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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Appointment with the Medical Director -- August 16, 2012

Today, I was finally able to see a medical doctor after months of waiting. In February, I submitted my first request for an appointment when my prescription for Diclofenac was abruptly discontinued. Diclofenac is known by its brand name Voltaren. This was the main medication I relied on to manage my chronic lower back pain and sciatic from two crushed disks in my lumbar spine. Since February, I have submitted over ten more requests to see a doctor, filed several grievances, and wrote the Health Care Unit administrator. These were all ignored, and in July the other two prescriptions I take also expired and were not renewed. It was only after my attorney called the prison and threatened legal action that I was finally seen. The medical care at Stateville is horrendous and often inmates will not receive any treatment unless they file lawsuits.

Prisoners are notified they have passes to the Health Care Unit the day before the appointment via the general mail delivery. The pass is a general form and usually only has a check mark next to a medical subject such as lab, dental, mental health, etc. My pass had a check mark next to medical director. The medical director at most prisons is a doctor who supervises the work of other doctors, nurses, and medical practitioners. He will also authorize surgeries or other types of major treatments. However, at Stateville, the medical director acts as both a supervisor and a doctor. There are no doctors at the prison, only a medical practitioner and various nurses who are here to help inmates. The former medical director, Dr. Carter, either quit or was fired in February, and in his stead the health care insurance provider has been sending a doctor to the prison on an occasional basis. Waxford and the IDOC are more concerned about costs than meeting the medical needs of convicts.

My pass to the Health Care Unit was not until 1:30 and I did not intend to get ready until 1:00. My cellmate had gone out to the small yard to socialize and play cards. It is infrequent that I have any time inside my cage without him present and I always attempt to make the best use of my "freedom." A cellmate can greatly obstruct or distract daily activities. The cell is only 6 x 11 feet and I always feel uncomfortably cramped. At least O.G. Bobby is less obnoxious and social than my former cellmates in C House and I do not have to hear him yelling out of the cell often or engage him in conversation I care less for. The guard came to my cell early attempting to ruin my solitude. It was only 12:30 when he asked me if I was ready to go on my health care pass. Fortunately, he was not demanding that I leave immediately and I was able to bathe in the sink before he unlocked the door.

In the holding cage downstairs near the door to the cell house I waited until a prisoner was ready to go on his visit. The escorting guards do not like going back and forth to the same destination more than necessary. The visiting room was not far beyond the Health Care Unit and those who have visits and medical passes frequently are sent together. While I was in the holding cage, Steve, who is in a cell not far from the pen, asked me where I was going. After I told him, he asked me to write down the new medical director's name so he could write him up in a grievance. A couple of inmates laughed because the medical director has only been on the job less than two weeks and Steve already had a complaint. I knew he had a lawsuit pending regarding lack of treatment and I assumed he wanted to incorporate the new doctor's name because he holds a supervisory role and thus is legally culpable for negligence.

Steve and many other prisoners have valid medical complaints at Stateville. However, I tend to believe the former cruise ship piano player who has only been incarcerated several years has yet to become accustomed to prison life. It was the middle of the day yet as I listened to Steve he was wearing pajamas, a bath robe, and some house slippers. They were prison commissary clothes but I could imagine if he were able he would be dressed like Hugh Heffner. With a man who was standing next to me, I made fun of Steve's attire and former pampered lifestyle which he seems resistant to change. When I mentioned how he must still feel demeaned by his radical change of environment and lifestyle, the prisoner next to me spoke of how this must be even more true for myself because I was innocent. I did not see the parallel of perspectives. Although both Steve and I come from similar socio-economic backgrounds, I have been in prison nearly 20 years. Even before my arrest I never coddled myself or lived a life similar to Steve's. The fact that I was wrongfully convicted only made me bitter and angry, not demeaned.

The Health Care Unit is not far from the enormous building which holds over 1,200 general population inmates. It is a newer addition to Stateville and was built along the corridor leading to the entrance of the prison. Upon entering the Health Care Unit I gave the guard working the door my pass and he let me into yet another holding cage. Fortunately, this cage was not packed with inmates shoulder to shoulder as is common, particularly on weekday mornings. There were about 20 prisoners in the cage most of whom were sitting on the six wood benches. I went to the back of the room where there were two thin long rectangular windows. Before I peered out from my confinement, I noticed I had almost stepped on a gigantic roach. The cockroach was dead and lying on its back with its 6 legs and antennae splayed. The penitentiary has an infestation of roaches in some of its buildings, but it is unusual to see them in the H.C.U.

While looking out the window, I could not but overhear the conversations of the other inmates. Much of the talk pertained to medical lawsuits and the denial or delay of medical care as well as malpractice. There was a man who almost died due to being given the wrong heart medication, and another man who staff at the H.C.U. refused to give any medication. I heard about a prisoner who had a gum infection that was not treated as well as a torn Achilles tendon. The inmate was told the tendon must tear further to warrant surgery. A young black prisoner was wheeled in and he also had a litany of health problems. He spoke about how medical staff had tricked him into taking a medication he was allergic to and he suffered tremendously from the reaction. I also heard a man people call "Big Mike" talk about how the medical staff pretended not to know about the birth defect he had, despite how he has been in prison numerous years and gave them his records a long time ago. Big Mike is more appropriately called "Monster Mike" because his face is horribly disfigured. I wondered how doctors could not see what was readily apparent, however, possibly Mike was speaking about another health problem other than his deformed face.

I looked at Mike to discern what could cause such a deformity. I was told by a former cellmate that he had Wagoner's disease, but from what Mike said, he was born that way. While scrutinizing his disfigurement I saw the white man who tried to blow his head off. After killing his wife, he put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Amazingly, he lived, but his face was now nearly as bad as Mike's. Originally he had a gaping wound down his skull and his nose was split in half. However, now that the surgeries had healed, he was just left deformed. As I told him before, he should have used a larger caliber pistol or a shotgun.

