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Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Search of Stateville - Part II -- July 20, 2012

On Wednesday of last week, my visit was abruptly ended at a quarter past one. A number of guards entered the visiting room and shouted for everyone to leave. Visitors were told the prison was on a level one lock down and they were rushed out as if there was some pending danger. However, prisoners knew this was a ruse and after their family and friends were gone, sat at their little tables for over a half hour. There was no emergency. Some men finished eating the vending machine food that their visitors had purchased, and spoke amongst themselves. A few, like myself, sat quietly waiting until they were strip searched and sent back to their cages. Guards gave no explanation for the lockdown, and I did not learn details until this week. I also did not know that another statewide tactical unit was being assembled to ransack and plunder inmates' property until the Orange Crush arrived on Saturday. I have been in the Illinois Dept. of Corrections for over 17 years but I do not ever recall such a thorough search and looting of inmates' property.

When I returned to my cell from my visit, I asked a few people if they knew the cause of the lockdown. No one knew, but a neighbor of mine speculated it had to do with the cyclone fencing which was spray painted orange in places where repairs were needed. On the prison grounds there is cyclone fencing everywhere with razor wire on top. The sharply wound metal is largely redundant because of the numerous gaps underneath and breaks in the fences. My neighbor speculated the prison was on lockdown until they could be repaired and security personnel may believe parts of them were made into shanks. The fences have been in a state of disrepair for decades and I did not see the reason administrators would abruptly put the prison on lockdown in the middle of the day, however. There could be a myriad of reasons and I did not give it any further thought until the weekend.

Saturday morning, my cellmate told me he heard the reverberations of an Orange Crush raid in one of the other quarter units in the building. Guards on the tactical team often strike their batons against cell bars as they storm a cell house. I assume this is done not only to gain inmates attention, but to intimidate them. Stateville had just been searched by a tactical team of well over 300 guards and I could not imagine why they would be back so soon. I spoke to a different neighbor of mine later in the day to ascertain what he knew. He told me there was talk of more contraband being found, including shanks and another cell phone.

On Monday, the Orange Crush searched B House which is adjacent to the cell house I am confined in. Prisoners shouted out of their cells the ongoings next door, and there was an expectation they would be in our unit next. I read a couple of magazines while I waited for the invasion to occur, however when noon passed by, I thought they would not be coming. Typically, the tactical team only works during the day shift and there was not enough time to search a cell house in less than 3 hours, even if they numbered 500. I considered working out but it was a very humid and hot 98 degrees by the afternoon. I knew my cellmate would not appreciate me making the cell even hotter by exercising. I also did not know if I could push myself to do my typical intense routine because several days prior my pain medication had ceased to be delivered to the cell. I had a few extras, but knew I had to throw them out.

Throwing out any extra medications was not the only precaution I took. For example, I knew the tactical team always took containers, especially those which were not being used for their original purpose. I had two peanut butter jars I did not want to lose, so I filled them up with packets of peanut butter. The Orange Crush also has the habit of taking extra sheets and blankets. Prisoners are only permitted to have two sheets, but this meant I had to sleep on a bare vinyl mattress when I turned them in to be washed. Therefore I had four, and began to stuff the extras in my dirty laundry bag but decided to just leave them folded in my box. My laundry bag was already suspiciously large because it had a full week of worn clothes in them. On Monday's midnight shift, guards had failed to pick up laundry. My cellmate claimed to overhear them say it was too hot to do all that work. However, later I considered the administration specifically told them not to in order to prohibit inmates from hiding contraband in their bags while they were in the laundry room. I may only want to hide a couple of sheets, but others may want to hide weapons or drugs.

Tuesday morning, the Orange Crush finally came storming into the cell house yelling and clanging their batons against the cell bars. Although I was waiting for them to come running down the gallery, they skipped 4 and 6 galleries. The tactical team was not as large as the one that searched Stateville last month and they did not have the manpower to do the entire cell house at once. I also reasoned they wanted to search half the cell house at a time so inmates did not have to spend the entire day in handcuffs while waiting in the chow hall. I appreciated the consideration of supervisors but would have preferred to be one of the first galleries to be searched. By the time guards came for us, it was the hottest hours of the day and I had to stay up late reordering my cell that was left in great disarray.

The 4th and 5th floors along with the one below my cell were searched first. On the lower floor my cellmate watched the ongoings of the guards and other staff from our cell bars. I was not as interested in the search and instead put on my headphones and read a Fidelity mutual fund report. Once in a while, however, Bobby would call my attention to something and I would go to the bars to look out. One of the first things to draw my interest was all the administrators who were downstairs. The warden along with his two assistants was there as well as the director of the entire Illinois Dept. of Corrections. It was unusual for Director Godinez to be present for a search, even a mass scale one like this. He did not simply stand around either, but made rounds even passing by my cell and speaking with a few prisoners. For the appointee of the governor to be here told me this was not your typical tactical search.

The guards were in cells on the three galleries for hours while thoroughly searching through property and confiscating vast quantities of it. Downstairs I could see bags and bags of property being taken out of cells. Furthermore, all typewriters and extra fans had been taken away along with all black radios and TVs. The radios and TVs were seized because I assume they were not made of clear plastic and administrators thought they were a security risk. Inmates prized these items because they could not be purchased anymore and were of a superior quality to the clear models being sold after their discontinuance. A black Panasonic radio/cassette player could be sold for $150. I was offered $80 for my cheap clear plastic radio with poor sound. Radios with speakers are no longer sold and have not been for years. The only thing the commissary now sells are Walkmans which you must use headphones to hear. I think many prisoners will be angry to lose their old model Zenith televisions and radios, but on the upside their confiscation will probably reduce the noise levels in the cell houses.

After the hunger strike, the warden told inmates they would be able to keep their typewriters, but apparently he reneged or was overruled by a superior. The typewriters cost prisoners between $250 to $300 and allowed them to file their own legal work. I assume they will be given the choice of having them destroyed or sent home. However, who outside prison walls still uses typewriters? Plus, the cost of mailing them will cost nearly as much as the price a person would pay for a new one on the outside. The new typewriters are made out of clear plastic and can be visually inspected to see they do not contain contraband or have been tampered with. I am told pieces can be taken out without detection to make a shank, but I am uncertain how this is possible. I also realize shank materials are available nearly everywhere and it is impossible to stop the making of weapons.

For years inmates have been allowed to have 2 fans. This was a compromise reached when the large fans sold to prisoners were confiscated. It was ironic that during the hottest summer in decades, the administration was deciding inmates could only have the one small fan. In fact on the day the Orange Crush raided C House, temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. As guards removed fan after fan from the cells downstairs, I could see them dripping in sweat. All of them had removed their black body armor and helmets. Some even rolled down their thick orange jumpsuits and tied them around their waists.

At about noon, guards began to bring back lines of inmates who were taken out of their cells. Prisoners were furious to see the carnage left behind by the Orange Crush. Many expressed their anger, but there were no retaliatory acts against the tactical unit. The Orange Crush guards had put back on their body armor and helmets. They also were armed with mace and batons while inmates were handcuffed behind their backs. It was futile to retaliate at the moment and this may be in part why guards from other prisons were mostly used to conduct the search and looting of property.

I thought the tactical team would take a break for lunch and inmates would be fed as well before operations continued, but I was mistaken. After the three galleries of men were secured in their cells, guards began to walk down the two remaining galleries. They were in no hurry and the moment of surprise was gone. I also tend to believe they were tired and burdened by the excessive heat. Guards walking by told us to turn on the light and take down our televisions. Most cells did not have any counters and inmates tied their TVs to the wall vent or to their bunks, as I did. I did not see a reason to untie my TV and left it where it was. Plus, I was hungry and took out a package of cornflakes and a bag of peanuts. I had not eaten since 7 a.m. and I assumed I would not have an opportunity to do so again until late afternoon. While my cellmate mumbled to the guard in front of our cell about a litany of things including how he had to go in to his box to retrieve some aspirin because he was ostensibly having chest pains, I munched on my snack.

The guard assigned to our cell was a clean cut Caucasian male in his mid-20s. I assumed he was from some small rural town in downstate Illinois where jobs were hard to come by. He told us after we undressed, that we were only to put on state blues. Prisoners were forbidden to wear any T-shirts, socks, or boxers. Furthermore, we had to walk out in our shower shoes. I thought these rules were absurd and the quest to find any little bit of contraband overzealous. However, even though it was odd dressing without any underwear, I figured it was better to be under dressed on a day with heat indexes over 115 degrees.

