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Friday, July 26, 2013

Extra Invasive Security -- June 18, 2013

This post was originally written on May 10th, but was apparently destroyed by the prison's Internal Affairs unit. Security personnel periodically intercept my mail to scrutinize it before it leaves the penitentiary. When they do not like the content, the letter is thrown away. They have no right to do this and despite being a prisoner, I still have certain constitutional protections including the 1st Amendment. Unfortunately, any complaint I would make will be ignored or denied. There is no way to prove my mail was taken and Internal Affairs will never admit to doing so. Using my notes, I will attempt to recreate the post I wrote over a month ago. Hopefully, it will not also disappear and readers will still find it of interest.

On May 2nd, prisoners in my cell house were let out early for chow. It was only minutes past 9 a.m. when I was lined up outside the enormous city block long concrete building with other prisoners from the first and second floor. To our surprise, between 10 and 20 SORT guards were waiting just inside the chow hall. They were dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits which had led in part to their nickname Orange Crush. The men wore a full complement of black body armor and were also equipped with batons and mace. As prisoners filed into the building, many were pulled out of line to be thoroughly frisked.

Uninterrupted, I walked into the inner feed circle to get my meal and then sat at a table in one of the peripheral dining areas. A few inmates I customarily acquaint with joined me and spoke about the Orange Crush ambush as they ate their meals. It was unusual for the SORT unit to be used to pat down prisoners. They are outfitted and trained to deal with hostile situations such as cell extractions, mass inmate rebellions, riots, or during large scale cell house searches. The O.C. was basically the administration's battle battalions and yet they were searching prisoners who were simply going to eat.

For lunch men were served a chicken-soy pattie, bread, lettuce and instant potatoes. The dessert was an unripened banana and typically most prisoners would bring them back with them to eat later. However, with the Orange Crush conducting searches, the men wanted to avoid confrontation with the heavily armed guards. I was not eating a green banana and put mine in my front pants pocket. I told others at the table there was going to be trouble if anyone touched my banana, pun intended. Although many inmates were again frisked and some even were strip searched when leaving the chow hall, I managed to escape being groped.

In the early afternoon, I left the cell to go to the large prison yard. I mainly lifted weights with my cellmate during the recreation period. He even joined me at the chin-up bar which was on a slight hill near the handball court. While there, we watched the Orange Crush march around the penitentiary seemingly without purpose. Their aimless wandering amused us and we speculated the administration had them suited up simply to use the excess manpower which exists at Stateville. Since the closure of Dwight, Tamms, and a few juvenile detention centers, the prison has been the recipient of many personnel transfers. The surplus of guards has mainly been used to beef up an already superfluous security presence rather than to support operational activities.

The Orange Crush stopped their wanderings to enter the personal property building. They were in there for almost an hour before they came out to continue their march around the prison grounds. Later, I learned they searched through the legal boxes of inmates. Prisoners were resentful of the search because legal materials are supposed to be confidential. Guards are not permitted to read correspondence from attorneys, work product, or discovery. However, despite the rule, I do not know if this prohibits them from looking for contraband in the legal boxes. A guard can sift through papers without reading them.

After returning to my cell, I bathed out of my sink and then made myself a few peanut butter sandwiches. I was sitting on a property box at the table near the bars when I noticed inmate workers being locked in their cells. Workers are locked up at the end of their shift, but it was still early. I spoke with my neighbor who informed me the prison was placed on lockdown. Apparently, the Orange Crush was searching various buildings and inmates throughout the day. In the school, prison wine was found along with a cell phone. The man laughed when he said the phone was found in someone's ass.

