Those prisoners who stab, rape, kill or seriously assault other prisoners or staff are typically sent to Pontiac Segregation. Tamms' purpose is to isolate men Internal Affairs or the administration fear may be an organizing force within the prison system. They are commonly gang leaders or prisoners who are given disciplinary tickets for dubious conspiracy or suspected security threat group activity.

Another news story covered by the radio show was an escaped prisoner. An inmate taken to Stroger (formerly Cermak) Hospital at Cook County Jail apparently took off when the guard watching him went to use the bathroom. Don Wade attempted to be witty by commenting how the news anchor identified the inmate as 23-year-old Alex Bell, which sounded like his age was a part of his name. I thought the real humor to the story was why a man would flee when he only had to do a maximum of 3 years on a 6-year sentence for burglary, and was not confined at a conventional prison but a half-way house which I suspect was a work release program. The escaped prisoner probably would have been completely free after a year or two, but now faced several more years at a real prison. Escape carries a sentence of seven years, and he is deceiving himself if he believes he will not be apprehended.

My cellmate went on his bunk early as I expected, and after completing my letter I began my work-out early before 80 degree temperatures became heat indexes over 100F. I began with a cycle of callisthenic exercises, but then turned to a very high paced cardio workout. Styrofoam lunch trays were passed out during my routine and I stopped only briefly to put them down and give my cellmate his snack. Little Bobby is close to 60 years old and only has a few teeth left but he still loves his sweets. An obnoxious neighbor of ours yelled over to me asking to trade an apple for the package of two cookies. I told him simply "no" to be rid of him while exercising, but then he wanted to know if Bobby wanted to trade. I ignored him until he continued to pester me whereupon I told him he must be crazy. My cellmate was never going to trade off some cookies for an apple.

I was surprised to hear my name and cell number announced for a visit. Since Friday, the prison has been permitting visitation but they were restricted to only one hour. Even though my family lives nearby, they usually do not bother to come for such a brief time period. I had just completed my workout and I quickly wiped off the front of the cell of my sweat using not only soap and water but disinfectant as well to please my cellmate. It is ironic to me that my cellmate seems concerned I have some serious communicable disease when if anyone does, it is himself. After cleaning the floor, my cellmate climbed down to sit by the bars again while I bathed out of the sink. I could tell he was happy to be rid of me and I do not blame him. We have been trapped in the cell together 24/7 since the Orange Crush searched the cell house.

A guard escorted me and another inmate to the visiting room in handcuffs. All prisoners must be handcuffed outside the cell during a lockdown except those who are workers. On the way toward the front of the penitentiary, we passed B House. An inmate, who was just recently released from Tamms, was screaming like a mad man. The guard commented how some men cannot handle the isolation and lose their marbles. The inmate walking with me coincidentally also had just been transferred from the supermax. He did not seem to have been psychologically affected and asked the guard if he remembered him before he was sent to Tamms 10 years ago. Surprisingly, the guard did and I wondered if there was a reason. The escorting correctional officer mentioned how he had worked at Stateville 17 years and was looking forward to retiring soon. The guard had become employed by the IDOC about the same time I was made a captive in it. I also hoped to retire soon.

The visiting room was surprisingly not crowded or excessively noisy. This was due to the shortened visitation but also because RNC inmates now have their own visiting room. There was a much greater number of prisoners who had received visits Wednesday from the Northern Receiving Center and it was not simply because it held more people. I reasoned many of their friends and family sought to visit them before they were sent to a penitentiary downstate. I also assumed these men who had just recently been convicted still had ties to family, friends, wives or children. Most of the men at Stateville had lost these after being in prison many years.

While on the way to my visit and afterwards, I learned new details about the Orange Crush search and what led up to it. From what I was informed, one of the prisoners who overdosed died, and his cellmate was in a vegetative state. The guards who noticed them also quickly noticed the heroin which was lying on the table in plain sight. Later when a search of the cell was conducted, the cell phone was found in a package of Ramen Noodles--of all places. Although drugs could have passed through the visiting room, a cell phone could not and prison security immediately suspected staff for bringing in the contraband. I speculate this was why a state-wide tactical team from outside Stateville was formed and brought in to search the entire prison.

Although only one syringe was found in C House, a number were found in other cell houses. Also discovered by the Orange Crush team were shanks, mostly in the prison's most aggressive and violent unit. One man also told me a couple more cell phones were uncovered, but I am uncertain of the validity of the information. While initially I thought no drug testing was done, I learned I was mistaken. Urine tests were conducted of anyone found in possession of a hypodermic needle or where dogs scented drugs. There was also some sporadic testing done as well, except not on my gallery and possibly this is why I was unaware of it. No one surprisingly tested positive for drugs, from what I was told, nor were any drugs found. The presence of syringes hidden in inmates' cells, however, seems to indicate they were discarded. It would be remarkable if a maximum-security prison was absent of not only knives, but drugs.

After the Orange Crush left Stateville, guards went cell to cell in every unit conducting compliance checks. A compliance check is to ascertain if an inmate can fit all his property in his two boxes with the exception of their television, radio, fan and a few other items. Apparently, administrators from Springfield while at the penitentiary during the search were bothered that some inmates had massive amounts of property. Although this can be expected from men who have been in prison 10, 20, or even 30 years, unlike medium or minimum security prisons some inmates collect unnecessary clutter. From Friday through Sunday, units of Stateville guards did compliance checks and threw out a lot of property which was unable to fit in prisoners two boxes. I was easily able to fit everything and even held onto some books for my neighbor, Matt. My other neighbor thought he could get away with hiding a bag of food behind his box and underneath the bunk, but it was found and now he is complaining. Many prisoners are complaining but there is the benefit of forcing a cellmate not to infringe upon your space with his property and being more organized. I have thrown out various cellmates' junk they kept outside their box. I have even rearranged their entire property boxes to make space for things they keep out.

On the walk back to the cell house, the sun was at its zenith in the sky. Unlike on the equator or between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, the sun is never directly overhead. In the Chicago area, the highest the sun reaches is about 70 degrees, but this angle was quite easily able to make for some torrid heat. Typically, it takes the atmosphere a month to reach its warmest temperatures after the summer solstice and I expected much hotter weather to come. Already I suspected the heat index to be well over 100, but fortunately there was a good breeze which made it feel less uncomfortable. It was nice to be outside nearly alone, and I did not look forward to being trapped in my cell with my cellmate.

I stopped by Mertz's cell after our handcuffs were taken off and I was told to wait on my gallery until I was let in. Not surprisingly, I found Mertz in front of his TV completely absorbed. Television is his alternate universe and he spends vast amounts of his day watching various movies, programs, and shows. He even watches shows about shows. I cannot understand how he can spend so much time preoccupied by TV, but nevertheless, I share more in common with him than probably anyone in the cell house. My visitor asked me how I could get along with a man who apparently committed an indiscriminate murder. I am surrounded by murderers with much worse backgrounds. His personality, intelligence, and values were better than most in the penitentiary. Many people tend to think one act defines a man, but this is not true.

The guard came on the gallery and I began to head toward my cell. I was stopped by "Chubby Checker." He just wanted to say hello and ask how my visit was. It was obviously a superfluous greeting and an attempt at small talk. I said a few words before I continued down the gallery to be met by the new law library paralegal. Unlike the others before him, he is the most intelligent, knowledgeable and motivated person to work in the library I have met in my near 20 years of incarceration. Most of the staff hired to work at the law library could care less about prisoners' legal issues or work. He had an exceptionally different attitude and broke off his conversation with another inmate to discuss with me what I talked to him about earlier. I sought his help on a simple issue I had already researched to test his competency and confirm my conclusions. The issue was whether or not my life sentence was void because the aggravating factor which permitted it did not exist and therefore the judge lacked the statutory authority to render it. If a sentence is legally void, it may be appealed at any time and cannot be blocked by the prosecutor on procedural grounds. The paralegal seems to have taken an interest in my case and told me he had researched the issue and will speak to me during the next law library session. Mostly I need investigative work, but I appreciate his research and legal conclusions.

When mail was passed out, I received a Chicago Tribune and four financial magazines that were left for me by visitors two weeks prior. In the June 6th edition of the Tribune I noticed a tiny article and photo of James Kluppelberg. I thought about James and what he was doing with his life after close to 25 years in prison. While I was pondering about what life would be like outside these walls decades later, Spooncake came to my cell with a wash cloth on his bald head to prevent sweat from dripping down his face. Spooncake is Adolfo Davis, the man I wrote about who was sentenced to life for being a lookout for a triple homicide when he was 14 years old. He was interested if the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on whether it was constitutional to sentence juveniles to indefinite prison. I told him the only cases the media was talking about were the President's attempt to stop local authorities from enforcing immigration laws and the constitutionality of Obamacare.