My cellmate was acting nervous and disorientated. Possibly, the stress and heat were putting him on the verge of a stroke or heart attack. He mumbled incoherently to the guard while we were waiting to be let out of the cell. Eventually, I discerned he was worried about the sink overflowing. For over a month, the cold water button has been sticking and it was currently running. The way O.G. Bobby spoke and acted, along with his disheveled appearance, probably made the guard think he was a crazy old black man. The guard refused to take his hand cuffs off but assured him that he would not allow the cell to flood.

Stepping outside of the cell house, I immediately felt the heat of the sun. The overhead sunlight beat down oppressively on prisoners complimenting the oppressive and harsh treatment by guards. While standing in line, a guard continued to shout at us not to speak and to keep our heads down. He went on to say there's nothing to look at and we need not look around. However, there was something to see and I noticed the manpower of guards besides us was small. Despite his body armor, boots, helmet and weapons, I tend to believe the pig barking orders at us was insecure. I noticed sweat dripping down the plump guard and on occasion he would wipe it off only for it to reappear moments later. I estimated there were about 150 tactical guards, but most remained in the cell house as we were escorted to the chow hall still cuffed behind our backs.

Once led into one of the dining areas, prisoners were told to fill up the tables from back to front. Most men grouped by race or gang. There were a couple of tables of Caucasians and Mexicans, but the rest of the inmates were black. A guard ordered us to stay seated and sit with our backs to the tables. However, inmates were eager to socialize and largely ignored his demands. The guards did not stand on the issue and abruptly left, locking the gate behind them. A few remained in the inner circular chamber sitting by a huge industrial fan. Even the guard in the gun tower had a large box fan, and although he watched prisoners, he never left his chair. With the kitchen nearby, all the body heat and lack of air flow, the chow hall was sweltering.

To my surprise, after a half hour the guards brought in a stack of food trays and began to recuff prisoners in the front. The guards were very cautious about the matter and pointed to one inmate to stand up and come away from the tables to be recuffed. When I was told to come forward, a man fell out from the heat. This caused guards to come to his aid and left me standing alone. One of the guards noticed, and putting his hand on his baton, he shouted at me to sit down. Possibly, he thought the incident was a diversion and I was up to something, or perhaps he was just being unreasonably hostile. I sat back down and later the guard who told me to come toward him was apologetic. He undid my cuffs and redid them in front so they were not digging into my wrists.

I sat at a table with prisoners I normally acquaint with on 4 gallery. While with them I learned more about the cause of the lockdown and subsequent search. Apparently there was a knife fight between two Hispanics in the Roundhouse. Most Mexicans share solidarity amongst themselves but sometimes conflict occurs between the Latin Disciples and Kings. After the fight, more shanks were found as well as a cell phone. There was also a rumor that a hit list was found by Internal Affairs, but I am skeptical despite how a guard who worked at Menard C.C. died a few weeks ago due to injuries sustained when he was stabbed in June. One of the men at the table told me he could peer down to the lower floor where security personnel were unscrewing all the black radios looking for contraband. Other than recording mechanisms, they found nothing.

For a little over three hours prisoners on 4 and 6 galleries were kept in the chow hall. We were allowed to eat, socialize and use the toilet. A few men suffering from heat exhaustion were attended by a nurse and permitted to sit up front by the guards fan. Prisoners yelled for the fan to be turned toward the chow hall but there was no way guards were going to share. In lieu of a fan, many prisoners took the lids off their Styrofoam trays and waived air over their faces. I noticed quite a number of inmates' blue shirts darkened with sweat. Some even appeared as if they were going to faint. Although inmates initially were eager to talk after being locked in their cells a week without the use of a telephone, they slowly became quieter and eager to leave.

Prisoners were recuffed behind the back and brought back to the cell house around 4. Upon entering the building, I saw huge bags piled up along the wall of sheets, blankets, and state blues. Also stacked were numerous mattresses and pillows. This, however, was only small fraction of the items taken from inmates. The non-state issued property belonging to prisoners had already been hauled away in truck loads. It included not only 50 typewriters and radios, but nearly 100 fans and garbage bags filled with miscellaneous property.

The property in my cell was piled haphazardly on top of the two bunks and within or on top of the property boxes. It was greatly disturbing to see the complete disarray but the first thing I did was take off my polyester state blues and put on some underwear and shorts. I then angled my fan toward me while I began the process of cleaning and reordering my property boxes. As I did this, I could hear the griping and cussing of inmates in the cell house. My neighbor began to throw out of his cell damaged property and opened bags of Ramen Noodles. I told him to send those noodles my way because I did not care if guards opened them. He only replied with more complaints. The guards who searched my cell did not open up any sealed food items but they did open up boxes of soap, toothpaste, and other things. My watch which was wrapped around a bunk beam was ripped off and left lying on the floor. I looked to see if it was still ticking. It was, but the band was broken. Prisoners complained of losing vast amounts of property, however, all that was taken from me was a felt tip pen, a pillow case, some glue, my remote control stick, and when I went to eat dinner, I noticed my plastic spork was gone.

My cellmate's first order of business was to retie his TV to the wall vent. Because he was hot, flustered and not very intelligent, this feat took him a couple of hours. I considered tying it for him but I had my own work to do. I did, though, sit his property box on the sink and angle his fan towards him. My cellmate's broken fan was gone and I was glad to be rid of the clutter. Had the Orange Crush not come through, he may have kept the piece of garbage indefinitely. I was also pleased guards tore off the cardboard my cellmate had glued to the lower wall vent. This vent blew cool air into the cell. What I was not happy about was how all my hooks and pegs were taken off the walls. I did not have any glue to reattach new hooks and was about to melt plastic until my cellmate offered me a roll of very sticky medical tape he was given to tape hemorrhoid pads to his ass. The pencils I had hammered into the holes in the walls were broken off and I was not able to get them out. Thus, after fishing some screws left on the gallery with a magnet, I put these right into the wood. I was exhausted by the time I finished reordering the cell. I did not wash up and go to bed until near midnight.

Since Tuesday, the Orange Crush has continued to search the prison. F House was ransacked on Wednesday and the following day X House. On Thursday, the tactical team also came back to C House to round up a handful of people off of every gallery to be questioned by Internal Affairs. There are a few snitches within the men they spoke to and I assume they were on a fishing expedition otherwise. Oftentimes, the security unit will disguise the identities of a few people who give them information in exchange for some preferred treatment by gathering a random group of people to their offices. I am uncertain what type of information they sought after the shakedown and maybe they just sought general Intel. I noticed my envelopes of blog material were thoroughly scrutinized and they probably were in my cell with the Orange Crush on Tuesday. Internal Affairs tends to not like publication of prison news and this letter may have a difficult time getting out. I rewrote this post a few times, however, and if it "disappears" I will still have copies.

There is speculation the recent searches of Stateville and Menard are correlated with the governor closing the Supermax Tamms. Ever since Governor Quinn began discussing the closure of the facility, the guards union and other IDOC personnel have heavily lobbied to keep it open. Part of this lobbying effort may be to demonstrate to the governor how dangerous the state's maximum security penitentiaries are. The searches may also be an overreaction to the perceived threat of Tamms being shut down. Slowly, prisoners who are deemed organizational threats are being released into the general populations of the state's maximum-security institutions. Administrators have enjoyed a tight grip of control since the turn of the century and they want to maintain this. However, the largest danger to their power and increased violence is not the closing of Tamms which only held about 400 men at its peak. The real danger comes from the increasing amount of incarcerated men who have no outdate and nothing to lose.

At about the same time the governor vetoed the funding for Tamms, he also signed law SB 2621. This law allows nonviolent offenders to earn more good time and be released sooner. I realize Quinn's strategy is to make more space in the IDOC for those who have committed serious felonies but the fundamental flaw in the logic is it does nothing to encourage good behavior of those who have violent tendencies. Convicted murderers must still do 100% of their time and nearly all of them will die in prison. Politically, this is probably a wise tactic because the public at large does not want to hear about violent offenders being released early. However, the public does not realize violent offenders who have done over a decade in prison are less likely to recidivate than nonviolent offenders who often reenter the prison system time and time again.

