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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ill at Stateville -- May 24, 2014

A virulent strain of cold virus continues to spread amongst prisoners like a plague. Despite my greatest effort, by midweek I had become sick. It was inevitable I would catch the contagion particularly after my cellmate began to show symptoms. I could take all the precautions I wanted, but because we share the same air, it did not matter. Last week, in jest I boasted to him that similar to the prisoner in the Stephen King novel The Stand, I would be one of the extremely rare people who was immune to the pathogen and everyone would die off leaving me the sole survivor at Stateville. Trapped in the cell, eventually I would be forced to siphon water out of the toilet and eat his dead corpse until Mr. Flagg came to my rescue. Misery loves company, however, and I tend to think Anthony began to intentionally seek to overwhelm my immune system.

Sunday morning after eating breakfast and watching the top news stories, I exercised at the front of the cell. As soon as I did, my cellmate climbed down off his bunk to urinate, dress, and tidy up his mattress. I did not mind sharing the limited floor space with him and this is why I limit my work out area to what old timers here call the foyer. However, what I did mind was him coughing without even trying to contain some of the germs he was projecting. While I did arm curls using my small property box, I told him if he continues not to cover his mouth, I will do it for him. In fact, I will wrap an entire plastic bag over his head. My cellmate was not intimidated by my empty threat and reached into his box to grab a few cough drops before getting back on his bunk to watch pop music videos on VH1.

Last Saturday, the penitentiary had been taken off of lockdown or what I believe the administration was calling "restricted movement". The problems with radio communications seem to be resolved. Ironically, though, the intercom system in the cell house is now broken. Guards are unable to make announcements on the loud speakers by picking up the telephone and pressing a few buttons. Instead, they must yell from the ground floor or walk down galleries notifying prisoners of events, visits, or various lines. For lunch, a guard walked by telling men to get ready.

Prisoners are let out of their cells from the other side of the gallery first to attend chow and most other main events. Two guards will key open and close doors from the high end to the low. Before the turn of the millennium, a crank was used to unlock all the cells simultaneously, but administrators thought this was a security threat and now each door is opened manually, then closed, one after the other. While waiting for our cell to be unlocked my cellmate and I watched a black prisoner hang disorientated to the gallery bars in front of us. Guards eventually came to his aid and used their radio to call for a med tech when he collapsed to the floor. I never found out what was wrong with Baldhead. He may have been sick with the cold virus going around or had some other ailment. The nurse who was sent to the quarter unit, however, was in no hurry to get to him and on the way to the chow hall I saw her walking casually as well as stopping to chit chat with an inmate.

Despite many prisoners being sick, they watched the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers game on television enthusiastically. Between coughs, I heard cheers and shouting. The NBA playoffs are very popular amongst black inmates. At the same time, the NHL playoffs were being conducted and were also on TV. Despite the Chicago Blackhawks competing for another national title, few prisoners watched them play the LA Kings. Hockey games are rarely broadcast at Stateville and there was little interest in the sport even amongst white prisoners. My neighbors watched it, but my cellmate preferred girls college softball and I chose to read.

As I suspected, the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi won the office of prime minister in India last week. The Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP not only got the most votes, but won by a landslide and will be able to rule the world's largest democracy without forming a coalition government. It was the most decisive victory the country had seen in decades and will cast out Gandhi's political dynasty which has dominated East Indian politics since the British relinquished control. With the corrupt and socialist regime gone, I expect prosperity will increase even if there is some friction with the Islamic minority. I also expect better business and political ties with the U.S. while those with Russia and China are waning.

Monday morning, I ate a couple of waffles with the peanut butter purchased and watched news pertaining to China's corporate and military espionage. China has been stealing U.S. intellectual property for many years and I was glad the president finally openly accused their government even if he does little to nothing about it. In contrast, the Russian and Chinese head of states were actively engaged in negotiating any changes in trade or economic sanctions. Vladimir Putin signed a 30 year contract to supply their Asian neighbor with natural gas. The deal is worth $400 billion for Russia's Gazprom which will in time lose customers in Europe. It is also greatly beneficial to China which has a growing need for energy.

