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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.


  1. Hmmm. Would it have hurt you to return the greeting to the guard? Not all social etiquette is a facade. It's something we all need to learn, too.

    1. I do not recall what I wrote in posts a year ago let alone 2 years ago. However, most greetings are insincere. When was the last time someone asked you, "How are you doing?" and actually wanted to know?

  2. No one wants to know. A little courtesy goes a long way, tho....

  3. One would think that with the multitude of rude guards at stateville that when one guard goes out of her way to give you a polite greeting and farewell that you could find it within yourself to return it. I mean so what if its just a hollow greeting its just good manners to return it. From reading many of your posts It is obvious that you are not a nice person even if you are a wrongly convicted, talented writer. Paul someday you may be released from the hell you live in now and when you are you will need to be able to treat people with kindness. Work on your people skills.

    1. Hollow greetings are redundant and I despise superficiality. I need to work on more important things than "people skills," like how to exonerate myself of these false charges.


  4. I wanted to talk to you about your inmate "bobby" I am a relative of one of his victims and I would like to know if he ever said anything to you about the incident of 1973?


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