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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lieutenant Beaten -- October 6, 2012

This evening, the prison was placed on a level one lockdown. According to staff, an inmate and a lieutenant got into an argument while in the inner circle of the chow hall. The argument escalated into a fight where several other prisoners jumped in to pummel the lieutenant and rumble with onrushing guards. The lieutenant was purportedly beaten badly and one guard broke his wrist throwing punches. The inmates involved were eventually subdued, handcuffed, and taken to segregation. They will most certainly be transferred out to Pontiac tomorrow or in the following days. Since the Orange Crush raids this summer, there has been an effort to tighten control over the penitentiary. Some inmates speculate staff are deliberately trying to instigate trouble to support lobbying for Tamms Supermax to be kept open. This week, Thompson C.C. was finally sold to the federal government and Governor Quinn has said he seeks to sell Tamms as well.

Cell compliance and a litany of new rules have been imposed on prisoners in the last couple of months. Largely redundant security measures also have been escalated such as bar rapping at nearly every shift. The Internal Affairs unit has been noticeably more active. They have been conducting more searches and questioning inmates about a range of topics. A large number of drug tests on inmates has occurred. Prisoners in my cell house who were ordered to give the urine samples were informed they were simply being vetted for jobs. There are a number of open positions which need to be filled, particularly in the kitchen. I notice some staff have been shuffled around and more guards are being used to search inmates going to and returning from the chow hall. On occasion, inmates are pulled out of line to be strip searched. Earlier this week, guards were lined up patting down prisoners leaving the chow hall en masse. They did not find any contraband, but they did collect a mountain of bananas. Bananas are often brought back for a snack later, or because they are green and inedible.

Yet another cell phone was found in an inmate's cell. This phone was discovered in the Roundhouse and the building was placed on lockdown for a week. I was not even aware F House was on lockdown earlier in the week until another prisoner informed me. The Roundhouse is situated in another area of the prison and operations elsewhere carried on as usual. The last couple times cell phones were discovered, Stateville was placed on a strict lockdown for nearly two months and the special tactical unit was brought in from several penitentiaries to search every cell, building, and grounds of the institution. However, these administrative reactions may have been due to other contraband being found, including heroin and shanks. As cell phones become much smaller and pervasive in society, keeping them out of penitentiaries will be increasingly difficult. Security personnel should possibly consider devices that jam cell phone signals if it is perceived as a significant danger.

Prisoners are constantly reminded to be in cell compliance throughout the day and it has become annoying. Most inmates at Statement have natural life sentences or the equivalent. To be ordered to keep their cells in immaculate order or in exact ways which are very inconvenient is thought of as ridiculous. The new response by prisoners often is "tell guards to get into compliance". Inmates shout from their cells for clothing, supplies, health care, commissary, or simply for the heat to be turned on. The last few days, temperatures have dropped below freezing or near it, and inmates are bundled in clothes and blankets. When none of these basic needs are met, prisoners shout out for guards to get in compliance. It seems guards or their supervisors are more concerned about a prisoner leaving out a book or having a line up to dry clothes than the basic necessities of inmates.

Upon leaving the cell house earlier this week I was approached by a fat man who people regularly refer to as "GevAss," which is a play on the pronunciation of his last name. Other people call him "Fat Bastard" using the tone in the Austin Powers comedy, although I just simply call the hugely obese man "The Elephant." The elephant complains quite often and I do not care to listen to all his whining. When he told me staff treat us like animals, I told him that is because we are. I said, "Look around you. There are monkeys, stool pigeons, gorillas, weasels, and I still have not figured out what he is." Then I looked at him and said, "And of course, elephants." GevAss asked what I was. I told him a falcon which I regularly see flying high above the prison grounds. He said, "Yeah, right. A falcon with no bench." I replied, "Falcons do not need a heavy bench press to swoop down and attack games of prey. They just need strong wings, sharp eyes, talons, and a beak."