During the evening, the nurse who has captured my interest came by to give me my medications. I was glad she was not accompanied by the lieutenant and I was able to talk to her at length. She told me the prison was out of the antihistamine I am given to help me sleep. There are much better medications to aid sleep including Melatonin, Lunesta, or Ambien, but the healthcare company will not allow the psychiatrist to order them. As I spoke to the cute and petite nurse, I noticed a fat nurse standing besides her vigorously waving a paper to cool herself. I asked "Tinkerbell" why she was wearing the thick dull gray uniform and was told the administration has been trying to impose new rules on staff to encourage them to quit. I wondered if it was better for her to appear so drab with all the miscreants at Stateville. If we were dating, I would forbid her to work here, even if she had to be covered like a Muslim. My thoughts seemed redundant considering my life sentence and I ended our conversation so she could continue her rounds.

At a little past 8 p.m., my cellmate told me he was going to use the toilet and then wash up. To make some space between us, I sat on my property box by the bars. I was watching the 80's movie "Crocodile Dundee" which was amusing because of how out of place the rural Australian was in New York City. It made me think about how much an outcast I would be also in 21st century America after so many years in prison. Even before my arrest, I was considered eccentric and unusual. When I took off my headphones, I noticed the cell house was relatively quiet. There was no blasting of radios or yelling and all I heard was the shuffling of domino bones and the slapping of the ceramic squares onto a property box. I looked out the cell house windows and watched the reflection of the sun on the penitentiary wall. Slowly, the orange light faded until it was gone. For a man who has spent most of his life incarcerated, the longest day took on much greater significance.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Search of Stateville -- June 14, 2012

Stateville has been on a strict Level 1 lockdown since Monday while the prison has been searched by a statewide D.O.C. tactical unit. The small army of guards had went cell house to cell house ransacking inmates' cells who were kept handcuffed behind the back for hours in the chow hall. Other areas of the prison were also searched including the yards and certain buildings. From what I have been informed, the extensive search was conducted after a couple of inmates overdosed on heroin and thereafter a cell phone was found. Many prisoners are still putting their cells in order and there is much animosity for the harsh treatment as well as for the loss and damage to their property. I question the wisdom of such a costly large scale sweep of the penitentiary which is minimally productive. However, the disruption of my life is nothing compared to the day to day misery of being incarcerated over 19 years or the resentment I have for the loss of over half my life.

I was not initially aware two prisoners overdosed on heroin over the weekend, and on Monday morning I had no clue why the penitentiary was on lockdown, nor did I care. At the maximum-security prisons of Illinois, lockdowns occur frequently and for various reasons. For most men, a lockdown is not a significant change in routine unless they have an assignment. Furthermore, I personally did not plan to leave the cell at all because of what I was told was being served for lunch and dinner. My indifference changed somewhat after hearing rumors about the two men in D House who were taken to the hospital, as well as the cell phone. Based on this information, I assumed Internal Affairs would investigate the matter. I also speculated there may be drug testing and many cell searches, but was uncertain to what extent the administration would react.

Monday was a particularly hot day with temperatures exceeding 90F. Prisoners yelled out from their cages for guards to pass out ice, but none was forthcoming. The heat was not accompanied with humidity and did not bother me. I went about my day as I normally would including my intense one hour exercise routine after chewing a couple of Ultrams. I had planned to work out when my cellmate left to the law library, but due to the lockdown, he was trapped in the cell with me. To keep air circulating, I turned my fan on high and directed it toward myself and out the cell. I also put on a heavy layer of anti-perspirant and exercised as close to the bars as I could. Despite these accommodations, my cellmate was not happy and let me know so after I was finished. In fact, the grumpy old man had a litany of complaints.

Bobby was angry that I had worked out while he was in the cell on such a hot day. He asked me if I happened to notice it was close to 100 degrees and then began complaining I did not use disinfectant when I wiped off the front area of the cell where I had dripped sweat. I also have not been scrubbing out the sink with disinfectant after I use it. I use the sink sometimes 50 times a day to brush my teeth, wash my hands, face, cups, bowls, fill my bottle with water, etc. I was not going to wash the basin repeatedly throughout the day. I also heard about how I did not turn his box around the proper way after washing the floor and improperly stacked his clothes he had on the box. He also said I acted like he was a fixture in the cell and not a person. I certainly wish he was so I may have a single man cell and not have to deal with him at all. I got the impression "Old Gangster Bobby" was trying to test me to be master of the cell. Therefore, in a strong tone of voice and an aggressive stance, I let him know I was more than willing to settle this dispute on a level he did not want to go to. Although while I washed up naked in the back of the cell, I thought he may attack me, but later he was overly friendly.

During the evening, I spoke to my new neighbor Matt who was formerly Mertz's cellmate. Because Matt is a Level E, he must be moved to a different cell every 90 days. Unfortunate, I thought, that he was not moved into my cell, or better yet that he and I swapped cells. Matt is a Caucasian man in his mid-40's. He pled guilty to a murder in an open plea and was sentenced to life without parole. He has been incarcerated for 24 years and since he was 19. Since he has been next door, I have spoken to him a few times at the cell bars. On Monday, he offered to loan me any of the cassette tapes he owned, but his taste in music pre-dated mine by a decade. I did take a Led Zeppelin tape from him, however.

Tuesday morning, I thought the day was going to be like any other on lockdown, but inmates altered this assumption when they began shouting "Orange Crush in B House!" B and C Houses are adjacent to each other and men who live toward the other unit can see the walk outside its back door. Not long thereafter I heard more shouts about a truck which pulled up besides the door and was being loaded with bags of confiscated property. Prisoners then began to talk about how the cell house was being stripped clean of everything except the plumbing. Although those were rumors we were to be pillaged next, the counselor was in the building making rounds and typically the Orange Crush only does one cell house a day. For precautionary reasons, though, I looked through my property boxes to see if I had any contraband. The SORT Unit has a different interpretation of what an inmate is allowed to have. They will regularly throw out legitimate property along with the unapproved.

At about 11 a.m. I began to get ready for my cell workout. I put on my shorts and gym shoes and wrapped my T-shirt around my forehead like a bandana. Before stretching out, I filled my bottle with water not only to make sure I had plenty to drink after exercising, but to see if the water had been turned off. The Orange Crush always turns off the water before they rush a cell house to prevent prisoners from flushing contraband. However, on this day they did not follow standard procedure and when I went to the cell bars I could see an enormous contingent of guards in full tactical gear and their infamous bright orange jumpsuits walking quickly down the walk in front of the cell house. Prisoners yelled out "Orange Crush on the walk!" and moments later "Orange Crush in the building!" as the tactical team stormed through the back door and ran up flights of stairs to every gallery.

From the cell bars, I watched guards rush down 4 gallery and two stopped at my cell. One was a large white man with a slight accent which may have been Polish. I was unable to identify his country of origin because he said very little. He was accompanied surprisingly by a woman who did most of the talking. She told me I could not go out in shorts and both my cellmate and I had to be dressed in state blues. I undressed until I was only in socks and boxers and then asked the man if they were conducting strip searches. He gestured for me to just get dressed after feeling if there was anything in the pockets of my pants and shirt I had placed on the bars, but the woman insisted they had to do a complete strip search. Thus, I took off my remaining clothing and although the woman initially watched me, she apparently became a little bashful and looked away. I was not an exhibitionist at all but I had a good physique and was not ashamed or embarrassed.

Once dressed, I switched places with my cellmate who was standing in the back of the cell. He was strip searched as well, but I noticed the female guard did not want to see any of my disheveled old cellmate with a few teeth and went to the cell next door. When she returned, she saw Bobby kicking aside his boots and putting his gym shoes on instead. The guard told him he must wear state issued clothing and if he had boots, he had to wear them. My cellmate mumbled something about his boots not fitting him and continued to tie up his gym shoes which he only wears on visits. I tend to believe he did not want to risk losing them to a Orange Crush Unit which seemed to be pilfering a lot of property. Before an argument ensued, the female guard was distracted by the commotion next door. The guard in front of our neighbor's cell was shouting at someone, "What are you doing? Don't move!" and then, "Stand up against the wall!" I did not learn what this was about until later.

After the galleries of prisoners on the floors above us had filed out of the cell house, the doors on 4 gallery were opened. When my cellmate and I came out, we were told to face the cell bars until an order came over the guard's radio for them to escort us out of the building. Outside it was a sunny moderate 80 degrees, and I was glad because on prior occasions I recalled mass searches being done in frigid or rainy weather. On the walk, prisoners were told to line up in twos. Every now and then a guard would shout, "No talking!" and "Face forward!" although everyone was already lined up orderly and there was no talking. It was actually odd to have a silent movement line of prisoners at Stateville. I could actually hear the birds chirping it was so quiet. Unfortunate that prisoners would not voluntarily be quiet, I thought.

A great number of guards walked with the movement lines to the chow hall or stood as security. Through the tunnel, where no guard with a rifle in the gun tower could overlook us, was a gauntlet of guards standing side by side with batons in their hands. All of the guards were dressed in bright orange jumpsuits with black helmets, body armor, leather gloves and boots. I noticed nearly all of them were Caucasian and it was obvious they did not work at Stateville or live in the Chicago metro area. This tactical team was made up of men and a few women from prisons downstate. However, once in the chow hall, I did notice a couple of Stateville guards suited up.