I did not speak to any of the men in the holding cage except for a black prisoner who was complaining of back pain. He had four herniated lumbar disks and I sought to find out what type of treatment he was receiving and how well it worked. He was being given pain pills but did not know what they were only that they were ineffective. The inmate told me he was demanding surgery and if the new medical director did not authorize it, he was going to file a lawsuit. Another man chimed in that was the only way to make them act. I tend to agree. The medical supervisors and health care insurance oftentimes will rather pay the expenses of the prisoners who file lawsuits than give them adequate treatment. From a cost analysis, they spend less in settlements than they would if inmates were given proper medical care. The poor quality of health care and the excessive delays in treatment are similar to what I expect is in store for all Americans if Obamacare is not eliminated. Obamacare and Statevillecare seem very similar.

Eventually, my name was called and I was let out of the holding cage to walk over to the primary doctor's office. In the room was a nurse's station, two gurneys, and in the back a desk where a bald man of Middle Eastern descent sat. I assumed he was the new medical director and sat at a chair next to him. While he went over my medical folder, a nurse took my vitals. I do not think she bothered to write anything down, but my blood pressure was nearly a perfect 117 over 80 and I had a heart rate of 45. Eventually, the doctor said, "Are you there? Are you with me?" I assume I gave him the impression of a distant look and someone who was absorbed in his own thoughts. I was in fact thinking about other matters and had not said anything because I did not want to interrupt the doctor's reading. I reasoned the doctor had just been given my file and knew nothing about my lower back injury.

The doctor had just finished reading a report from the neurosurgeon at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He asked me if I remembered the doctor I saw a few years ago and my opinion of him as well as his age. I told him he was a middle aged man who seemed very competent and educated. Part of his recommended treatment plan was for me to receive occasional cortisone injections. The medical director asked me if I wanted him to give me one. I know cortisone injections can be given by regular doctors but that injections to the spine were much more dangerous and required skills I did not believe he had. Although he told me he did a few before, based on the competency of former doctors here, I did not want to take a chance of being a paraplegic. I have in the past always been sent to an outside hospital to have this procedure done by a specialist. It seemed the medical director was attempting to save money at my expense.

I informed him of my severe lower back pain, sciatica, and loss of feeling in my left leg. The cortisone shots were only minimally helpful and typically lasted only for a couple of months at most. What I wanted him to do most was simply renew my prescriptions, particularly the NSAID Diclofenac. He replied that God was with me, which was not a common saying in here. It reminded me of the background of the doctor, and I speculated he was Islamic. I looked at his name tag to get the proper spelling for Steve. Inmates in the waiting cage were calling him Osama, like Osama bin Laden. However, his name differed greatly from the former Al Quada leader and was more similar to the U.S. president in pronunciation.

Dr. Obaisi told me he was going to renew my prescription for Gabapentin, but order me an NSAID that was stronger and seemed to help people with my type of injury better. The name of the drug is Meloxicam which I have never heard of. After writing this information down in my medical folder he said it may take some time for me to receive the medicines and if I would like something like Tylenol in the meantime. Tylenol has no effect on my pain and I still had some 500 mg. ibuprofen that a prisoner had given me. Before I left he said he will reschedule me for a check-up in a month to see how the Meloxicam was working and if I needed something more for my pain. I greatly doubted I would receive another pass to the H.C.U. after waiting 6 months for this appointment, but I thanked him anyway.

As I went to leave I noticed the Polish nurse standing at the nurses station. She had a big smile on her face and I asked her if she was hiding from me or now that she has some seniority if she need not do rounds passing out medications anymore. She said she was not trying to avoid me but inferred she preferred to stay out of the cell houses and do other work. I did not blame her. I would not want to pass out psychotropics to the madmen at Stateville. I told her since she will not come see me, I will try to come see her more often. There are only a couple of attractive nurses at the prison and they have cut their working hours, or like the Polish nurse they stay at the H.C.U. There are very few Caucasian female staff working at the prison and these few who do work here are mostly unattractive. However, it would be odd to have beautiful women working at a place like Stateville.

It was close to count and there was a possibility I may be stuck in the holding cage for an hour or longer. Once count begins, there is no movement in the prison and inmates must remain at their location until there is a tally from the NRC, MSU and Stateville. Fortunately, however, a guard I know and got along with was stationed at the front door of the H.C.U. He kept a look out for guards going back to the cell house and when none were forthcoming, he got on his radio to find me an escort. At the cell house, I was allowed to climb the stairs to my gallery. I went to the cell of a former cop and firefighter who once was training to be a paramedic to see if he knew what Meloxicam was. He did not know but he looked it up in a medical book. It merely stated it was an NSAID which I already knew. He did notice it only came in 7-1/2 and 10 mg. pills which led him to believe it was a strong medication.

I did not take any ibuprofen today. I only have a few left and am saving them for my workouts. As I write this journal entry, I am sitting on my bunk with a pillow behind my lower back to give it support. For a month, I have been in a great deal of pain and sometimes I will move about like a cripple or a very old man. Certain movements will immensely sharpen my pain and I have found myself on occasion pulling myself up. It was foolish of me to do squats and dead lifts with over 600 pounds of iron when in my 20's, but more so to ignore the repeated injuries to my back. I have a high tolerance for pain and can push myself beyond it, however, in my old age these injuries have caught up with me.

