You are reading a rare, detailed account of everyday life in Stateville Prison.

Click to read Paul's blog quoted on:
To contact Paul, please email:
or write him at the address shown in the right column. He will get your message personally.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Racism: Post Zimmerman Trial -- July 27, 2013

Two weeks ago today, George Zimmerman was acquitted of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter charges. However, despite how the shooting of Trayvon Martin was overwhelmingly proven to be justified, there continues to be a clamor for him to be punished. Crowds of black protesters in a number of major U.S. cities demand new federal charges be brought against him. Lawyers of Martin's family speak of filing a wrongful death lawsuit and join black antagonists pressuring federal prosecutors for civil rights charges. In a speech to the NAACP, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was considering prosecuting Zimmerman and pressed for states to eliminate their "stand your ground" gun laws, although neither race nor the statute were relevant in the case. Even the president followed by addressing the nation, personalizing and politicizing the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Barack Obama continues to pander to minorities by perpetuating the myth of racial injustice. Lies, deception, and fraud abound in America while much needed frank discussion and truth are shunned.

After writing my last post "Justice Prevails for Zimmerman," I watched an interview of juror B37. Anderson Cooper did not reveal her name and questioned her in shadow. Despite how I thought the anonymity was cowardly, I was pleased by her honesty. Unwaveringly, she told a national audience how George Zimmerman was fully justified in shooting Trayvon Martin. After a string of burglaries, Martin's behavior was understandably suspicious. It had nothing to do with his race and race was not once a topic of discussion. George properly notified police and there was nothing wrong with him getting out of his car. The testimony of Rachel Jenteal was not believable and it was apparent Martin could have just walked away. Instead, he decided to brutally attack Zimmerman and there was no question whose cries for help were heard on 9-11 calls. She had a tremendous amount of sympathy for both George and Trayvon. However, she and the other jurors put everything they had into deliberations and it was clear George was innocent. One juror held out for manslaughter, but after reviewing the law she was in agreement with a full acquittal.

This case never should have gone to trial. From the beginning, it was obvious there was no proof Zimmerman was not acting in self-defense. Contrarily, from his wounds and the initial investigation the prosecutor was correct in not filing charges. It was only after the likes of Darryl Parks, Al Sharpton, and others stirred racial passions, that the states attorney was replaced with a new and less scrupulous public official. This woman is none other than Angela Corey. Corey does not care about truth, justice, or integrity. She, like many of those in the Cook County States Attorney's Office only cares about politics and securing convictions. Just after the acquittal of Zimmerman, she refused to admit error. Disrespecting the law, due process, and the jury, she told a Headline News reporter he was still guilty. Her lackey, Bernie de la Rionda who prosecuted the case, described Zimmerman as lucky, inferring he had gotten away with murder. If they would have said such things about my co-defendant, I would agree, but their continued accusations against Zimmerman only showed how corrupt and sour they are. Zimmerman's attorney, Don West, was correct to say the prosecution was disgraceful.

With the interview of the juror over, I turned channels to watch Bear Grills' new show "Get Out Alive." My cellmate asked me why I was not watching "Precious". Immediately following Anderson Cooper on CNN is Piers Morgan and he had Rachel Jenteal on his program. I was not surprised the British socialist who has always been critical of George Zimmerman sought to rehabilitate the prosecution's "star witness". During commercial breaks on NBC, I watched Jenteal try to rebuild her character and credibility. However, despite the friendly reception of Morgan and applause of the liberal minded audience, she was still a comical, fat and retarded, liar. She should have been featured on Anderson Cooper's "Ridiculist."

The following day, I tuned into the Rush Limbaugh talk show. The topic of discussion was the U.S. attorney general's speech to the NAACP. Pandering to the black audience, Eric Holder said he was considering civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. This was a farce meant to endear the organization and enthuse the African-American electorate to vote Democratic. Already, blacks vote 95% for the political party. However, their turnout may be lackluster without Barack Obama on the ticket for midterm elections.

