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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reducing Spending and Prison Population -- March 29, 2014

My attorney spoke with lawyers at the Illinois Innocence Project. According to what I was informed, they were primarily interested in the DNA aspect of my case. Blood was found in my friend's car with whom I shared an apartment. Before my trial in 1995, it was unable to be identified. If it is the victim's blood, it will provide additional proof I did not lend him my car. Requesting the evidence to be retested with new technology is very simple and I will be greatly disappointed if this is the only assistance they are willing to provide. Without comprehensive legal and investigative help, my appeal is doomed to be delayed many more years. Ironically, it may be the state's enormous and growing debt that will cause my release rather than any court adjudication. However, waiting for politicians to have the courage to make necessary budgetary cuts is little consolation. Already I have lost the best decades of my life and Democrats prefer to raise taxes than prevent financial ruin.

Over the weekend, I spoke to my mother. There are telephones on each of the cell house galleries that prisoners can use from 9 a.m. to a little after 9 p.m. My first call was dropped and because she does not have a cell phone, I assume it was due to old prison lines or the new telephone service "Securus". During the 2nd call, I did not have any problems and spoke to my mother about my first post conviction appeal which was dismissed because the lawyer failed to attach affidavits of witnesses who were present to testify that my car was 50 miles away from the crime scene, but were never called to the stand. An issue I plan to raise on a successive post conviction petition is ineffective assistance of trial counsel. However, I must raise it in combination with ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Unfortunately, my mother was unable to find the original document where Richard Cunningham had forged my signature.

Sunday, I brooded most of the day about my legal struggles. The attorney I have seems terribly unmotivated or lacking the skills to put together my appeal. The IIP and others seem unwilling to give the help and resources I need. I have become estranged to most of my family over two decades and those few I still have contact with are largely apathetic. Despite this blog, I am basically on my own. It may be up to me to gain the additional affidavits I require, write, and file my petition myself. From inside a maximum security penitentiary, this will be exceptionally difficult to do. At night, I watched a reality TV show on the Discovery channel called "Naked and Afraid". It is where a man and woman are released into the wilderness with no clothes and basically no supplies to fend for themselves 21 days. This reminded me of myself except I do not have a naked female to keep me company and instead of 21 days, it has been 21 years.

The following morning after exercising I bathed and then sewed some of my clothes which were falling apart. The water which dribbled from my sink was cold and I cannot remember the last time I had a nice, hot shower. Prisoners at Stateville are permitted to shower two or three times a week if there is no lockdown. However, the water typically is tepid and has such low pressure a person must almost stand against the slimy walls to get wet. Despite getting a couple of new pairs of socks and boxers earlier in the month, I continue to have underclothes with holes in them or where the seams are coming undone. While sewing these tears, I thought I was probably fortunate to have any clothes with the IDOC trying to save money.

Towards noon, I heard prisoners yell "I.A. in the building!" Men always warn others in the cell house when the security unit enters despite what their purpose is. Later, I was surprised when one member of Internal Affairs came to my cell. He asked me if I could take a piss. I.A. regularly conducts drug tests to vet prisoners for jobs or to keep drug use under control. In my opinion, it is a much better tactic than ransacking cells and I do not mind taking the test. However, I had just a moment earlier urinated. The corrections officer was understanding and said he would just come back later. An hour passed and I began to doze off before he returned. Recently, I have been very lethargic and it may be due to fighting off cold viruses. My cellmate and other prisoners have been sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. Groggily, I got up off my bunk where I had been laying down and managed to fill the cup a third of the way. This was sufficient to conduct the test and after it showed I was clean, I covered myself in a blanket and went to sleep.

In the late afternoon, mail was passed out to prisoners. My cellmate received a few newspapers that I later perused. The March 20th News Gazette had an article that will be of interest to about a hundred men in the IDOC. The IL Supreme Court ruled the U.S. Supreme Court decision barring juvenile offenders from receiving mandatory LWOP was retroactive and required them to have new sentencing hearings. The decision was interestingly brought to the court by a prisoner I know at Stateville who goes by the name "Spooncake". Spooncake is 37 years old and was convicted of a 1990 robbery and double homicide. At the time, he was only 14 and despite only being a look-out was tried as an adult and automatically given LWOP. Prisoners seem to believe he will be released next month, however, many others may not be as fortunate. The Illinois Supreme Court ruling permits judges to re-sentence juvenile offenders to life without parole as long as they consider their culpability, mitigation, and their conduct in prison.