Towards noon, I noticed gallery workers bring in a stack of new mattresses. For security reasons, they are now made with a clear plastic cover. I assume this is to dissuade prisoners from hiding contraband in them. My mattress is old and thin despite how I regularly pull it together to make it thicker. I have even put a couple of blankets underneath to add some padding. Although my lower back is feeling better, my hips have begun to hurt again from rolling over regularly in the night. Unfortunately that I could not get one of the new mattresses. Those were already going to be assigned to prisoners who had made a request months ago. When my cellmate awakened, he told me he has been waiting over a year.

On the Rush Limbaugh show, the topic was the delay in health care for veterans. A huge scandal erupted when a retired doctor from Phoenix VA sent letters to CNN and the Arizona Republic claiming the facilities off-the-books waiting list may have led to the deaths of at least 40 patients. Veterans are supposed to receive treatment within a reasonable amount of time, however, across the country many are waiting months if not over a year to see a doctor. A caller on the talk show even claimed he has been waiting 2 years. An investigation has shown top officials altered medical appointment wait times in an effort to hide the vast problems within the government health care system. There was also a financial motive to cook the books because bonuses were given out to those administrators who met goals. Limbaugh made a link between VA health care and government incompetence across a broad spectrum of programs. The private sector was much more efficient and provided much better service. As a prisoner in the IDOC, I could not more readily agree.

Early Tuesday morning before I adjusted to my prison environment, I had Buckey at my bars happily greeting me. Buckey was an energetic new cell house help worker who took the place of Bob. When he said "Good morning," I asked him if that was a statement or a wish. He asked if it could be both and I told him no. My cellmate was up and despite being sick he seemed to be in a better mood than myself. In his coarse voice, he exchanged some trite pleasantries. Anthony, in fact, was getting ready to leave to the gym and planned to play basketball. I was not going to dissuade him because I would then have the cell to myself for a few hours.

In my cellmate's absence, I washed the floor and various other surfaces with soap and disinfectant. As I did this, the hot water button on the sink broke. It continuously dribbled out water and would not stop. This did not bother me greatly because it had no chance of overflowing the basin and I could still get cold water if I wanted. After cleaning the cell, I worked out happily thinking I had killed most of the germs and did not have my cellmate's virus to breathe in. However, what made me even happier was that I finally received a replacement for my Koss headphones. These were great and a vast improvement to the ear buds I had been using for months. They were even better than the former pair I had sent the company to repair. If Apple's managers were smart, they would not have squandered $3.2 billion to acquire Beats Electronics at over 3 times its valuation and instead bought Koss.

For dinner prisoners were supposed to be fed chicken-ala-king, but instead they got boiled chicken bones, skin, gristle and a little meat on top of noodles. It was a distasteful meal, however, while in the chow hall Bone gave me the name and address of a highly recommended private investigator. From what I was told, he has worked on a few prisoners' post conviction appeals and they were very pleased with his work. As soon as I returned to my cell, I wrote him a 2 page letter. After briefly describing my case, I told him what I was looking for and asked if he would be willing to work directly with me rather than through an attorney. Oddly, I have had a couple of private investigators write me back saying they only dealt with defense attorneys.

On Wednesday, guards had gotten ahold of a hand held loudspeaker and they used it to make a number of announcements in the morning including showers. That got my cellmate out of bed. When he returned, he asked me if I was going to request a work order on the sink or just let it keep running indefinitely. I told him I planned to just let it go unrepaired. To give it some pressure, I had cut out a rectangular piece from a Styrofoam tray and put it in a slot. This narrowed the passageway of the water and could be easily moved to change the force the water came out. It was much better than the little tube he had made out of a cable wire. Plus, the Styrofoam did not have a warning label on it saying it was made with lead and people who handle it should wash their hands afterwards. Sometimes I question my cellmate's intelligence, but when I left on a visit, I did ask a guard to put in a work order. Maybe it will be fixed by summer.