Packing more and more dangerous criminals with no hope of redemption into a smaller space is a nightmare scenario for correctional officers. A much more equitable and wiser decision would have been to apply the same sentencing policy for nonviolent offenders universally. If convicts in Tamms, Pontiac, Menard, Stateville and elsewhere were given incentives to behave, the danger to security within those institutions would dramatically decrease. With fewer prisons, staff, and spending cuts, the administration of the IDOC could continue to maintain control. Releasing men who have done two decades in prison also would not endanger the public, especially if rehabilitation programs were made available to them again. Last night a madman gunned down over 70 people, killing 12, at a premier showing of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. Prison administrators and guards worry about the release of a few Jokers from Tamms but ironically they will have a much greater problem if there is not comprehensive reform of sentencing statutes, a problem even Batman cannot solve.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicago's Soaring Murder Rate & the Illusion of Hope - July 13, 2012

Chicago is on course to surpass 500 murders this year. This is only half the records of near 1,000 in decades past but is 40% higher than in 2011. The current tally is 272 and is more than any other U.S. city, even those with much greater populations. The number is also higher than U.S. troop combat deaths in Afghanistan. The war zone in the city is primarily occurring in the black neighborhoods of the city on the south and west side where gang violence is on the rise. There are numerous gangs in Chicago and they are all competing for turf to sell drugs. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been forced to reduce police staff due to budgetary constraints but has placed more manpower on the streets particularly in the city's worse neighborhoods. Throughout the week the news media has interviewed many people about what has caused Chicago to become the murder capital of the country. They blame the upsurge in homicides to gang conflicts, guns, heroin, economic hardship and even the weather. All these factors have merit, but I think the root of the problem goes much deeper and reflects culture, race, and politics.

There is no evading the gang culture in many Chicago neighborhoods. According to police estimates there are over 100,000 gang members within a city of less than 3 million. Concentrating the influence of gangs is that they are largely limited to the black and Mexican areas of the city. For decades gangs have been pervasive and are a way of life which has been largely accepted. Many youth grow up believing not in the American Dream but self actualization through gang membership. Government can throw millions of dollars into infrastructure, police, schools, and various programs, but it will not change the values or culture of the inner city. In prison, I have learned how ingrained the gang culture is within black and Mexican inmates. I have also learned how dismantled their communities and families are. Most black prisoners did not have a father in the home, and many do not even know who he was. The percentage of single mothers is multiple times higher than the national average and I can only speculate how the lack of good parenting has increased negative influences. Unfortunately, there was no Bill Cosby in their lives, only gangs, guns, drugs, and hip hop music.

This week, Mitt Romney addressed the NAACP and his reception, as expected, was poor. The Republican presidential candidate was even booed when he spoke of ending entitlements and Obamacare. Blacks have come to expect welfare, affirmative action, and vast amounts of public assistance programs. Some even demand such redistribution of wealth because they feel it is due to them. However, these social subsidies have only created a race of people dependent on government. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and blacks have failed to seize the opportunity of freedom and the responsibility which goes with it. When the nanny state takes over peoples' lives it takes away the impetus to be responsible and ambitious or succeed through individual achievement. Liberal politicians have made sure to see that the only way African Americans believe they can advance in society is through them, and not on their own merit. Although Democrats will accuse Republicans as being racist, I cannot believe there is a more racist and oppressive political party in the U.S. than Democrats themselves.

Interestingly, Barack Obama chose to blow off his black constituents by not speaking to the NAACP. Obama is a Chicago politician and he knows how much the African American vote is slave to the Democratic Party. Although Illinois is "The Land of Lincoln," the Democratic machine controls Chicago. The city has been dominated by Democratic mayors and aldermen since time infinite. I cannot remember a time Republicans have held control in the city and I imagine it has been this way since long before I was born. As Democrats have a stranglehold on Chicago, they also have a tight grip on the black vote across the U.S. In fact, according to exit polling 95% of African Americans vote Democratic. The Democratic Party thinks of their black constituents similarly to trained animals who continue to pull the lever voting Democratic so a morsel of food will pop out of the machine. Liberal, pseudo-Marxist ideology especially where so thoroughly entrenched such as in the city of Chicago, however, has decimated black communities.

During Newt Gingrich's campaign for the Republican nominee he repeated a slogan that instead of food stamps he will bring jobs back. This was not well received by the black community and liberal media had the nerve to call him a racist. Gingrich was not being a racist in the least but boldly contrasting the great divide between liberal and conservative thought. Whereas liberals seek to ration out fish to people, conservatives want people to learn how to fish. This disparity is also shown in Barack Obama's continued attacks on his Republican opponent Mitt Romney for being a rich capitalist. Democrats seem to believe there is something wrong with being a successful businessman. They seem to hold the viewpoint of static economics where there is only so much of the pie to go around, and if Mitt Romney has a lot of pie it must mean he stole it from someone else. The economy does not work that way and neither does venture capitalism such as at Bain Capital. What occurs through the success of Romney and other businessmen is the financial pie actually gets bigger so everyone has more. While Barack Obama wants to tax and redistribute wealth, Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes and increase wealth causing economic growth rather than economic implosion such as occurred in the Soviet Union and now in the socialist countries of Europe.

It is ironic how Obama tries to paint Romney as the evil rich "1%" when he, in fact, is also a part of the "1%". Barack Obama is not your average Joe and is a multimillionaire. He, like Romney, owns a million dollar plus home, although I doubt it has potential for a car elevator. Obama is also not your dog lover as he presents himself, and has actually eaten dog meat. He has turned it into a joke but how many Americans would consider eating dog? Then there are the accusations of Romney outsourcing while the owner of Bain Capital, despite how he had already left control to others, although Obama is Commander and Chief Executive of outsourcing American wealth and jobs. There is an enormous difference when a private business seeks to create wealth by outsourcing and when the president does it. Business has a duty to create profit for the owners or stockholders. The president and U.S. legislature have a duty to create legislation which will benefit America. I do not understand how giving Brazil $2 billion to drill offshore when denying permits to U.S. energy companies or for the Keystone Pipeline is good for the country. Nor do I see the wisdom in supporting Chinese solar panel makers or windmills made in Europe. America is drowning in debt and unemployment, and yet Obama has the audacity to accuse Romney of being immoral for being a successful businessman. By the way, the unemployment rate is above 8% and this figure is double for African Americans. Even illegal immigrants are slowing their invasion of the southern border due to the lack of employment. Yes, Barack Obama may have government aid for the black people who vote for him but he does not have any jobs.

Unfortunate those working on Romney's campaign continue to play Obama's game of racial politics. A few weeks ago, Marco Rubio, a Puerto Rican senator from Florida, was rumored to be his vice presidential choice. This was obviously a ploy to cater to Hispanics when the immigration problem was in focus. Now, Condoleezza Rice, a black female and former secretary of state is said to be high on the list of running mates. Rice, however, will never be chosen as vice president because she not only lacks executive or political experience but conservative credentials. Her only attribute is her experience in foreign policy but this experience will be connected to the Bush administration which is unpopular. Thus, the true purpose of Republicans publicly discussing the possibility of her as vice president is to counter Democrats' racial politics and futilely attempt to gain African-American votes. John McCain only received 4% of the black vote in 2008, and possibly if Romney can peel off a few percentage points from Obama in key states, he can win. I think campaign managers are dreaming and they should instead focus on their candidate's ability to grow the economy and reduce unemployment which is a concern of every racial demographic.

In Illinois, Democratic Congressman Jessie Jackson, Jr. has been AWOL. No one knew where he was or what happened to him until just a few days ago. Family members finally disclosed he was being treated for a "mood disorder" at a psychiatric hospital. Initially there were rumors by top Democratic officials that Jackson had attempted suicide but those have not been validated. In fact, nothing is being officially released about the type of mood disorder or its severity. Despite how the congressman has been a terrible public official for his constituents in Chicago before his mental breakdown, he will easily be reelected come this November. Even a federal investigation into corrupt practices including attempting to buy the empty senate seat left by Obama and a congressional probe into misconduct, does not change his chances of winning yet another term in office. African-Americans will not even consider voting for his Republican challenger. With the gangs, drugs, poverty, and a surging murder rate, I would tend to believe voters would seek change. However, almost like drug addicts, blacks continue to vote Democratic despite its destructive results.