Even if all the juveniles given a mandatory LWOP sentence were released, it would not put a dent in the growing number of prisoners in the IDOC. There are about 50,000 people incarcerated in the state and approximately 10% will never be released. In the past three decades, a vast array of draconian criminal statutes has been made law. This expansive web ensnares more and more of the public and there is little to nothing being proposed by state legislators to retract it. Thus, I found it greatly ironic when I read in another newspaper that IDOC Director Tony Godinez warned of dire consequences if the 2011 tax hike was allowed to expire. According to him, a 20% cut to the Department of Corrections will be "nothing short of disastrous" and force the closure of 11 prisons and the release of 15, 500 convicts. I think the director is using scare tactics and exaggerating, however, even if true, it should have been done long ago.

Tuesday morning, I went to one of the penitentiary's small yards. It was partly sunny, but breezy with a 20 degree wind chill. The cold did not bother me unlike the small perimeter and crowd of prisoners. To bench press I had to wait in a long line and thus began to do chin ups and run narrow circles between sets. Occasionally while running, I bumped into Fat Jimmy so he would bounce off the cyclone fence. I do not know what to make of him since I learned about his first murder conviction. Generally, I just pick on him. Prisoners were kept on the yard for 2 hours and I worked out the entire time except to briefly talk with Bone. The biker has extreme liver damage and told me he was going back to the Health Care Unit after the rec period.

Many prisoners at Stateville are old and have numerous health problems. It is probably why the Illinois legislature continues to contemplate a "25/50 law". If this legislation would ever be voted upon and passed, prisoners who are 50 years or older and have done a minimum of 25 years would be eligible for parole. A number of convicts are excited by the possibility and I like bursting their bubbles. I tell them that even if the law were passed, the Prisoner Review Board will never let them out until they are close to death and their health care costs are through the roof. Furthermore, the law is mostly intended to give inmates the illusion of hope so they will behave despite having a protracted death sentence.

In my Barron's newspapers, I have been following a biotech company called Gilead Science. It is a stock I recommended that my family buy several years ago before the price skyrocketed. The company was the first to discover a cure for hepatitis C and is selling its designer drug Sovaldi for a high premium. I was wondering if the IDOC will be forced to buy it to treat its nearly 4,000 prisoners who have the disease. The cost of treating one person is between $60,000 and $120,000. The health care provider, Wexford, is going to balk at paying some $350 million and where is Illinois which is wallowing in debt going to get the money?

For dinner, fried chicken was being served. The meal brought many prisoners out of their cells including myself. Over a decade ago, men were given a choice of a breast and a wing or a thigh and a leg. However, this was ended due to the cost of white meat and prisoners only get dark meat now. While eating, my neighbor mentioned that the DVD being played in the evening was "Long Kiss Goodnight". He was disappointed it was an old movie and there was no nudity. My cellmate chimed in that if he could not see Geena Davis naked, there was no reason to watch it. After writing a letter, however, I watched the movie. My favorite part of the film is where Davis tells her young daughter: "Quit crying and toughen up. Life is nothing but pain."

On Wednesday, I received a visit from my mother. She had yet to find the post conviction appeal that I needed to prove my attorney forged my signature as well as other documents I wanted to give the IIP if they decided to help and do more than file a forensic evidence test. Also during the visit I was told my attorney lied to my mother about sending me segments of the appeal she completed. I questioned if they even existed. Although I ridicule prisoners for waiting on a 25/50 law, it may be me that it will apply to in 11 years.

Although I returned from my visit at 2:30, I remained in the cell house holding cage until 3:30. I was bored and began to razz the prisoners in the cells across from me. I began by telling Chub that he reminded me of the cartoon character "Cleveland" in Family Guy. He did not like being the butt of my jokes and went to the back of his cell whereupon his cellmate Steve came to the bars. I told "Zipperhead" he needs some new hair implants or a wig. Possibly he could get a donation from "Locks of Love" or his neighbor Fat Jimmy. Jimmy is growing his hair out and now looks a bit like New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Still not entertained, I asked a guard if he needed help sorting the mail and then made fun of him for bringing a bar of Dove soap to work.