After inmates were seated and locked in the chow hall, they were allowed to socialize. It was unusual how much latitude prisoners were given during the time we waited for the cell house to be searched. Typically, there is no talking or movement of any kind, let alone walking around, stretching, or going to another table to sit. I was also surprised how men were allowed out to use the toilet and how medical needs were catered to. In years past, guards did not care if you pissed in your pants or keeled over with a heart attack. Any complaints, furthermore, were usually dealt with a beating or a blow to the head. I also recall how the guard dogs would lunge or bark at prisoners and they were treated with much hostility. Even the guards who lined the tunnel and elsewhere did not have scowls or intimidating demeanors. They almost stood at attention like statues. I wondered if over the years, there has been a slow change of policy, new administrators with different perspectives had taken over, or the difference was simply due to the fact no staff were assaulted to motivate this search.

Sitting next to me was my neighbor, whom guards were shouting at earlier. He explained to me he had forgotten to get rid of his device for heating water. Although the guards were at his bars watching him he, attempted to discreetly take it and while feigning to get a drink of water flushed the contraband. Despite the yells for him not to move, he did so anyway. He told me he did not care if the guards became upset but he did not want to go to Segregation for something paltry. Nearly every man in the maximum-security prisons of Illinois makes something or does something to heat up water for coffee, tea, or meals. In medium-security prisons, men are allowed hot pots, but it is considered too dangerous for those at places like Stateville.

I turned around with my back against the table to see "The Elephant." I have nicknamed the big fat Greek man who lives on my gallery after that animal because he somewhat reminds me of one. He was also sitting with his back to the table and his huge gut hung out, but that was not the only thing. He had forgotten to zip up his pants. Fortunately, although he was called the Elephant, he had a tiny penis like most fat people and the only thing coming through his pants was his blue shirt. I brought it to his attention and he said, "So, that is why people are staring at me." The Elephant was in double handcuffs which I could have easily slid underneath my legs to the front but for a fat man this was impossible. I told another prisoner I have nicknamed Squirrel to zip up his fly for him, but he said, "Hell no!" I asked why not, he would have done it for Bullwinkle. I continued to joke with him saying I was sure the elephant would give "the squirrel" a couple of nuts for his trouble.

There was not only a number of overweight prisoners in C House but many who are old and sickly. I noticed a friendly, good humored black man who went by the name "Chub" (short for chubby), slouched over and looking ill. A medical technician was called in to see him as well as some other prisoners. I never learned what was wrong with Chub, but another black man sitting near me who was sweating profusely told me that he suffered from intestinal ulcers. Before the lockdown, he had been at the Health Care Unit on an IV drip for reasons he was unable to articulate to me.

The chow hall was rather crowded and numerous conversations were taking place all around me. Prisoners spoke about the men who overdosed and the rumors they were in critical condition, if not dead. There were also rumors about the cell phone and possibly some shanks being found in E House. Many inmates complained about being in handcuffs behind their backs, especially the longer they were in them. There were complaints about their property being tossed, damaged, or stolen. The Orange Crush guard who continued to shout for prisoners to not speak and look forward was speculated to have short man syndrome. The female med tech who was walking around attending to prisoners was also a topic of conversation. Despite her face and age, a number of inmates expressed interest in having sex with her. During this time, I was looking toward Mertz and considering walking over to him at the front of the chow hall to sit, but there were two obnoxious white men nearby. I cared less to hear them talk as much as those in my vicinity.

Eventually, I moved over to a table near the back wall which had three empty seats. Chase, a/k/a the Squirrel, was sitting, along with his cellmate who was a former firefighter and police officer. No one knows he was a cop, except me and Mertz. I learned about his background in Lake County from reading about his case at the law library. Being a former cop does not bother me, but the information will not be well received by other convicts at Stateville. What interests me more about the man is his case and appeals rather than his employment in the 1980's. There was not a lot of direct evidence supporting his conviction, although he was tried and convicted twice. I suspect the guilty verdicts were based largely on the abuse of his girlfriend prior to her brutal murder, including biting off part of her face.

After John was done complaining to a black man about losing his job at the kitchen, I spoke to him about the ongoing Orange Crush operation. We speculated there was over 300 guards brought in from various prisons in the IDOC. It seemed odd to me no drug testing was done considering the raid was precipitated by two men overdosing. He told me the urine test cups were too expensive to use but this reasoning did not seem sound to me. The cost of the test cups could not come anywhere close to bringing all these specially trained guards from downstate penitentiaries for several days. These men were paid higher wages and I assume their lodging and travel expenses were also paid for. I speculated the cost to be at least $100,000, but could be as high as $300,000. John believed the figure was closer to my higher estimate. Possibly, state officials feel like they are flush in cash after the governor cut Medicaid spending by $1.5 billion and also raised taxes on cigarettes $1 a pack. The state legislature even appropriated money to keep Tamms and Dwight Correctional Centers open, although the bill probably will not be signed by Governor Quinn.

Chase was trying to scratch his back with his hands cuffed behind him. When he learned forward, I put my foot on him and asked him if this was the spot. Chase did not appreciate my assistance but his cellmate thought it was funny. Like many other prisoners in the chow hall, Chase appeared to be in a lot of discomfort from being in the handcuffs so long. I told him if the Orange Crush followed their routine of searching two cell houses a day with a lunch break in between, they should be back to get us before shift change at 3:00. My statement was almost prophetic and soon thereafter a large group of guards came into the center circle of the chow hall.

Eight gallery was in the same chow hall as we were but we were separated by a cyclone fence. I watched as a guard yelled at them to form a line along the wall in order of their cell numbers. Inmates, after being handcuffed for hours and realizing their possessions had been looted and ransacked, were not in a great mood to have orders shouted at them. They did not cooperate as quickly as the man yelling commands wanted, and another guard with a high pressure mace spray gun, which looked similar to a flame thrower, began to aim it at the prisoners. Someone near me said how easily the mace gun could be taken away from him and used against the guards. I also thought it was unwise to have such a weapon in close proximity to unhappy convicts and wondered if it was merely a prop.

On the way back to the cell house, guards once again stood at attention with batons in their hands through the hallway and along the walk. Outside, the single file line was stopped and made into a double line. While standing there, I heard over the guards radio that a prisoner found in possession of a hypodermic needle was to be pulled out. From what I knew, he was the only man in my cell house to be taken to Segregation, except for an inmate who took a piss in the corner of the chow hall. Reportedly, he asked to use the toilet, but for some reason, unlike other men, he was continually told to sit back down and wait. Eventually, he reversed his handcuffs to relieve himself after he could not wait any longer.

Prisoners were brought up the front stairs to their respective galleries on the way back. One of my neighbors, who has trouble walking, lost his balance and fell backwards. I was not able to catch him with my hands behind my back, but I did use by body to prevent him from crashing straight onto the steel steps. His cellmate, who was in crutches and was permitted to keep one hand free, tried helping him up, but guards yelled at us to keep moving. The Orange Crush squad was trained to secure inmates in their cells as quickly as possible. It was during mass movement lines that there was the greatest potential for violence and retaliation.

The Orange Crush probably were rightfully concerned about angry inmates when I began to see the wreckage they left behind. It looked like a class 4 hurricane had swept through C House. Cell after cell I passed by was in complete disarray. Televisions, fans and radios were untied and left on bunks or the floor. Clothes, books, food and various other items were thrown about or haphazardly put in piles. My cell was not in as bad of shape as others I saw, but upon entering my cell, I noticed my photographs were scattered on my box and a few were on the floor bent. The vast majority of my property was replaceable, but my collection of photos was not. After being unhandcuffed, I carefully rebundled my photos in envelopes, looking from time to time at pictures of my former girlfriend. I have not seen Susanna in years and probably never will again, but I still like to keep a memory of her.

The cell was in such great disorder that I was not certain where to begin first. Surprisingly, guards had left me the 3 beef burritos I had made and placed in a plastic container as a post work-out meal. I ate two of them while I surveyed the damage to the cell and made a plan for reorganizing my property. I noticed guards had taken everything off the walls. All my hooks, pegs, and screws were gone. The mirror and roll of toilet paper were taken down as well as my cellmate's television which he was busy retying to a vent on the upper back corner of the cell. Inside my property boxes, I found that a bundle of wire I used to gain radio reception was taken, as well as a number of my jars. I had 20 empty and clean peanut butter jars in which I stored various dry foods such as cereal, rice and mixed nuts.

While reassembling my cell, I heard a number of prisoners complaining about the damage or loss of their property. The Orange Crush had taken pens, markers, all types of containers, stamped envelopes, extra blankets and sheets, mirrors, food, wires and an assortment of other items. Much of the property prisoners were not technically allowed to have, but there were also many things which should not have been confiscated. After hearing my cellmate and Matt tell me all their pens had been taken, I gave them each one. However, when I heard the ugly disfigured and obnoxious man nicknamed by prisoners "Quasi Modo" continue to complain loudly about his mirror being confiscated, I yelled down to him, "You knew very well your reflection was dangerous contraband," which drew much laughter from the cell house. Even my cellmate chuckled but I said to him, "What are you laughing about? They took your mirror as well."