My mother was very ill over the winter and I was concerned she could get sick again by coming to the prison. The visiting room was crowded and many people were showing symptoms of having a cold. I even wondered if I was carrying the virus, although I had yet to have any outward signs. I tried not talking loud or towards her, but she could not hear me if I did not raise my voice. I considered pulling my T shirt over my mouth and nose like some prisoners were doing in the chow hall, however, other people may look at me suspiciously. Instead, I just let my mother do the majority of the talking while I listened. She probably did not notice because she usually talks much more than me.

I was glad I took the precaution on my visit because after I took a nap, I turned on the bright fluorescent cell light and looked down my throat while making the sound "aah" with my tongue held down. In a mirror, I could see the back was red and immediately I told my cellmate that he passed his germs to me. He denied it and claimed I was a carrier and had in fact made him sick. It was a ridiculous claim and instead I changed the subject to his bald head. For weeks, he has been trying to train his hair to lay down flat even using a do-rag much to my amusement. Only black men wear do-rags and it is to keep their hair from being excessively frizzy, unkempt, or to loosen the tight curls to make waves. I have been making fun of him for trying to tame his coarse porcupine-like hair. Apparently "Sonic Hedgehog" got tired of my razzing or lost patience and buzzed his head again while I was on my visit.

At night, I watched the season finale of Survivor on CBS until Tess lost. I did not care for either Woo or Tony to win. In fact, I was disappointed last week when Spencer was voted out of tribal council. This season's Survivor reality show seemed better than most, but at 8 p.m. Dual Survivor came on. Looking behind the scenes at the growing tension between former Special Ops soldier Joe Teti and the hippie survivalist Code Lundine was a greater priority. Apparently, the straw which broke the camel's back occurred in Norway. They were in a gusting snow blizzard and Lundine refused to wear any shoes. He also was dressed in shorts. I thought it was pushing the limit but Lundine never wears any shoes and goes barefoot. At least in Norway, he did have on some very heavy wool socks.

Thursday, I was awakened by bright sunshine and worse still a sore throat. I knew it was just the beginning. Other prisoners have had various cold and sinus problems for weeks. I could hear the hacking coughs and the blowing of noses throughout the cell house during the morning. It made me think of what I had to look forward to. Steve has been sick for a month and my cellmate for at least a week. Bone had been ill with pneumonia and had to take antibiotics to get better. He was not the only one whose cold dropped down into his lungs or bronchial tubes. Instead of working out, I decided to take a day off. I listened to Dan Proft and Bruce Wolf on WLS talk radio. As a guest they had Larry Kudlow speak about the Democrat's class warfare campaign and how it was unfortunate that Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Tim Palenty endorsed a higher minimum wage. The Rick Savage show I listened to earlier in the week was even more incinerary comparing Hillary Clinton's rhetoric to that of Pol Pot, the communist who killed millions of Cambodians in the name of equality.

My cellmate seems committed to spreading his germs and went out to lunch and then the small yard. Considering numerous other prisoners are sick, they are probably just sharing. While men were gone, the quarter unit was relatively quiet and I made use of this time to write a couple of letters. One was to my attorney who claimed she has a 100 page appeal in the making. She just had to put on the finishing touches and did not want me to see it because of how critical I can be. While writing her, I began to hear cell doors opened and slammed shut. Eventually, I discovered a couple of guards from Internal Affairs were conducting a hooch run. They just go in a cell, open up the property boxes, smell, and then look around very quickly. Hooch has a very pungent smell and it is easy to locate. To my knowledge, none was found in my quarter unit.