Early this morning, lines to the Bureau of Identification were run. About a third of the inmates in my cell house were sent to the office to have their mugshot taken. I was one of them and I currently have my new I.D. card clipped to my bunk in front of me. Because of the poor tint of the computer that prints the photos, I look like I have jaundice. However, what strikes me the most is how old I appear. I still have a mental image of myself as being 18 years old, the time at which I was arrested. Time stopped in many ways for me when the Palatine Task Force surrounded me at gunpoint and took me into custody. Even in the vast majority of my dreams, I am still a teenager. The reality that I am a crippled middle aged man is sobering. There are men older than me here with even greater physical deterioration and I wonder if I will not follow their footsteps to the grave. Although I may sometimes have illusions it is still the early 1990s, I cannot stop time and the decay which goes with it. Unfortunate I am also captive to the healthcare within the IDOC which I expect to only get worse.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Post-Lockdown -- August 9, 2012

Stateville was taken off lockdown over the weekend. Other than a week intermission, the prison had been on lockdown for nearly two months. Lockdown is not uncommon at maximum-security penitentiaries but it was highly unusual for the prison to have two mass scale searches within such a short time period. The searches were conducted in response to two inmates overdosing on heroine and the discovery of cell phones and knives. However, there is an underlying belief the closing of Tamms is interconnected. Tamms is the state's supermax prison which holds in isolation mainly staff assaulters and inmates thought to be gang leaders or organizers. Although Stateville was announced to be under normal operations, there seems to be continued reverberations from the searches and planned changes with the IDOC.

Typically, I will skip many meals because I do not like going out to the chow hall. However, nearly all of my supplies of commissary food have been depleted. During the lockdown, inmates were served terrible meals with small portions. Like many others, I am now unable to skip any chow lines. Even Ramen noodles which is a popular alternative meal for prisoners are in short supply. Due to the extra men coming out for chow, the feed lines have taken longer to run. The delay is also due to extra security measures. There are more guards along the walkway frisking inmates, and in some cell houses, galleries of prisoners have been split in half during movement to the chow hall. I do not know if this is a permanent or temporary policy. Lunch lines which are normally completed before noon are being extended to 3 p.m. Dinner also is being served after sundown, although some inmates participating in Ramadan, will not eat until then anyways.

Due to the lack of supplies by inmates, those who ran "stores" are making a good profit. These men will stock up on commissary products which are popular with inmates and then sell them for twice their cost. For example, a package of chili will be sold for the price of 2 and a small bag of instant coffee is being sold for $1. Cell house workers are also trying to make a profit selling various goods. I had one come by my cell offering bleach, sliced cheese, and packets of peanut butter.

This week, I have attended nearly every meal, both recreation lines and a pass to the Health Care Unit. Tomorrow, I intend to go to the evening yard and attempt to break some Olympic records with the help of some ibuprofen an inmate was kind enough to give me. The contrast from being in the cell 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is great. As I attempted to explain to the prison psychologist, continuous social interaction and sensory overload leaves me drained and lethargic. Regularly, I have been stuffing my ears with ear plugs to keep out sound and taking long afternoon naps. If I did not take a time out midday, I doubt I would be able to function at any high level.

Since the Orange Crush confiscated many black plastic radios, the noise level has decreased slightly in the cell house. On occasion, I still hear hip hop, R&B, and mariachi music but it is not as annoying as it formerly was. Unfortunately, however, it seems inmates are yelling to each other more. There are approximately 300 prisoners on 5 galleries stacked on top of each other, and it is only during the night it is quiet. In other cell houses with younger inmates, the shouting and blaring radios can go all night long. F House (the Roundhouse) is probably the worst with a cacophony of noise reverberating around the building nearly without end.

The Orange Crush mistakenly took a lot of legitimate property of inmates during the last raid. Prisoners have been trying to have things returned, but it was thrown out or put in bags which are unidentified. The staff which works at the personal property office, however, has separated electronic items and the cell house sergeant this week brought back some fans, Walkmans, and lamps for inmates. A few non-clear plastic televisions and radios were returned last week. I spoke with a prisoner who said the Orange Crush took the only fan he had as well as the extra fan owned by his cellmate. This fan was returned to him and he was glad. Temperatures have fallen but many prisoners rely on their fans to dry clothing. My neighbor attempted to get his Walkman returned but was refused because there was no contract record for it. All significant electronic purchases are documented and a list is kept by prison staff in an office. This is to not only prove theft but discourage men from selling or trading their TVs, radios and other things. It also discourages inmates who are going home from leaving their property to others.

On Monday afternoon my cellmate went to the law library. When he returned, he told me all of the cages in the main room now contained a typewriter. The warden has attempted to placate inmates who had their typewriters confiscated by allowing them to use the ones in the library. The problem is prisoners are only in the law library for an hour or two and can only get on the library list once a week, and not at all if the penitentiary is on lockdown. A letter from the manufacturer of the typewriters, Swintec, has been being passed around the prison. It says the IDOC was aware when ordering the typewriters that there was a metal rod inside, although they had another model which did not. Administrators had no concern with the clear plastic typewriters with some metal parts until just recently. Swintec also stated they were able to easily switch the metal parts with plastic ones but they will not pay for shipping costs. Despite this, those supervisors in the state capital seem determined to ban typewriters in maximum-security prisons.

Earlier today, while I was bathing out of the sink after spending a couple hours in the gym, inmates began shouting "on the way up the stairs" and there was a mumble of tactical guards. For a moment, I thought the Orange Crush was in the cell house to conduct searches again. Due to the time, however, I knew it could not be a mass search and I hoped I would not be bothered yet again. Later at dinner, I learned Internal Affairs had removed an inmate or two who were known to be Latin Kings. Yesterday, Orange Crush guards had come to escort ten Hispanic inmates out of a different cell house. They are rumored to have all been transferred to either Pontiac or Menard. I can only speculate the transfers were due to a previous incident between two Mexican gangs or to move people security believed thought wise to separate. There is talk the IDOC may again revive "the circuit." The circuit is where certain prisoners believed to be in positions of power are continually moved from prison to prison, and even to prisons out of state. The circuit was discontinued after Tamms was built and Pontiac became a segregation prison.