Police representatives will say a large cause for the upswing in Chicago's murder count this year is due to the fragmentation of gangs and the resulting disputes over turf. From the 1970's through to the 90's, Chicago crime was mainly controlled by large criminal organizations. However, these groups have been broken up into numerous cliques and competing subsidiaries. There are estimates of 600 various fractions of gangs on the city's streets. In prison, I have also noticed how the major gangs have fragmented especially amongst black inmates who at one time dominated the Illinois Dept. of Corrections. This is probably proof that law enforcement efforts outside and inside the prison have been successful, but what cops nor security staff in the penitentiaries cannot change is the root problems which cause gang culture. As in Afghanistan, the military can crush the enemy when using enormous force and oppression, however, the culture of the country will remain the same. Furthermore, with unemployment and upward mobility stifled by the president and other liberals, joining gangs and selling drugs will become ever more prevalent. There has been been an exponentially growing problem of heroine addiction which coincidentally is linked to Afghanistan's increased supply of opium. The drug trade is a huge business in the impoverished areas of Chicago and enormously enticing to black youth who have little chance to succeed otherwise. Almost $10 billion annually is made by the sale of drugs in the city, and needless to say, this is the most lucrative business in most Chicago neighborhoods.

A similar problem can be seen in Mexico where thousands of people have been murdered. The government's war on drug cartels has splintered their organizations creating enormous bloodshed as new gangs or fractured ones fight amongst themselves and police. Mexico has recently had presidential elections and the corrupt party which had ruled the country for over 70 years retaken control. It seems the public has grown tired of war and seeks new ways to address the problem, however, I believe they will be disillusioned because the root cause of the violence has not and cannot be addressed, especially with a corrupt and socialist government. The vast demand for drugs in the U.S. and the money which can be made trafficking opium, cocaine, and marijuana has been a fact for decades and probably decades to come. The Mexican government with a liberal agenda is unable to create growth and upward mobility for the vast proportion of their citizens. Like in the ghettos of Chicago and other big cities, the allure of participating in the cartels is immense. The former administrations had begun to decimate the drug gangs but it, like its U.S. counterpart, was unable to change the underlying socio-economic factors.

Oddly, America has fought a war in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban which was seen as allowing the incubation of terrorists groups such as Al Qaeda. The Taliban which was supported by U.S. forces during the Soviet Union's attempt to take over the country, was a conservative religious group with no tolerance for drugs. Before the Taliban, however, the various fiefdoms of Afghanistan permitted and even encouraged the production of the poppy. Severe poverty and no alternative profitable business made farmers turn to growing fields of poppy plants until the country was the world's leading source of opium. Now that the U.S. has dismantled the Taliban's authority, farmers have once again returned to growing the drug with a weak central government and willingness to turn a blind eye to keep the populace content. A couple of years ago I was outraged that a "60 Minutes" program showed how U.S. troops were actually de facto guardians of the poppy plantations instead of burning them and punishing the farmers. The broad based mission in Afghanistan was ridiculous to begin with but with the country contributing to 70% of the U.S. heroine market, it grows more insane.

The so called "Dream Act" proposed by the Obama administration and in part enacted through executive decree is a pure propaganda stunt. It is meant to give the illusion to the public that amnesty for millions of Mexicans is aligned with the America Dream, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The American Dream is that through individual achievement anyone could be successful regardless of their economic status. Conservatives embrace the system and ideals of a meritocracy, but the "Dream Act" does not reward the hard work, intelligence, or ambition of the individual. Contrarily, it is yet another hand out by Democrats. What have Mexicans done to deserve reward by breaking American law and crossing the southern border? Why is it that millions of people around the world who wish to become U.S. citizens must go through a naturalization process while Mexicans can just come and demand citizenship ahead of them? America's citizenship laws already are ridiculous and unlike many other countries do not take into consideration the education, skills, or cultural background, and other assets of those applying. Absurdly, there is even a lottery for U.S. citizenship and people can travel onto U.S. soil and have children who are automatically citizens. People who want to become U.S. citizens should have to earn it. It is not an entitlement or a government handout despite how liberals would love for this to be true.

Barack Obama is a skilled propagandist and even the Orwellian Big Brother Government in the book "1984" would be impressed by his use of "double-talk." Even Obamacare has been misleadingly called "The Affordable Health Care Act," although there is nothing affordable about it. Insurance companies will certainly raise prices and quality of care will diminish. The legislation will also cost taxpayers $2 trillion over 10 years and impose taxes on individuals and businesses who do not comply with the government mandated program. Yesterday, President Obama was asked by CBS news anchor Dan Rather what his largest mistake during his first term in office was. Incredibly, he answered he focused too much on getting the policy right and not effectively communicating his story to the American people. I tend to believe no one will say Obama has not been an impressive public speaker. Obama came into politics due to his success as a community organizer in Chicago. There is no problem with his speaking abilities. It is his policy and ideology which has and will continue to cause irreparable harm to America. As an experienced snake oil peddler, Obama knows how to turn a negative question on its head. However, the conceited, elite pseudo-Marxist may actually believe what he said.

The Marxist rhetoric of the president is manipulating people who are not of color and vote Democratic without question. The Occupy Wall Street protesters are mainly young naive Caucasians who have succumbed to drinking the Kool Aid of Obama and this is largely due to the fact they also have fallen into the trap of government dependency. The youth have grown up accustomed to easy times and had the illusion that opportunity and success would just jump into their laps. They expected cheap tuition rates and well paying jobs despite the irresponsibility of their choices. Thousands of college students sought out worthless degrees which have no potential to ever pay for the enormous loans they took out. They stay living at home, unemployed or with low salary jobs and put their hands out to Uncle Sam to take care of them. They demand their debt be cut, prestigious jobs or welfare checks while staying on their parent's health care plans until they are 26. It is outrageous those people blame the rich and demand their chop from the "1%" for their own poor decisions. If anything, they should be Occupiers of Washington, D.C.

The power the U.S. enjoyed after two world wars which devastated the globe leaving America to reap in the spoils for decades is gone. While other countries got lean, mean, and hungry, Americans became fat, lazy, spoiled incompetent children under the riches of global capitalism and a nanny state. America which once was an industrial exporting might has become a heavily indebted consumer nation. Like in Europe, America has produced a nation of grasshoppers and when times get tough, they come to the ants asking for handouts if not demanding them. They fail to realize that even if the king of the grasshoppers gets his way and taxes the 1% at nearly 50%, it will not have a dent in the country's debt. It also will not bring jobs and good times back. America must grow its way out of this mess and cut spending. Increasing taxes and big government will only lead to continued economic and social declines.

The gang violence on the streets of Chicago this year is symptomatic of a myriad of causes. However, the loss of upward mobility and jobs, particularly amongst minority groups, is certainly a factor as well as the decline of responsibility and values perpetrated by government dependence. The gang culture in the city has been around for decades as has the domination of Democratic politics. I nor criminologists can say whether the 40% rise in homicides this year is a trend or just an aberration. However, I tend to believe the underlying cultural problem is not transient. Like when Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, he promised a message of hope. However, as people have discovered, his rhetoric was illusive and manipulative. His leadership does not bring hope but only continued despondency.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Four Days of Extreme Heat -- July 7, 2012

A sweltering dome of heat has been baking the central U.S. From the Rocky Mountains in the west to the nation's capital near the Atlantic, over 4,000 cities have recorded record high temperatures over the last 30 days. Chicago and the metropolitan area has regularly been in the 90's since mid Spring and beginning on Independence Day, temperatures have exceeded 100. While I recall the summer of 1995 as being more severe, this is the first time in over 50 years the city has had three consecutive days of 100 or higher. For many prisoners at Stateville without air conditioning or little to mitigate the oppressive heat, the weather could not break soon enough. Today a slow moving northern front is supposed to pass through, but in the S.W. suburb of Cresthill, it is still extremely hot and this may be the 4th day of triple degree heat.

All week Stateville has had highs in the upper 90s, but it was not until Wednesday the temperature exceeded 100. Even well before noon, the prison was well on its way to 103 and a heat index of 115. When inmates were told to get ready for chow, I prepared myself to work out. I was already dressed in shorts and therefore only needed to put my gym shoes on and tie a T-shirt around my forehead. I filled up another bottle of water and positioned my fan. Chow lines are run from the top floor down and as soon as I heard doors being slammed shut, I began to do cardio exercises in the front of the cell. This was the second day I was skipping lunch to work out to be considerate to my cellmate. While he is gone, I complete most of my exercise regimen and by the time he returns, I am already washing up in the sink.