I did not finish cleaning, reordering my property, or attaching new hooks, pegs, or screws until well after 8 p.m. I was exhausted and propped a pillow behind my back and went to turn on my TV when I remembered the guards had taken my remote control stick. Most of the cell house was watching game one of the NBA Finals, but I turned on a PBS concert of Pink Floyd in Australia. It was mellow music to listen to after a distressing day. Unfortunately, the station interrupted after every two songs to beg for money and the new lead vocalist sounded terrible. After eating my last remaining burrito and brushing my teeth without disinfecting the sink afterwards, I listened to the Zeppelin tape my neighbor loaned me while I made myself a new remote control stick. My tumultuous day ended with a visit by the feminine, petite nurse I have come to like seeing, if only briefly once or twice a week. I was going to comment about her little green gym shoes which accentuated her elf or Tinkerbell-like appearance, but a lieutenant quickly hovered over her like an overzealous chaperone.

There has been no visitation for prisoners at Stateville all week. Typically, visitation will resume after 48 hours despite the incident, but apparently the administration did not want any unnecessary movement while the Orange Crush were searching the prison. On Wednesday, I was expecting a visit from my father. Since I was unable to see him, I wrote him a 5-page letter. Hopefully, it will reach him by Father's Day, however, I seriously doubt it. If prisoners are allowed to use the phones, I will try calling him on Sunday.

Today, Warden Hardy made rounds in C House. I assume he was listening to the various complaints of inmates in regards to the conduct of the Orange Crush. Because it was a statewide tactical team, I am uncertain if Stateville's warden was in control. Orders for the search may have even come from overseeing IDOC administrators. However, I suppose it was considerate of the warden to listen to prisoners vent, even if he did nothing to resolve their grievances and was not responsible. He was in the cell house for a few hours and went by every cell, including mine. I did not address him because I did not think it was constructive. Plus, every day at Stateville is unpleasant and it seemed petty to mention my peanut butters jars being confiscated or the disarray of my cell. In context to my wretched daily existance and slow death over nearly two decades for a crime I did not commit, the Orange Crush search was a minute injustice.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Letter to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez--June 7, 2012

Yesterday, I spent part of my day writing Anita Alvarez, the State's Attorney of Cook County. A couple of months ago, I was sent a newspaper clipping from the Chicago Sun Times through the mail. In the article, the State's Attorney was reported to have created an independent 6 person unit to investigate wrongful conviction claims. The investigative panel was said to be made in response to the many high profile murder cases from prior administrations which have fallen apart during her administration. At the end of the editorial, the author speculates the internal unit may have difficulty criticizing the same department and it was important for Alvarez to make sure outside pressures were not put on it. The author also speculated the group may become little more than a public relations arm of the police and prosecutor's office. This was my thinking exactly, and thus I never bothered to write the State's Attorney. However, since then, I have begun to think...what do I have to lose?

A few weeks ago, I spoke with my appellate attorney. She is always friendly, although I often become frustrated with her lack of progress. I told her I am going to write the Cook County State's Attorney with the evidence I already have which I believe amply proves my innocence. Like me, she has serious doubts about the effectiveness of this unit. Perhaps Alvarez wants to create the illusion to the public she is actually concerned about the numerous men who have been found innocent after being wrongly convicted. If the States Attorney's Office was truly concerned about justice, they would not have held up and fought James Kluppelberg and other prisoners' appeals for years despite having evidence of their innocence. However, with Governor Quinn slowly ruling on a backlog of over a thousand petitions for Executive Clemency, I refuse to passively languish in prison. Action of any type is better than no action, and for a man trapped in a coffin for 19 years, it is better to kick, beat walls, and attempt to scratch my way out than slowly suffocate to death. Possibly, someone will hear my screams in the cemetery and come to my rescue.

The prison went on lockdown momentarily today while I was sorting the documents to send along with my letter to Anita Alvarez. I overheard cell house workers who remained out in C House say a shot was fired in the Roundhouse. Later, I was informed two Hispanic prisoners were fighting and when guards intervened, one was swung at. Staff has occasionally commented there is too much going on in F House and this is the cause of repeated incidents. The ground floor is segregation and the upper three floors are general population except for about 15 cells which are protective custody. Each of these groups of prisoners must be isolated and regulated differently. The different classifications of inmates probably does cause more work, complications, and confusion for staff. However, I have heard stories about the Roundhouse when it was all general population, and it was still the most violent and disruptive cell house.
I had to complement my letter to the State's Attorney with various documents and affidavits. I am certain many prisoners have already contacted her office claiming to be innocent. There is no shortage of men claiming innocence despite how overwhelming the evidence is against them. Today, my cellmate showed me another newspaper article from another publication about the panel set up by Anita Alvarez to investigate claims of wrongful convictions. This was a copy and is apparently being passed amongst prisoners here. I do not want my letter to be thrown in a stack of piles like all the others possibly never to be reviewed. I must distinguish my case convincingly and provide proof. Unfortunately, some of my affidavits and documents are not in my possession. Tomorrow, I will have to call my family to send the additional papers including my Petition for Executive Clemency.

The following is my letter to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. If I receive a response, I will have it printed here at such time it occurs. The investigative unit is probably a facade, but I will see and so will readers of my blog. I am intentionally printing my letter openly because I want the public to be able to scrutinize the correspondence. I remain skeptical about whether the investigative unit will be effective but will see what happens as will the readers of my blog. Here is my letter:

June 6, 2012

Anita Alvarez, Cook County State's Attorney
69 West Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Ms. Alvarez:

Not long ago, I read an article in the Chicago Sun Times reporting you created a 6 person unit to investigate claims of wrongful conviction. I tend to believe your announcement is purely a public relations move to give the appearance your office actually cares about justice. I spoke to my attorney about the matter and she is of the same opinion. I was told not to bother writing you because it would be a waste of time. However, I have been incarcerated over 19 years for a murder I did not commit nor had anything to do with. Attorney after attorney, court after court, and governor after governor have already wasted most of my life. I have nothing to lose by contacting your office and offering the enclosed proof of my innocence.

My arrest occurred in 1993 after my co-defendant Robert Faraci and his wife, Rose, told police I committed the mass murder of seven people at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine, as well as another person in a wooded area of Barrington. Although police and the State's Attorney's Office inferred to the public the mass murder was solved, I was only charged and prosecuted for the latter crime. In 1995, Robert Faraci and I were tried simultaneously but by separate juries for the murder of Dean Fawcett. Before the trial began, Rose Faraci came forward to admit she conspired with her husband to lie and frame me of the murders to prevent Robert from going back to prison. Despite this revelation, prosecutors refused to drop the charges against me and instead proceeded with a case via a theory of accountability.

At trial, the state's case was based on the testimony of John Robertson, an investigator from the Cook County State's Attorney's Office who had been assigned to the Palatine Task Force. He claimed that during his interrogation of me I admitted Robert Faraci told me he was going to kill the victim and I thereafter lent him my car. This is absolutely false, but my defense attorney refused to contest Robertson's lies. I vehemently argued with my lawyer's trial strategy and demanded he critically cross examine Robertson's testimony. I, furthermore, demanded that I and others testify how glaringly false and incredible his testimony was. However, lead attorney Bill Von Hoene threatened to quit in the middle of my trial, and continued to do things his way.

My attorney argued to the jury that although Robertson's testimony was true, it did not make me accountable for the actions of my co-defendant. The argument was undermined by the prosecutors who lied and convoluted the law during closing arguments. Von Hoene requested a mistrial, but at the minimum asked for the jury to receive curative instructions about the statute as ruled by Illinois' courts. This motion was denied and after several days of sequestered deliberations, my jury found me guilty, not knowing the man they held me accountable for was acquitted. Judge Sam Amirante, noting there was no evidence to demonstrate I was at the crime scene, still sentenced me to natural life without the possibility of parole.

In December 1992, I lived with Robert and Rose Faraci at their Schiller Park apartment. On the 28th, the day prosecutors contend Dean Fawcett was killed in Barrington, I was at my sister's home in Thornton until after midnight. Before I left the apartment, Robert Faraci never said anything about killing the victim. I also never saw him with a gun on that day nor did I lend him my vehicle. In fact, I used my car to travel to the S.E. suburb. When I returned to the apartment, the Faracis seemed normal and I did not notice anything irregular. I had no idea Robert had killed Fawcett earlier and came back with blood on his clothes which were disposed of by his wife.

These are not simply self-serving statements which lack corroboration. Both my sister and brother-in-law informed my trial attorneys that I and my Ford Mustang were at their home which is close to 50 miles away from the crime scene. They are absolutely certain of the date, despite my arrest months later, because December 28th is our father's birthday. My sister had called him to wish him a happy birthday and urged me to talk to him also. She thought this was an opportune time for us to make up for an argument which led to me moving out. Rose Faraci admitted to seeing her husband come home covered in blood and although she denied at trial destroying his clothes, she told Richard Lantini earlier that she had destroyed them. Before the Grand Jury, Rose also testified I left on the 28th in my own car, but this, like the blood evidence found in Faraci's Pontiac Firebird, was intentionally not brought to the attention of my jury. Even Robert Faraci, since my conviction, has given an affidavit stating he did not use my car on the 28th of December. He still will not admit to killing Fawcett, however, I think it is obvious from evidence available at trial, and the various people he has confessed to since and have provided affidavits which are enclosed.