The closure of Tamms is still in the news. The guards' union filed a court injunction stopping at least temporarily the transfer of prisoners out, and its systematic closure. I highly doubt the closing of the supermax will become a danger for guards who work in the IDOC. For example, serial killer Brisbaum who media nicknamed the "I-57 Killer" and who has tried to kill various staff can be placed in Pontiac segregation. Pontiac can hold many of the prisoners guards are afraid of and are currently at Tamms. Many men at Tamms, however, are there for dubious conspiracy accusations and should be transferred to Menard or Stateville. A court in downstate Illinois will soon decide if the petition filed by guards has any merit. I doubt it does legally or otherwise. IDOC personnel cannot override the chief executive's authority.

Also on Chicago Tonight, a PBS news telecast, was a segment about Dwight Correctional Center. Dwight is the only female maximum-security unit in Illinois and it is slated to be closed by the end of the year. People from the small town were interviewed opposing the closure because the prison is their main source of jobs and revenue. A guard who works at the prison also was interviewed and he claimed it made no sense to move the incarcerated women elsewhere. However, I disagree. I noticed on the news piece that the prison was a very old stone building probably built in the late 1800's. I tend to believe like Stateville it is in a poor state of repair. I also believe closing Dwight and moving the prisoners to Logan makes practical sense. Logan is currently a medium security male prison, but it is adjacent to Lincoln, a female penitentiary. The male population can be redistributed amongst the numerous other medium and minimum security prisons in Illinois and the two prisons can be made into one facility. This is an efficient use of resources for a state which has a greater debt problem than any other state in America.

The only problem with the closure of Dwight is that it will temporarily cause overcrowding in the IDOC. From various news sources, I have learned minimum security prisons are being pushed way beyond their maximum capacities. Administrators are able to get away with this overcrowding because these prisoners are typically well behaved and trying to be paroled as soon as possible. They are unlikely to cause trouble against staff or amongst themselves. Furthermore, it is easy to add more bunks to dorm room settings. The governor has signed new legislation creating incentives for nonviolent offenders to behave by attending school or other rehabilitation programs.

The director of the IDOC has recently forbid news agencies from entering any of the penitentiaries in the state. A few prisoner rights groups are filing complaints because they believe there is an intent by administrators not to allow reporters to see the conditions inmates are living in. Two minimum security prisons the media are particularly interested in reporting about are those in Vienna and Vandalia. I was surprised Stateville was not one of them but it seems these groups are concerned mostly about overcrowding. Inmates' bunks in these prisons are reported to be stacked together so close there is only enough room to walk between them. Inmates have also been forced to live in the basements which were never designed to house prisoners and are subject to flooding and have mold covered ceilings and walls. There is also complaints of rodent and roach infestation. When I heard about the roaches, I was curious if it was as bad as in the Roundhouse here at Stateville or in the prison's kitchen. News reporters asked guests on their television programs if the director will eventually relent and allow access to Illinois prisons again. They speculated possibly if the new good time laws passed begin to relieve the prison population.

I was surprised to learn how the media are now forbidden to tour any of the prisons in Illinois. The public has always, at least since my incarceration, been allowed access to the prison system. Stateville used to bring in tours and camera crews on occasion. However, I notice I have not seen a tour in many months and definitely none during 2012. It is obvious officials are trying to keep a lid on the conditions and ongoings inside the prisons. This is probably also why my blog posts are scrutinized, delayed, and sometimes destroyed or confiscated.

Yet another news story I have become aware of this week is a lawsuit filed by guards from several penitentiaries. They accuse the director's office of having Internal Affairs frisk them because they have been outspoken about their opposition to the prison closures. The guards claim the frisks are a form of harassment and have no security purpose because they are searched on the way out of the penitentiary. It does seem odd to me guards or other staff would be searched when leaving and is similar to inmates being strip searched before they go on a visit rather than just after when they could possibly bring contraband into the penitentiary. However, this may simply be a tactic by the union to prevent the governor's office and his appointees from stifling their freedom of speech. The guards union is very powerful and they will fight any infringement on their clout or attempts to squelch their public wailing. If the union had its way, Illinois would be on a prison building crusade to incarcerate 100,000 people and increase their workforce, rights, and entitlements as well as pay by double.

While I was at the gym today, I spoke to a man about the guards complaints of harassment. He thought it was great our captors had to go through the same searches as we did and it was unfortunate they were not strip searched as we are. He then began to rant about the Orange Crush raid and how the guard who came to his cell shouted at him to spread his ass cheeks and show him his ass hole. Repeatedly, the guard yelled at him, "Show me your ass hole!" I told him he should have told the fag instead he will show him some dick. Outrageous, I thought, that some guards were acting like that. There was no way I would pose myself like in some gay porn magazine. I understand there is a need for security but there are guards who take the matter too far and act unprofessionally. I tend to believe the guard who searched him harassed and bullied him because he is a little man. I doubt he would have tried this on a bigger prisoner despite his body armor, baton, and mace.

The cell house has just been placed on standby for chow. For dinner tonight, prisoners are being fed lasagna. This is one of my favorite meals served here despite how it is made with processed turkey-soy instead of ground beef. Since the prison has been taken off lockdown, inmates have been fed better and I am glad because I can only eat so many peanut butter sandwiches. I hope that the treatment and conditions of prisoners will improve in general in the future, but I am doubtful. The IDOC seems intent on tightening its grip of power even in the face of budgetary restraints.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Death in the Family -- August 2, 2012

On Tuesday evening, my cellmate learned his daughter had died. He discovered the news when a prisoner informed him her name was in the obituary section of a newspaper. Most men in prison learn of deaths in the family through the counselor if they do not have any regular contact. However, O.G. Bobby has been in prison nearly 40 consecutive years. He not only has little contact with his family, but has become so estranged no one even bothered to call the prison. For many prisoners, a death in the family can be a great loss. Inmates in maximum-security prisons who will die incarcerated have little meaning or value left in their lives. When someone dies who was or is close to them, it can take away what little connection they have to the outside world and increase their awareness of a bleak, despondent, and empty existence.