The thought that a prisoner hid a cell phone in his butt and brought it to school was hilarious. For the next hour, my cellmate and I entertained ourselves speculating how the phone was found and why the man was carrying it around in his kiester. I told my cellmate facetiously that we were wrong and the Orange Crush was not aimlessly wandering the prison grounds. They were triangulating the electronic signals of the cell phone. I pretended as if I had a tracking device and made a series of escalating beeping sounds which pointed out the man with the nefarious contraband stuffed in his butt. I hypothesized another scenario where the prisoner got caught because his phone began to ring to some hip hop music when the Orange Crush was there. I commented the man was lucky cell phones had been miniaturized because before my arrest they were the size of a boot. Even if he brought his own KY like Jodi Arias, he was going to have problems.

I could not figure out why a prisoner would bring a cell phone with him to school. Did he have an important call he had to make or was he expecting one? Was he going to give the phone to someone else or did he always carry it around in his butt? My cellmate asked me if I ever saw the movie "Pulp Fiction" where actor Bruce Willis jeopardizes his life to go all the way back home after a clean get-a-way to get a gold watch. I did, but did not recall why and he explained the watch belonged to his father who was killed in the Vietnam War. A friend of his took the watch and had to keep it hidden in his ass because he was a captured P.O.W. I told him no watch or phone was worth keeping in your butt.

During the evening while I was watching closing arguments in the Jodi Arias murder trial, a large number of guards entered the cell house. Prisoners shouted "I.A. in the building!" but they were not all from the security unit. I went to my cell bars to see what all the commotion was about and saw the guards quickly going up the stairs. A couple of them exited on the gallery I am on and began to go in and out of cells. I was not concerned, only curious, and continued to eat a burrito I had made earlier when a guard opened my cell door. He said he just needed to check something and I did not have to leave. The guard checked a metal cap on the ceiling where a light bulb once hung to make sure it was secure. To this day I do not know what the emergency was. I assume I.A. thought they may find contraband hidden above the cap in the ceiling.

Word of the cell phone traveled quickly around the penitentiary and by the weekend it was the joke of guards as well as inmates. Guards in my cell house joked with a prisoner who is celled on a gallery above mine. They shouted to him they were about to shake-down his cell and he better have that phone hidden before they climbed the stairs. Later they would tease him and say if he did not turn over the phone, they were calling the proctologist. The prisoner cried out he did not have a phone. "Too late," the guards said. "I.A. is already here and they have some extra thick rubber gloves." The exchanges received a number of laughs in the cell house.

I had to resolve my curiosity and eventually asked a guard how they discovered the cell phone if it was hidden in the convict's body. He told me the Orange Crush found a cell phone recharger on the man when searching prisoners at the school. The man tried to claim it was just a Walkman adapter, but the guards knew better. During a strip search, they thoroughly scrutinized him and saw the contraband partly sticking out when he was ordered to bend over and spread his cheeks. No one on the SORT wanted to pull it out so they called the Health Care Unit. While some lucky nurse was en route, the phone just happened to come out. I assume the prisoner, to save himself further embarrassment or violation, made sure it did not come down to extraction. The cell phone was not your typical model but a watch phone which I did not even know existed. Hearing that the phone was a watch my cellmate exclaimed he was right. It was just like the movie Pulp Fiction.

Cell phones have been found before without the prison being placed on lockdown and some prisoners speculated it was done because it was Officer Appreciation Week. They believe the administration put the Orange Crush on a mission to justify the closure of the facility to make the guards happy. Without normal operations, guards have less work to do and have a more carefree and easy shift. I am not buying the conspiracy theory, although I do know that despite the level one lockdown kitchen workers were allowed to work to prepare and cook the guards' special meals. Officer Appreciation Week is mainly about the food. Most of the year, guards will bring their own meals with them to work and many refuse to eat the garbage prisoners are fed. This week, they were served pizza, grilled BBQ chicken, bratwurst and burgers, deep fried breaded catfish, and sliced cheese and ham sandwiches. On one day, Subway takeout was brought into the prison for staff to eat.