My defense attorney, William Von Hoene, was a very good lawyer at the law firm of Jenner & Block, but he lacked criminal trial experience. In my opinion, he made a colossal blunder in trial strategy not contesting the testimony of the interrogating officer. Earlier at a pre-trial suppression motion, John Robertson's credibility was obliterated and although the judge denied the motion, I request your office and/or the independent panel to review it. It is obvious my Miranda rights were violated and I was abused by the interrogating officers. The lack of any corroboration of my alleged statements also I believe makes Robertson's claims highly questionable. My co-defendant and many other people questioned by him and other members of the Palatine Task Force signed waivers of Miranda. They also were asked to sign or make written statements. Robert Faraci gave various signed, written, stenographed, and audio recorded statements all with waivers of Miranda included. There were witnesses to my arrest who testified I immediately asked for a lawyer upon my arrest and I continued to do so throughout the hours and hours of my two day interrogation. These requests were ignored and at times when I continued, I was struck or kicked. Because I refused to answer questions, I was intimidated, threatened, and assaulted. A blue sheet was placed over the two-way mirror so no one could see into the interrogation room. This was not taken down until Asst. State's Attorney Pat O'Brien visited me and I told him of the abuse. He denied this later, but nevertheless, it is true. I was not tortured like some suspects claim they were by Commander Jon Burge. However, my Miranda rights were clearly violated and I was coerced to make statements. Most importantly, these statements were in part fabricated or manipulated by John Robertson.

The reason why there is no corroboration to the interrogating officer's testimony is because I never waived my Miranda rights and what I said was falsified. Yes, both Rose and Robert Faraci borrowed my car on occasion while we lived together, but not on the 28th of December 1992. Yes, Robert Faraci possessed guns and sometimes carried them, but I never saw him with one on the day he killed Fawcett. Robert Faraci even talked about shooting, killing, whacking, and making people disappear. I have even heard a story about how he put a man in a meat grinder, but never did he tell me he was going to kill Fawcett. I have wrongfully been held accountable for the actions of my co-defendant and despite the prosecutor's arguments, I should not be guilty by association.

The prosecution theorized Fawcett was killed to prevent him from possibly talking to police. This was based on the very incredible testimony of Nadine Lenarczyk who was already working with police in another fraud case to lessen her punishment. Regardless, it was the victim who devised the check scam. It was he who opened up the bank account, deposited phony checks to deceive the bank, and wrote all the checks except for a few which were forged by Robert and Rose Faraci. I do not deny receiving any merchandise purchased by Fawcett with bounced checks. However, I did not coerce or encourage him to do so as Brian Palasz and others testified or can tell you. Your office can also see a few of the checks say "gift for Paul". The idea I would kill or abet Faraci in a murder because I was his "good buddy," "partner," or etc., is absurd. Unfortunately, I made a terrible mistake having Robert as a friend and moving in with him, but I had nothing to do with the murder of Fawcett.

After my conviction, members of my jury were interviewed. A few stated they would not have voted guilty had they been aware my co-defendant was acquitted. From interviews, I also learned the jury convicted me more so for allowing Fawcett to go off to his death with Faraci than for lending my car. The judge also said before sentencing me to life in prison that he was giving me the same hope I left Fawcett: no hope. This is simply not true and my attorney knew it was false, but as a matter of trial strategy he told the jury Robertson's testimony was accurate. My attorney knew that although such inaction may be deemed morally reprehensible, it did not constitute criminal liability. Possibly, if Cook County Asst. States Attorney's Paul Tsukuno and James McKay did not lie about or manipulate the laws of accountability, I would not be at Stateville 17 years later.

I am enclosing a number of documents, transcripts, and affidavits to collaborate what I have written in this letter. I will also have my family send your office my Petition for Executive Clemency with its vast documentation as well as other evidence I do not currently have in my cell. I believe the Clemency Petition will answer any question you or the panel reviewing claims of wrongful convictions will have. However, if there is other information I may provide, I am willing to answer any questions in person, provided my attorney or an independent third party is present. My attorney's name is Jennifer xxxxxx and you may reach her at xxx-xxx-xxx. She will be filing a successive post conviction petition later this year based in part on actual innocence.

From my understanding of the law, the State's Attorney's Office cannot unilaterally release a prisoner. However, you may petition the court or Governor's office. Asst. State's Attorney James McKay has already argued against my Clemency Petition which is pending, but you can overrule him and tell Governor Quinn you agree to my release. When my appeal is before the court, you also have the power not to contest it. At the very least, I should hope you will allow my appeal to be heard on its merits and not attempt to have it dismissed on some technicality of law. You claim to be interested in justice and not merely maintaining convictions. I would like to believe this is true.

Sincerely,

Paul Modrowski

Enclosures

Update: January 28, 2013

I never thought I would receive a response from the state's attorneys office but today I was surprised to be handed a letter that read:   "This letter is to confirm that the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Conviction Integrity Unit has received your request to review your conviction. This case is in the process of being reviewed. If you have any additional information that will assist the Office in reviewing this case, please send it as soon as possible. The information should be sent to the postal address below."  It was signed by Shelley Keane, Assistant State's Attorney, Conviction Integrity Unit.

It is a very brief letter and I tend to believe it is the standard reply sent to all prisoners asking for their case to be reviewed. Hopefully, this Conviction Integrity Unit is authentic and not a farce. I still believe it is a public relations arm of the IL State's Attorney's office and has no independence or authority.

I will update as things occur.


Update: January 4, 2015 

After sending huge amounts of evidence to substantiate my claims, and receiving the above acceptance letter from the Conviction Integrity Unit, I was dismayed to receive a one paragraph letter today.  My original thoughts that this was merely a publicity stunt to make people believe Anita Alvarez was truly interested in justice were correct. 

The one paragraph reads:

"I am in receipt of your inquiry letter requesting that the Conviction Integrity Unit review your case. Pursuant to your claim of wrongful conviction, we have examined your case. Based upon our review, we have determined that your claim is without merit and does not warrant any further investigation on our part at this time."  

(Signed on December 23, 2014 by Susan Caraher who works for the Office of the State's Attorney)  

Update:  January 15, 2015

Blog helpers advised not to publish my entire letter because it "names names".  So here is part of my response to Susan Caraher at the Conviction Integrity Unit:

Dear Ms. Caraher:

I am in receipt of your letter where you claim to have reviewed my murder conviction and have determined there is no doubt that I am guilty. May I inquire how you came to this conclusion? What evidence did you specifically examine? There was no evidence presented at my trial that I killed Dean Fawcett or was even at the crime scene. Judge Sam Amirante precluded the death penalty based upon this finding. My conviction was based exclusively on the dubious theory that I was accountable for the actions of my roommate Robert Faraci despite his acquittal by a separate jury. Furthermore, although my attorney chose not to contest the statements made by the investigator from your office, there was ample evidence he falsely testified that I admitted lending my car to Robert Faraci on the day he allegedly killed the victim. Since Anita Alvarez created the Conviction Integirtyy Unit, I knew it was a farce to dupe the public to believe the Cook County States Attorney's Office believed in truth and justice. It believes in neither and its refusal to consider any of the following evidence is testament to that.

(A list of 12 people along with portions of their affidavits or testimony supporting Paul's innocence has been omitted here.)

For 22 years, I have been incarcerated in maximum security facilities for a crime I had no involvement in nor was even aware occurred until months later. I will spend the rest of my life in prison although the actual killer was acquitted. I made a simple request that my conviction be reviewed and not a single person was contacted. Not one inquiry was made to my knowledge, yet you determined there was no merit to my claim of innocence. The Cook County States Attorney's Office is already fully aware I am innocent but will never admit to fault. The purpose of the Conviction Integrity Unit is not the integrity of convictions but to maintain convictions whenever possible. You, Susan Caraher, should be ashamed to be a part of this fraud committed against the people of Illinois.

Contemptuously,
Paul Modrowski





Wednesday, June 6, 2012

James Kluppelberg Freed After 24 Years -- May 31, 2012

Today, James Kluppelberg was released from prison after serving 24 years. In March 1984, a fire burned down a 3-flat apartment building at 4448 S. Hermitage in Chicago, Illinois killing a mother and her five children. The fire was initially determined by experts to be an accident, but when 4 years later a witness avoided prison time on burglary and theft charges by falsely claiming he saw Kluppelberg start the blaze, James was arrested and charged with arson and 6 counts of first degree murder. With other questionable evidence, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. It was during his years of incarceration that I was able to meet and acquaint myself with Kluppelberg. At Stateville, I learned about his case and post conviction appeals which were strung out for over a decade before prosecutors decided to drop the charges due to new exonerating evidence. I was surprised and very glad for the man who had spent half his life in prison to finally be set free. I hope he can make the most of what remnants of his life remain.

