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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saturday in My Cell -- September 15, 2012

I awoke this morning at 6:45 which gave me time to make my bunk bed and do a few other things before the national news programs came on and then ate my breakfast. I had bran flakes along with a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. As always, when I wake up my cellmate was sitting on his box near the cell bars. Today, he was humming to some Motown music on his Walkman. It was annoying and I thought about telling him to shut up. However, he is less annoying than most other cellmates I could have been assigned. To tune him out, I put on my headphones and was glad he was going to be gone soon. He attended Christian services on Saturdays and I would be blessed with his absence for most of the morning. This was a good day for me to attempt to avoid all the loathsome or obnoxious prisoners and I planned to stay in my cell. Living in a maximum security prison, especially Stateville, was most miserable and as much as possible I try to remove myself from it. My only refuge is the confines of my cage.

After watching about a half hour of TV news, I began to get ready for the day. As soon as my cellmate left, I planned to wash the floor, exercise, bathe, and wash some clothes. I try to get many activities done while my cellmate is gone. The cell is not very large and it is uncomfortable sharing the space. It is similar to being confined within a bathroom removed of a bathtub and a double bunk put in its stead. I often feel claustrophobic and despise having to regularly coordinate movements with another person. By completing many of my activities when I have the cell to myself, I avoid some of the conflicts or restrictions of movement.

Prisoners going to Christian services were not let out of their cells until about 9. While I waited for him to be let out, I placed my small box on my bunk and slid open the lid so it went over my lap. This is my makeshift table and I am currently using it to write on. Earlier today, though, I opened up one of my Wall Street Journal newspapers. This week, I renewed my subscription and have been receiving the paper daily. As I read the paper and took notes, I listened to a cassette tape produced by Metallica in the late 1980s.

Prisoners in Illinois do not have CD players nor do they have access to iPods or MP3 players. I have recently heard a rumor that Walkman cassette players are no longer going to be sold in the penitentiary. I am not certain if it is because the device has become obsolete or the administration seeks to stop the recording or the trafficking and trading of cassette tapes. There are only a couple of companies prisoners are allowed to buy cassette tapes from and they cater almost entirely to people incarcerated. The selection of tapes has diminished and the prices have gone up enormously creating a large demand for bootlegged music. Nearly all my tapes are copies and I have not ordered new tapes in over a decade. My Walkman is many years old and has begun to give me mechanical troubles. I wonder if I made a mistake not buying a new one while I still could.

Immediately when my cellmate left the cell, I began to wash the floor. The concrete floors in the cell house quickly become dusty. They also will accumulate tumbleweeds of blanket fuzz or clumps of frizzy hair if not regularly swept or cleaned. I wash the floor daily before I exercise. It is a habit I have developed because I do not like to stretch out or work out on a dirty floor. Also, it is a convenient time to do so when I have access to the entire floor and my cellmate is on his bunk or away.

I exercised for an hour doing nonstop calisthenics and cardiovascular exercises. Much of my routine involved not only strength movements but speed and agility. I have incorporated many mixed martial arts into the workout. At a maximum security prison, it is wise to maintain fighting skills. Fights can erupt at any time and, although violence is not nearly as great as it was in the 1990s, I am always prepared. I do not mention many of the physical conflicts I witness because I am aware my posts are being monitored by Internal Affairs. As I did my intense workout, I briefly wondered if by chance vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was by coincidence doing his at the very same time. It was highly doubtful considering he was on the campaign trail. Unfortunate, I thought, since his nomination the congressman and Romney have not taken the fight to their opposition. What I thought was going to be an election of conflicting ideas has been suppressed by an overly cautious and defensive campaign.

Chow lines were run while I was practicing take downs and a barrage of strikes for a Republican campaign which had cowardly curled up in a ball. For lunch, prisoners were being served imitation bologna sandwiches. I cared less for the distasteful food and planned to make myself a meal in the cell. After I worked out, I bathed, and washed some clothes along with my gym shoes. It was near noon and I did not want to spend a long time making a meal and simply opened up a package of pink salmon and put it on some bread. A salmon sandwich was far better than a mystery meat sandwich provided by the IDOC. I ate my lunch while watching CNN's "Your Money." It was a financial show hosted by Ali Velshi, a liberal who regularly attacks conservative fiscal policy. Today, he was attacking Paul Ryan's plan to cut taxes and government spending. He also claimed Romney's promise of creating 12 million jobs over four years was preposterous and he said he will wear a dress if it happens. Liberals have little understanding how much economic growth can occur if capitalism is not oppressed by government. They only think of taxing, spending, and redistributing wealth as though this toxic elixir will somehow create economic prosperity and not financial decline or ruin.