I rarely speak to my cellmate and he did not tell me about his daughter's death until the following day. Unusual for him, he was by the bars seeking to use the telephone. The old black man rarely uses the phone and I was curious to know what his apparent urgency was. However, more so, I wanted to complete my exercise regimen and bathe before I received a visit. I was not certain anyone would come to see me, but I did not want my clothes dripping in sweat if my name was called over the cell house loudspeaker. Eventually, Bobby got the phone and for a half hour attempted to get through to someone. No one answered or accepted his collect calls and he finally went on his bunk permitting me to have access to the floor space. As I expected, my name was called for a visit toward the end of my workout and I had to rush to get ready. I noticed while dressing, my cellmate was again trying to use the phone. This time he was able to get through and was talking to someone when I left the cell.

It was only when I returned that Bobby told me about his daughter dying and his anxiety trying to reach someone on the telephone. My cellmate is nearly 60 years old and both of his parents died long ago. He has two grandchildren, however, he has not had much contact with them over the years. He has only been free to spend a few years with his daughter and none with her children. Bobby was 20 years old when he committed his first murder, and not long after he was paroled, he was arrested for a second murder. Thus, his grandchildren have never really considered him their grandfather and the little contact they have had while he has been incarcerated has not been positive.

The daughter who died was his only child. She was 40 years old and died from breast cancer. Bobby was aware she was diagnosed with cancer but thought treatment was going well. Like most prisoners who have been incarcerated a long time, the mothers of their children have moved on. They have found new husbands or boyfriends. I did not ask Bobby about his relationship with the mother of his daughter, but it seemed apparent they had little communication, if any at all. Bobby expressed to me some anger about how no one bothered to even notify him about her death and how he had to learn about it from a newspaper. Because of how estranged he was to his daughter, he was not terribly upset and did not feel any great loss from what I could perceive. This is not the case with others I have known who have lost a family member.

Earlier this year, Steve, one of the few people I speak to in the cell house, lost his mother. He did not openly show any grief, but I could tell he was significantly affected by it. There was a perceptible change in his attitude and he became reclusive. Normally, he did not miss any meals even if they were of the most distasteful kind. He also went out to all recreation periods, religious services for Catholics, and to the law library. After his mother died, he only came out of his cell occasionally. When I saw him he was not as good humored and did not appreciate my ridicule despite how witty others thought of it. I have never been good at recognizing the emotional states of people, however, I tend to think Steve was depressed for a month or longer.

Steve was convicted several years ago of solicitation of murder along with two counts of 1st degree murder. According to prosecutors, he borrowed his girlfriend's SUV, drove to his estranged wife's house and shot her along with her mother. The convictions of murder were not very strong, but the evidence of solicitation is overwhelming. Regardless, even if he were to be able to vacate the two murder charges, he will die in prison due to the 30 year sentence he was given for solicitation. Steve has some experience as a paralegal, but I doubt there is any way he can overcome all the charges. I have read his direct appeal and the errors in my opinion will not cause the court to grant him a new trial. I tend to believe Steve knows he will die in prison and I ask myself often what does a condemned man have to live for? The meager relationships prisoners are able to maintain in the penitentiary can give meaning to an otherwise miserable life void of purpose.

I am told Steve was permitted to have a special visit with his father, uncles, and some other relatives after his mother's death. Typically, prisoners are limited to having a maximum of three visitors at one time. They also must visit in the crowded, loud, general population visiting room. However, Steve's family was able to gain special accommodations through the warden. The warden permitted them to visit in one of the legal visiting rooms. I asked Steve about his visit at my next opportunity, but he did not want to talk about it. I cannot say if the visit was consoling in any way or only made him more sad and despondent. I know prison administrators are apt to grant special visitation after the death of a close family member, but I believe it is done less out of sympathy than to prevent an inmate from striking out in violence or committing suicide.

Not long after Steve's mother died, another person I acquaint with lost his younger sister. Anthony asked if he could attend the funeral but was told no. According to the policy of the IDOC, only those inmates with low security designations can attend the funeral of a family member. At a maximum security prison, there are only a few men who are not at least deemed a moderate security risk. In fact, I believe all prisoners with more than 30 years to serve must have a blue ID card which signifies moderate security risk. Unless a prisoner is being punished for a disciplinary infraction, they are not at a maximum security prison with less than 20 years. Because of the draconian sentencing laws, Menard and Stateville nearly are full with men who will never be released from prison.

Although Anthony's father said he would pay the $1,000 for a security detail to escort him to the funeral, I doubt he would have wanted to attend. Prisoners in Illinois are not allowed to be present for funeral services or even visit the cemetery. They never see any family members and are only taken to the funeral home alone. There they can look at the body in a casket for 15 minutes before being brought back to the prison. In my opinion, this is ridiculous and I would rather someone just send me a photo of the person while still alive. There is no meaning to me visiting a corpse. Seeing a family member dead in fact probably would only cause me to become more bitter and angry for my unjust incarceration as well as remind me of my own mortality. I do not believe in any "thereafter." This is all there is for me and my loved ones. Every day I spend rotting in prison is one less day I have, they have, and we have together.

I am not certain how Anthony took the loss of his sister. I know his two siblings are the closest family members he has, or had. After he was informed of her death I happened to be locked in the cell house holding cage with him. Normally, he would have engaged me in conversation but he did not say anything. Eventually, I spoke to him and he failed to mention his sister's death. He told me simply he was sleeping when the guards pulled us out of our cells to conduct a search. Both of our cellmates at the time were Level E's, or classified as extreme escape risks. It was only later that Anthony told me about his sister. Apparently, he was stunned by the news. His sister was about 40 years old and died from a heart attack. He tended to recover from the loss though much quicker than Steve, and I was glad he was not as sensitive or soft as "Pudding." I even was able to joke with him not long after the event and asked him if I needed to take away his shoe laces.