When Anthony returned, he told me a black prisoner was inquiring about my blog. He wanted to know what I wrote about and insinuated he may have some issues for me to publish. Inmates occasionally get the wrong idea about my writing. I am not a prisoner rights advocate despite being a prisoner. I write a story of what it is like to live at a maximum security penitentiary. I write my story and from my perspective. It is called Paul Modrowski -- On the Inside for a reason. Anyway, I am told this prisoner plans on having a family member send him some of my posts to read which I am not pleased to hear. The blog is for people on the outside of these walls, not those within them.

Amazingly, my prescriptions for my back pain were filled before I had run out of pills. Even the prescription my psychiatrist ordered weeks ago was finally received by the Health Care Unit. Oddly, however, I am not trusted to keep melatonin in the cell and a nurse must bring me one 5 mg. tablet at a time. I have not complained and am just pleased that after years of requesting the natural sleeping supplement, I am finally getting it. Despite being ill, I have slept better than I have in years.

Yesterday, I could barely talk and communicated with my cellmate during the morning using sign language. Generally, I would simply ignore him. It is very easy to do now with my new headphones. I do not even hear what he is saying. When he realized I was intentionally not speaking because my voice was gone, he offered me some cough drops whereupon I gave him "the bird".  No, I do not want any lozenges. I just want to be left alone. Even when I went out to evening yard I avoided people and rarely spoke. Jug Head was working out nearby me for a moment and questioned where I had been. I just put my hand to my throat and he knew I was sick. He mentioned that he had been ill for a few weeks and it just lingers without ever going away. There were only a handful of prisoners exercising and I tend to believe it was because they also were sick.

This morning, I put in a request to see a doctor. Usually, nothing can be done for a cold, but I will not see anyone for a month. The only reason I was able to see a nurse pertaining to my back within a couple of weeks was because I put in requests earlier regarding my medical permits and prescriptions. Hopefully, I am better by summer, but if I am not, then I may be able to get an appointment in the HCU. There is nothing like being ill at Stateville.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

One Week Amongst 21 Years -- May 3, 2014

On April 28, 1993, I was arrested by numerous gun wielding police. Thereafter, I was taken to a secret location to be unscrupulously interrogated for two days. Charged with murder, I spent two years at the Cook County Jail awaiting trial. My attorney failed to contest the testimony of one of the interrogating officers and I was convicted of my co-defendant's actions, yet he was acquitted of committing any crime. Despite this irony and a judge who concluded I was not present at the crime scene, I was condemned to languish in prison for the rest of my life. The following is the more memorable parts of the week and no way reflective of the trials and tribulations I have endured over the last 21 years, although they weighed heavily on my thoughts:

On Sunday morning I did not have to look into my tray to see what was in it. For years, the same breakfast of biscuits and gravy has been served. I do not mind the biscuits which can go well with peanut butter and jelly, but the gravy was horrendous. It was made of turkey-soy, flour, beef seasoning and grease. The gravy quickly coagulates and looks like what would fall out of a can of Alpo dog food. Other than men in segregation, very few prisoners eat it. After taking the biscuits off the tray and scraping off all the gravy, I made myself a bowl of bran flakes.

Showers were run on my gallery at 7 a.m. and I awakened my cellmate. Anthony always goes to the shower room despite what time of day guards let out prisoners. While I ate breakfast and watched the news, I could hear past my ear buds that someone was playing hip hop music on their radio. Early in the morning, it was one of the last things I wanted to hear and apparently I was not the only person who thought that way. The lieutenant who was in his office below my cell came out and sought out the source of the music. Prisoners are not permitted to play their radios or TVs at excessive levels and can have them confiscated, but he did not apprehend the noise offender.