I first met James Kluppelberg in the late 1990's while at Joliet Correctional Center. I did not know he was convicted of a mass murder arson and only on occasion spoke with him. Kluppelberg lived in the Honor Dorm while I spent the majority of my time celled in East General Population. The dorm was considered a privilege to live in and only prisoners who had exemplary disciplinary records were permitted to stay there. Those who were in the unit had free movement within it and were not confined to a cell like the rest of the inmates incarcerated at Joliet C.C. From what I was told, there were some short office walls which gave prisoners some privacy but otherwise it was wide open. Inmates could walk around and socialize as they pleased. They also had access to the showers, public toilets, wash bins, and microwave oven any time they pleased. The dorm was almost treated like a minimum-security unit and many prisoners loved being there. However, the idea of being around so many people without the chance of ever being alone was abhorrent to me and I declined the offer to be moved there. East general population was much more to my liking because it was a small two gallery section isolated from the rest of the prisoners at Joliet. It was quiet, had little gang activity, and few distractions.

I rarely saw Kluppelberg at Joliet because of the different units we lived in but also because of our different assignments and past times. I went to school full time and even took extra classes to graduate before the college courses were discontinued. While I was at school, James worked Monday through Friday as a data entry typist. Furthermore, while I was a fitness fanatic lifting weights on the yard and competing on the prison's power lifting team, he stayed in the dorm lazily while not working at his job. Only on a rare occasion would I see Kluppelberg on the yard or at some other location. Usually, I saw him in movement lines when he was headed to the industries building or elsewhere. The same can be said when I was transferred to Stateville years later until I was moved to C House where we lived on the same gallery.

Kluppelberg always managed to acquire the best jobs in the penitentiary. At Joliet, the mattress factory and data entry jobs were the most coveted by inmates. If a prisoner was able to type fast, he could make up to $300 a month, and I even heard of a few men making $400 when a huge order came in which had to be processed without delay. To give readers some perspective, most inmates with jobs at Stateville currently make about $30 a month and $5 is deducted incredibly for room and board. When Joliet C.C. was closed down in 2000, James lost his data entry job but he quickly made friends and was assigned to work at the print shop and as a clerk at Stateville's prison store. These jobs did not pay as much but they are exclusive assignments that had many perks and benefits. Many prisoners appreciated the work he did to improve the selection of products at commissary. He was also able to do favors for men by having copies made and making sure their commissary orders were completed in full. Kluppelberg also got along very well with staff and his supervisors. At times, I thought he believed he was a part of the system and not a captive. Such coziness with employees and the clout it carried, however, eventually was noticed by Internal Affairs and this was why he was transferred to Menard C.C.

On television, I saw an old photograph of James Kluppelberg from the 1980's. He looked younger and had semi-long feathered blond hair. For all the time I knew him, he looked more like the bald middle-aged man with a blond goatee, Jamie Heiman, from the TV show "Myth Busters." When I left Joliet C.C., I did not see James again until I was transferred to Stateville and went out on a hospital writ about 8 years later. He still looked like the same man I knew in Joliet but James complained of many health ailments. I was told he suffered from heart disease, hypertension, loss of vision, diabetes, foot problems, carpal tunnel syndrome and the list went on. It seemed like he felt his entire body was falling apart.

Although I did not think James looked much different, he thought my appearance had drastically changed. It was no surprise to me when he speculated I was being sent to the hospital at the University of Illinois for cancer treatments. A number of other men I had known from Joliet thought I looked sickly and gaunt. No, I told James, I did not have cancer. My weight loss was due to a lower back injury and not being able to lift weights as I had before. I had repeatedly injured a couple of disks in my lumbar spine and these were now degenerating. Even if I had not injured my back, prisoners at Stateville rarely have access to weights and the work out equipment is paltry compared to the other prisons I have been at. I did not mention this to James, but the time I have spent at Stateville has been the most miserable and probably in some indirect fashion has probably affected my health.

While at the hospital, prisoners must wait handcuffed and shackled with nothing to do for many hours. During that time, Kluppelberg told me about his post conviction appeal and various parts of the prosecutor's case against him. From what he told me, the fire he was accused of igniting was initially determined to be an accident, but his trial attorney did not present this evidence to his jury, and on appeal his lawyer failed to attach the documents. The failure to submit the evidence on appeal led to its dismissal but he was able to win in the Appellate Court. It ruled his appellate counsel fell below a reasonable standard defendants have by right in the post conviction statute and the State Supreme Court rule 651c. This was very interesting to me because my appellate attorney failed to submit affidavits to the court showing my car was 50 miles away from the crime scene and could not have been used by my co-defendant, but trial attorneys failed to have them testify or contest the state's theory of accountability in any way. Unfortunately for me, however, the Appellate Court also dismissed my case and now I must file a successive post conviction citing Kluppelberg's case along with several others.

I am not certain if I asked or James just volunteered, but he also told me about how he came to be arrested and convicted. Although the fire was initially determined to be an accident, a few years later a former friend of his arrested for a burglary told authorities he saw Kluppelberg light the blaze. He and his girlfriend, or possibly wife, were then interrogated. The woman told police she also witnessed Kluppelberg commit the arson. Obviously, I was curious why she would do this and was told the police threatened to take her children and do other things if she did not cooperate. James failed to tell me he also confessed, but later on television news today, I learned his confession was surprisingly suppressed by the judge before trial. This was highly unusual but because he was interrogated by Jon Burge, the same police commander who numerous other prisoners blame for abusing them during interrogation directly or as in a supervisory role like my cellmate, I can see how the confession was not allowed into evidence.

Kluppelberg's appeal was initially based on ineffective assistance of counsel but it was dismisssed after 10 years. However, he filed a successive appeal with the help of attorneys at the University of Chicago Law School and Winston & Strawn based on prosecutor misconduct and actual innocence. The jail detainee recanted his prior testimony and said he was given a sweet deal by the prosecutor for his story. The deal was never disclosed to the defense nor was a confession by another person who said she may have started the fire, both of which are "Brady Violations" and a significant impropriety by the assistant state's attorney. Investigators on Kluppelberg's defense team also went to the attic window where the jail house snitch formerly claimed to have witnessed him torch the apartment. They found he could not see the building from his vantage point. On top of this, a forensic expert was hired who reviewed the evidence and found the burn markings not indicative of an arson.

Last year when I was moved to C House, I spoke with James more often because we were celled on the same gallery. However, like at Joliet, he rarely came out except to go to work unless there was something especially good to eat in the evening or a weekday. When he did come out or I saw him in movement lines, he usually associated with people I did not know or care for, including Jimmy Files, who claims to have assassinated President John F. Kennedy and has many other tall tales to tell involving mafia and CIA conspiracies. On occasion, though, I would talk to him and also ask how his appeal was proceeding. He told me the prosecutor continued to stall asking for continuance after continuance, apparently to delay an evidentiary hearing. The last time I spoke with him he said, however, the prosecutor was debating whether or not to retry him if the judge vacated his conviction. Apparently they decided not to, and when the circuit court ruled in his favor, he was abruptly released.

At 11 a.m. today prisoners in C House began shouting that Kluppelberg was released and was on television. I was sipping on some hot tea and waiting for the gym line to be run when I head the shouts. Immediately I turned to CBS to see James walking out the front gates of Menard C.C. It was odd seeing the prisoner I had known for nearly 15 years on TV, and a free man. Kluppelberg was by himself and by his demeanor and words he seemed stunned and lost. He told television reporters the experience was scary, shocking, numb, and sad. Everything he had was gone. He had no family, money, or a home to go to. He was leaving prison after 24 years with $14 in his pocket.

I thought about Kluppelberg's haunting words and his expression throughout much of this day. At the gym, I spoke to a prisoner about how his release must feel surreal. I cannot even imagine what it would be like outside these walls. However, unlike Kluppelberg, I do not think I have become institutionalized as much as he has. Kluppelberg assimilated into the penitentiary, its people and environment. His job became very important to him and he may have thought of himself as a cog in the wheels which turned Stateville. This created meaning for him while I contrarily see no meaning to my incarceration except my slow torture and death. I consider myself the walking dead within these walls and only with my release may some infusion of blood reinvigorate me.

Fortunately for Kluppelberg, he has some good lawyers who I believe will look after him and probably file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the State of Illinois after he is issued a certificate of innocence from Governor Quinn. Much of the talk amongst prisoners at dinner today was if he can sue, and if so, how much he will be given. There was a heated exchange between two men, one of whom was arguing he was going to get millions and the other saying he would not get a dime because Kluppelberg must prove prosecutorial or police malfeasance. I kept quiet until I was asked for my opinion. From what I know, Kluppelberg has good grounds for a lawsuit. I do not believe Jon Burge can be an issue because James' confession was suppressed. However, if police coerced a woman to testify against him falsely, this can be grounds. The greater and more provable misconduct will be the manipulation of forensics and not disclosing evidence favorable to the defense. I personally hope Kluppelberg will be awarded a million dollars for each year he was in prison, but I reason there will most likely be a settlement for much less.