In the chow hall, GevAss sat at a table with Mertz and me. With my wing man we continued to make fun of the 350-pound tub of lard. They had served us bologna and I offered it to the big man. He initially did not want to take it because of our jibes about his weight, but when I pulled my tray back he grabbed the two thick cuts of processed pork lips, snout, hooves, and assholes. He made himself a huge sandwich which only an elephant could shove into its mouth. I began to tell Mertz how GevAss reminds me of the man in the film "Seven," who was killed for gluttony. I asked Mertz if he could not see him face down in a big bowl of ravioli having eaten himself to death. Between bites of his sandwich, the fat man asked me why I was so unsympathetic and mean. I told him I cannot help it. I was born this way. Did I not tell you I was a falcon? Mertz and I then began to discuss the famous novel by George Orwell "Animal Farm," and debated what status the elephant would have. We could only decide that at the Stateville Zoo he was towards the bottom.

I greatly dislike going out for chow and being herded to and from the kitchen. Falcons are not very social animals even if they do like pecking on an elephant or some other animal from time to time. This evening, I stayed in my bird cage and ate some peanut butter sandwiches. Peanut butter is nearly the only food I have left in my property box. Inmates at Stateville are fortunate to shop once a month and recently strict limitations were placed on our purchases. I tend to like peanut butter, but it has become less and less enjoyable the more I consume it on a regular basis as an alternative to prison food and going out to the chow hall.

It was while eating my sandwiches and scanning through television stations that I heard inmates yelling about the lockdown. Soon thereafter there was an announcement on the cell house loudspeaker for people to finish showering and for everyone to go to their cells for lockup. Saturday is one of three days that inmates are permitted to shower, although yet another privilege I usually refain from. My gallery had already showered and I had a clean cellmate to live with despite how he still looked disheveled and dirty. There is a reason many people think he has the appearance of a homeless man or vagrant. The announcement of lockdown was not a great disappointment for me. However, I did immediately think about how I would not be able to shop for possibly a long time and that peanut butter would continue to be my main diet.

Earlier in the day, prisoners in the cell house were finally given commissary order forms. Those in C House have not been able to shop for over a month and I used all 21 lines on the order form. The list I made was not easy to accomplish because I had to think about limits and the items I would be trading with others. My neighbor had sold me his gym shoes for a number of cinnamon rolls, danishes, and iced honey buns. His cellmate agreed to buy bags of potato chips in exchange for additional quantities of a product I wanted. I also made an agreement with another person to trade a few things. I assume the quotas are to prevent inmates from stocking up on commissary or to make sure there is enough for everyone. The prison store often runs out of various things. After spending an hour making up my list, I thought it was a waste of time when the lockdown was announced. Prisoners may not submit their lists for weeks now.

The man I intended to trade commissary with goes to the Health Care Unit twice a day to be given Tylenol #3. Medical staff do not trust prisoners to be handed the pain reliever with codeine in it while in their cells. He returned after most men had been locked up and I asked him if he heard what the cause of the lockdown was so I could estimate how long I would be eating peanut butter sandwiches. He told me he heard a "European" from the Roundhouse "got down ugly" on a lieutenant while chow lines were being run. My neighbor continued to say a "code 3" was called on the radio which means medical attention is immediately needed, although he did not see the lieutenant or anyone else brought into the H.C.U. while he was there.

My neighbor who is black expressed surprise that a white man could fight so well. I asked him what gave him the impression white people could not fight and he said it was just from his experience in prison. I had just watched the political program "The McLaughlin Group" where most of the discussion was about the "shellacking" Mitt Romney gave Obama in the presidential debate earlier in the week. I asked my neighbor who goes by an Islamic name if he did not see the ass whooping Romney gave his black brother Hussein Obama. I told him the white man pummeled the president in front of 70 million viewers and he just curled up in a ball like a sissy. Black people are just good at talking a good game, but when it comes down to it, there is nothing to back up their words. Clint Eastwood was correct to portray Obama as an empty chair. He was exposed as the emperor with no clothes on. My neighbor agreed Obama "got bitch slapped" on national TV and Romney was "on top of his game" but still thought most Caucasians in the penitentiary could not fight well. I did not address the matter further but there was some truth to what he said.