I became bored listening to Ali Velshi and when seeing my cellmate at the bars, I asked him if the telephone was open. He informed me someone was on it and I asked him to reserve a spot for me at 4:00 if it was available. Every gallery in the quarter units of Stateville is assigned two telephones men can use between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Some galleries elect a "phone man" to manage time slots and be responsible for the phone's working order. The phones are regularly broken or the wires are shorted from being moved up and down the gallery and shared by so many. When the wiring or phone handset/base cannot be repaired, it must be replaced with a new one. New phones are not always available and inmates can wait weeks to get a replacement. There is no phone man on 4 gallery and prisoners simply use it when open, or reserve a time by writing their cell number on a piece of paper taped to the phone.

Once my cellmate settled in and was on his bunk watching TV,  I decided to take a nap. Taking early afternoon naps has become a habit and I often find I am fatigued by mid day. Lying down for an hour or two restores my energy and helps take the strain off my lower back. Just as I put my earplugs in, I heard prisoners shouting "Major in the building!" followed by his movements in the cell house. Prisoners do this to warn others so if they are violating prison rules in one way or another, they will not get in trouble. It reminds me of watching nature shows where animals will let out a warning sound to alert others of a predator in the vicinity. I had my shorts drying on a line that transcends the length of my bunk. I took them down and placed them on a hook on the wall. For some reason, laundry lines are no longer permitted in the IDOC.

I awakened before three in time to make myself some tea and listen to the Larry Kudlow Report on WLS radio. Unlike Ali Valshi, Kudlow was a conservative economic news reporter and other than his support of free trade, we had similar fiscal opinions. His show was mostly about the extraordinary announcement by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke that the fed was going to buy $40 billion worth of mortgage securities every month until unemployment dropped below 6%. He also announced the Fed's lending rate would be kept at zero until 2015. The news immediately caused the stock market to soar along with prices of gold, oil and other commodities. The massive and open-ended printing of money meant a devaluation of the dollar and inflation. The extremely low interest rates will cause investors to seek yield in places other than customary savings banks. Kudlow was very critical of fed policy. This will be the third round of quantitative easing and each round produces less stimulus and diminished returns while undermining the value of currency. Americans' purchasing power will be lost at a time when those who have jobs have reduced salaries. It also distorts the markets incentivizing consumption while punishing those who save. The true solution to America's economic woes is not more monetary stimulus but structural reform of fiscal policy at the executive and legislative level. Banks and large businesses were already flush with cash but did not want to use it. Businesses and individuals did not want to borrow money for homes or enterprise or they would have already. With the possibility of another recession and another Barack Obama presidency, there is little desire to take on additional risk. There is no sustained demand despite the president's economic stimulus gimmicks or the feds. On the Larry Kudlow Report as well as many other news programs there was suspicion cast on the fed for giving the market a "sugar high" to bolster Obama's reelection. There was also suspicion the extreme measures taken by the fed were done out of desperation. The Fed would have never acted in such an unprecedented way unless they believed the economic situation was very dire.

During the second hour of the Larry Kudlow Report, I began to try to reach someone at home. No one was answering and I suspected my father was outside working in the garden or involved in some other task while my mother was away. Finally, at about five my mother picked up the phone and accepted my collect call. She had just returned from a social gathering. My sister's birthday is coming up and friends decided to celebrate a few days early. I spoke to my mother for about an hour. The noise in the cell house was great and I tried to cover the phone so she could hear me. I also pressed a button on the phone to make her voice louder so I could hear her. Fortunately, the phone was working properly and I did not have to hold any shorts in the wire together as we spoke.

Apparently, while I was talking on the phone I was distracted and missed chow lines going out. Usually, chow is announced on the loudspeaker but it was not today. I heard doors being opened and slammed shut but I thought it was for showers or insulin lines. Ever since hypodermic needles went missing and were found during Orange Crush searches, men have been sent to the Health Care Unit rather than a nurse coming to their cells. Someone  told me the reason is more a lack of staff and it is easier to have those who take insulin come to the prison hospital rather than have nurses make rounds, however, I am not certain of the truth. There is a shortage of medical staff but there are also increasing security concerns.