After exercising and bathing from the sink, I went to the chow hall for lunch. It was a wasted trip because I gave my grease-chicken-soy patty and sherbet to my cellmate. However, I did get to witness an amusing harangue by a loony black prisoner. For no apparent reason, Kojak stood by the table I was sitting at and began to yell and threaten Leprechaun. My neighbor did not even turn to acknowledge his presence and continued eating as if he did not exist. The incident seemed surreal and I had to ask Leprechaun if he was addressing him. I knew he could not be talking to me in that manner. However, who was Kojak then telling to meet him in the shower to fight?

When Kojak left, Leprechaun said he was not going to engage him. He was a nut case and not worth getting in trouble for. My neighbor was rather cowardly and could have at least returned some words. I asked him if he wanted me to handle Kojak in the shower for him. It has been a while since I used my spinning back kick. I could KO him before he even realized what was going on. Leprechaun said I would go to segregation, but I told him the loony convict would not remember what happened when he gained consciousness. Guards would think he just lost his footing in the shower and cracked his head if they even cared to discern a plausible explanation.

Last week, Kojak was released from segregation and moved into a cell a couple of doors down from mine. He was in Seg a month for fighting with a former cellmate of his at the Health Care Unit. From what I was told, it was a rather hilarious display because both men were weak and neither knew how to fight. The incident, apparently, was instigated by Kojak. He was angry the other prisoner had been dropping dimes on him. Ironically, they were both telling on each other to be separated and are known snitches. Kojak reminds me less of the TV show detective he is named after than a black version of Uncle Fester from the Adams Family. Half the time I expect him to put a light bulb in his mouth.

For dinner, I did not bother to leave my cell for soy-spaghetti or any further drama. However, as my cellmate and neighbor left, I yelled to Anthony, "Take care of Mini-Me!" During the time chow lines were run in the cell house, I washed my gym shoes and shorts with bleach that someone had given me only because he was concerned the Orange Crush may still ransack the penitentiary. According to ongoing rumors, an enormous tactical unit made up of SORT from various prisons was making rounds. They were at Galesburg (Hill Correctional Center), and last week when they were expected to storm Stateville they instead traveled to Dixon.

Monday morning an army of orange suited guards with full body armor and carrying batons did not invade the penitentiary. However, this did not dissuade many prisoners from trying to be added onto the personal property list. Only two lines of about 10 men are generally permitted to go to the warehouse. Occasionally, the sergeant will add on a couple of extra inmates to the lines if they have an urgent need. Prisoners who asked to be added to the list sought to move their excess legal paperwork into storage. One of the nuances of the Orange Crush rumor was they were going to throw out any property which was not in their assigned boxes with the exception of a TV, radio, and/or fan.

While I read a Barron's newspaper, I listened to the Rush Limbaugh show. I was expecting the Russian backed unrest in eastern Ukraine to be the topic of conversation but instead I heard about the owner of the LA Clippers. Apparently, there was a public uproar that he told his girlfriend he did not want her coming to games with black people. Why this was national news was beyond my comprehension. As the owner of an NBA team, he could invite who he wanted. Furthermore, I did not see a racial dimension considering his girlfriend was black and Mexican herself. Yet despite this, there were all types of black celebrities, activist groups, and basketball players incensed by the tape recording and demanding Donald Sterling, who has owned the team since 1982, to be removed from the NBA.

After listening to Rush Limbaugh, I went to sleep. I commonly become tired in the early afternoon and need to re-energize myself. It was chilly and damp in the quarter unit and I put on thermals underneath my sweats. In addition, I threw a wool blanket over myself. To block out all the yelling prisoners, I put in thick earplugs. I save an extra pair for napping during the day which men who work with jack hammers use. They are painful to keep in all night but for an hour or two are not a problem. Occasionally, I wonder if I would rather hear overlapping rap, hip hop, mariachi, or other music I greatly dislike or the cacophonous noise of various prisoners yelling to each other.