My cellmate has been immensely affected by the tremendous heat. He has high blood pressure and sweats profusely even when not engaged in any activity. This week, I have regularly overheard him murmuring about the temperatures. Any time I was expecting him to grab his heart and feign a heart attack like the character in the 70's black comedy "Sanford and Son." However, he has not done this and rather just complains and is exceptionally crabby and irritable.

In the chow hall, prisoners were served burgers, fries and a half cup of sherbet. This was not a special Independence Day meal and the entire week fried food has been served. French fries, fried chicken, fried chicken pattie, fried fish pattie and fried potato rounds have been on the menu Monday through Friday. Incredibly, today prisoners were given pizza along with fries and a half cup of sherbet. I am not for certain why all the fried food has been served but I speculate the kitchen does not get as hot as it would if the ovens were used or huge kettles of boiling water. Possibly the "good" food was to prevent another hunger strike as occurred last week. Although inmates were miserable in the hot weather, they came out of their cells to sweat under the sun and then in the crowded chow hall to eat. The vast majority of prisoners love fried food, but I gave away my meals when I came out except for the chicken. I pulled off the skin and poured water over it to rid some of the grease before eating it. I tend to be very health conscious and meticulous about what I eat even if I have little or nothing to substitute for it.

Wednesday evening, food trays were brought to the cell houses. Initially, inmates thought the administration was concerned about men falling out in the chow hall, or even the guards. The chow hall can get 10 to 20 degrees hotter than temperatures outside with the hot kitchen food being prepared nearby and a few hundred inmates packed inside. However, later it was learned the inner circle where prisoners get their food was in danger of collapsing. Apparently, it got so hot the brick floor buckled just like many roads across the U.S. have done under the scorching sun. Underneath the floor is a basement and my cellmate tells me in the 1970's this is where the gym was located. Because Stateville is greatly debilitated, there was a concern the floor could give way. The following evening chow lines were again run and I was able to see where the floor buckled. Maintenance workers had placed some wood planks on it and barricades had been placed on each side.

Wednesday afternoon and most of the evening, I studied stocks. I had my small fan on my bunk not far from where I sat. I had to be careful that all my papers did not go flying but this was preferable from dripping in sweat and getting my charts wet. I have charts going back to 2007 tracking various data on hundreds of stocks. Recently, I read an article about how most people with autism or Aspergers have obsessive interests and apparently this is true. The Investment Business Daily newspaper I was looking at was from June 11th. It took me a couple of weeks to be given the paper after a family member dropped it off when visiting. I did not mind that it was out of date because I wanted to know the prices of stocks when the market dipped early last month. I expect the market to fall much more later this year and into 2013. Yesterday, the Dow Jones closed at 12,772 and I am basing purchase prices on a belief the index will drop over 20%.

At 8 p.m. it was still a sultry 95 degrees and I stopped my work to eat. Earlier in the day, I had made a tuna sandwich, but had saved half of the package of fish for later. This was my last bit of food in my box other than a packet of instant oatmeal. With my neighbor's last Ramon noodle, I mixed it with the tuna while I scanned the television stations for something to watch. I began watching "The Revenge of the Sith," my favorite amongst the Star Wars movies, but when I noticed a movie was being played on the prison's DVD system, I watched it instead. The film was called "Seeking Justice" and was about a vigilante group gone awry. After the movie, I found Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Show being broadcast on NBC. On most Independence Days, I will look for fireworks outside the windows of the cell house. However, the holiday was so absurd I did not care to do so this year. I could not even watch the finale of fireworks displayed close to the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Because of the extreme heat that had parched much of the U.S. and the budget woes of most localities, there were only a few public fireworks shows this year. I thought this was just as well. To celebrate freedom in 21st century America was ludicrous. Britain may now be America's lap dog, but everything the revolution was fought for has been lost. It is ironic thinking about the Boston Tea Party and following massacre which catapulted the colonies into war. Colonists were expressing outrage over a small tariff on the tea and sent it into Boston's harbor. "No taxation without representation" the people demanded. Today, the president uses executive decrees to sidestep congress and America has taxes on nearly everything. If Barack Obama wins a 2nd term some citizens' income taxes will go up to nearly 50% and of course there will be Obamacare which does not tax you for buying tea, tobacco, or some other goods but for not buying a product. Imagine if the British had sought taxes on colonists for NOT buying their tea. It is not only taxes, but the country has become a police state where liberty, rugged individualism, and the rights of citizens are trampled upon.

What type of independence celebration can one have where government has taken over almost every aspect of life, economically, legally and otherwise? There are hundreds of thousands of laws on the books and millions of people who have their freedom directly taken. Five percent of the U.S. population is in prison, jail, work release, probation, parole, court supervision, or are wearing ankle bracelets. While those in New York watched the fireworks and oohed and awed, I bet they did not realize they were being watched by surveillance drones. I bet they do not know there are already 150 drones across the U.S. currently flying around spying on citizens and with the cameras on many street corners, America has become an Orwellian "1984." The Constitution guarantees "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and yet all of this has been taken from me. I quickly turned off my TV and went to sleep in my stifling hot prison cell burning more so with rage than the temperatures.

Around 5 a.m., I was awakened by a guard asking me if I was going to the law library. I wanted to speak to the law clerk about my appeal, but I could not miss commissary. I was out of almost everything from food to pens, paper to even clothes. Due to the hunger strike and lack of store food, I was again exhibiting a network of spider veins across my body. I knew the library line would not return until after the store line for my gallery had already left. I told the guard no, and went back to sleep for another couple of hours. Commissary was indeed ran early and even before count cleared at 8:00. Although it was very early in the day, the sun was already oppressively hot when I walked outside. During the next 3 hours I waited at the prison store, it became even hotter. A commissary worker eventually brought in two little fans which are sold to prisoners and blow air maybe 5 feet. I thought this was greatly considerate of them. A large group of inmates get two little fans while the union workers behind the cashier windows lazily go about their day in the comfort of air conditioning.

For the first couple of hours I sat by Chase in the corner of the holding room. The fireworks celebration broadcast on television the prior night and my injustice were still bitterly in my thoughts. I spoke to Chase about the enormous legal hurdles I face in order to have my case heard before a court on its merits. Chase says what nearly everyone does: It was ridiculous and stunning that I could be convicted of murder via a theory of accountability when the man I was allegedly accountable for was acquitted. Yes, logically it makes no sense, but this did not matter legally. I stopped myself from talking about the matter too long because I know Chase killed two people and has no appellate issues. He will die in prison with certainty, and he probably did not care to hear about my innocence or appellate problems. I went and sat on the radiator with a window above it to feel the breeze and dry some of the sweat off my body.

Outside the window, I could see a section of roofing which had torn off a walkway during the intense storms which roared by on Monday, leaving a path of destruction from Illinois all the way to West Virginia and the nation's capital near the Atlantic coast. Over a million people have been without power since the storm, leaving them without air conditioning and many other comforts during this searing heat wave which followed. The power went out at Stateville Monday evening, but only temporarily. In the morning, I heard news reports that 30,000 were without power in Joliet and neighboring towns. Without fans and scoops of ice that have been passed out, many older prisoners such as my cellmate would have suffered health ailments. A number of men in C House who are old and have health conditions were admitted to the infirmary where there is air conditioning.

Stateville has a number of walkways with metal roofs above them which interconnect the various buildings of the prison. On Tuesday when gym was cancelled, inmates thought it was because of the extreme heat. The gym does not have air conditioning or even fans. The windows are kept shut also trapping the heat in so it becomes a hot house in the summer. However, the true reason for the cancellation was the debris from the walkway roof had still not been cleared away. The roofs are made mostly of sheet metal which is made easily into knives by prisoners. Inmates believed commissary may be brought to them because the roofing to prison store building was also torn away and as I sat by the window, I saw some maintenance men still clearing some scraps of metal and stone which had been missed the day before. There were rumors that prisoners from Dixon C.C. were transferred to Pontiac because the prison lost power. However, this rumor also turned out to be false. Parts of the roof had been torn away and the prisoners in those cell houses had to be moved.

