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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chow Hall Brawl and the Seat Dictator -- June 15, 2013

The prison has been on a partial lockdown throughout the week. All recreation periods, health care passes, religious services and programs have been cancelled. However, inmates are being let out of their cells to work and since Wednesday to be fed in the chow hall with the exception of men confined in E House. E House remains on a strict level 1 lockdown after prisoners from the cell house were involved in an incident last Saturday. From what I am told, a belligerent guard instigated a fight with inmates in the chow hall. The story is not at all surprising to me and the guard was eventually going to cause trouble. He is well known to prisoners for his hostile and rude personality. He had a very unprofessional attitude even many years ago when I knew him at Pontiac C.C. before he was demoted from captain and transferred.

The day the fight occurred, my cellmate awoke early to attend detail yard. Prisoners who work have a special yard period on Saturday mornings. My cell mate almost never goes out because he prefers to sleep late or watch TV. While he was gone, I exercised as I typically do early in the day. It was nice to have the cell to myself because I did not have to be concerned with making too much noise and could use the entire cell. Normally, I confine myself to the outer corner and if he is asleep I attempt to be quiet. It is difficult sharing a small space with another person, but I try to be considerate.

When my cellmate returned, he seemed disappointed. He told me the yard was crowded with over 100 men from 3 cell houses. There were not only prisoners with work details on the yard but school. Accredited college courses have not been offered in well over a decade in maximum security prisons. There are classes, however, for men who never finished high school. These convicts tend to be young and dumb as well as very obnoxious. Anthony said he tried to avoid them and mainly walked around the quarter mile track listening to his Walkman. It is very difficult getting radio reception from inside the cells, but outside numerous stations can be heard clearly.

To avoid the crowded chow hall, my cellmate went directly from the yard to the cell house. By doing so, he also missed the great commotion which occurred there. However, not long after he returned, other prisoners who did go to eat after being on the yard came back and spoke about what they saw and heard. Because the chow hall is divided, prisoners were not able to see the fight. They were only able to see responding guards rushing in and shots being fired from the gun tower. Two warning shots were sent into the ceiling before a third was directed into the chow hall.

My cellmate speculated obnoxious students from F House had begun fighting each other. However, another man who was in the chow hall believed they were from E House. He was correct, although both were wrong to believe it was a fight amongst prisoners. During the week I heard a couple of rumors about what transpired which was proven to be false. With E House prisoners confined to their cells 24-7, word of what happened was slow to reach me. Furthermore, I am not a social person or an investigative journalist. In fact, to ask too many questions in prison is not well received to say the least. I have gone about my week as I usually do without pursuing information as to the reason the penitentiary was on lockdown.

The night of the brawl in the chow hall, I watched the NHL playoffs for the first time this season. Professional hockey has caught the attention of many Chicago area residents due to the Blackhawks playing exceedingly well and their promise of winning another championship title. I am not personally a fan of the city's team and it is difficult to have any enthusiasm for the sport when most games are televised only on a special cable network the prison does not have. The game on Saturday, however, was on NBC and was a particularly good competition. Wednesday's game was even more riveting with the Chicago Blackhawks defeating the LA Kings 4 to 3 in triple overtime. There were some cheers in the cell house, but for most inmates they could care less. Pro-basketball is their favorite sport, and although the Chicago Bulls have already lost their playoff bid, inmates in the cell house can go wild with excitement during NBA games.

The day after the lockdown, cell house and kitchen workers were let out of their cells. My cellmate was not too happy about having to return to work so quickly and was hoping to have a few more days off. He also did not appreciate working longer shifts because there was less help without prisoners form E House. I do not blame him and during the week a few people asked me if I was interested in a job. In response to the cell house lieutenant, I asked him if there was a desk job available. Of course, there was not and what I meant to convey was that I could not deal with all the interaction, noise, and aggravation in the zoo. The meager pay and menial labor was also not appealing. I told another person who asked me about a job that contrarily I preferred to be locked in a cell within a cell to get way from everyone and the environment here. Despite how I may feel, the vast majority of prisoners like to have jobs and were happy on Wednesday when nearly everyone with assignments was permitted to work.

It was very unusual that inmates were sent to the chow hall for meals during a lockdown. In fact, during my 20 years of incarceration, I cannot recall a time it had occurred. I asked my cellmate what he knew about it and he said the kitchen had run out of the Styrofoam box trays that prisoners are delivered on lockdowns. On lockdown, the penitentiary needs about 7,000 per day and they almost ran out of them for breakfast the night he worked. I told him to reprimand whatever kitchen supervisor was in charge of inventory because I like having room service. Going to the chow hall is disruptive to my routine and I despise all the noise and the crowds. On Thursday, another kitchen worker told me an order of 40,000 was just received, but apparently the administration sought no need to cease feeding prisoners outside their cells.

George Zimmerman's attorneys this week began selecting the jury for his 2nd degree murder trial. For those who are unaware how the process is done, it is more about cutting people the defense and prosecutor do not want on the jury. If the judge does not strike someone for cause and neither side uses a peremptory challenge, that person becomes a member of the jury. In most states, 12 jurors and 4 alternates are selected but in Florida non-1st degree murder charges only require 6 jurors and 2 alternates. Using peremptory challenges can be extremely important. It can be the difference between being acquitted or spending the rest of your life in prison. In the Zimmerman case, race will be a major factor with the defense attempting to exclude any black jurors while the prosecution will seek the opposite. Like the Jodi Arias case, I will be following this one closely. This time, however, I believe the verdict will be, and should be, not guilty.

On the 12th, my cellmate mentioned to me he was arrested exactly 12 years ago. April 28th was the day of my arrest and there is not a year that goes by without me remembering it. For Anthony, I do not think the date has the same significance, impact, or bitterness for him. I asked him to tell me about that day and he gave me a brief story which ended short. In the morning, he awakened at a friend's apartment after a night of partying. Police knocked on the door and spoke to his friend and asked if he had seen or heard anything suspicious the previous night. A woman was killed in a nearby apartment they explained. The police left and for lunch my cellmate ate his last meal as a free man at a pizza buffet. Later, he went to work. He was not only a student at Illinois Eastern University but had a janitorial job there. During his shift, the police went to the school and asked him to come in for questioning in the murder. He said he went freely and answered their questions. However, he gave no details about why he became a suspect so early or what happened after he was taken into custody.