During the lockdown, B House was searched by SORT and Internal Affairs. The entire upper gallery was ransacked as well as random cells throughout the unit. From what I am told, some cash and drugs were found. Just the month prior, about 1/4 oz. of marijuana was discovered. My cellmate happened to see the lieutenant bring the bag to the offices of I.A. across from the kitchen. I had been meaning to joke with the lieutenant about his big pot bust and also accuse him of skimming some for himself. I know how left-wing socialists like to smoke weed. It is probably how they are able to maintain their ridiculous ideology.

My subscription to the Wall Street Journal expired and occasionally I will read my cellmate's central Illinois newspaper, The News-Gazette. There was an interesting article about how on the day Stateville went on lockdown a female guard at Danville was assaulted. According to the paper, a prisoner lured her from a day room into an adjacent laundry room. Once there, he beat the guard and then sought to rape her but another prisoner came to her rescue. A union representative was quoted complaining the incident illustrates how unsafe the IDOC is and how more staff is needed. The accusations and conclusions of the union representative were absurd. The IDOC has the least amount of violence and the highest number of guards ever in my 20 years of incarceration. My cellmate agreed the complaints were nonsense, but said because of them prisoners will no longer be allowed to work the midnight shift in living units.

The administration's response will certainly not be appreciated by guards who work from 11 to 7. Now they will have to do all the work once done by inmates including passing out breakfast trays, picking up garbage and soiled laundry bags. Every week at Stateville, hundreds of dirty mesh laundry bags from each cell house must be collected, bagged, and brought over to the laundry building. It is a lot of unpleasant work and already the 3rd shift guards attempted to get out of doing it, but superiors have ordered them to do so. Apparently, midnight shift guards will not be sitting on their butts all night anymore, and they have their own union to thank.

Also not well received by staff were searches conducted by I.A. on them. It is a well known secret that much of the contraband in the penitentiary is brought in by guards and various other staff who work here. Normally, they come and go without any scrutiny, but over the week security personnel randomly frisked and looked through the belongings of these men and women. They were not strip searched or treated like prisoners but nonetheless they did not like having their privacy invaded. Ironic how some staff have no problem with the excessive and invasive security until they get a taste of it.

On Tuesday evening, an announcement was made over the cell house loudspeaker that all prison jackets were being collected. The following day the major was in the building and threatened inmates who did not turn in their coats that they would be subject to disciplinary action. Angry prisoners yelled out complaints and obscenities. It was still cold outside and they knew the administration sought to recycle their jackets. The next winter they would get someone's old and possibly torn up clothing. I turned in my coat the first day without protest, but I knew the idea to reuse the cheap coats was stupid. Although some jackets are lost or discarded in the summer, the amount of money saved will be minuscule to the amount squandered on redundant security. The cheap windbreakers are made by prison laborers for under $20. However, the costs of unnecessary staff and security is in the millions.

The closure of Tamms, Dwight, and a few juvenile detention centers was supposed to save the State of Illinois a significant amount of money. However, the greatest expense of those facilities is not their maintenance, but the salaries of staff. Originally there was going to be layoffs for non senior guards, but this did not occur. What occurred was simply jamming more people in less space with little cost savings. The extra guards at Stateville are not needed. They have only allowed the administration to impose more rules, regulations, oversight, and most of all, security. While little manpower has been used for operations, a great amount has been used to increase already absurd levels of SORT, I.A., and other security personnel. It is little wonder the IDOC continues to squander vast sums of money.      

Update -- July 9, 2013
Midnight shift guards have convinced the administration to have laundry picked up on the 2nd shift. Prison workers are now once again doing the work.