This week, I learned Governor Pat Quinn refused to use the money allocated by House legislators to keep Supermax Tamms and the female maximum-security prison in Dwight open. Instead, he will try to reallocate the money for DCFS. I was surprised the governor had the courage to go against the guards' union which heavily lobbied to keep the facilities open especially the men's supermax. However, a true step of courage would have been to close the debilitated and corrupt prison at Stateville. While watching the work being done outside of the prison store, I thought about how this prison is falling apart and how much nicer it would be to live at Tamms where there was not only air conditioning, but solitude. The governor seeks to sell Tamms to the federal government but the federal government is also under enormous debt and has still refused to buy the state's unused supermax in Thomson, Illinois.

Eventually my name was called and I went to the cashier window. The man was quick to push merchandise through and it was difficult filling my laundry bag while at the same time making sure he was giving me the correct products. Oftentimes, prisoners will be charged for goods they did not want or even receive. After leaving the window and reviewing my commissary receipt, I discovered I was sold a pair of medium boxers for $16. I was not only furious about the price, but the fact I specifically ordered boxer briefs and wrote in large letters "NO SUB". I spoke to the lieutenant who was sitting by a huge fan and enjoying the air conditioning coming through the cashier window. He did not care to get involved and thus I complained to a prison commissary worker and he went in the back to see if the supervisor would make an exchange for me. The prison store did not have any medium briefs and I asked if he would just take back the boxers. He did, and I was glad I did not have to pay $16 for boxers the State of Illinois should be providing me for free. My other boxer briefs were falling apart and losing their elasticity. Apparently, I had a lot of sewing to do.

Small yard was run for prisoners on my gallery Thursday, but there was not a chance I was going out on the crowded dog run in 104 degree temps. When my cellmate left on a visit I worked out in the cell for an hour and a half. Even without the sun beating directly on me, I estimated the heat index in the cell was 120. My shorts and makeshift bandanna quickly were drenched in sweat. I felt as if I were exercising in a sauna and when I finished, I took a bag of ice and wrapped it around my neck. There are major blood vessels in the neck close to the surface. By applying ice to this area, I was able to reduce my body temperature quickly. I learned this trick when I practiced on the football team during the late summers before my arrest. After I cooled down, I washed the floor, the clothes I was wearing, and my state blues. My cellmate returned while I was bathing out of the sink. He has been a very grumpy old man during the sweltering heat, but he was in a good mood if at least temporarily. I assumed seeing family and being in the air conditioning altered his disposition.

I spent the rest of Thursday continuing to study stocks with a priority on the energy, natural resources, and agriculture sectors which had taken a beating and were reasonably priced. I took a break to go out for chow and was disappointed. On the serving line, I was given a greasy pile of fries and a chicken-soy pattie. I gave this food away when I sat down in one of the chow halls. Having nothing to eat, I razzed the prisoners who sat at my table. They were unable to counter my witty assaults while stuffing their faces with food and sweating heavily. The majority tend to like my humor even when it is at their own expense. Mertz commented that I sought to make others as miserable as I, and there may be a little truth to this, but I just seem to take pleasure in roasting people especially on such a roastingly hot day.

I went to sleep early Thursday night with temperatures still in the 90's inside the cell house, however, my cellmate soon thereafter woke me up. He was yelling something about my fan. With only 5 teeth in his mouth, it is difficult to make sense of what he says, but eventually I discerned he was bothered by my fan vibrating the bunk. I typically keep my fan wedged between the wall and the bunk so it blows across my entire body when I sleep. I grabbed a washcloth and placed it under the fan where it had contact with the bunk and told my cellmate not to bother me again. Before I was able to doze off, I heard him climb down and place a folded towel where I had the washcloth. Apparently, this was not sufficient either and in the middle of the night I woke up to discover he had turned my fan on low. Old Gangster Bobby had a lot of nerve turning my fan down making me uncomfortably warm just so there was not an almost imperceptible vibration one could only notice if they leaned onto the steel beams. My cellmate must be going nuts in the heat and I was tempted to get up and smack him over the head with my fan. Instead, I moved it onto my bunk across from my body and thought I would confront him about the matter in the morning. When I woke up ready to scold my cellmate, I found he had given me his breakfast tray of pancakes and oatmeal. I assumed this was his way of apologizing for acting ridiculous during the night. The old man was sitting quietly at the bars and had sweat dripping down his face already, and I decided not to mention his behavior.

Yesterday was another record breaking day of heat and by midmorning there was a heat index above 100. I was actually glad to have a health care pass because there was air conditioning at the prison hospital. The holding cage was full of loud talkative prisoners, but I found a seat in the corner and attempted to tune them out while enjoying the respite from the heat. I have been waiting months simply to have a doctor prescribe an NSAID for my back pain. However, my appointment was to see the woman in charge of medical records. I had requested certain documents about half a year ago and was now finally receiving them. She told me she had been on medical leave since December and this was probably the cause of the delay. She was a nice woman and I did not complain to her, however, I thought about how the medical delays, shortage of staff, negligence and poor health care at Stateville were only a precursor to what Obamacare will bring to the entire country.

Leaving the Health Care Unit, it seemed like I was stepping out close to a blast furnace. I believe Friday was the hottest day of the week and I did little other than make stock charts with my little 9" fan about a foot away from me. My cellmate did the same, although he spent his day watching television. Power was finally restored to all those who lost it from Monday's storms and I wondered what Bobby would have done those 4 days if he had no TV or fan to pre-occupy himself and keep himself cool. I imagine he would have went "kookoo for Cocoa Puffs" if not have had a heat stroke. Earlier today, he went to religious services and I was glad to be rid of him for a couple hours. He has been extremely difficult to live with. I used the time he was gone to exercise and watch the women's Wimbledon Tennis Championship Game. Unfortunately, Agnieszka Radawanska lost to Serena Williams. I was hoping the rain would slow down the volleys to give the Polish woman a chance against the woman with frizzy Tina Turner hair.

While writing this journal entry, I am waiting for the cold front to move southward. I searched the television for up to date news about the weather, but on the weekend there are no afternoon news shows. Unfortunate that WGN's weather bug Tom Skilling was not on to give me a comprehensive 10 minute analysis. However, what I did find was ridiculous speculation the U.S. extreme temperatures were part of man made global warming. One summer of above normal temperatures does not indicate anything and even if there was definitive proof of a warming planet, there is no proven correlation between industrial CO2 emissions and a warmer climate. I speculate it is another way politicians like Al Gore and Barack Obama can tax, regulate, and control people. The earth's temperature has been extremely hotter long before humans even existed let alone the industrial evolution. There are numerous things which affect climate change which are well beyond mankind's control. The planet goes through many geologic changes and cycles as well as the sun. Many people are probably not aware that even the earth's orbit and axis are not constant. The sun has cycles during which its magnetic polarity changes and this causes violent outbursts of energy. This year there has been an unusual amount of solar flares and sun spots and it is predicted to get worse until its electromagnetic poles flip next year. There are many legitimate issues environmentalists can address, but CO2 emissions is not one of them. Regardless, if the planet becomes hotter, the U.S. can just invade our northern neighbor, Canada. I am sure there are terrorists somewhere in their growing Islamic population. They may even have weapons of mass destruction, but even if not, there are plenty of fossil fuels to exploit.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Supreme Court Awry -- June 29, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court waited until the last week of July to release several major rulings. On Monday, the court ruled 5 to 4 to abolish mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders. It was of particular interest to many prisoners at Stateville and prisons across the U.S. The decision, however, was largely overshadowed, if not ignored, by the rejection of Arizona's immigration laws. The dereliction of the President to enforce immigration statutes has led to a number of states enacting their own similar legislation. Despite how the Arizona governor tried to declare victory, it was a major blow to opponents of unchecked immigration and border control. By far the most controversial decision though came on Thursday when Barack Obama's government-imposed health care law was declared constitutional. A day later, I and others are still baffled by the decision and are contemplating the vast implications it will have for the country and the American people. Obamacare will cripple the American economy and quality of medical care known as the best in the world. It also gives precedent for the government to tax and control people and businesses like never before in the history of the Republic. Although I agree with the banishment of mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders, all of these decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court are greatly perplexing and disturbing.