Many Caucasians live soft and sheltered lives in the suburbs. They are not exposed to the violence common in the inner city ghettos. Black and Mexican convicts typically are gang bangers who grew up in tough neighborhoods. Furthermore, white people who come to the penitentiary are far outnumbered by minorities. All too often I see white men intimidated, beaten up, or taken advantage of. It is sometimes embarrassing to see how cowardly these men can be. I noticed that October is now touted by the liberal media as anti-bully month, but this is the last thing white kids and adolescents need to be taught. They need to learn how to deal with bullies and the hard licks in life instead of being coddled and embracing pacifism. It is no wonder that Western Civilization has become weak and uncompetitive with the world.

The information I received from my neighbor seemed to be inaccurate later when I spoke with staff. According to what they said, the inmates who beat up the lieutenant were Mexican. There was a perception a Hispanic gang mobbed up after the white shirt became rude and disrespectful. He may have even thrown the first punch. When guards rushed in to the inner circle of the chow hall, they were engaged as well. The rumble carried on for a while despite multiple rifle shots by the guard in the overlooking gun tower. Apparently, passions ran too high for anyone to stand down despite the threat of being killed.

While writing this, my neighbor told me a guard who works in our cell house broke his wrist fighting the inmates. This is the second time he has injured himself running to assist in some disturbance or another. The man next door tells me because the guard is Iraqi he is always trying to prove himself. I do not believe his ethnic background has anything to do with it. He was working on the movement line and it was his duty to assist when trouble broke out. Most guards do have a comrada amongst themselves and think of terms of us versus them. Possibly, he has these same thoughts, but he has always been friendly and professional toward me and most inmates from what I have observed. I told my neighbor that his repeated injuries to his wrist or hand may be due to improper swings when he punches and not just an overzealousness to get involved in every hostility.

Fights occur quite frequently in maximum security prisons. However, it is not a regular occurrence that a lieutenant is beaten up. The administration may want to collectively punish the inmates of Stateville by placing us on an extended lockdown. If there is gang involvement, and I am still not certain if this is the case, that will be yet another reason for the entire prison to be kept in their cells and fed bad food. Phone, visitation, and other privileges could be suspended for the month. I speculate it will depend on the circumstances of the incident and the thinking of the warden. Because the Roundhouse is semi-isolated, the building may be kept on a longer lockdown, and be subject to greater retaliation.

In the news this week was the sale of Thomson C.C. to the federal government. Illinois built the prison a decade ago but it has remained unused. The state faces a fiscal crisis especially with looming pension liabilities of over $100 billion. It has never been able to fund the operation of the facility and there has been much ridicule the maintenance of Thomson cost $1 million each year despite having no inmates there. Barack Obama years ago proposed buying it to hold foreign combatants currently in Guantanamo Bay, but this was blocked by the U.S. Congress. However, it will now be used to hold other federal convicts.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has stated his desire to also sell Tamms to the federal government. Currently, shut down plans are in limbo due to the guards' union filing a court injunction. Many guards and security personnel are opposed to the closure of the state's only supermax. They contend it will create a danger to the IDOC if these prisoners are placed in other penitentiaries. Inmates at Stateville were quick to conclude the most recent incident was deliberately provoked. I agree there is a desire to demonstrate to the governor the need for Tamms. However, I doubt the lieutenant even if he instigated the incident was trying to influence the cuts to the IDOC. Many guards and lieutenants can act belligerantly as well as inmates. There will always be hostilities in a maximum security penitentiary.

It is late now that I conclude this post and I am very tired. I will go to sleep hoping further cuts to the IDOC will continue along with cuts to its population. Administrators and security are apparently set on increasing control over inmates' lives despite shrinking funding and an increasing population of despondent inmates who have no chance of ever being released. This is an excessive oppression for all the animals at the Stateville Zoo, especially myself. Earlier I compared myself to the falcon, but this falcon has had its wings clipped long ago and lives miserably in a cage. Tonight I will dream of a time before my arrest when I was free to soar high into the sky. There is nothing like liberty and I doubt readers can truly appreciate it until it is taken away.