My cellmate stayed up all night and slept most of the day on his arrest anniversary as well as the following day. When I was getting up in the morning, he was soon to lie down and he did not rise until the evening. I noticed he spent his time during the night after working in the kitchen reading a novel called "Road Dogs" by Elmore Leonard. I never heard of it or the author, but he seemed to enjoy the book and completed reading the hard bound book in two nights. I have not had any time to read any books lately and this week I spent many hours analyzing the stock market and a number of specific stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost several hundred points this week, closing below 15,000. For some time, I have thought stock valuations were exceedingly overpriced. Due to the Federal Reserve's enormous purchases of Treasuries and mortgage securities as well as its interbank loan interest rate of near zero, the free market has been distorted. Investors are almost forced to put their money into stocks if they want any type of return on their capital. However, what the Fed giveth, it can take away, and recent comments by Ben Bernanke have rattled investors who have been riding the wave. These jitters are probably temporary as Fed policy has not changed. The $85 billion in monthly purchases will only be slowly retracted next year and I expect interest rates to only rise incrementally for banks and those people who would like to put their money there.

Although I spend considerable time studying economics and stocks, I am losing interest. Most of my motivation is driven by the ability to help others invest wisely. However, some members of my family totally dismiss my recommendations. Furthermore, they are not helping me with my appeal or the funds I require to hire a private investigator. Why should I waste my time trying to help them when they will not help me? Many prisoners lose the support of family and friends over the years and after two decades, I seem to be one of them.

In the hopes I can raise money eventually, I have been writing private investigators. During the week, I received an interesting reply. The man who is also a criminal defense lawyer told me he was the supervising attorney to my co-defendant. What were the odds of that? I was not even aware there was anyone reviewing the work of Vito Colluci or Beth Miner. Due to the possible conflict of interest he said he did not think it was best if he worked on my case. While initially I was turned off by anyone who helped my co-defendant, I have been pondering how it may actually be to my advantage. Unlike other P.I.s, he will already be familiar with the case, the people involved, and what needs to be done. Furthermore, what could be better than a double agent?

Yesterday, I went out for chow and spoke to the prisoner who recommended the P.I. When we went to sit down, he mentioned how he was glad "The Seat Dictator" was gone. The Seat Dictator was the nickname prisoners had given the disrespectful guard who started a fight with inmates last Saturday. Whenever the fat black guard was in the chow hall, he was rudely ordering prisoners to specific seats. The entire chow hall could be empty but he would demand inmates sit where he told them. He enjoyed bossing, threatening, or yelling disparagingly at prisoners. I listened to the story another inmate heard from staff and inmates in E House.

According to him, the Seat Dictator was being his usual belligerent self and became angry when inmates ignored his assigned seating. He was unsure who put their hands on the other first but the guard by his actions or words basically picked a fight. As they exchanged blows, other guards rushed in to help the guard and other prisoners jumped in as well. For a few minutes a brawl ensued until the guard in the gun tower began to fire warning shots. Prisoners did not want to stop in the midst of battle, however, for fear of being left defenseless and pummeled by guards. Thus, it was not until the gun tower guard shot into the melee and hit a few prisoners with pellets, they began to surrender. He was not certain if anyone was seriously injured.

The guard who started hostilities in the chow hall was once a captain at Pontiac Correctional Center. The rank was dissolved, however, about 10 years ago and the chain of command thereafter went from lieutenant to major. Some of the captains had enough time in to retire, but those who did not had to apply for other lesser positions. The arrogant fat man who loved to throw his power around was demoted to a guard. This must have been a huge ego bruiser to go from the top of command to the bottom. He no longer wore a white shirt with gold bars and gave orders. He took orders from former subordinates he thought were beneath him. One day when I saw him doing what he considered was the menial labor of guards, I could not help but poke fun at him. I asked him how it felt to be just a piss ant picking up inmates' garbage. He pretended it did not bother him and laughed when he recognized me. A year earlier, he had given me a hard time.

When I was on one of Pontiac's large prison yards, I noticed a group of black inmates had surrounded a non gang member. In prison, convicts are supposed to mind their own business, however, something in my instinct motivated me to intervene. I was not going to allow this pack of hyenas to maul the isolated man despite what gripe they had against him. The pack attempted to convince me to look the other way and when I refused, a couple of them took swipes at me. After responding with a barrage of hard blows and another prisoner coming to my aide, the gang dispersed. Cowardly, one or more of them later "dropped a dime" claiming that we had knives. This was not true, however, they said they sought to disarm us just in case. They also may have thought they could have me sent to segregation and I would then be out of their way.

The following day, the warden was at my cell with two guards. The warden got in my face and asked me if I had any shanks in my cell. When I told him no, he said even if he finds a pencil he thinks is too sharp, I was in serious trouble. The warden was melodramatic and I basically ignored him. In handcuffs, I was taken to the lieutenant's office while guards searched my cell. Oddly, they did not even bother patting me down for a weapon.

I waited in the lieutenant's office until the captain strutted in. The big cocky man tried intimidating me into telling him who "Tex" was. He also threatened me with a long stay in segregation,  but I was not moved. Pontiac Seg had one-man cells and I did not feel punished being isolated or losing my TV and radio. I told the captain I knew exactly who Tex was, but I was not going to tell him. This made him furious. The captain thought inmates were sub-humans and because of his rank I was in no position to refuse his questions. He brought me into the shower room and with the door closed threatened to hurt me physically. Although I was still in handcuffs, I knew after a nice kick I could quickly bring my hands around my legs and defend myself. I was confident the captain would regret trying to beat me into submission. I think he realized this or was bluffing and tried a new tactic. I was grabbed by the arm and led down a gallery while he stopped at cells yelling, "Is this Tex?! How about this man?!" After he discerned his antics were futile, he put me back in the lieutenant's office. About a half hour later, he came by with the prisoner who went by the name Tex. Gloating, the captain said he found Tex.

I am not certain why the captain after being demoted was transferred to Stateville. I assume he no longer wanted to be around staff or inmates he had treated poorly. Despite being at a different penitentiary, his attitude did not change. He was not well liked by some of his co-workers and many inmates hated him. I do not know if it was wise to eliminate the rank of captain. Captains sometimes served a useful function and the entire reason of eliminating them was to reduce bureaucracy which over the years has become much worse. The administration eliminated approximately 10 captain positions at Stateville but a few majors have gone up to 9, and from about 20 lieutenants there are now nearly a hundred. How did the IDOC reduce bureaucracy or save money?  However, this particular captain should have never been given any authority and probably should have never been working in the IDOC. Hopefully, after this incident, he will be forced to resign or be assigned some job in the penitentiary where he will not be a problem.

