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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.


  1. I agree with you on the global warming Paul. I have a relative who lived to be almost 100, and he told me recently (a couple of years ago) that weather went in cycles of years, and that the weather now reminded him of the weather about 50 years ago. He lived in the mid-west. I don't know if this is an accurate memory or not, but it is quite arrogant for humans to think they know the reason behind climate change, and even worse to think that we can control it. You are right, we have lost our freedom here, you more than the rest of us so far, but we are all being monitored a lot more than we should be considering that Americans are supposed to enjoy freedom. Most of us don't really think we are losing it since it's in the name of safety, security and environmental cleanliness.

    I hope it cools off for you soon. Can't imagine having to live in a small cage with another person at those temperatures.

  2. My thoughts are with you during this extreme heat.
    Do any other prisons- besides Tamms- provide a/c?

    1. I have only been inside the maximum-security prisons of the IDOC. However, I believe the supermax was the only penitentiary with air conditioning. A self-contained ventilation system allows a prison to be built without windows that open. It provides extra security and possibly less irritable inmates.

  3. Today I read that 10 prisoners in a Texas prison died from the extreme heat. Some prisoner rights advocate group is demanding all prisons have air conditioning. I thought of your blog and how meager (and bad) the food is in Illinois prisons. States have no money to properly house all the prisoners in this country, yet alone install air conditioners in those old dilapitated buildings.

    Hopefully, some day governments will see the folly of their sentencing laws and the truth: this kind of treatment doesn't "rehabilitate" anyone. Prisons today are just about revenge, and for any innocent prisoner it is torture. I will pray for you, and hope you will be vindicated and freed soon.

  4. Hi, just a quick suggestion. When clicking on this particular blog post from the numbered list of blog titles, I was redirected to the home page. I had to go to the blog archive to access this post. I think perhaps there is a link missing.

    1. One of the EditorsAugust 28, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      Thanks for letting us know, YG. #166 and #167 were mixed up. I hope all titles in the Table of Contents now correctly link to the correct post.

  5. TThere are many legitimate issues environmentalists can address, but CO2 emissions is not one of them"

    What issues?

    P.S. I really pity you, in this heat. :(


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