13 comments:

  1. Paul...tell me again: why don't you think a ton of guards is a good thing? More guards, more witnesses, less violence, right? (bad people are by nature cowards and won't do jack with uniforms walking around...). Also, from a financial point of view...what it is to you that Illinois burns the money on guards? It is the same to you if the state is afloat in cash or Detroit 2, or it should be...And now on a lighter note, a joint in California is charging inmates $155 per night for a better cell hahahahaha. Well...is not exactly better, it is the privacy inmates pay actually but, like is your case, privacy is priceless so...start charging for your blog. If you got civil lawsuits (I'm sure you do) that went bad for you, fine, do what rich people do when their companies go kaput: have someone else as beneficiay, have the $ come back to you, donate to some politician for transfer to California then outbid everyone by $2 for the cell. And to think they called me crazy for joking with inmates when I told them that they better save money because cells with better view will soon be on the market...who's the crazy guy now, ei? Damn, I'm always 15 years ahead of my time...So Paul, let us know why you have a problem with extra security especially when you could not be affected since your thing is writing not violence...I will go further: lockdowns should be welcomed by you...less movement, less interactions, less drama...right? Wait, I remember, you hate noise and the level will go up with all the bastards locked in but life in general will be much simpler. I know and you should as well, inmates who walked themselves to seg on purpose, only for the simplicity of life there...general population was just to much for them and guards knew it but couldn't stop it...Come on Paul, you know I'm right: more guards and longer lockdowns is what the doc recommended. I am curious about the violence in Pontiac CC...did it go down since they went seg? Have you talked to any inmates coming from there and missing it? Joliet was pretty open and low-key yet I remember inmates on writ from Menard telling me how much they miss their joint and how much they hate our thing and I couldn't understand until they mentioned how life is simpler 265 days per year down there...Sure, they must have had good cellies because lockdown with a madman as cellmate can't be appealing but I don't recall a single inmate telling me Joliet was better than Menard. Can you tell me lockdown is worse than free movement? What about not enough guards v. too many guards...where would you like to do your time? Uniforms might not be your friends (they are paid not to) but more of them is piece of mind for you and for anyone whose mind is on going home not starting something just for the hell of it...

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    1. joliet CC, was Joliet a zoo?

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    2. neah...Some came with attitude but there was nothing north Seg couldn't cure so no, Joliet was never a zoo. Actually it got boring on some days and we were forced to change the radio frequency to K3 to listen to Stateville in order not to fall asleep in K6 :)Joliet was as fine as it gets when prison is concerned but of course we never had more than 1200 inmates, we had a great major who backed the guards in I think everything, and we had the scary North Seg everyone was eyeballing when going to dining rooms...plus some inmates were scared they could be kept in Joliet if they act up and no inmate wanted to stay there, no inmate with brains that is and since they got none...nobody liked Joliet but it was not a hellhole (that's why they didn't like it I guess...). With all sincerity I remember one time we went on lockdown for 2 weeks and everyone was like..."why exactly?" hahahahhah we were making fun we must be looking bad if every max goes on lockdown every 6 weeks and we stay open like wallmart or something :) And get this...we had a housing unit called "dorm" where inmates would be 40 per open room...40 freaking inmates walking around like it's Army barracks...in a max joint mind you...and no fights, no nothing! and the word was that if you mess up in the dorm you bettr look out for inmates for they will get you before the guards did...inmaes policing themselves against drama and paperwork and stuff...where have you heard that regarding a maximum security prison, ei? Joliet was fine for staff and inmates, was safe, and since it worked like a charm it had to be closed hahahahha.

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    3. When government sees that something works well, they destroy it or close it or outlaw it. Why don't politicians ever have any common sense?

      Seriously, news media said Joliet was closed because it was really old and needed massive repairs. What the hell do they think about Stateville??!! Over 100 years old and crumbling! Water is contaminated and is unfit to drink, plumbing is falling apart. 2 men crammed into each cell built to hold only one. Visit rooms have been plastered and painted so much the walls are bulging and cracking, etc. The heat is not easy to control--always too hot or too cold. No windows. Etc. Hope they close that one down too.
      Why hasn't IL government made use of the brand new, state-of-the-art prison built in Thompson? Is was paid for years ago and yet it is standing there empty?!