UPDATE  July 14, 2013:  The Seat Dictator was again working in the chow hall. However, I do not know if it will be a regular assignment for him.

Editor's Note:  This post was received on August 28th. Mail must leave Stateville on a snail's back!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Constitutional Republic -- July 5, 2013

Nearly 250,000 colonists or 1/4 of all able bodied men fought in the American Revolution. The largely untrained soldiers and minutemen fought valiantly against the professional armies of the British Empire. They jeopardized life and limb not only for independence but freedom and a new form of government the world had not seen before in over two millennium. Greatly influenced by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the founding fathers of the U.S. created a constitutional republic. The structure of the republic prevented the rule of the masses but intentionally divided and limited government to preserve individual liberty. A Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to further restrain centralized authority and enumerate specific inalienable rights of the people. Unfortunately, this has not stopped government's expansion of power at the expense of freedom. Like many Independence Days that have come and gone during my 20 years of incarceration, I brood about the hypocrisy of the holiday in modern times.

On the 4th of July, I began my day as I have since my arrest, in a locked cell. I hate mornings because it is then I awake to the grim reality of my existence. Dreams of being free and a teenager again or simply being oblivious to imprisonment abruptly vanish. I feel the aches and pains of an old man and swallow a couple of pain pills. There is bitterness in my heart for a life lost and being convicted of a crime I was not even aware had taken place until months later. The fact I was deemed accountable for the actions of another who was acquitted adds insult to injury. Where were my Constitutional rights when I was convicted of murder via accountability and sentenced to die in prison? What is this justice and freedom so many blind Americans proudly celebrate on Independence Day? There is such great ignorance, hypocrisy and illusion in the U.S. today. The constitutional republic and the ideals so many men risked everything for in the beginning of this nation have withered away.

To burn off some of my anger, I exercised with extra intensity at the front of my prison cell. Occasionally, I glimpsed out through the bars, gallery bars and the bars on the cell house windows to see an overcast sky above the 30 foot high wall which surrounds the grounds of the penitentiary. I thought this was most appropriate and all of America should be under one enormous rain cloud. Hopefully, rolling thunderstorms put a damper on all the people with plans of barbecues and other outdoor social events including fireworks displays. The vast majority of Americans do not even know what the symbolism of fireworks on the 4th of July represent. They represent the naval bombardment by the British of Ft. McHenry with over 1,500 shells for 25 hours during the War of 1812. Despite the massive display of force, the British failed to secure the strategic site and later in the year concluded a peace treaty accepting U.S. independence. Francis Scott Key was a witness to the bombardment and he was to write the Star Spangled Banner, "the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air..."

Typically, I will not work out until after I have eaten my cold breakfast and watched the first half hour of the 7:00 news. However, I knew on Thursdays my cell house was first to be fed lunch. I sought to exercise, bathe and dress before chow lines were run at about 9. On the menu was baked chicken, but from kitchen workers I had heard it was going to be glazed with BBQ sauce. In addition, prisoners were to be served a salad with various chopped vegetables in it. Commonly, salad for prisoners at Stateville is simply iceberg lettuce. Kitchen workers on the feed line reach into a tub and grab a handful of the lettuce with their hand. Like all kitchen workers they wear gloves, but because they do various tasks without changing them, food is commonly spread with germs. On previous Independence Days, prisoners can regularly look forward to a small cup of sherbet for dessert, however, this year there is none. The supply rooms are virtually empty and this is just as well. Even the smallest meager gestures on this holiday are steeped in irony. Prisoners in maximum security penitentiaries have almost no freedom and are stripped of most of their Constitutional rights.

On Wednesday, the Orange Crush was in E House strip searching inmates and tossing their cells. They also searched men in various movement lines during the day. Apparently, the warden is intent on using the tactical unit regularly for targeted and random searches. With a large increase in manpower, the O.C. is able to be used more often and for nontraditional tasks. Stateville has enough additional staff now that guards with tactical training from other institutions do not need to be bussed in. It seems the large scale searches which were once performed by a few hundred SORT have given way to more frequent but much smaller searches. Regardless, I was glad not to encounter the group, however, I still was strip searched twice entering and leaving the visiting room.

Outside of prison, citizens are supposed to have protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The 4th Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." This is largely a joke because police regularly violate the law. If the matter is brought to the courts, many police will lie to justify probable cause and prosecutors will support them. Judges issue warrants often on the basis of false information or inadequate evidence. The warrants are also regularly broad in scope and not limited narrowly as the Constitution mandates. In serious criminal or even civil cases, judges will refuse to throw out evidence due to political pressures. The courts have also eroded the 4th Amendment by allowing many searches to be performed without a warrant or probable cause. People regularly lose their right when traveling, entering public buildings, attending sports or other events where security purportedly trumps privacy. The only place it seems people are safe is in their homes, but even there abuses occur including the vast collection and eavesdropping of information from phone calls, Internet use and television.

When I returned from lunch on Independence Day, I read a few newspapers from last month regarding Supreme Court rulings. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the court said law enforcement could collect the DNA of anyone they arrest for a serious crime. Exactly what is a "serious" crime was not defined and I assume it will be construed liberally by states attorneys or county sheriffs. Many people may think a data base of DNA will help solve many crimes and even free innocent men. To some extent this is true, however, it is an affront to the 4th Amendment. DNA should not be allowed to be forcibly taken by police unless it is specific to a particular crime where there is probable cause and a warrant issued by a reviewing judge. I tend to believe the public does not realize how personal DNA is and how wide ranging its collection and dissemination can be. Tremendous power is given to the government not only to solve crimes but vast other purposes.

A Chicago newspaper had extensive coverage of the city's perverse gay pride parade along with jubilant editorials about the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.  Justice Kennedy wrote for the 5 to 4 majority stating DOMA violated the 5th Amendment, specifically where it says people cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. This ruling is outrageous because the Amendment relates to people being executed, put in prison, or having their possessions taken away. It has nothing to do with the government defining marriage as between men and women.

There were some legal experts who thought the court may misconstrue DOMA as a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection of laws. The 14th Amendment was one of three amendments the North forced the South to ratify at the conclusion of the Civil War. These were basically to abolish slavery, give slaves citizenship, and voting as well as all other rights. The 14th Amendment prohibits states from applying laws unequally. DOMA, however, is not a state but federal law. Furthermore, it applies to marriages between men and women equally. What is inherently unequal are the affirmative action laws which the U.S. Supreme Court still fails to recognize.