I was not aware Kluppelberg was represented by the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School until I saw attorney Tara Thompson speak on his behalf during the midday television news. I met with her a few times while at Stateville to discuss my case and see if their team of attorneys would file my successive post conviction appeal. She wanted to represent me but apparently someone at Loevy & Loevy, the law firm which supports the project, blackballed me. I was never given a reason why, but it may be the same reason other firms and law schools have turned me down. These groups do not like to take accountability cases because proving innocence is much more difficult than if a defendant is directly accused of committing a crime. This may be true in general, but my case is distinguished from most others. In fact, I think my innocence is much more apparent and easier to prove than Kluppelberg's.

The judge refused to give me the death penalty, despite the vehement arguments of the prosecutor because there was no evidence to show I was even at the crime scene. This leaves the state with the dubious far-reaching theory that I was still accountable for my co-defendant's actions. Although I am aware the jury mainly based their decision on the belief that I left Fawcett go to his death without warning him, the law states an accountable party must aid or abet in some way. They also must demonstrate intent. The prosecutor, lacking a personal motive, sought to establish that I was part of a group and therefore collectively shared their desires. It is no secret why I was compared to a Three Musketeer and my co-defendant was repeatedly said to be my friend, roommate and partner. As for abetting, there was the testimony of the interrogating officer who claimed I lent my car to Faraci on the day in question. The problem with this is that I have witnesses who place my car 50 miles away, but similar to the Kluppelberg case, this evidence was never presented to the jury. Furthermore, since my conviction, I have gathered other evidence. Additionally, there is blood evidence in my co-defendant's car which if preserved, may be identified through modern science as belonging to the victim.

I just watched James Kluppelberg give a statement to news reporters at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I know the prison did not give him airfare, so apparently someone is looking out for him. I am pleased with much of what James has said, unlike other men released from prison after years of incarceration for crimes they did not commit. Usually men are jubilant and have big happy smiles from ear to ear. James' mood is not of unrestrained merriment but rather sorrow. How can these men be so happy after being tormented for decades and having the life sucked out of them? Even if one day the state is forced to cough up some money, how can this ever make up for the enormous injustice, perpetuated against them? No amount of money is going to give James back 24 years.

I was incredulous, though, when I heard Kluppelberg say he does not harbor any animosity. If this was not bewildering enough, he went on to thank Anita Alvarez, the Cook County States Attorney, for not retrying him. This is the same prosecutor's office which has been delaying his freedom for years. They fought tooth and nail for James' appeal to be dismissed and for him to die in prison. The prosecutor did not decide not to retry Kluppelberg when his conviction was vacated out of any generosity, niceness, or sense of justice. It was purely a political PR play. There was no way the state could have re-convicted Kluppelberg even if they sicked "James Mad Dog McKay" on him. I can only speculate that Kluppelberg was still dazed and confused from his abrupt and unexpected release.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Spring Cold -- May 25, 2012

For a little over a week I have been sick with a cold and it is now just beginning to abate. I am not the only person ill, but many inmates and staff at the prison also have not been well. Germs spread very quickly in the large crowded penitentiaries of Illinois and I assume elsewhere. The immense building I am in some call "The Big House" has over 1,000 prisoners caged on 5 floors and is about a city block long. Various illnesses and diseases can sweep the prison and they are difficult to avoid even if a man rarely leaves his cell. Generally, viruses infect large amounts of people during the winter, especially during the flu season, and it is unusual this has occurred in the mid-spring with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Being at Stateville serving a sentence of natural life without the possibility of parole is miserable in itself, but being ill only adds to my discomfort and general disdain.

A number of people are or have been experiencing a variety of cold and flu-like symptoms this May, but mainly I have only had a sore throat and great loss of energy. I have been very lethargic the last week and have only been able to combat this with large drinks of caffeinated beverages. Almost daily, I have made myself a mug of tea. Sometimes, I complement this with large mugs of instant coffee. Without the heavy doses of caffeine, fatigue would quickly set in and I will feel like doing nothing or lying down. Several times, I have taken long afternoon naps from 11 or noon till 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Because of my lack of energy, I have done less than usual, and have taken to doing some light reading. I read a couple of Smart Money and Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazines as well as a Men's Health and a National Geographic. I have also spent more time watching television.

Despite my inability to be very productive, I have not ceased the intensity of my work outs. Nearly every day despite how sick I feel or my back pain, I will exercise for one hour nonstop in my cell. I will do an assortment of cardio and calisthenic exercises. I will also use my small box which weighs almost 100 pounds to do some exercises like upright rows. This week, my gallery was only permitted to go to the small yard and I stayed in my cell to work out while my cellmate was gone. Even with the caffeine, I had to push myself through my "P90X"-like exercise routines. I often created mental images or music in my mind to keep me going at 100%. I thought of the Rocky Balboa theme song "Eye of the Tiger," or listened to heavy metal music. A few times, I caught myself thinking of the film "Conan the Barbarian" which was my favorite as a child and continues to be an inspiration. The movie which premiered 30 years ago in 1982, represents overcoming enormous hardship, struggle, pain, injustice, and captivity--all of which I can relate to.

While working out by the cell bars this week, a civilian stopped at my cell and asked me if I wanted any reading materials. On occasion, people are allowed to wander Stateville to preach and offer religious literature. I asked the young man who seemed naive if he had any pardons from the Governor in his large bag of papers. He told me he did not but he had the gift of life. I told him my life was taken a long time ago. Nearly 20 years ago I was sentenced to die in prison and there is nothing waiting for me in the hereafter. Hearing this, he asked if I would pray with him. I was sweating profusely and continuing to exercise as I spoke to him. I thought this man was very persistent. I told him, "No prayers will help me." The Christian said he would pray for me anyway and asked for my name and gave me his Aaron before he left. I must admire these zealots but if they truly wanted to help, they would do so in a more constructive manner.

I have lost part of my appetite but still found myself going out for meals. The cost of buying commissary foods has become too great and I must take advantage of days the prison serves semi-decent meals regardless of how I feel. On Sunday, lunch was lasagna, a meal prisoners have not been fed in half a year. It was made with processed soy-turkey instead of ground beef but still was enticing enough for me to leave my cell. I sat at a table with a disfigured and ugly man some inmates call "Quasi Modo." The man, however, looks more like an experiment that went awry on the Island of Dr. Moreau. The prisoner was angry that he was only given a tiny square of lasagna and expressed his jealousy that I and others at the table had large helpings. This made me tell him he was fortunate to have anything to eat at all. There was a large fat man sitting beside him and I commented the elephant could easily take his tray and leave him with nothing. The deformed prisoner looked around the table for support and was seemingly surprised to find none.

Going out for chow was a great inconvenience when ill and I wanted to avoid all the vile and aggravating convicts that I could. Unfortunately, this was impossible whether walking the narrow gallery, being corralled into movement lines, or the crowds at the chow hall, including the hexagonal 6 stool tables. To avoid the crowd of inmates waiting to be released off the gallery and stairway to go outside, I often walk to the far side where I know two inmates. Since learning I was sick, however, Matt has been giving me the sign of the crucifix and stepping back from the bars. He is just being silly because he cannot avoid all the airborne germs in the cell house. Many prisoners and staff as well are coughing, sneezing, and sniffling. Even his cellmate had the cold earlier this month and I told him if he was going to catch the virus, he would have already. I may have been largely exposed to the germs when my cellmate had a cold a few weeks ago. He denied it but the toilet paper had had shoved in his nose with Vaseline and his cough told me otherwise.

I am a quiet person who is rather particular about who I speak with. While I was ill, I was even more introverted and mime-like. For a few days I almost lost my voice and could only speak in a low raspy tone. Sometimes, I ignored prisoners who have addressed me not only because I cared not to engage them but because my throat hurt. Being fatigued, I furthermore did not want to waste energy being social, even if it meant being rude. Leaving the chow hall I often stop to say a few words with a lieutenant who shares a passion for politics although usually the opposite of mine. On one evening, I had to tell him I lost my voice and could not talk to him. He quipped, "No, you lost the vote," inferring I was Rick Santorum, the former Republican candidate for president. I suppose he equates me with Santorum because earlier I agreed with him and Rush Limbaugh that contraception should not be a government mandate for health insurance companies.

On another day I went out for chow Steve offered me some cold tablets. I refused them because my sinuses are fine and they would have only made my throat worse. I noticed at the table he was sniffling and wiping his nose. I asked if he had a cold but he blamed allergies. Steve does have heavy allergies, but I suspected he was sick. My suspicions were seemingly confirmed when he turned from the table to sneeze. I told Mertz the virus is spreading and soon the plague will have killed everyone. I will be trapped in my cage alone starving in the post apocalypse until "Mr. Flagg" comes to save me. I was referring to the Stephen King book "The Stand" which I spoke to him about earlier where a government designed biological weapon is accidentally released decimating almost the entire human species. Mertz asked me if I will eat my cellmate like in the novel. I told him the old disheveled black man did not seem so appealing to cannibalize, but possibly after roasting over a fire and adding some barbecue sauce, it will not be so bad. I tend to think I will die of thirst first, however.