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    4. One could wish FBI would have the common sense to have a word with the crooks who remodeled Joliet CC for a nice pricetag of millions...new bars, plexiglass, towers in the west house...beautiful remodeling...people got rich approving the contracts and doing the work and voala, then it got closed! I mean closed, you don't hear jack today about who got what for the remodeling especially since prison closing doesn't happen overnight...it's a decision not taken lightly so I wish FBi will have a word with whomever knew yet approved such an expense as remodeling Joliet then having it so closed down everything disappeared. Everything except the questions. At least Italian Mafia had honor and told you they are bad guys...the government mafia has no honor and tells you how good things are getting, for a price, then things disappear, together with any accountability like who knew what before, during and after the get-rich-while giving the fools some new towers in the process. I'm watching Columbo and how I wish someone like that sharp prick would work in FBI, Illinois area...someone who couldn't get any sleep until the whole scheme gets figured out...State's Attorney...forget it, Joliet PD forget it, State police forget it...only FBI could figure this thing out but hey they can't catch the guys sending the Nigerian e-mails starting with "your brother in Lord, greatings" followed by "I am the widow of a banker killed in a plane crash" and ending with "your very good friend." Joliet CC is a black eye on Illinois' reputation. And on Illinois media and of course of the fine boys and girls of the FBI, Chicago office, under whose watch the scheme got played out. Then again maybe I am wrong and FBI is now paying back Illinois government by locking up its governors :) There's no perfect crime and payback is a bitch...we would just like it faster, that's all.

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    5. Joliet cc (your July 27 comment): As a former guard, I suppose you cannot fathom how more guards could not be for the better. However, there is such overwhelming manpower currently that it is redundant and oppressive. The IDOC has the lowest incidence of violence in decades. Additional security has no purpose but to justify its own existence. There is a litany of stupid and petty rules, regulations and restrictions. Furthermore, many convicts are subject to unnecessary harassment, intrusion, force, and abuse. I have no fear of violence but the pervasive control over nearly every aspect of my meager existence adds greatly to my misery.

      Why do I care about the state's fiscal crisis? Because I find it repugnant that Illinois maintains such an enormous, bloated and wasteful prison system, particularly when teetering on bankruptcy. It needlessly strips people of freedom and others of their money through higher taxes. Money is also siphoned off from infrastructure projects, education, and other spending for the good of the people.

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    6. Joliet CC (your Aug. 9th comment): I was at Joliet Correctional Center when it was gutted and completely refurbished. After the West cell house was done, the East and then the dorm were completed. It was almost like an entirely new prison, yet in 2001 it was closed while this dilapidated prison stayed open. It was probably part graft part politics, but regardless, millions as you comment were wasted. The IDOC wastes and misappropriates enormous sums of money continually. The taxpayers get fleeced and prisoners are also negatively affected because the budget is squandered on unnecessary security instead of food, clothing, medical care and other expenses. The union whines of being squeezed but it is their captives who truly suffer: the guilty, the innocent, those who should have been put to death, and those given ridiculously harsh sentences.

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    7. Don't you think it is better to have a little too much security than not enough?

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    8. I always will prefer freedom over security. "Give me liberty or give me death!" -- Patrick Henry. No one expresses my attitude better than the proud American patriot during the Revolution. It is better to be free than safe or living under oppression.

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    9. Security at Stateville is beyond just a little too much. It is excessive to the point of absurdity. I cannot even buy a stick deodorant because some administrator thinks someone may use the flimsy plastic screw inside as a weapon!

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    10. You are kidding me - prisoners can't use deodorant? At yi yi, that must be miserable to endure- you'd think that even the guards would complain.

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    11. To Sept. 25: Prisoners can only buy roll-on deodorants now. However, these are not nearly as effective and I am rationing the last Speed Stick I have.

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  2. Tamms and Thompson are similarly hilarious situations.

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