Terribly, the Supreme Court ruled colleges could continue to admit and give scholarships to people on the basis of race rather than merit. I have no opposition to schools which are privately funded having a prejudicial system or even having all black or white student bodies. However, when federal or state money is accepted by these schools, colored, gay, lesbian, or other groups of people should not get any preferential access or treatment. Recently, I was given a school publication from Elmhurst College where my mother graduated. The school throughout its writing promoted its specific intent to recruit students of color and twisted sexual orientation. They even had a scholarship system and many programs for these people not available to normal folks. Schools such as these should be cut off from any state or federal aid. The young white woman from Texas who was denied a scholarship solely based on her race was a clear violation of the 14th Amendment. All Affirmative Action laws and policies supported by government are violations of the Constitution.

After being disgusted reading Supreme Court rulings, I had to take a long nap. I was asleep for three hours until the obnoxious yelling of convicts in the cell house awakened me. I made myself some hot instant coffee to go with the waffles I had saved from breakfast. While I ate, I watched afternoon TV news programs. I noticed Governor Quinn still intended to veto Illinois' legislators conceal and carry gun law. Apparently, he does not believe in the 2nd Amendment or is catering to liberal constituents in Chicago who he hopes will support his reelection. The veto is pure show because congress has enough votes to easily override him and lawmakers said they will do so next week. Illinois is the only state in America which does not have a conceal and carry law and federal courts have ordered the state to do so. The state congress was even give a month extension to comply. The governor's veto will be no threat to the passage of the bill, however, due to numerous provisions and restrictions it still may be deemed to violate Americans' right to bare arms.

Occasionally, I will listen to liberals spew forth lies about the Constitution. For a long time, they argued the 2nd Amendment did not apply to individuals until the Supreme Court properly rebuked them. Incredibly, though, these same people will continue to attack gun ownership or suggest it is only for hunting, sport, or self defense except when it comes to George Zimmerman. The framers of the Constitution, however, clearly gave people the right to bare arms mainly to defend themselves against tyranny. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "When a long train of abuses and usurpations...evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government." I scoff when I hear people such as Piers Morgan talk about how Americans do not need an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to shoot pheasant or to protect themselves in their homes. The man and his peers also anger me when they say George Zimmerman should be convicted of murder. Zimmerman was in his full rights to carry a firearm and use it when being pummeled by Trayvon Martin. Who is this British socialist to lecture Americans about their freedoms? In America, we have inalienable rights which transcend any governmental authority or passions of the mob. Zimmerman should not have even been arrested, yet large segments of the black community seek to lynch him without due process of law.

It is no surprise to me race continues to be a large source of division and conflict in the U.S.  In the TV reality show "Big Brother" alot of hoopla was made when a few contestants made a few racial jokes. CBS quickly fired a producer and labeled them the "Big Brother Bigots." I know very well though if the contestants were black there would be no story. Similar how the testimony of Rachel Jenteal saying Trayvon Martin described George Zimmerman as a "creepy ass cracker" did not turn the tables on a case which is believed to be racially motivated. Although Jenteal's testimony was incredible to the point of being laughable, I do believe she was being "real and authentic" on the first day of questioning in regards to her attitude and race relations. Racism is universal to all groups of people. While in prison, I have often been the target of hostilities simply because I am Caucasian.

The television news on July 4th was mainly focused on the military coup in Egypt. President Mohammad Morsi was arrested and his democratically elected government was stripped of authority. The White House has yet to call the seizure of power a coup and I doubt the administration ever will. Barack Obama unconditionally supported the Arab Spring despite how it was apparent the popular Muslim Brotherhood was not best for the interests of the U.S.  He now walks a thin line between preaching democracy and turning a blind eye to the military take over. America needs to base its foreign policy on real-politik and not foolish idealism of global democracy. It also needs to focus on its own declining republic and freedom rather than attempting to create them around the world.

During the evening, fireworks can often be seen from the prison on Independence Day. However, this year I did not see or hear any and I was glad not to. It is ridiculous Americans celebrate their freedom from the British monarchy when they live under a more oppressive and intrusive government than they ever have. Furthermore, as a prisoner wrongfully convicted and denied many Constitutional rights, I did not care to see any phony displays of liberty. After I finished reading some case law from the library, I turned on my television again to be annoyed by seeing several networks had Independence Day celebrations with fireworks. This made me give my cellmate an angry monologue until I realized he did not care to listen. Sullenly, I sat back down on my bunk and watched a nature show about American Eagles.

One of the rights I mentioned to my cellmate that was violated in my criminal trial was the 6th Amendment. This Amendment guarantees defendants "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation" otherwise known to be given due notice. My co-defendant and I were both indicted of shooting the victim. However, at trial, the prosecutor argued I was guilty under a theory of accountability which my attorneys never contested. They proved I did not kill Fawcett and the judge agreed at sentencing that I was not even at the crime scene. However, this did not matter to jurors who convicted me on my purported knowledge and lending of my vehicle. Had the prosecutor been forced to indict me of accountability and spell out how the state believed I was accountable, my defense lawyers would have eviscerated the credibility of the interrogating officer and presented witnesses to testify that my car was 50 miles away from Barrington and could not have been used by my roommate.

Interestingly, I have learned for hundreds of years even going back before the Constitution and into the common law of Britain, prosecutors were mandated to indict people of accountability and state exactly how the accused was accountable. Accountability was actually a separate offense with separate sentencing guidelines. It, furthermore, prohibited a trial until the actual offender was convicted. All this changed by liberal justices in the late 1960s and states attorney's are now allowed to indict everyone of the actual offense and defendants must guess how they are going to be prosecuted. Once convicted, an accountable party also faces the exact same penalties as the person who committed the crime.

I have not left the confines of my cell today and spent many hours reading about the origins of Athens, Rome, and the United States. While reading, I tuned into the Rush Limbaugh show. The talk show host had taken another day off apparently for an extended holiday. In his place was Mark Steyn, another passionate conservative I enjoy listening to. Recently, the Senate has passed a terrible immigration bill and it was a subject of discussion. A naive female caller presented her opinion the 15 million illegal aliens should be allowed to stay in America. She even incredibly said they have a right to be here and be given citizenship. Steyn scathingly rebuked her making point after point how the invasion of the southern border and mass immigration was irreparably harmful. Eventually, he was to ask the woman if she would like to live in Mexico or some other third world country because that is what America will become with its open door policy. Many Americans seem to have this misconception foreigners have this right to immigrate. Contrarily, they have no right and it is the right of the U.S. to selectively choose citizens.