On Monday, the prison was still on lockdown from the Orange Crush search which began two weeks prior. However, visitation, phone calls, some health care passes, and most work assignments were being permitted. Early in the morning, I heard over the cell house loudspeaker that Adolfo Davis had a legal call and for him to get ready to come downstairs. Spooncake is unquestionably guilty of being an accessory to three murders and the evidence against him is overwhelming. Although framed in various ways, his only legal issue revolves around the legality of his sentence of natural life without parole. Davis was 14 years old at the time of his arrest and since last week he has been stopping by my cell periodically to see if I had heard any news about the two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the constitutionality of sentencing juveniles to protracted deaths in prison. The two conjoined cases were heard in March and a decision was due before the court's recess at the end of the month. Thus, he knew any day a ruling could be made which could radically alter his life.

The news which dominated radio and television news, however, was the crushing of Arizona's immigration law. Outside the courthouse there was a large crowd of people both for and against the ruling. News media covered the decision and its political as well as practical ramifications. It was not for some time that I learned about the court's decision on juveniles sentenced to LWOP. When the news was finally mentioned, it was only briefly and as an adjunct. It was not until Chicago's WGN newscast at 11 a.m. that a legal analyst went over the ruling with greater detail. However, the news anchor seemed uninterested after he discussed the immigration ruling and was trying to rush him.

According to the news I initially heard, it seemed as if all juveniles with natural life were going to have their sentences vacated. Even the legal analyst on WGN inferred this. In Illinois, the maximum sentence a defendant can receive for murder is 60 years, unless there is an aggravating factor. I did not believe the state would create a special parole board system for the hundred or so juveniles who had their life sentences vacated. Thus, because the former law Spooncake was sentenced under only mandated a convict to serve half the period of time, I assume he will be released before his 44th birthday. At the sentencing hearing, his judge may even let him go immediately because of the amount of time he has already served. Although I was glad the man would be freed, I was a little bitter. I missed having my sentenced invalidated by a mere 28 days. Unlike Spooncake, I did not participate in a triple murder nor was even found to be at the crime scene. However, because I had just turned 18 years old, I would have to die in prison.

Spooncake came to my cell bars after he was let out of his cell to do his job as a cell house worker. He was jubilant and told me I should be also. According to what his lawyer had told him on the telephone the ruling was retroactive, applied to everyone under 18, and required a new sentencing hearing and not just the automatic maximum. Because the court could not systematically resentence juveniles to 60 years, I would not necessarily face another decade in prison. In fact, Spooncake thought because I was not even at the murder scene and the person I was held accountable for was acquitted, no judge would give me the maximum sentence. It was apparent the harsh sentence I was given was due to my suspicion in a mass murder which was not solved until 10 years later. Time and again, Spooncake told me I would be a free man by the end of the year. His excitement and misunderstanding was annoying. I still have yet to explain to him that my former cellmate, Ely, was wrong saying I was 17 at the time the murder took place. I was about to tell him, however yet another cell house worker came to my bars after overhearing him. He chimed in as well that I was definitely going home and could pack my bags. I only wish this was true.

While I was brooding about my misfortune of being born 28 days too early, I watched "The News Hour" on a public broadcast station. The news program had a comprehensive review of the day's Supreme Court rulings including the decision pertaining to juveniles. Repeatedly, I heard the newscaster say the mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders was struck down. Why did he continue to use the word "mandatory," I wondered. I began to speculate the ruling somehow made a distinction between juveniles who statutorily had to be sentenced to life and those where the judge had discretion. Spooncake had to receive LWOP because the law mandated it when there were multiple victims. In my case, Judge Sam Amirante had the choice of giving me 20 to 60 years, but he chose not to.

The following evening, Spooncake was again at my cell bars although this time he seemed to have a sullen look. He told me the ruling did not apply to me but only juveniles where the judge had no choice but to render a protracted death sentence. He said he was sorry to jump to conclusions and handed me the Supreme Court Ruling which his lawyer had sent him next day mail via Federal Express. I told him it did not matter. I always fail to procure my freedom by the most unusual circumstances and smallest of margins or technicalities. If I had no bad luck, I would have no luck at all. With the cardboard envelope in hand, I sat down and thought about how numerous misfortunes have plagued me since the beginning. What were the odds of rolling snake eyes so many times?

Tuesday evening, I read through the 50 page Supreme Court ruling and various adjoining and dissenting opinions despite being repeatedly distracted by angry inmates. Prisoners were furious the administration announced that all typewriters were to be confiscated and the only time inmates could use one was while at the law library. The memorandum by the warden was posted on a television station for everyone to read. Prisoners had been sold typewriters since before I came to the IDOC and the news shocked and incensed many people. Apparently, some of the shank materials found during the Orange Crush raid were made of metal parts from typewriters. The typewriters which have been sold for the last ten years have been made of clear plastic, but possibly because they are not scrutinized, inmates were able to remove parts from them without detection. Some courts will not accept handwritten appeals, lawsuits, petitions, or motions. The federal courts, for example, are very strict about meeting their rules and formats. The warden permitting the use of a typewriter at the law library was a ridiculous accommodation because of the difficulty getting there and the deadlines prisoners must meet. Most inmates are also very poor typists and peck the keys like chickens. The vast majority of prisoners would require a lot of time in the law library and not the hour or two currently given to them a week if not on lockdown.

Inmates in C House and elsewhere decided they would go on a hunger strike to express their outrage. The news was spread by shouting inmates, cell house workers, and the passing of numerous notes, cell to cell, urging solidarity. I do not own a typewriter because I refuse to pay close to $300 for one. For this much money, I would expect to receive a laptop. Nevertheless, for the next two days I refused to take my food trays. I am almost out of commissary food and thus it was a sacrifice. Many prisoners are overweight and fasting for a little while may do them some good, but I have only about 3% body fat and can quickly look skeleton-like. Fortunately, the warden took the prison off lockdown abruptly and put out a new memo which said the former directive would be reconsidered. Prisoners still may eventually have their typewriters taken or restricted in some fashion yet to be determined, but most inmates were happy a better solution to the problem may be worked out. I tend to believe there is a way inmates can keep their typewriters while security precautions are taken. The administration can never stop violence and weapon making at a maximum-security prison where there are numerous, nearly indefinite materials to use, and convicts with no chance of freedom. It can only try to make reasonable efforts to curb it.

The court ruling handed to me by Spooncake is actually the combination of two cases of 14-year-olds sentenced to a mandatory life without parole for murder. In Miller vs. Alabama, a friend helped the defendant beat a neighbor with a baseball bat and thereafter set the victim's trailer on fire. In the Jackson vs. Hobbs case, Jackson along with two other juveniles robbed a video store where the clerk was shot and killed. Jackson did not commit the murder nor did he intend for anyone to be killed, but he was convicted under the felony-murder law. Justice Kegan wrote the majority opinion of the court. She stated the ruling was a continuation of prior ones, most notably Roper vs. Simmons and Graham vs. Florida. In Roper, the court decided the 8th Amendment prohibited the imposition of death for juveniles. The U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right not to be subjected to excessive sanctions. The basic precept of justice was that punishments be graduated and proportioned according to the offender and offense. The court also noted in Roper that only a small percentage of adolescents develop entrenched patterns of criminal activity and are incorrigible. Furthermore, they are less likely to consider the potential ramifications of their behavior and a sentence of death has no deterrence effect.

The decision in Graham went further claiming LWOP was a cruel and unusual punishment for juvenile offenders who did not commit the act of murder. The argument was largely based on the premise that both execution and an indefinite prison sentence were similar. Juveniles should not receive a death or protracted death sentence because of their diminished culpability, greater prospects of rehabilitation, and greater outside influences which oftentimes cannot be avoided because of their home life. The Graham majority also noted how life sentences are much harsher punishments despite how they should be more lenient because they will serve more years and a greater proportion of their lives in prison than an adult. Although the Graham decision was limited to all crimes but murder, it was now being extended to cover those crimes as well. However it only applied to those where the judge had no discretion to give an alternative sentence. Thus, while approximately 2,000 men convicted as juveniles will have their sentences vacated nationwide, about 500 will not. If my co-defendant would have killed the victim 28 days earlier, or I was born 28 days later, I would be one of those 500.