Zimmerman need not worry about being re-prosecuted in a federal court. His attorneys had proven he was justified in shooting Trayvon Martin and there was no evidence he was racially motivated. Ironically, if anyone was charged with a civil rights violation, it would have been the black teenager. He was the one who attacked Zimmerman and smashed his head into concrete after purportedly telling Jenteal there was a creepy ass cracker following him. During Jenteal's interview with Piers Morgan she may claim it was merely ghetto slang and not a derogatory racial remark, however, I think most people would disagree. Interesting how after her testimony, Darryl Parks and other lawyers backed away from their claim race was an issue yet now again it is an issue, front and center.

In the U.S. attorney general's speech he said he had to have a troubling talk with his son about how he could be racially profiled or a victim of racism. Ignored is how many white children are subject to prejudice, intimidation, bullying and violence. There is a reason why white parents in large U.S. cities send their kids to private schools and it is not simply to receive a better education. My cousins who grew up in Chicago were subject to racism at school and in black or Hispanic neighborhoods. During my incarceration in Cook County Jail and the IDOC I have repeatedly seen white men attacked, robbed, or stabbed based on their skin color. Stateville at one time was called "The White Man's Graveyard" and in the 80's or 90's I would have never been in general population. Not only did you need to be concerned about convicts but staff as well.

For the U.S. attorney general to be so racially divisive was appalling, but I was also annoyed by his condemnation of state's gun laws. The "stand your ground" law was not even relevant in George Zimmerman's trial. His lawyers chose not to invoke the statute which merely provides for a hearing to be conducted. The hearing is simply to preempt the prosecution of registered firearm owners who justifiably use their weapon. They do not have to retreat from an assault, robbery, rape, or other crime which threatens serious bodily injury or death. It is a good law and does not give people a license to kill. Crime would probably be reduced if more states adopted broader conceal and carry laws. Statistics support conclusions that where gun rights are strongest, crime rates are lowest. However, this may also be due to liberal and urban areas having the most crime. Chicago, for example, has one of the most strict gun ordinances, liberal politics, and highest crime.

Major protests by black people have occurred in the last couple of weeks in Atlanta, Oakland, L.A., Philadelphia, and other cities. From television news, I have heard over a million people have signed an online petition for Zimmerman to be federally prosecuted. Unfortunate Eric Holder did not want to point out to the NAACP that these same cities are the ones with the highest rates of gun crimes in the black community. In Chicago last year there were over 500 murders and this year there is already over 200. Most of the victims are black as are their perpetrators, however, there are no mass demonstrations. Apparently black on black crime is OK. Black on white crime is also fine just not the reverse. When a white person is even suspected of being racist or committing a crime on a black person, it is a horrendous evil and intolerable. Just look at how Paula Dean was vilified for simply admitting to saying the word nigger.

Since the Zimmerman verdict, most black prisoners have been mum. Because Martin was black they sided with him but those who followed the case knew the state did not come close to proving the charges. Furthermore, a great majority of African American men at Stateville have shot and killed people. They are in prison for the rest of their lives for rape and robbery, but mainly murder. It is difficult to become riled up over a man who shot someone in self defense. There are more important issues and injustices on convicts' minds including not being able to shop. This Wednesday my visit was delayed an hour while inmates refused to leave the chow hall. The warden eventually addressed their protest by agreeing to allow them to go to the prison store. Personally I think the issue was minor compared to other problems in the IDOC. However, being able to buy overpriced commissary regularly is a priority to many prisoners.

Multitudes of lawyers representing Trayvon Martin's parents have spoken publicly about not only pressuring federal prosecutors for renewed charges, but a wrongful death lawsuit. Possibly, this was their motivation from the beginning. It is unheard of that a victim's family had so many attorneys. Actually, I cannot recall a victim or his/her family ever being represented by counsel before or during a prosecution. This is the job of prosecutors. Darryl Parks will say that if it were not for lawyers like him, there would have never been a prosecution. Regardless, I tend to believe all these mouth pieces are looking to enhance their own names or pocket books. However, they will be going empty handed because although the burden of proof is less in a civil suit, there is no proof. This is not an OJ Simpson case where a retrial or a lower burden of proof will change the result. Zimmerman's attorneys actually proved his innocence. If anything, he should be paid for wrongful prosecution and defamation of character. At the minimum, he should be reimbursed for legal expenses.