Before Rome became an empire, it was a republic. It is this government the founding fathers of the U.S. sought to emulate and it is why many of the buildings in the capital were built in classical design. Because Rome eventually succumbed to dictatorship, leaders of the Revolution sought to divide the powers of government and create a constitution. These distinctions they believed would preserve the American Republic and individual rights. Despite how representative government was eliminated and the senate became merely an advisory group, the Roman Empire continued to be largely managed by law. Furthermore, its power did not begin to wane for a couple hundred years. Its fate was sealed, however, when citizenship was granted recklessly in a vast cosmopolitan empire. No matter how much power was centralized and used to suppress the various peoples., the center could not hold. Germanic tribes initially given permission to settle within Rome's borders eventually over ran and crushed the empire. The plight of Rome should serve as a warning on this Independence Day. Freedom and the integrity of America's constitutional republic is not impervious.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Prison Pizza -- June 28, 2013

In the beginning of the week, many prisoners were happy to learn pizza was scheduled to be served Wednesday evening. There was much enthusiasm for the meal because most food served here is bland, monotonous, or distasteful. The kitchen administrator orders massive quantities of processed turkey-soy which is then made into various meals, all tasting relatively the same. Recently, the kitchen ran out of soy product, but it has been no cause for celebration. A few other cheap foods have replaced it and there are plans to serve four main courses repeatedly for lunch and dinner until new supplies are brought in. Seeing pizza on the menu caused a number of inmates to imagine those served at restaurants with many toppings and a thick crust covered in a heavy layer of melted cheese. Others thought at the minimum it would be like popular store brands advertised on television. Although I knew these high expectations were false, they seemed to be exasperated when the prison went on lockdown temporarily and hungry men were not able to eat until after 8 p.m. The paltry little slice of pizza they were finally served was a great disappointment.

Every week or two my cellmate will bring back a menu from the kitchen. It is not descriptive and only lists the main course for lunch and dinner. Prisoners including myself are interested in what is going to be served because it may help them decide whether or not to attend the meal. My cellmate never bothers to write down breakfast due to the fact it is served in the cell at night and is generally the same from week to week. When I awake on Sunday mornings there will usually be a copy of the menu left on the counter that he has written on a napkin. Before lunch lines are run, I will rewrite the menu in abbreviated form to give to several people I acquaint with. I also keep a copy to conveniently look at during the week.

When I came out for lunch, I passed out the menus I had made. Although I was not very impressed about pizza, it immediately caught the attention of other inmates. Pizza is rarely served in the penitentiary and thought of as a big treat. A couple of months prior during Officer Appreciation Week, pizzas were made for the guards. I had not had any in a long time and asked one of them to bring me a couple of slices. He did but it was not very good. I should have known prisoner-made pizza was not going to be DiGiorno's. Since the pizza being made on Wednesday was not only going to be made by prisoners but served to prisoners, my expectations were even less.

A better meal I thought was the one currently being served. In the chow hall, prisoners were given a square of lasagna. It was highly unusual to be served the two meals in a given week. However, from the week prior I knew although the kitchen was running out of supplies, they had a huge amount of cheese. My cellmate had informed me there were hundreds of five-pound bags of shredded sharp and mozzarella cheese. On one night he worked, he brought back two stuffed sandwich bags of each type. To keep the cheese fresh I asked a cell house worker to bring me a bag of ice. Later in the evening, I had enough cheese to make 10 burritos. This was far too much food for my cellmate and me. Therefore I invited a 2nd shift cell house worker to dinner. He was at my cell bars at 7 p.m. sharp just as I was wrapping the burritos I had made for him. They were hot and had an abundance of cheese. In my opinion, they were overly cheesy but neither the cell house worker or my cellmate complained. The cheesier the better, in their perspective.

Considering cheese is so well liked by prisoners, I wondered at one time why it was not served more often. Cheese is rather cheap particularly the block, liquid, or sliced kind which I have learned is made out of soy. The administration could make inmates happy serving grilled cheese sandwiches every other day while saving a lot of money. When I broached the subject with my cellmate he explained the cheese may be inexpensive but the work was laborious. I asked him how something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich could be so labor intensive. He said it was much easier to cook food in large pots or fryers than grill several thousand sandwiches. Furthermore, although workers were only paid a salary averaging about 70 cents a day, the kitchen supervisors preferred quicker mass produced meals.

The lasagna was rather bland and not prepared very well. It was undercooked and missing a number of key ingredients and spices. For the most part, it was simply cheese layered on noodles with a little tomato sauce. When my cellmate returned from a visit, I asked him why it was made so poorly. Once again he told me the kitchen was depleted of most supplies. There were very few vegetables or spices left. Even the bags of ground turkey-soy which are kept in abundance were gone. The soy product is what kitchen workers make most prison meals out of. It is used as a substitute for ground beef in spaghetti, sloppy joes, goulash, turkey noodles, breakfast gravy, tacos and much more. The kitchen was also out of the turkey-soy patties which come premade and are served often.

Many prisoners despise the processed soy product they are fed almost daily. Some have even filed lawsuits citing the poor nutritional value, digestive problems it can cause for some people, and its propensity to increase estrogen levels if eaten in excess quantities. For the most part, though, men hate it because it tastes terrible despite how it may be seasoned when there is seasoning to use. My cellmate tells me it is even disgusting to boil because of the terrible smell it emits. However, he says without it prisoners are going to be served a very limited diet. For the next few weeks with the exception of pizza on Wednesday, the only meals to be served for lunch and dinner will be sausage, fish, chicken-soy patties, baked chicken, and a type of salami prisoners have various derogatory nicknames for. Breakfast which he makes on the midnight shift will also be limited to farina, rice cereal, bread, and waffles, although doughnuts, prisoners' favorite, will continue to be given out on Saturdays.

On Monday evening I left my cell to attend dinner. Baked chicken was being served along with collard greens, beans and rice. Chicken is another favorite of inmates at Stateville, although they prefer that the meat be fried. My cell house was the last to be fed and we did not go out until a little past 7 p.m. I was hoping to see what the news media was calling "the Super Moon". A super moon occurs when the satellite is at its perigee and coincides with a full moon creating the largest luminosity. This event actually occurred the night before but it was cloudy. Monday disappointingly was another overcast day and there was nothing for me to see except the usual prison buildings, fencing, razor wire, and 30' high wall.