In January, one of my uncles passed away. He was 91 years old and had lived a long and full life. Despite this, I was a bit sad and angry at his death. He married my aunt in my late teens not long before my arrest. I did not get to know him as well as I wanted to. Tadeusz was a WWII veteran who earned the Purple Heart and many other commendations. He and my aunt visited me when they were in Illinois. Nearly every year, they would travel from Arizona to the Chicago area, typically staying with my parents. I appreciated the fact he was interested in visiting his nephew he vaguely knew from outside the prison. Tadeusz and I, although separated by over 50 years, had a number of common interests and got along well. He used to promise me we would spend time together when I was freed including taking vacations around the world to any place I would like. However, as the years passed by and I saw him deteriorate from Alzheimer's and other problems, I knew he would be dead long before I ever was exonerated.

During my incarceration both of my maternal grandparents died. My grandmother died only a month or two after my arrest. This upsets me because I tend to believe it caused the stress which burdened her after having open heart surgery. The surgery went well from what doctors told me and other family members. She seemed to be recovering well when I visited her in the hospital after her surgery. However, then I was arrested and accused of the Brown's Chicken massacre and other then-unsolved murders. The media was extraordinarily vicious and unscrupulous in their attempt to villainize me and captivate the public. For weeks, news crews camped out in front of my parents' house, where my grandmother was recuperating after being released from the hospital. My home was a very nice and tranquil place for her to get back on her feet, at least until the media invasion occurred. With the commotion outside my house, reporters ringing the doorbell and spying through windows, and the constant TV reporting that I knew she watched with my parents, I wonder to this day if it caused her heart to stop early one morning.

I was not only upset by the loss of my uncle and two grandparents, but even of my dog. As a child, my parents bought me a Dalmatian whose company I greatly enjoyed despite how excitable and obnoxious he could be at times. I eventually was able to train him and even won several awards at dog shows. He had a large back yard to run and play in, but I would occasionally walk him around the neighborhood or to parks. My family and I also would always take him with us when we went to our vacation home in downstate Illinois. We called him Dapper, and he represented my childhood in many ways. When I was told of his death, it symbolized the death of my youth. Those years were gone. My protracted death sentence allows me to watch everything and everyone I ever cared for slowly die, leaving me with nothing but hatred.

There was a point in time when I wanted to push away my past and family. It seemed like it only brought us all grief. I notice how many prisoners are happy when they return from their visits, but I am almost always more sad and angry. I consider myself a dead man, especially after all my appeals were dismissed or denied. When family and relatives come to see me, it was almost as if they were visiting a grave site at the cemetery. They were coming to see a dead man. Yes, he could move, think, and talk, but I was nevertheless a zombie. I was devoid of any meaning, joy, or life and in fact was envious of the living. I thought often why do these people continue to visit my grave? It was better for them to forget me and move on with their lives. However, I failed to realize for some people, they can never move on and this is especially so for my parents who have lost their only son.

My parents are becoming very old and I question how much time I have until they also pass away. I am tremendously grateful for how they have supported and stayed with me all these years. Nearly two decades have passed and many prisoner's families do walk away after such time. Many of my relatives I have not seen in years and I have not seen a friend from before my arrest. Possibly they were never friends to begin with. My sister still occasionally visits for a considerable amount of time, but over the years I see how she too has forgotten about me. I do not blame them for what am I other than a condemned man beyond a 30' concrete wall. Should they also visit the cemetery like my parents routinely do?

I have had the ability to request a transfer to Menard C.C., where my time would be better. With the growing number of prisoners being stacked into the IDOC, I may even be able to request and receive a transfer to a medium security prison. However, I am hesitant to do so. If I am ever able to acquire a private investigator, it will be better if I am in the vicinity of Chicago. More importantly, I think about my parents. Stateville is the worst prison in Illinois and has the worst visitation, but it is about a half hour drive from home. I can see my parents much more by staying here, and this is increasingly important to me as the sands of the hour glass run thin.

It is incredibly disappointing that I will never be a free man while my parents are alive. It is disheartening to me that I cannot be there for them in their final years when I know they could use my help. I have never had a normal adult relationship with them. I was arrested when I was 18, and in my late teens I spent much time away from home. I cannot turn back the clock nor can I stop it from ticking away what little we have left.

I have dreamed of a time with my family. I have dreamed of a family of my own. Many prisoners have children and I envy them as well as pity them. Like my cellmate, he never had a relationship with his daughter. A man cannot be a father from inside prison and what good is it to sire sons and daughters if one cannot be there for them? I cannot be a father. I cannot be a son. I cannot be anything of worth. My cellmate lost his daughter last week, but I think I am more disturbed than he is.

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Austere 2 Weeks of Lockdown -- July 26, 2012

Since the 11th of July, the prison has been on a strict level one lockdown. Other than a weekly shower, prisoners have been confined to their cells 24/7. Even visitation and phone privileges were suspended until several days ago. No inmates have been permitted to leave to their assignments and guards have grudgingly been doing some of the menial work necessary at the penitentiary. Except for emergencies, no one has been allowed to go to the Health Care Unit. The law library and commissary have been closed despite how inmates may need access to legal books or are out of supplies. The Orange Crush tactical team seems to have completed their search of the prison, but I tend to believe the lockdown will continue into mid-August. In the wake of the states supermax penitentiary in Tamms being closed, IDOC administrators appear intent on more punitive and oppressive control.