As normal, I dreamed of a life outside of prison and was unhappy when I awoke. Refreshed from sleep, but unmotivated to do anything, I made myself a cup of coffee to go along with some peanut butter and pretzel rolls which were donated to the penitentiary. As I ate, I watched Wolf Blitzer on CNN and one of the top stories was about Amanda Knox. The Italian appellate court just released their reason for reinstating her murder conviction. Despite how it was abundantly clear that Rudy Guede, an African migrant, killed her housemate Meredith Kercher all on his own, the court stated in their opinion the murder had to have been the work of more than one person. The ridiculous assessment and legal tribulations Knox has endured reminded me of the date. Twenty-one years ago, I was arrested by the Palatine Task Force.

The Palatine massacre was solved long ago, but I continue to remain in prison based on my trial attorney's decision not to contest the testimony of a detective who worked for the Illinois States Attorney's office. He claimed I admitted my roommate told me he was going to kill the victim and I lent him my vehicle. Evidence that Faraci murdered Fawcett was overwhelming yet he was acquitted and I was convicted by a different jury under a theory of accountability. Since the trial, the prosecution has been aware of witnesses placing my car 50 miles from the crime scene. However, they were not called by my defense lawyer who preferred to simply argue that regardless I was not accountable for my co-defendant's actions. I have given State's Attorney Anita Alvarez additional evidence proving Faraci committed the murder alone and I did not lend him my car, but this has been ignored.

After writing a letter to Nadine Lenarczak at an address provided to me by an anonymous reader of my blog, I watched a PBS documentary on the John F. Kennedy assassination. The show went over various forensic evidence to demonstrate there was no conspiracy and Lee Harvard Oswald alone killed the president. Belief that a 4th shot was taken was discredited when acoustics showed sound could bounce off buildings to make it seem like another shot was taken and possibly from a different direction. Also, because the bullet traveled at a speed faster than that of sound, there would be a sonic boom. Most persuasive, however, was the autopsy which showed fracturing of the skull and damage to the brain from a bullet coming from the direction of Oswald and not any second party on the "grassy knoll". When I mentioned all the science that made conspiracy theorists look foolish to my cellmate, his only response was, "So Jimmy Files was lying about killing the president?" Anthony was joking about a prisoner formerly at Stateville who claims to have given John F. Kennedy the final and fatal shot.

Tuesday morning I went to the South Yard to lift weights and run. It was cold and cloudy and not as many prisoners came out as I had anticipated. My neighbor Hooch only had Fat Jimmy to play handball with and the latter lost energy after less than a half hour. Hooch's cowardly cellmate hung on the fence nearby looking longingly at the laundry building where he once worked. Possibly, this was another reason he ignored Kojak because he was waiting to be rehired later in the year. After doing most of my exercises with the weights, I told my cellmate I was going to run. Being a smart ass, he asked me why I was telling him. Did I seek his permission? Want his watch to time my laps? No, I told him. I did not want any of the above. I just wanted to let him know I was leaving him all alone amongst black inmates and they may want to take out their anger on the only Caucasian person in their vicinity since they could not get to 80-year-old Donald Sterling.

I was joking with my cellmate, of course. No one at the prison cared about the privately recorded conversation between Sterling and V. Stiviano. The previous night I overheard black convicts talking openly about the subject from their cells. "So what?" I heard one man say. "Everyone is racist including many of the NBA players. They pretend like they will refuse to play, but for $20 million, who is going to turn that down?" Another prisoner chimed in that you cannot control people's thoughts. These sentiments and others were expressed on the Rick Savage radio talk show, however, it did not change the decision of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. He pronounced that the Clippers owner was banned for life like a judge handing down a natural life sentence in prison.

I did not want to go to the chow hall, but the yard line was run into it after the rec period was over. "Slick meat" was being served and I just left it and the other distasteful food on my tray. Interestingly, when guards yelled for us to leave, Kojak came from across the chow hall to take my tray and discard its contents in the garbage can for me. I am not certain if he overheard me talking to Leprechaun a couple of days prior or if he just wanted to make sure I would not get involved in his dispute with a person I regularly ate meals with. While his action was amusing to me and others at the table, it would not change my opinion of him.