In the chow hall, I sat with my cellmate, Hooch and his cellmate, along with Wally. Hooch was not a big fan of baked chicken and gave his meal away. He was, however, a big fan of the Chicago Blackhawks and was looking forward to game #6 of the Stanley Cup. My neighbors have been one of the few in the cell house to listen to all their playoff games on the radio when they have not been televised. Hooch mentioned how it would have been nice if pizza was served instead of baked chicken. Then he could have had an entire Styrofoam box tray filled with pizza to eat in the cell while watching the game. Leprechaun mentioned to him that more than likely the series will go to a seventh game and they could still watch the final NHL Championship game with pizza and soda pop. Hooch's Irish troll-looking cellmate, however, was wrong and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in Boston Monday night.

The following day, I went to yard in the morning. Pizza was still the topic of conversation for some inmates and I overheard a couple of them ask my cellmate if he could get them additional slices when he came in from work. On occasion, kitchen workers are permitted to bring in extra trays of food. It is one of the main perks of working in the kitchen and allows them to earn extra money on the side to supplement their meager salary. I lost interest listening to "The Elephant" negotiating a barter with my cellmate when I heard inmates point out a prisoner who goes by the name "Smiley" being taken to Segregation by the cell house lieutenant. Smiley was a cell house worker and various men speculated his job had something to do with his trip to "the hole." Later, however, I heard an amusing story that he had been placed under investigation for purportedly putting out a hit on his cellmate. I never heard of a prisoner soliciting others to assault the person they shared the 11 x 6 foot space with.  A cellmate is regularly vulnerable to attack, if not murder, from the inmate he is confined to live with.

For lunch Wednesday prisoners were served salami sandwiches. It is one meal I will never eat despite how hungry I am and I did not bother going to the chow hall. However, I later went on a visit and ate a chicken salad sub sandwich with some sweetened green tea. The visiting room has a number of vending machines which sell various foods, snacks and soda. Visitors cannot bring in any cash but they can buy debit cards in the visit registering center. Typically the vending machines do not contain many healthy foods and I tend to think my family finds it difficult pleasing a finicky eater like myself. Occasionally, I will refuse to eat anything.

Not long after returning to my cell, I went to sleep. Most days I become tired by the mid-afternoon and take a nap. Days I go on a visit can add to my fatigue. They can also amplify my hatred of prison and make me feel more miserable. Contrarily most prisoners have their spirits significantly lifted by a visit. When my cellmate heard his name called for a visit earlier in the week he seemed jubilant and his good mood continued throughout the day. I did not know why he was so happy. He was still doomed to die in prison. Even though he is no longer on death row, he continues to be a dead man walking. Most of us at Stateville, innocent and guilty alike, are the living dead.

When I awakened from my nap, I made myself a sardine sandwich. The prison store sells packages of sardines in tomato sauce for a dollar and it makes a quick snack when put on some bread. I was not concerned about ruining my appetite for pizza. I doubted the pizza would be very filling and according to my cellmate they had no meat on them. On those rare occasions when pizza is made, kitchen workers add ground turkey-soy as a topping, but there was none. Personally I preferred a pizza without it and considered bringing my own meat with me. I had packages of shredded beef in my property box that I could put on the top.

At about 7 p.m., the upper gallery of the cell house was let out for chow. They were on the walk outside the building for a little while before being sent back in where they were locked on the stairs. The stairs are not far from my cell and the prisoners were very loud talking amongst themselves and shouting to men they knew on other galleries. I was becoming annoyed because I was trying to pay attention to the coverage of the George Zimmerman trial on CNN. Typically, I despise the reporting of the liberal queer Anderson Cooper, however, he has been objective and fair in his reporting during this case, at least so far. I intend to continue to watch his special trial coverage until there is a verdict. During a commercial, I took off my headphones and went to the cell bars to see what the problem was. Apparently, there was an incident in the chow hall and an order came over the guard's radio to stop all movement.

Eventually the prisoners were locked back in their cells and I thought Stateville was placed on lockdown. I took off my shoes and prison blues and waited for "room service". Other inmates were not as patient and began shouting for their pizza. A half hour later, though, chow lines began to be run again. Yesterday, I learned there was a three on one fight in the chow hall and this was the cause for the delay. The fight had to be broken  up and the cell house cleared from the building. The shift commander also had to make a decision to continue operations.

It was close to 8 p.m. and dark outside before my gallery was lined up outside the cell house on their way to the chow hall. Nearly every prisoner had come out for pizza and there was some jockeying to be fed first. An older black man with a crutch even cut me off in his hurry. Unlike most of the herd, I did not mind if I was one of the last to get my food. Although guards will occasionally rush prisoners out, after seeing what little portions the kitchen line workers were giving out, I knew I had plenty of time to eat. Other than a slice of pizza, all that was put on my tray was a "state cake". A state cake is a cake made in the IDOC at Illinois River Correctional Center. It is a little yellow cake similar to a Twinkie but rectangular in shape. Stateville is sent the packaged desserts by the thousands. On the serving line is a basin where cartons of skim milk are held. I grabbed three to fill my appetite.

When I sat down to eat, prisoners were quick to complain about the pizza. It was nearly a square, 4 x 5 inch, cheese pizza with no toppings. There was no meat, green peppers or onions and very little tomato paste. Basically, it was like a cheese cracker but the crust was not crispy. Men who had anticipated a much better meal since the beginning of the week and then had to wait until late in the evening to eat were greatly disappointed. A few eyed my cellmate who was given two slices because he was a kitchen worker. One prisoner said they should have given everyone two or more slices particularly because we were one of the last cell houses if not the last to eat and there was probably going to be plenty of leftovers. In prison, most men fold their thin sliced pizza in half making like a cheese sandwich. On this occasion, they could eat their meal in just a few bites.

In the cell I spoke to my cellmate about the homemade pizzas my mother baked when I was living at home. They were a marked contrast to the prison pizza we were just served. The crust was thick and she added fresh green peppers, onion, mushrooms and lean ground beef. He said kitchen workers probably made their own pizzas with better care and more toppings. The pizzas for general population were mass produced quickly to save time. There is a rumor that store bought pizza will be donated to the penitentiary next month. I never heard of "Tony's Pizza," but he said prisoners will probably like those better.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Big Brother -- July 21, 2013

This week, a multitude of new video cameras began to be installed throughout the penitentiary. Some replaced old cameras but a great number of extra ones were added on the outside and inside of various buildings. The additional surveillance will allow the administration and Internal Affairs to monitor all large movement of prisoners as well as staff. Other than in my cell there is a camera watching almost everywhere I go. Along with Internal Affairs' network of snitches, the monitoring of phone calls and mail, it gives them almost omniscient power. I notice pervasive surveillance has not only occurred within these walls, but outside them too. Purportedly, it is done for our protection and safety. However, I only see it as the further usurpation of our freedom and privacy. George Orwell may have been off by a few decades in his book "1984" but Big Brother is definitely here today.