It is stunning how the media, public, and many authorities continue to not accept the jury's verdict. This was a good man just trying to be of service to his community. He volunteered to be a neighborhood watchman and sought to prevent crime. Yet he was accused of a crime and despite his exoneration, people still seek to do him harm. On the day of his arrest, I was convinced he did not harbor any malicious intent. During his trial, I became convinced he had good intentions and days after his acquittal these were only reinforced. The liberal media did not give it much attention but he came to the rescue of a family who had run off a freeway. Many drivers may have just kept going or made a phone call for help. Yet, Zimmerman abruptly stopped, jumped out of his car and pulled the occupants out of their crashed vehicle to safety. This demonstrates the nature of the man. Possibly, he rushes into things or gets in over his head, but he wants to be heroic. His motives are honorable and this is more than I can say about the president more often than not.

About a week after Zimmerman was acquitted, Barack Obama addressed the nation. Rather than being a uniter, he was a divider. Rather than supporting the rule of law, he undermined it. Rather than saying justice prevailed, he insinuated it failed. Rather than speaking boldly and truthfully, he was deceptive. The president always in campaign mode sought to even politicize the death of Trayvon Martin. The tragedy was a political opportunity to oppose 2nd Amendment rights and to gather support for the Democratic Party in 2014. Obama cannot run for reelection again, but if his liberal allies fail to take the House or worse yet lose the Senate, he is a lame duck president.

Appealing to the emotions of the black electorate, Barack Obama empathized and personalized his own life with that of them and specifically Trayvon Martin. Last year, Martin could have been his son. This year, Martin was him as a young black man. How so I wondered. Did he also drive his fist into people's faces and then slam their skull into concrete when they went down? No, the president said. He was like Trayvon Martin because he also has been racially profiled. Before he was a senator, white women would grip their purses if he entered the elevator with them. When he walked down the street, people locked their car doors. Seriously? His comparison was ridiculous and only stokes the myth of racism in the Zimmerman trial.

I have some news for the president. I have been profiled as well. Yes, decades ago when I was only 16 years old someone thought I was up to no good. It was probably some paranoid creepy ass cracker too. Was I meandering in the rain at night with a hoodie on my head, maybe crossing over peoples property? No, I was merely walking down the sidewalk, nicely dressed on a bright sunny day. Because my parents did not approve of my friends, I stopped at the corner a few blocks away from my home to wait their arrival. I am white, in an all white neighborhood, and yet a homeowner thought I was suspicious for loitering. Maybe it was my long hair I had pulled back in a pony tail or my black leather jacket. Whatever the reason a squad car pulled over to the curb and asked me what I was doing. Now if I had been black, I may complain of racism, however, it is not always racism and instead of reaching through the window and punching that cop in the nose, I simply answered his question. And guess what? He told me to have a nice day and went on his business. If Trayvon Martin had not gone ballistic, maybe, the result with Zimmerman would have been different.

The jury did not think race was an issue and neither do I. However, for argument's sake let's assume Zimmerman was suspicious of Martin because he was black. Is this so unreasonable considering prior burglaries and a home invasion had been committed earlier in the neighborhood by black men? Is the suspicion of young black men unwarranted by society at large? Visit Stateville and notice how 70% of the prison population is black. Review crime statistics as well. In my almanac, in 2008 African-Americans were 12% of the population of the U.S. yet they committed 40% of all violent crimes. This data does not take into account how the vast portion of these violent offenders are male. Are people racist or unreasonable to be more suspicious of black men? Was it not entirely possible for Trayvon Martin to have just walked home instead of assaulting Zimmerman even if he racially profiled him?

Yesterday another member of the Zimmerman jury gave an interview. She was the lone holdout for a few hours who wanted to convict him of manslaughter. As I had wagered my cellmate correctly, she was the sole black juror. If the entire jury was black, I have no doubt their racial prejudices would have affected their ability to follow the law. Zimmerman would have been convicted of manslaughter or 2nd degree murder. He would be in prison until he was an old man or until he died. It is ironic how many black people cry of racial injustice and yet are so willing to do so themselves.