I did not miss anything worthwhile at the chow hall. For dinner, prisoners were being served chili made with turkey-soy. Processed turkey-soy is used to make most of the meals served here and despite the various seasonings kitchen workers have at their disposal to disguise the taste, it is still disagreeable. If I had gone out, it would only have been to gather some bread and possibly a milk. Tonight, I will eat more peanut butter sandwiches and cereal. Without the milk, I will eat the cereal dry and it will be my substitute for popcorn at the theatre.

I plan to stay up to watch the move "Robin Hood" which is being broadcast on a cable station. This Robin Hood is the newest version and it stars actor Russell Crow. The theme has greater depth and is different from prior films. Rather than it being a movie of a thief stealing from the rich to give to the poor, it is about freedom over tyranny. King Richard the Lionheart after years of battle in the crusades, is killed in battle and his son takes over the reign of power in England. The monarchy faces huge deficits and to raise money the new king imposes oppressive taxation. A ruthless man is hired to collect the taxes from the nobles of Northern England and slaughters those who do not pay. When it is learned the French plan to invade, the king seeks the help of the wealthy land owners but they scoff at the man who brutally oppressed and taxed them. The king was made to promise justice, liberty, and less taxation in the form of a charter. I like this movie because it reminded me of Barack Obama who touts himself as a Robin Hood, although he is more like the tyrant king in the film.

Showers are currently being run on my gallery and I am again pleased to be without a cellmate. Bobby spends a long time in the shower or waiting area talking to Chub and washing clothes. He will wash several articles of clothing with bar soap and rinse them out under a shower. Showers are for many prisoners a time to socialize and wash clothes. I have already bathed and my clothes, as well as shoes, have already dried by fan. I noticed the soles of my gym shoes are coming apart and I will have to reglue them. That will be a task for tomorrow.

Nearly every Saturday at 6:30 p.m. I will watch the PBS program "The McLaughlin Group." One of my favorite political commentators and former presidential candidates is usually a guest. I am looking forward to seeing what Pat Buchanan has to say about protests and assaults upon American embassies across the Middle East and North Africa. It is ridiculous to me the U.S. has a foreign policy of creating democracies throughout the area as if somehow this would be advantageous to America. All I see is destabilization and the possibility of Islamic groups hostile to the west seizing power. Ironic how Barack Obama dares to say Mitt Romney shoots first and aims second. I also find it ironic how America goes abroad to give freedom to the world while liberty is stripped within. Another point of irony is the billions of dollars given to enemy states while the U.S. is crippled with over $16 trillion in debt. I am sure there will be agreement by Pat Buchanan.

Spending the day in my cell has diminished many of the unpleasantries and distractions that come with living in prison. I have largely been successful in blocking out Stateville and those incarcerated here to concentrate on various other activities and thoughts. I worked out, washed clothes, read two newspapers, spoke with my family, and wrote this blog entry. Later tonight, I will escape again while watching a movie on TV. Oftentimes, prison leaves me very miserable and I dwell on my injustice. However, on days I can isolate myself, I can be more productive and feel better. Hopefully, there are more Saturdays like this one.


  1. Just discovered your blog tonight as a link on the Chicago Reader site. I once visited Statesville on a field trip durring a college course. Squated in the electric chair and was shown some "famous" inmates like Richard Speck, and Hurrican Carter (from the Bob Dylan Ballad).

    I'll be back to browse your blog....

  2. "Kudlow was a conservative economic news reporter and other than his support of free trade, we had similar fiscal opinions. "

    You don't believe in free trade? NAFTA?

    1. The free trade pact was fine with Canada but not Mexico. These agreements should only be made with countries who have the same standards of living, consumer safety laws, and well regulated free market economies. I think Ross Perot made the best arguments against NAFTA and they are still pertinent today. He may have lost the 1992 election, but he was the best presidential candidate.

    2. Free trade has helped ruin the USA

    3. I agree with you,Paul. NAFTA has helped companies send more jobs to Mexico. It really is too sad.

  3. You don't watch Saturday morning cartoons?

  4. The gallery phone man sounds like a stressful job. Probably has everyone yelling at him.

  5. NAFTA was a bad idea.


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