Last Wednesday is when I first began to notice the extra surveillance cameras being installed. In the morning, I was in a line with other prisoners from my cell house being escorted by guards to the commissary building. We happened to walk by a few maintenance men who were replacing a video camera which faced the walkway into the chow hall. I speculated the new similar looking rectangular box unit with camera inside was an upgrade to the old rusted one which had been there for years. I recalled in the spring how birds occasionally built nests on top of the old unit. The birds and their hatchlings seemed oblivious they were on top of a camera in a maximum security prison. How nice it must be to have wings, I thought, and hopefully I will be a free bird someday too.

In the hallway which went around the perimeter of the chow hall was yet another camera. This one was encased in a dark circular glass on the ceiling. A little camera was inside that swivels to look down in both directions. The hallway can be dangerous because there is no gun tower to overlook it. During chow lines, guards and lieutenants will be at the entrance or outside. However, when something occurs at a different place or time, the hallway can be vacant except for escorting guards. I recall on one occasion a brawl between a number of prisoners that went on for a long time before responding personnel were able to get the situation under control. The new camera will not prevent such incidents or decrease response time, however. It will only allow I.A. to identify participants and see what occurred. In this circumstance, guards were not certain who was involved and they checked the entire line of men for marks, particularly on the fists.

The line I was in came to a large steel sliding door which led to a pathway to the commissary. There are several of these doors in the prison and they are opened by those who work in the control room. Escorting guards must call on their radios to have the doors opened if they are not being monitored. All of the sliding locked doors have cameras posted on them. It is yet another largely redundant security measure especially since there no longer is any free movement in the prison. All inmates must be escorted by staff where ever they go in the maximum security prisons of Illinois, and it has been this way since the late 1990s. An idea of allowing inmates again to go to visits and the Health Care Unit unescorted was fleetingly considered, but dropped. It would have reduced waiting times and freed up guards to do other things. The union opposed it based on safety although mainly because of the possibility some of their workforce could be deemed unnecessary.

At the commissary building, I waited in the corner of a waiting room until my name was called. I did not notice any cameras placed in there as of yet, although possibly there should be. A lot of theft occurs in the store and inmates are virtually robbed every time they shop. I spent a little over $100 for just one bag of goods. Commissary is regularly overcharging prisoners and the only choice we have is not to buy their overpriced goods. It is not like we can go to another store. There is no competition and the prison store has a monopoly. Next time prisoners are allowed to shop, I plan to stay in my cell. I must save my money.

As prisoners walked out of the commissary building, escorting guards stopped the double line. A moment later, we saw a number of guards and a few lieutenants running down the walk to the gymnasium. Prisoners made fun of the fat or slow guards who could not keep up and had to stop and rest. It did not matter though, because whatever happened was long over with. Escorting guards told us to go back into the building and many went into the holding room with a window facing the gym. Prisoners soon saw a Mexican inmate being led out in handcuffs behind the back with blood on his white T-shirt. Although I did not see a second man led out, I assumed he was in a fight with someone and did not just punch himself in the face.

Eventually the commissary line was allowed to return to the cell house. I noticed the maintenance crew had not only replaced the camera which was once an enticing nesting spot for birds, but added a second one. The second camera faces the opposite direction and down the walk of the west side of the quarter units' building. A complimentary camera was being mounted on another building to look down the east side as well. A prisoner commented how line movement would be slowed ever more because of guards' fear of being written up. A game of "green light, red light" is already played with prisoners where they must stop numerous times going to destinations within the penitentiary. This is done to reestablish the formation of a line or double line of inmates. Prisoners are not army recruits at boot camp. At Stateville most men are convicted murderers who will never be released and they care little to walk in strict formation. On occasion, lines cannot be neat and orderly due to the number of old or crippled men, particularly in C House. Those men with crutches are allowed to walk separately and ahead of others in an effort to solve this problem.

The prison was not placed on lockdown for the one on one fight which occurred in the gym and I was able to go on a visit. Afterwards in the strip search room a particularly overzealous and weird guard assisted in the search of me and two prisoners. He is not liked by a number of inmates and his co-workers. Some think he is queer and he has various nicknames including "locomotive engineer" for the strange hat he usually wears. During the strip search, he got into an argument with a prisoner for insisting he spread his butt cheeks. The guard said it was necessary because he may be hiding something there and mentioned the prisoner who was found with a cell phone up his ass the previous month. I knew the incident may give some gay or Robocop-guards justification to examine men's asses. However, as the prisoner pointed out, how was a person going to shove a cell phone up his ass in the visiting room? The visiting room is supervised by at least two guards, there are no blind spots, and all inmates must remain seated at their assigned table which is lower than the connecting stools. Furthermore, there are two cameras continually monitoring the visiting room. One is a swivel camera in a bubble that can look in all directions from the ceiling in the center. The other is immobile but can see the entire visiting room from a wall.

The following day, my cellmate went to one of the two small yards. He rarely goes to these yards which basically are just two concrete basketball courts surrounded by cyclone fencing and razor wire. However, he may have been enticed to play some ball or if nothing else walk around the perimeter listening to his Walkman. When I spoke to him later in the day, he mentioned how a new bubble camera was recently installed on the cell house exterior to watch prisoners on the two yards. The camera is about 100 meters away, but purportedly they are equipped with a sophisticated zoom lens which can read the cards in a prisoner's hand as he plays a game of Spades.

Thursday evening, I went out to the chow hall. Inside, I noticed a new camera was installed to look down a tunnel that leads to the quarter units building. The tunnel is almost never used for inmate lines even when it is pouring rain or freezing cold outside. The administration prefers inmates to be escorted by guards via a circuitous route because they are then kept under the gun towers. Not only was a new rectangular box camera set up to look down the tunnel, but two additional bubble cameras were installed in the ceiling of the feeding circle with one on each side of the gun tower. Chicken-soy patties were served for dinner and as I ate I listened to a prisoner say how all the new cameras were donated as a tax write off. I have no idea if this is true. Last week he was saying there was going to be a big Orange Crush raid which never occurred.