The decision by the majority was inconsistent and I could not understand why LWOP should not be abolished for all juvenile offenders. The four dissenting justices also noticed this incongruency of thought. Furthermore, they stated how most jurisdictions including Alabama and Arkansas had the discretion of prosecuting an adolescent in juvenile or adult court. Therefore, these cases were not exactly mandatory. In rebuttal, Kagon responded most courts will automatically transfer juveniles and the decision was often left to the prosecutor. There also was no consistency amongst the states and little choice between giving a defendant a very lenient juvenile sentence or death in prison. Justices Breyer and Satomayer made a separate argument that a universal prohibition against LWOP should also apply to felony-murder and murder by a theory of accountability because it encompassed the decision in Graham. I agree this would be more consistent but a truly correct ruling should have banned all protracted death sentences for juveniles. There is no adolescent I believe who should slowly die in prison, and in fact this should apply to adults as well but execution should be the alternative.

Justices Alito and Scalia in their dissenting opinion stated the 8th Amendment was wrongly interpreted in 1958 to be an evolving standard of decency based on the progress of a maturing society. However, they asked what makes changes in public opinion an evolution to better decency? Justices Thomas and Scalia also said in their dissent the original purpose of the 8th Amendment was to prevent torture which was still being used in Europe and the colonies as well. I agree the evolution of morals of society is not necessarily to the better. I also understand the original intent of the 8th Amendment, but if spending the rest of one's life from the age of a teenager or a child in prison is not torture, then I do not know what is. Others may differ, but I would rather experience a torturesome death than indefinite misery and torment.

Although I was not able to read the rulings on the state's immigration law or the government health care mandate, I have listened to radio and television news discuss them at great length. All this week, the cases have been at the forefront of news media as they should be. The rulings should be thoroughly scrutinized due to the pervasive impact they will have on the country. With the Supreme Court prohibiting states and localities from enacting their own illegal immigration laws, America will continue to be overrun by illegal Mexicans.

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department and Attorney General's Office not to prosecute or deport illegal aliens unless they commit a felony. In fact, recently, Obama has announced a new policy where all illegal aliens who came to the country as juveniles may stay--legally. The White House says it is not amnesty because these people will not automatically gain citizenship. However, it is well known they eventually will and the difference between legal residency and citizenship in the U.S. is unfortunately minimal. The 3 million or more Mexicans who this policy will apply to also will have children which according to America's outdated law will automatically be citizens despite how their parents and their parents should never have been here to begin with. It is a never ending cycle which has caused the clout and demographics of Mexicans to grow exponentially. Caucasians will soon discover they are a minority in the Republic they created and if they are foolish enough to believe the liberal propaganda that diversity is good, they will soon find out how disillusioned they were. It is not only the language, culture, race, and values which will be lost but the entire foundation to our way of life which is being destroyed. America will cease to exist in every practical sense. State law cannot supersede federal law, but I cannot understand why the states cannot mimic federal statutes especially when the federal government is derelict in their duty.

The President has skillfully catered to Mexicans and other minority interest groups.These constituency groups may help him narrowly defeat Mitt Romney in several close battle ground states. Although the President did nothing to pass legislation addressing illegal immigration when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, his recent rhetoric and executive decrees along with the recent Supreme Court ruling will give Hispanics the appearance that liberals are their best choice. Republicans foolishly have allowed this perception to grow and have coward away from their principles. They have played into the Democrats' hands with divisive politics rather than espousing conservative ideology which will appeal to all races and classes of people. The belief in freedom and success based on merit is superior to the Marxist ideas of government dependency, oppression and social as well as economic decadence.

The second blow to conservatives came on Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Democrat's government mandated health care legislation was constitutional. The announcement was a great surprise to the vast majority of legal experts because not only was there no precedent for the government having the power to penalize people for inaction but how the justices critically questioned attorneys supporting the legislation during arguments earlier this year. Even I was stunned by the ruling and thought with great certainty that Chief Justice Roberts would side with Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Scalia to at minimum forbid the individual mandate. The individual mandate, however, was the centerpiece of the law and without it, the entire legislation could not function. Since yesterday morning, many people including lawyers are still trying to figure out how Roberts came to his convoluted and baffling decision which allows the government to force citizens to buy health insurance or pay a tax.

It may not be widely known, but the Constitution limits the federal government in taxation to three ways. The first is an excise tax which is a tax placed upon purchased goods or services. The second is a direct or proportionate tax which the government is allowed to levy on states based upon their populations. The third tax is an income tax which did not become law until the 16th Amendment was passed. For over 100 years, the federal government mainly relied on tariffs as revenue but since the 16th Amendment, the income tax has steadily grown and is now by far the largest source of revenue. Oddly, however, the government never argued the individual mandate does tax citizens, and this may be because none of the enumerated powers of government permit a tax on people for failing to buy or do something and for good reason. The ruling leaves the door open for the government to tax people for almost anything. For example, Barack Obama can press for an electric car tax and if people do not buy one, they will be fined. Already, there are tax deductions and subsidies for the industry and individuals who buy a Chevy Volt or other such vehicle, but these are not coercive additional taxes. It is a foolish policy and adds to government debt which indirectly must be paid by citizens, but it is recognized as a legitimate use of power.

The lawyers who argued in favor of Obamacare against the 27 states who were the plaintiffs in the lawsuit told the court the law was not a tax but a penalty and should be permitted due to the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution. The commerce clause allows the federal government to intervene in the economy to regulate trade amongst the states. The lawyers also argued if it was not permitted under the power to regulate commerce, it should be under the general welfare clause. Both of these arguments were rejected flatly by the Supreme Court, but to the surprise of many, Roberts decided the legislation was allowable under a tax.

The Obama administration never thought the tax was constitutional nor did it want it to be identified as one. In fact, Obama repeatedly told Americans on television the levy was a penalty and denied the tax label. The legal and political reasons are obvious. Not only was a tax unconstitutional but it was political suicide. This will be the largest tax ever on the American people. By 2016, anyone who refuses to buy health insurance will be taxed 2-1/2% of their income, or $2,050, which ever is the greater amount. Businesses with 50 or more employees also will be hit by an even greater tax if they do not provide health insurance. If former President Bush's tax code is allowed to expire at the end of this year, prepare for what is being labeled "Taxageddon." However, Obama does not care how the economy will be crushed if he is reelected.

The president has incredibly named his health care legislation "The Affordable Care Act," however, there is nothing affordable about it. Like most government collectivist systems, while the quality of health care declines, the costs will go up astronomically. Projected costs of the Affordable Care Act are estimated to be $2 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. While Europe is running away from its socialist entitlement economies which have left them crippled with debt and some on the verge of bankruptcy, Obama is rushing to embrace the likes of Greece. America is already straddled with $16 trillion in debt and this will exceed $20 trillion under another Democratic administration. The country does not need another 4 years of oppressive socialism, Big Brother Government or heavy taxation, but rugged individualism and freedom.

The answer to spiraling health care costs is patient choice and free market reforms such as proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan. Individual tax credits, expanded health care competition, and elimination of the exemption to anti-trust laws as well as some Tort reform is an enormously better alternative. I personally would also end laws which mandate hospitals to provide emergency care to everyone, regardless of insurance coverage. This would put an end to the freeloaders. There are too many grasshoppers and too few ants to keep Obamacare and other socialist programs afloat. If charitable organizations wish to set up free hospitals or health care services, let them do so. However, it is time to stop penalizing or taxing people who work hard, save, and are responsible, and redistributing their money. America has thrived as a meritocracy long before government has taken over its citizens' lives and it can again.

As an innocent man who has spent over 19 years incarcerated, I have known for a long time not to have any faith in the legal system. After this week, I believe many other people have discovered how the system can go awry. Despite how baffling the U.S. Supreme Court was, there is nothing which can be done to reverse or amend the rulings. Like Mitt Romney said after the disappointing news Thursday, the only thing Americans can do now to stop Obamacare is to get rid of Obama. With a new president, the nation's immigration laws will be enforced. States will not have to struggle in vain against drugs, crime, and the invasion of the southern border. Illegal immigrants arrested will not simply be released by a president who rules by executive decree. Furthermore, not only health care but Social Security and the country's economy can finally be brought back into order. Obama says he is moving America "forward," but it is being sent into the abyss of no return. The Supreme Court has failed to obstruct the descent and destruction of this nation. However, come this November, Americans will have one more chance to save the Republic. Hopefully, they will seize the opportunity.