Another Week of SORT and Lockdown -- August 31, 2013

The multi-institutional SORT returned to Stateville after the weekend. Prison workers who thought they may escape the ransacking battalion of Orange Crush were mistaken, and the Roundhouse was invaded early Monday morning. On following days, the grounds of the penitentiary were searched as well as buildings which did not house inmates. The administration also responded to the fight by firing all prisoners with work assignments who are known to be Latin Disciples. Furthermore, only two non-gang affiliated men are being allowed to work in the cell houses. While these two men have been extremely busy, other prisoners were restless in their cells. Even my cellmate has been annoying and television has failed to preoccupy him on the lockdown. I could care little about being confined in my cell 24/7 without anyone to speak with. However, I grow increasingly impatient for my appeal to be filed. Dreaming about my years as a teenager is becoming absurd as I approach my 40's.

Last Saturday, two cell house workers were let out of their cells. Every day they have worked laboriously from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with only an hour or two break between shifts. According to rumor, other cell houses only have two prisoners working and they have been vetted for gang affiliation. Only non-gang members will work in the housing units until after there are normal operations. In my cell house, my neighbor was one of the two convicts to be let out. Hooch has been incarcerated since the mid-1980s and during this time never joined the ranks of any gang. My neighbor is in his late 40s and working over 10 hours a day leaves him exhausted and in significant pain. He has several physical ailments including sciatica which goes through one of his legs. On Monday, I was surprised to see that on top of all the work the two cell house workers do, they were scrubbing the lower floor with a powerful chemical to clean and strip it of any wax. Between shifts I will occasionally peek over to look into his cell to see him bedridden. I will yell out, "Hooch, get ready for work!" mimicking a guard. He will roll over to give me "the finger," but I know he likes his job and being busy.

The food over the last couple of weeks has been horrible. At times, I have considered if the administration has been attempting to collectively punish prisoners for a fight 3 men had with a guard from the Internal Affairs Unit. Nearly every day convicts have been fed imitation salami, sausage, turkey gristle-soy meatballs, or some very distasteful meal made of processed turkey-soy. The food on trays has been skimpy and on a few occasions spoiled. I never eat what prisoners call "slick meat" but I have noticed it has turned color and has a foul odor. State cakes continue to be served which have mold on them and on Tuesday I almost drank a carton of milk which had gone bad. While I poured it out into the toilet, part of it was lumpy and looked like cottage cheese. Typically, I would not be so disappointed, but I have not gone to store in over a month and I ate my last bit of commissary food while watching the season finale of "Get Out Alive". The reality TV show was not a true test of surviving in the wilderness and the food they ate provided by Bear Grills was often better than that served at Stateville.

The assistant warden did rounds in the cell block this week. Although I spoke to him about the delay in my mail, I tend to believe most prisoners complained about the food and not being able to shop. Over the lockdown, a memorandum was posted on one of the prison's cable stations. It said inmates would no longer shop on an irregular basis and set up a specific schedule. According to the schedule, prisoners on my gallery will attend commissary every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month. Men are hoping they will be able to shop a couple of days from now, however, I am uncertain if the prison will be off lockdown by then. To tide me over to possibly the 16th of September, I bartered with an inmate for 25 packets of peanut butter.

The assistant warden may have also heard complaints from men who were given pink slips this week. Although all workers except cell house help have been moved to the Roundhouse, a few men with health problems remain. All dialysis patients, for example, are in C House. During the week, one of these prisoners who works in the commissary building received a brief letter informing him he no longer had the work assignment. "Little Man" as he is called was furious. He does not have any money being sent to him by family or friends and is dependent on the pittance of money given to him for working. I heard him shouting to a prisoner on an upper floor about being fired and inferring it was due to gang affiliation. All prisoners who are believed to be Latin Disciples have lost their jobs. The gang is being targeted because three of their members fought with a guard from Internal Affairs. During my 20 years of incarceration, I have never heard of an entire gang being denied work assignments and it is unusual. The vast majority of prisoners here and at many other facilities in the IDOC are former or present gang members. If the administration fired all of these convicts, the prison would not be able to function without laborers from the minimum security unit.

Yesterday, a few prison workers from the Roundhouse were moved into C House. They were all men who were fired due to their gang affiliation. I was surprised to learn one of them was Flacko. The white convict was a lackey in the Hispanic gang during the early years of his incarceration. However, he no longer colluded with them even if he may have retained some friendships. He has been a model inmate for over a decade and tries to do what he can to impress any future parole board despite how absurd these dreams may be. Flacko also has one of the most coveted jobs in the penitentiary working as a clerk in the industry building. I highly doubt he would do anything to jeopardize his work assignment. Hopefully, the administration will reconsider the universal job layoffs which are based in part on old information.