For me, one of the worst aspects of being on lockdown is being forced to spend more time with my cellmate. The cells in generation population here are about 6 x 11 feet. Every activity a prisoner does is restricted or must be done in coordination with their cellmate. Cellmates after a period of time can learn how to share a small confined space, but it is made exceedingly difficult on lockdowns. A number of activities I will do when my cellmate is not in the cell as he likewise will do when I am not around to prevent being inconvenienced or obstructing each other. The situation is greatly more comfortable or improved when prisoners share a space with a person they like and get along with. Unfortunately, I have nothing in common with my cellmate and he can be difficult to live with, especially during hot weather which makes him a crank.

Many prisoners oddly like having a cellmate to share their time with. They will talk for hours about a myriad of subjects, even those which have no importance or are redundant. They will also play games of chess, dominoes, or cards to preoccupy their time. A number of prisoners who do not have a social cellmate will seek out others in the cell house to talk or play games with. During this lockdown, I have heard inmates yell to others a great distance away the numbers on a chess board. They will also engage in trivial conversations despite the difficulty of communicating in a loud cell house. I am glad my cellmate is not one of these people. Even with people I like, I am not overly social. I also need a lot of down time from social interaction. To block out the noise, I often wear headphones or use ear plugs. Even before my arrest, I spent great amounts of time alone to avoid social or sensory overload.

On several occasions, I have had conversations with my neighbor. He will usually call out my name or tap on the side of my cell with his mirror to gain my attention. I have much more in common with Matt than Old Gangster Bobby, my cellmate, and during these two weeks of lockdown I have exchanged more words with him than the man I am forced to live with. The last time we spoke we discussed "The Joker" James Holmes. Initially, Matt was of the opinion Holmes would never be declared insane. In the U.S. it is exceedingly difficult to be found guilty but insane, or to be psychologically impaired to be unable to stand trial. However, it was obvious to me the man was psychotic and living in an altered reality characteristic of those who suffer from schizophrenia. Because of his high intelligence, he was able to plan this mass murder at the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." My neighbor and I have also discussed the forthcoming Drew Peterson murder case which will be tried in Joliet a few miles from Stateville, as well as the superfluous three natural life sentences and 150 years William Balfour received for allegedly killing members of Jennifer Hudson's family.

Another way inmates have been preoccupying their time on lockdown is by playing baseball and soccer parlays. Because there are no cell house workers out, the men yell out their picks. The prisoners taking the wagers have rigged them greatly in their favor. My cellmate will sometimes play and I will occasionally look at the spreads. The prison bookies have point spreads sometime where both teams are minus one. Unlike football, baseball and soccer do not have spreads because games are commonly decided by a point. However, prisoners at Stateville are ignorant of this fact or are so bored they will play anyways. I am surprised inmates have commissary to lose when they have not been able to shop in weeks and great restrictions were placed on purchases.

Although I spent nearly $90 the last time I shopped, I am nearly out of supplies. I have about 10 sheets of paper left and two pens that are skipping. My clothes are falling apart and I only have a package of tuna, mixed nuts, chicken and a few Ramen Noodles in my box that remain from my last visit to the commissary. It was fortunate I was able to buy 100 packs of peanut butter before lockdown or I would be in much worse shape. The food served over the last two weeks has been atrocious and I have had to eat more commissary food than I usually would. It seems like supervisors are intentionally trying to collectively punish prisoners with the paltry and terrible meals. I may have even contracted another bout of food poisoning and have felt ill recently.

A show widely watched by Stateville inmates is "Big Brother." I think the show is base and is not entertaining to me, but on a couple of occasions I have watched it when greatly bored. I notice players sometimes are forced to eat what is called "Big Brother Slop" and I brought to my cellmate's attention that I think I would prefer to eat the game show slop than Stateville slop. People who are not incarcerated in Illinois do not seem to know what really bad food is. I also get a sense they are greatly pampered when I saw game show contestants complain greatly about having to sleep in a room with little comforts after losing a contest. I thought I unhesitatingly would exchange my prison cell at Stateville with their "punishment" room and accommodations.

The neighbor on the other side of my cell called over to me before a telecast of Big Brother. He wanted to wager particular game contestant would go home. I had to tell him I rarely watch the show and did not even know who was on the chopping block. Except for the Bachelor and Bachelorette shows, the only reality programming I watch is survivalist shows. I will watch Wild Alaska, Dual Survivor, Survivor Man, and I particularly like the programming with Bear Grills, although I know much is scripted. My mother recently commented to me before the lockdown that I must like these types of shows due to how I must survive in the austere and miserable conditions of Stateville, however, this is not what causes my interest.

The prison has not been supplying men with clothing. For over a half year I have not been given any new underwear despite submitting several requests. The administration is attempting to force prisoners to buy their clothes from the commissary which are absurdly overpriced. For example, the last time I was at the store, I was almost charged $16 for a couple pairs of white polyester boxers. Rather than buying those clothes, I have been sewing the holes in my socks and cutting out the lost elasticity in my boxer briefs. I was glad the Orange Crush did not take my sewing needle and earlier this week I attempted to sew the soles of my shoes back to the leather at the toes. Unfortunately, I snapped my needle in half going through the thick material. When the prison comes off lockdown, I will attempt to purchase another one from an inmate who has come from a medium-security prison, but there are few of those and demand is high. Many prisoners had their sewing needles confiscated during the search, including my neighbor. It may be easier for me to procure some glue.

I was greatly relieved to find an inmate who had some ibuprofen. I have two crushed disks in my lumbar spine which seem to be deteriorating and putting ever more pressure on the nerves from my spinal cord. Specialists at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago recommended I receive several medications as an alternative to surgery. Since these recommendations were made they have for the most part been followed until this year. In February, the most effective pain reliever, an NSAID, was cut off by the medical director before he left. In his notes he wrote since I was being given Ultram I did not need Diclofenac. This month my prescription for Ultram expired and has not been renewed. For weeks, I have suffered in considerable pain.