The cell house windows were tilted open on Tuesday. A prison worker went by on a ladder wedging the windows open with plastic bottles. He was only able to reach so high, but guards on the cat walk, a balcony which circumvents the outer wall, opened up windows across from the 4th floor. It was nice to have fresh air in the cell house which was incubating germs and the body odor of hundreds of inmates. I also liked being able to see outside the wretched prison a little better. However, the windows should have remained closed one more day because during the night the temperature dropped to a chilly 40 degrees. I was very cold as I slept and woke up numerous times despite being underneath a wool blanket until I finally got up to put on a sweater. I am not certain if true but there is a belief sharp fluctuations in the weather can contribute to colds. This spring has been unusual in that respect, and in the Chicago area there has been temperatures ranging from freezing to the upper 80's. This Memorial Day weekend, weather forecasters are predicting upper 90's, possibly even 100 degrees.

Wednesday was a particularly long and miserable day for me. I was caught amongst crowds nearly the entire day and was unable to rest or relax. In the morning, I waited in a holding cage at the Health Care Unit with many sick men almost shoulder to shoulder. Finally, when I was called by the psychologist I was told she was sick as well and this was why she cancelled my pass a few days prior. She asked me if I had requested to see a physician about my cold, and I said there was no point. I would not be seen by anyone for a month or two and there was nothing that can be done for a cold except to try to lessen the symptoms. The psychologist told me that is exactly what her doctor told her and was very impressed that I knew this. Oftentimes, I believe she has a perception of me as being retarded or having a severe autism disability. I tend to think my intelligence is far greater than hers, and I wondered if my knowledge of psychology was even greater, as well as what the purpose was in meeting her once or every other month.

Seemingly to answer my thoughts, the psychologist handed me a form outlining my treatment plan in a few sentences. It basically said I was to be treated for Aspergers and the anxiety and poor social skills which accompanies it. However, this was a ruse in my opinion. There is no treatment for someone with autism spectrum disorder just as there is no cure for the common cold. The only thing which can be done to help a person such as me is mostly to make their environment more amicable, but the psychologist has no authority to make my living conditions any better. Stateville is probably the worst prison I could be incarcerated at for my mental health and I am never given any accommodation.

The true purpose I gathered from the form and having to sign it was to pretend the IDOC was not negligent in failing to address my psychological distress. There has been a major class action lawsuit filed against the IDOC for not meeting the needs of all the mentally disturbed inmates in their custody. This is probably a general concern of the administration, but a secondary purpose of the document was to waive my privilege of patient-client confidentiality in the event I mentioned anything demonstrating a danger to myself, others, or the security of the institution. The wording "security of the institution" was very vague and could be interpreted numerous of ways. However, I am less open with the psychologist than I am in my blog writings which are monitored by Internal Affairs, so I signed it.

On the return to the cell house, inmates from the Health Care Unit were brought to the chow hall. I had thought we would be given styrofoam trays to carry back to our cells but we were made to eat there. At the beginning of the feed counter, I went through 7 plastic trays before I found one without any food stuck to it. The trays are not cleaned properly and prisoners must always scrutinize their trays before allowing food to be scooped onto them. I regularly think about catching Hepatitis C or some other serious disease men carry at the prison, but on that day I thought about the possibility of colds or other viruses being spread. Not only are the trays not cleaned adequately, but they are never dried. The stack of trays are always dripping with water and are taken straight from the dish washer to be stacked on the line. I took some toilet paper I had brought in my pocket and wiped off the tray which appeared to be clean otherwise.

The chow hall I ate in was full of prisoners from various job assignments. I sat next to Bob who is a teacher's assistant. Bob was my cellmate for a short period of time when I lived in B House. He currently resides in X House which is secluded from general population and currently holds non-aggressive prisoners who tend to be near to being transferred to a lower security prison. I asked Bob if his transfer to Galesburg was approved at the institutional level yet. He told me he was just recently denied and will be at Stateville until at least the end of the year. I thought it was foolish for someone like Bob to be at a maximum-security prison. I also thought his sentence of 40 years was incredibly harsh for being convicted of the statutory rape of a 17-year-old, even if she was one of his students at Hinsdale High School.

After completing my meal of soy spaghetti, I dumped the remnants of my tray in a garbage bin and sat by the gate away from the crowd and with the hope the lieutenant would let me out so I could go back to my cell. A number of feed lines went past me and in one of them was another former cellmate of mine from B House. From the group of inmates he was with he began to yell to me. He said he had spoken with the placement officer and the cell house lieutenant about having me replace his current cellmate he did not like. He said he was still in the same cell and there were a number of people I knew on the gallery, including Tattoo. I had not said anything back to him, and just listened. Finally, he asked me if I was "cool" being his cellmate again and moving back to B House. I knew my voice would not carry over the noise and so I just nodded my head. I was not really enthusiastic about being around Tattoo again but I definitely wanted to have a cellmate I had more in common with and liked. However, I very much doubt his lobbying efforts will be successful. Simply being moved within a cell house was difficult let alone to a different one and to a specific location.

Because of the time I spent at the HCU and the chow hall, I missed my gallery movement line to the prison store and had to go with 6 gallery. In the commissary holding room I sat against the back wall next to the only window. Other prisoners crowded into the room in clusters. To my left in the corner, Hispanics played a loud game of cards regularly laughing and yelling in their bastardized Spanish. To my right a mob of Black Gangster Disciples grouped, also being obnoxious, although a few played games of chess. Toward the front some of the older black prisoners sat together and although they were 50 or older, they often acted liked children. A couple of bikers stood by the gate along with a solo deaf man. There were only about 30 prisoners in the room but it sounded like 300. I was very aggravated by all the raucous, but also incredibly tired. A Puerto Rican who goes by the name Smiley asked me if I was OK and remarked that I looked like I was going to kill someone. I told him I was just very tired and not feeling well. For 3 hours I was stuck at the prison store and sometimes I turned around to look out the barred window and wished I was somewhere else far away.

My mother was supposed to visit me on Wednesday and when no one informed me she was here I thought she may be too sick to come. On the weekend, I spoke to her and she told me she had a horrible cold. As the years go by, I increasingly am concerned with my parents' health. It bothers me a great deal that not only has the state taken away the best years of my life but years I could have spent with my family. Even if I were miraculously released some time in the near future, both my parents are very old and suffer from many ailments or infirmities for us to have any good times together.

The main delay at the commissary building was because the unionized workers had left for over an hour for their lunch break. When they returned, it was not long before I was called to a "window" where a playful black woman was the cashier. The lieutenant questioned her why they were still dilly dallying and the cashier told me to make a fist. I was interested in where she was going with this, so I did. She then reached through the window and grabbing my wrist told the lieutenant to come a little closer. The lieutenant was amused by this and she stood around making small talk while my order was completed. I was disappointed not to receive any jars of peanut butter or mixed nuts I knew they had but the workers had not yet unpacked them. Later, I had to barter for some prison peanut butter but this was probably just as well. I was given a better price. My cellmate also spent the evening bartering for cookies, chips and coffee.

Yesterday, I tried to make up for the day prior and did not leave my cell. Feeling better, I went over some mutual funds offered by Fidelity, assessing the quality of their investments. I had to put on my headphones when someone began blasting mariachi music. Often I am bothered by the various music played by inmates. Usually it is hip hop, but lately it has been a lot of old Motown and the disco of Donna Summers who died recently. I tried to relax and envelope myself into my own world. I did not speak a word to anyone until that evening when the nurse came by. The nurse has recently began to work at Stateville and is an immigrant from Poland. Since I met her, I have tried to be playful. Initially I made fun of her for coming to America only to work at a place like Stateville. That was not the American dream I told her, and went on to say life was probably better in her home country. Some of the nurses at Stateville have quit or are only working part-time, including the doctors. In fact, there are no doctors currently working at the prison, only medical practitioners.

Today the prison was almost put on lockdown. From what I am told, an inmate from the NRC brutally beat his visitor. The inmate was maced to such a great extent that the entire visiting room had to be evacuated because no one could breathe. I imagine a frightened guard overreacted to the situation he or she was startled by, and did not know how to respond. As for why a man would assault his visitor, I can only guess. He may have been given a life sentence or the equivalent and was angry with whoever came to see him, possibly a girlfriend. I am informed an ambulance was called and this is only done when someone is seriously injured. Customarily, people are taken to the HCU inside the prison.

A few weeks ago, a lockdown may have prevented the cold germs from spreading so extensively at the penitentiary. I know I certainly would have preferred being quarantined in my cell the time period I have been sick. Instead of eating in the unpleasant chow hall, I could have had "room service." Seeing the psychologist as usual was a waste of time, and the time I spent waiting for my commissary I could have also done without. Considering no one came to visit me this week, I would not have missed the company of any family or friends. I am naturally a nonsocial introverted person, but when ill, I like to retract further even if it is into my cage in prison. The spring cold has made my already unpleasant existence at Stateville worse, and I can only hope by next week I am better.