A semi-insane Hispanic man with a bald head was in the holding cage with me. He seemed unstable and occasionally made twitching movements. I asked him if he came from the Psych ward, but was told the Roundhouse. When I was finally locked in my cell, Anthony told me a half dozen people were sent to gate 5 to hear disciplinary tickets written in the last week for things ranging from having medically ordered shower shoes to an electric razor missing its motor. Most of the tickets were dismissed but two prisoners were sent to Segregation. I speculated the nut case in the holding cage was going to fill one of these 2 bunks. With the IDOC bursting out at the seams, bunk space was immediately filled.

Because I had been on a visit, I missed Governor Pat Quinn's state budget address. On the PBS broadcast "Chicago Tonight" I had to get news clips and commentary about it. As I suspected, the governor intends on keeping the income tax hike and in fact making it permanent although it was only supposed to be temporary. He claims not maintaining the tax would be irresponsible and cause "cuts that will starve our schools and result in mass teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and higher property taxes." Despite the growing debt and liabilities the state faces, he proposes to yet again increase the budget by 4% to $37 billion. (Update: May 2014-- House Democrats are seeking a $38 billion budget.) Of course, fellow Democrat and House majority leader Michael Madigan praised the plan and will quickly bring it to a vote before the general election in November when his party may lose its super majority in congress and the governor's office.

The Republican response to the governor's budget proposal was highly critical. Bruce Rauner made a strongly worded statement rebuking the budget and Quinn's 5 years of "failed leadership". He called attention to the fact that despite increased taxes and government spending, the state continues to have outrageously high unemployment and debt. Furthermore, massive cuts to education have occurred under his administration without using any of the new money at his disposal. Four years ago, the state spent $27 billion annually and it has grown exponentially while Democrats have been in control. Illinois has nothing to show for this except the second highest unemployment rate and lowest credit rating thanks to billions in unpaid bills. Medicaid continues to drain revenues due to extensive fraud and inefficiencies. Pension liabilities also continue to weigh on the state's finances and if the state supreme court rules last year's curtailment of benefits is unconstitutional, Illinois will face financial collapse.

For breakfast Thursday, prisoners were served pineapple yogurt, generic Cheerios, and a croissant. I was stunned to see a croissant on my Styrofoam tray and in my 21 years of incarceration I cannot recall the rich crescent shaped bread roll being given to inmates. Breakfast has been considerably better recently with not only yogurt and croissants but French toast and crumb cake. A few of prisoner's lunch and dinner meals have also been improved. Most of this food was donated to the penitentiary, but I wondered if I had Huffington Post writer Kristin Hunt to thank for bringing attention to the horrendous food served inmates. In January, she printed an article entitled "Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Prison Food."

The founder of the online newspaper Arianna Huffington was once very active in politics and appeared on many programs including "The McLaughlin Group" which I watch weekly. However, she abruptly disappeared from news media forums. I did not know why until last week when my cellmate told me she was on the Ellen Degeneres Show. I never watch Degeneres, but did so to see what her guest had to say. Arianna Huffington was promoting her new book "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well Being, Wisdom and Wonder." Apparently, although she continues to lead meetings at her Internet news agency, she has re-prioritized her ambitions.

Thursday, prisoners in C House had another "recreation" period. Once again, I went out and was hoping the bad weather would dissuade others from going to the yard. The temperature had increased from earlier in the week, but there were strong winds and freezing rain. To deal with these elements, I put a large, clear plastic garbage bag over my body by tearing holes for my head and arms. Only about 15 prisoners went to the yard including The Elephant who occasionally talked to me. I was told about an inmate he met named Carl Moss who was beaten up at Joliet Correctional Center because he filed a complaint against a guard who was stealing from the personal property building. The guard asked the Latin Kings to retaliate on his behalf and they gave the task to a muscular Caucasian prisoner. While in the shower room, he attacked Moss and his injuries were so great he spent a little time in the infirmary. What the Elephant did not know was that I already knew the entire story. I was at that prison at the time and the man who beat up Carl was someone I regularly lifted weights with. I scolded him for being a tool for the Kings, but he told me it was because the old man was a pedophile. Later, he conceded it was a bonus. He wanted to pummel the child molester anyway and the Kings gave him an extra incentive.