The health care provided at Stateville is incompetent and negligent. Since February, I have written numerous requests to see a doctor or to simply have my medications renewed. I have also written letters to staff at the health Care Unit, including two to the administrator. I have even submitted grievances to the counselor, grievance officer, and the warden. The counselor tells me she cannot do anything, and the grievances are pending review by superiors. The last few grievances I received back from the grievance officer with the warden's signature took a year and were, of course, denied. The grievance system is a facade simply maintained to satisfy federal due process rights. I spoke to a nurse about my problem and she does not work the first shift but left a note for doctors. The problem is Stateville has no doctors. A doctor from Waxford, the health care provider, sends a doctor to the prison once or twice a week. He is mainly concerned with saving money, however, and cares little about prisoners' welfare.

I have spent numerous hours during this lockdown reviewing corporate reports and hundreds of other companies financial data. However, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index about to exceed 13,000, I have not been enthusiastic about sending my friends or family any stock picks. The market is overvalued and prices will begin to slide soon. Fourth quarter GDP growth in the U.S. was 4% which was good, but since then it has went to 2% and last quarter 1-1/2%. Connecting the dots it is easy to predict a double dip recession. Most of Europe already is back in recession and America will follow. I do not care what announcements are made by public officials on either side of the Atlantic to give consumers, businesses and investors confidence. Since the most productive advice I can give people is to sell part of their investments in the stock market or to at least move them to large cap high yield stocks or preferred shares, I have preoccupied my time with some casual reading. Other than financial materials, I have read a few science, hunting and gun magazines. The last magazine I read I believe is on the prison's prohibited list, and I am sure it would have been of great interest to the self proclaimed Joker before he snapped.

Unlike most prisoners, I watch little television. However, I have spent time watching several movies these past two weeks. Stephen King's "The Shining" was on cable as well as the updated version of "Clash of the Titans." The night after the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, "The Dark Knight" was being played repeatedly on SPIKE and I was compelled to watch one of its telecasts. Curious how James Holmes dyed his hair red rather than green like the Joker is portrayed in the Batman movies. My neighbor, Matt, said he was going to dye his hair red before he went back to court for the sheer comic value of it. I told him green not only would be more authentic but complement his complexion and green jumpsuit. My neighbor is classified an extreme escape risk and instead of wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit on writs, he wears a green one.

Sick, in pain, and feeling lethargic, I have at times just stared at the confines of my cell. Dingy grey peeling paint covers my cell walls and I have a rusted grey bunk to sleep on as well as a steel commode-sink to use. The cold water button now is completely broken and I have fastened a cap to it to prevent it from running continuously. Rusted grey painted bars form the front of my cage and looking out them to the wall are two more sets of bars to look through. This is my life in a cage until I die. It is a meaningless existence except to rot and suffer in misery some untold number of years.

A guard came to my cell this week to deliver me some legal mail. Unlike regular mail, mail which is sent from your attorney is confidential and must be opened and inspected in the prisoner's presence. The woman, after handing me my mail, said, "Have a nice day, Mr. Modrowski". Apparently she thought I should reply in kind, but I ignored her. She then repeated herself in a loud voice as if I did not hear her the first time. There is nothing nice or pleasant about my life in a cage. Her statement was even more absurd considering she was one of my captors. I realize some guards disassociate themselves from their jobs or the judicial system, but I do not even know this woman. Did she really care if I had a nice day? Did she really think I cared whether or not she had a nice day? I do not like phony or perfunctory greetings, farewells, or socialization of any kind. I mean what I say and say what I mean, but others seem to expect me to play this facade of social etiquette.

In the mail I received my Petition for Executive Clemency along with some transcripts from my sentencing hearing. I read over the part where my judge told me he was giving me the same hope as I left the victim, and that was none. I did not know my roommate was going to kill Fawcett, but even if I did, I do not understand why I was held liable for the killer, especially when he was not held liable. Nothing in the law mandates saving or trying to save someone's life even though it would be morally reprehensible not to try. The jury was told by the prosecutor that I did not warn Fawcett, and I was convicted of first degree murder because of my attorney's failure to contest what the prosecutor said and his theory of accountability. The judge then ostensibly sentenced me to a protracted death in prison based on the apparent absence of social propriety, although I know very well he did so because of my suspicion and notoriety in the Palatine massacre.

I noticed when flipping through the petition's pages that it has been two years since my clemency hearing. The hearing was held in the state capital in July of 2010, and although I am told the Board seemed inclined to make a recommendation in my favor, I know the governor has final say. It will be very politically courageous for him to grant me a pardon based on actual innocence and I do not know how his campaign advisors will react to even granting me a commutation of sentence. The odds are very unfavorable but possibly at the end of his term or terms in office, he will not have to ponder political repercussions.

The Orange Crush continues to scour the prison looking for contraband. On Tuesday, I noticed about 35 tactical guards lined up on the small yard and walking across it with great scrutiny. Yesterday, I heard they were in the law library looking through shelves, desks, books, and even the ceiling. No matter how much administrators try to locate every bit of contraband, a maximum-security prison with men looking at protracted death sentences and having no hope of redemption will never be totally secure. It is a futile effort as is the shuffling of inmates to different prisons and cell houses which has taken place over the last couple weeks. It reminds me somewhat of the former Soviet Union's attempt to maintain oppressive control over the millions in its captive domain. Mass resettlements of Poles, Ukrainians and others to Siberia along with those perceived to be security threats, national leaders, or intellectuals to the gulags. Eventually, the USSR went morally and fiscally bankrupt and the system imploded. With the State of Illinois tilting precariously on economic collapse and the exposure of the judicial system, there is a chance the IDOC will have a similar fate. I only hope I am still alive or not a decrepit old man before it occurs.