On Wednesday, I was one of the rare few prisoners who were able to leave the confines of their cell. Visitation had just been allowed to resume and my parents came to the penitentiary to see me. My father is now a crippled old man with many handicaps. Despite sophisticated hearing aids, his ability to hear is very limited. Furthermore, severe arthritis has gnarled his hands, hunched his back and made movement difficult and painful. His worst physical ailment is the disintegration of his spine and a neck surgery which went terribly awry. Metal rods drilled into his spine damaged nerves leading into his right arm and eventually the steel posts snapped a vertebrae. He now must wear a neck brace and has the movement and appearance of an old turtle. Recently, he went to his 50th high school reunion and I was informed how over a hundred people he graduated with have already died. It will not be long until my father is also in the grave.

Visits are limited to one hour and I was disappointed I could not spend more time with my parents. A significant reason why I have not requested a transfer to Menard or some other downstate prison is to stay near them. Before my arrest, I had a poor relationship with my mother but more so my father. We rarely spoke in the late teens and an argument with him was the reason I moved in with my co-defendant and his wife. A few weeks later, the roommate killed a man in Barrington and the following year I was arrested. For 20 years I have attempted to have some semblance of a relationship with my father, but it is extraordinarily difficult from prison. Our lives are totally different and separated by a 30 foot wall. Occasionally my father will entertain the idea he will once again have his son back. However, I think he has finally accepted the fact it will never occur, at least not while he is alive.

After my brief visit, I was forced to wait in a holding cage for an hour and a half before a guard escorted me back to the cell block. A former cellmate of mine was there and I spoke to him for most of the time. "Snowman" told me how ruthless the Orange Crush had been in the Roundhouse. Apparently, the SORT had pillaged prisoners' property in all the cell houses they searched. They took a wide spectrum of things including bowls, cups, pens, headphones, adult magazines, toilet paper, soap and even commissary food. Snowman said when he returned to his cell he felt like he had been robbed. He also told me a humorous story about how when guards in the evening passed out ice on the hot and humid day, he did not have anything to put it in. From his cell bars he held out his hands.

Mostly, I spoke to Snowman about his appeal. The Innocence Project at the University of Chicago took his case and filed a successive post conviction petition on his behalf. The appeal was denied and my former cellmate was still angry about the ruling. A police officer along with several jail house snitches had recanted their testimony, but this was not enough to convince the judge to grant him a new trial. I asked him what evidence was left and he initially claimed nothing. However, I know his case well and skeptically I said, "Nothing?" He then conceded there were still a couple more snitches and some very scant circumstantial evidence. At trial, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. After a conviction, the tables are turned and a defendant must prove their innocence and evidence is looked at in the light most favorable to the state. Claims of innocence are thus very difficult to win unless there is DNA evidence.

My issues including actual innocence are much better than Snowman's. Unfortunately, however, I have an attorney who is dragging her feet. Next month she will have officially been working, or not as the case may be, on my appeal for 4 years. It is incredibly upsetting to watch my parents inch closer to the grave and see myself rapidly age. I realize that even when my appeal is finally submitted because it will be in a Cook County court, 5 years will probably pass before there is a final adjudication. Very soon the prosecution may argue to have my appeal dismissed due to lack of due diligence. Prisoners cannot just sit on issues forever and although a petition based on actual innocence can be submitted at any time, the last affidavit I procured was in October of 2011. Had the Innocence Project taken my case, my appeal would have been filed long ago.

When I returned to the cell, I was exhausted and fell asleep quickly despite the noise in the cell house. As I almost always do, I dreamed of a time when I was a teenager. Apparently, my subconscious mind still has yet to accept the fact I am an old man or does not want to. In my dream, I was at a baseball tournament and after winning my game I went to watch others. I noticed a very pretty blond haired girl on the other side of a baseball diamond and went to speak with her. When I turned the corner, she was gone and I looked around to see where she could have gone so quickly. Beyond the bleachers I spotted her and she giggled before beckoning me to chase her into some nearby woods. Initially, I pretended I was not going to play games, but then raced toward her. However, when I was just about to catch her she disappeared magically into a tree like a portal into another universe like in a Harry Potter film. I was not going to give up so easily and followed only to find myself in an enormous castle. She was nowhere in sight and I awakened from my dream sad. There were so many girls I had held and let get away before my arrest. Now, I am an old prisoner and I will never have another chance.