In the evening, I watched the Wisconsin Badgers defeat the Baylor Bears in the NCAA basketball tournament. I am hoping they go to the finals and are crowned national champions. While watching the game, a gallery worker stopped by my cell and dispirited my mood. He told me Chino had died the night prior in the Health Care Unit. Chino was my neighbor for a period of time and I had gotten to know him fairly well. Last year, he was diagnosed with ALS and he quickly deteriorated thereafter. Word from the H.C.U. was towards the end he was in great pain and died from suffocation when he lost lung function. In the last year, 10 prisoners have died at Stateville from health issues or suicide.

Yesterday I spent the day in the cell quietly reading and writing. I did not speak to anyone until mid-afternoon. After taking a nap, I was still in an anti-social mood. Many times it takes me a little while to adjust to my prison environment and the stark reality. My cellmate, however, was apparently feeling better and sought to annoy me. He jumped off the upper bunk and said, "What's up douche bag?!"  I was folding up a blanket at the time and I undid it to toss over his head and punch him. I did not mean to hit him hard, but I used more force than I had intended to. Later, Anthony was asking me questions like how much do I hate him, although I think mostly in jest. I do not hate my cellmate. I hate the system and the people who have sent me here to suffer and slowly die.

The State of Illinois is billions of dollars in debt and eventually politicians are going to be forced to make cuts. The question is not "if" but "when". Democrats would like to continue down the same path to financial ruin for as long as possible. Their motto is tax & spend. Under their leadership, I do not see the prison industrial complex ever being dismantled. Fiscal conservatives, however, have made it their first priority to solve the state's budgetary crisis. Bruce Rauner has run on a campaign of shaking up Springfield and I believe he will attempt to do so. Growing the economy and all types of yet unnamed spending cuts to make Illinois financially sound will be on his agenda including the DOC. Every dime has already been squeezed from prisoners and their rehabilitation. All that is left is the bloated guards' union and prison population. Contrary to the opinion of Director Godinez, I think the sooner this is done the better. I am not getting any younger.


  1. I support your case Paul.

    But about the food, you have commissary food. 1 in 6 kids is hungry.

    And I run out of food to pay the rent at start of month. Not so easy to find a good job. Have to eat while sending out resumes.

    1. You seem to think prisoners have easy access to the commissary! Quite often Paul has mentioned that prisoners don't get to go very often, especially while on lockdown or some other kind of punishment. Yes, prisoners are fed at least twice a day, but the food portions are small, not healthy or not properly cooked. Sometimes prison food makes many of them very sick because it is spoiled or improperly cooked. What's worse? Having no food or food that will sicken you?

    2. When I read that prisoners got all excited to learn pizza was being served and they only got one small piece, I couldn't believe it ! Full grown men got a "dinner" that consisted of one small square of pizza? Gee, my husband eats more than half of a large pizza and he's not a very big man. If I served him one small slice and called it dinner, he'd be very upset.

      Its surprising to learn some prisoners are fat, such as the man known as "The Elephant"--don't know how that can happen with so little food being served them.

  2. You say that you are not in touch with most of your family members. Do you reach out to them? Do they believe you are innocent?

    1. Yeah. If I had a relative in prison whom I believed was innocent: I sure would do what I could to at least brighten the day (letters, packages, etc)

  3. To Paul's extended family: why not stay in touch with Paul? At least drop him a line once in a while.

  4. i watched forensic files today and saw the case of William Buck who was convicted of 1st degree murder of a police officer, this was not his 1st offense and his sentece was only 60 years (i know still long but still less than natural life). in addition his accomplice was not charged.

    i dont pretend to understand law, but is there truly no recourse for unfair sentencing? in a previous post Paul had talked about proving prejudice... in my mind the ADA calling out Pauls lack of emotion was using his autism against him. Why is this not prejudice? The unfairness of this makes me nuts and there is no way to help - i've written the Gov and signed the petition, but feel like there has to be something else.

  5. Eat the yogurt. The probiotics will help the immune and digestive systems

  6. just followed a linkMay 18, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    Interesting blog; thanks for writing it.

  7. Followed a link here. Skeptical that a prisoner could blog, but now I understand how it's possible. Thank you for sharing your life with us. May the Lord bless and keep you.

  8. What happened to the editors note entry? There was a good comments dialogue going on there.

  9. Blog readers and followers! Please see comments under post #253 " the invasion of Ukraine" and help Paul



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