There are three dining rooms in the chow hall. Two of them have been divided by a cyclone fence to permit an entire cell house to be fed separately by gallery. For years, there have been cameras in the corner of each dining room near the ceiling. Apparently these were old and the administration wanted to upgrade them. All three of them have been replaced with the new camera design. The cameras have never had a deterrence effect on prisoners and numerous fights break out in the chow hall. Inmates already are serving natural life or the equivalent sentence and going to Seg is not a significant punishment for many. Furthermore, many fights are fueled by instantaneous anger that would not be repressed by a thousand cameras. Finally, even in circumstances where there is no surveillance, there is often a guard or snitch to witness the event.

Not long after I returned from the chow hall, I began to watch a news program following the trial of George Zimmerman. The jury had been selected and opening statements were scheduled to begin Monday. I was surprised the entire jury was made up of women. While racial prejudice has been at center of this trial, nothing has been said about how the perceptions of men and women may be different until now. If I was Zimmerman, I would be concerned about how females may be more influenced by emotion and not be able to follow the law. I know very well from personal experience when the prosecutor lacks evidence, he or she will resort to emotional appeals and drama. This case has already been hyped by irrational passionate exuberance.

While watching the news coverage, a cell house worker came to my cell bars. He was formerly on the 3rd shift until those assignments were eliminated after a female guard in Danville was attacked late at night. For over a month, he did not have a job until this week when the midnight shift workers were reassigned to days or evenings. He speculated that when they are done installing the cameras he may get his original job back. I asked, "What cameras?" He said two additional cameras were mounted facing opposite directions on the cell house wall. I had not even noticed those. The last I knew there was only one camera in a bubble over the shower holding area with the exception to the old cameras fixed on the back stairs which have not worked in years. I looked out my cell bars to see if I could locate the new cameras the cell house worker was talking about, but he said not to bother. They were far past my vantage point and behind the front staircase.

On Friday, I went out of my cell for both lunch and dinner. The first day of summer was warm with a high temperature just exceeding 90F. Inside the chow hall it was warmer still and some men brought hand cloths to wipe sweat from their brows. In the chow hall again prisoners spoke about all the new cameras and whether they will ever be used to substantiate inmate's claims of excessive force, battery or other abuse by guards. The overwhelming opinion was that those tapes would be lost. I thought this was very possible, but that the expanded surveillance would be used to monitor staff's conduct if not for inmates' benefit but for following rules, procedures, and the orders of supervisors. I happened to meet a guard who I knew from taking me on hospital writs. He mentioned he quit the writ team long ago after the administration had cameras placed in all the vans to watch them. This was done after an inmate escaped from one of them and there were questions about how he got out. After a brief manhunt the inmate was found hiding in a portipod and he died sometime thereafter apparently from the chemicals, his injuries, or some combination thereof.

Earlier today I stopped to talk with the lieutenant who was standing by the door on my way out of the cell house. My cellmate who had a visit also stopped by the door and happened to stand on the other side of him. I was not paying attention but my cellmate turned toward the lieutenant apparently in an intimidating fashion. The lieutenant in turn took out his two cans of mace and began to play with them as if they were old west gun pistols. I asked the lieutenant if he was going to go bizerk like another lieutenant did earlier in the week in the Roundhouse. From what I was told by witnesses, a cell house worker KO'd another prisoner in a single punch. The incident was over, but the lieutenant began maceing everyone. He maced not only the man who threw the punch, but a nurse and a few other bystanders. He even maced the unconscious prisoner on the ground. The cell house lieutenant I was speaking to asked if that was one of my guys as he holstered his "guns". I assume he was referring to the similar sounding names we have. "I do not know if he is one of my guys," I said, "but he is Polish." Then before I left I commented he looked like the actor Richard Dreyfuss. Maybe Dreyfuss was "one of his guys".

Coincidentally while writing this blog post, my cellmate mentioned to me the CBS realty TV show "Big Brother" was going to begin next Sunday. Some type of preview which described and pictured the contestants was being advertised on TV. Like many of the shows he watches, the women are a major factor. After he told me there were a number of attractive females who will be on the show, I got up to look at his TV screen. I was baffled and began to say they were all ugly until I saw a young blond haired woman named Aaryn Gries. Although she was extremely pretty, I doubt I will watch the goofy show. There are a few other survivalist reality TV shows I intend to check out including "Naked and Afraid" which comes on tonight on Discovery. The show "Big Brother", however, is very popular in prison and I can only speculate it is because we also have no life and are trapped in a house, albeit "the big house" under constant surveillance.

In the last week, Americans outside of these prison walls have been given a little peek into the real Big Brother government which exists through the disclosures of Edward Snowden. Snowden was an IT contractor who worked for the NSA until he could not in good conscience keep the spying activity of the U.S. government a secret any longer. All Internet and phone calls of American citizens can be monitored by the intelligence agency. The massive amount of data is crunched by computers to make connections and focus on suspicious activity or communications. For Snowden's revelations, he has become an enemy of the state and fled first to Hong Kong and today to Russia, he really has not said anything which should not have already been known or suspected. The government has been eavesdropping on Internet activity and phone calls for many years without probable cause. Even when they sought to be lawful, they simply had England do the work and pass on the Intel to the U.S. Long before the Internet existed, the FBI kept track of books purchased or taken out from libraries. The only difference now is the government has vastly more information about the American public, and no, we are not any safer for it.

Big Brother is not always covert, but all around us. From what I read and saw on television, there is pervasive surveillance and it is only going to get worse. There are video cameras posted everywhere in cities and throughout much of suburbia. They are in and out of buildings, at traffic lights, toll booths, and in various other public areas. Government knows what you read online, what you watch on TV, who you call, and what you say. They also know where you go and can track cell phones as well as many cars. If this was not enough, there are numerous spy satellites orbiting over the planet and soon local and federal government plan to use thousands of drones to roam across the U.S. Military aerospace companies have found new lucrative markets for their flying surveillance machines amongst law enforcement and other agencies within the country. Already some of these drones are being used, but the sheer scale of what is to come should frighten Americans. The ominous predictions in George Orwell's book "1984" are coming true.

As a wrongfully convicted prisoner, I despise the loss of my freedom and privacy. However, what I find more insidious is the growth of an oppressive, omnipotent Big Brother government. The U.S. can pervasively spy abroad or use predator drones around the world and I do not mind. The drones can also be put to good use on the country's southern border. A strong military, intelligence agency, and secure borders are a great benefit to the nation, but this immense power should not be directed inward. This country was founded on the principles of limited government, freedom, and inalienable rights, and it should remain so. If government is not kept in check, what I experience in prison will be the experience of all Americans. Then everyone can write a blog titled "On the Inside."