My cellmate noticing I was up began to insist I engage him in conversation. I did not want to talk, however, and told him I would be wasting my time communicating with him because it served no function. Furthermore, he was going to die in prison and everything I said would die with him. I did not mean to upset him with my blunt speech, but he has been rather annoying lately. Out of boredom, he will do various things to get my attention. For example, on one occasion this week, he sat on my bunk next to me and asked the redundant question of what I was doing. "I was reading. What did it look like? Don't you have TMZ or some other TV show to watch?" Apparently, TMZ did not come on for another hour and all he had to do in the meantime was pester me. I told him to go bother the midget next door. He is lonely and bored with Hooch working all day.

My cellmate was not nearly as disruptive as the convicts in the cell house. Throughout the day they are screaming, talking over one another, or playing various games. Chess is popular in prison and those who do not have cellmates who want to play will play with men across the cell house. They will shout out moves according to a synchronized number system on their boards and then argue about where their pieces are located. Others will carry conversations for hours that are of the most stupid and meaningless kind. Occasionally I will mock their ghetto speech, slang and unintelligent ramblings. However, usually I will just put my headphones on. Fortunately, the Orange Crush did not take my thick padded Koss headphones which can block out most of the noise.

Despite wearing my headphones on Thursday, I was still able to hear some prisoner shouting and banging his cell door. Initially, I went to turn the volume up on my Walkman but my curiosity got the best of me. Using a plastic prison mirror, I looked down the gallery. A quarter way down I could see miscellaneous items being thrown out of a cell. When the cell house worker walked by, I asked him what the prisoner's problem was. Hooch just told me he was "bugging up." I could not understand how men could so easily be driven mad. We had only been on lockdown two weeks. What if he had to do a year in Segregation or years at Tamms Supermax? My cellmate mentioned that he spent over a year on death row as the only man there. He spent his time reading and watching television without ever having a mental breakdown.

I cannot do the "Vulcan mind meld" with my TV as my cellmate often does most of the hours he is awake, but I did periodically watch programming with him during the lockdown. On Monday I heard prisoners cheering loudly and asked Anthony if Serena Williams was playing in the U.S. Open. The professional tennis player was very popular amongst black prisoners at Stateville. Prisoners, however, were rooting for a different U.S. tennis player named Vicky Duval. Neither my cellmate nor I liked her and were pleased to see Slovakian Danielle Hantuchova win the quarter final. Wednesday there was a documentary about Koala bears which emphasized how they were an endangered species. My cellmate is an environmentalist and I had to comment that any animal that can only survive eating eucalyptus leaves, and lots of them, was going to have survival problems. When he began to debate me, I said, "Did you see their butts? The fur is stained green!" The following evening Anthony told me Aaryn Gries, my favorite contestant in the show Big Brother, was about to be voted out and therefore I tuned in to the reality TV show like most men in the cell house. My cellmate was correct and I doubt I will watch another episode.

Yesterday, I found myself watching the silly movie "16 Candles." The teen actress Molly Ringwald was homely and I never understood how she was so popular in the 1980's. I speculate other unattractive girls identified with her and the movies she starred in. They were like fairy tales for unnoticed wallpaper girls I recall, or more often do not, from high school. I assume Michael Anthony Hall was a similar counterpart appealing to boys who were nerds. Although neither characters appealed to me, I miss my years as a teenager. Those were the best years of my life and they abruptly ended when I was 18. Soon I will be in my 40's and being 16 again would be my fairy tale.

The Orange Crush has finished sweeping the penitentiary and normal operations should begin next week. However, what is normal for me is more of the same wretched existence. In fact, I tend to believe administrators are intent on ever more oppressive measures. With my appeal not filed and Governor Quinn unlikely to grant my clemency petition, I am doomed to years more of captivity, if not indefinite. With a future so bleak, it is no wonder I look to the distant past. With my appeal yet to be filed, I have years of misery in my future.