In the cell, Anthony bathed out of the sink and I sat at the table near the bars eating a substitute meal. Bob stopped by to say goodbye as he was finally being transferred to the high-medium security prison in Galesburg. There was nothing greatly exciting about being sent to a level 2 facility and in fact it could be in ways more oppressive and violent than Stateville. Stateville has a lot of older convicts particularly in our quarter unit and thus they are less likely to jump into fights. I warned Bob to keep a low profile for awhile and be a fly on the wall rather than always trying to be friendly with everyone. Convicts can take that as a sign of weakness and target him as a "mark". "And wipe off that constant smile!" I told him. "You have nothing to be happy about anyway." Bob was in prison for having sex with a 17-year-old girl and hit with nearly a 40 year sentence of which he has to serve 85%. I do not care if he was a Hinsdale High School teacher. 40 years was excessive even for the pedophile who was moved in the cell next to mine despite how much I loathe him.

John raped a retarded child under the age of 13 and I have not hidden my animosity for him. Last week when he was moved next door, I thought it had to be more than coincidence. Someone had a sense of humor or wanted me to kick his ass. However, I have since learned his previous cellmate has for months been trying to get him moved. A bunk next to my cell opened up when its occupant was transferred and it just so happened his cellmate and John had shared a cell before. Apparently, they got along well and he was one of the few prisoners in the unit that did. Rumor has it they are both homosexuals and I am reluctant to speculate. I still do not know with certainty the sex of John's rape victim.

I rarely see Malinowski despite how he lives next door. He goes to chow, but because he attends medical lines, he often leaves or returns to the cell at a different time. Prisoners who receive insulin shots or narcotic pain medication are taken to the H.C.U. in the evening at or about the same time as dinner. Apparently, he has a host of possible medical or psychiatric problems. My cellmate said he saw him in the shower and much of his body was covered in open sores. I have noticed him also receiving numerous types of medications. Plus at night, the nurse stops by his cell to give him a psychotropic or at least that is what I believe it to be.

I have heard a few prisoners express that the pedophile should get the same punishment as Clayton Lockett. Lockett was convicted of raping and killing a 10-month-old baby in Oklahoma and sentenced to death. This week he was executed, but something apparently went wrong. According to CNN, he was declared unconscious yet when lethal drugs were administered, he began to writhe and clench his teeth in immense pain. The curtains in the death chamber were closed to prevent people from witnessing his suffering and although the proceedings were halted, he died not long thereafter from a heart attack. I tend to think the execution was botched intentionally and was not just an accident. Liberals may believe that this is just another reason to abolish the death penalty, however, contrarily, I believe it should be used much more often and the brutality of it not minimized or hidden from the public. If society knew what death looked like, there may be more emphasis on correcting the justice system to make sure it works properly. Giving people lethal injections, natural life without parole or similar sentences sweeps under the rug cases such as my own.

On Thursday, my cellmate went to the gymnasium. I asked him why he was bothering since nearly all the machine weights were broken. He exclaimed that he wanted to show the black prisoners who owns the court in reference to apparently something Donald Sterling said or insinuated. Fortunately, when I tuned in to the Rush Limbaugh show after my cell workout and sink bath, the discussion had moved on to more important news. A memo was discovered further demonstrating how the White House was attempting to cover-up the cause of the attack on a U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Even more disturbing to me is not the political deception, but negligence and incompetence the Obama administration has repeatedly shown in regards to handling foreign crises. It is not just Libya, but situations in North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Ukraine which extol weakness and ineptitude to the world.

Yesterday, I sat with Leprechaun and made fun of his cowardice since few prisoners would understand or care about the nuances of foreign affairs. I asked the midget how he ever survived when the IDOC was wild. Did he get protection from the bikers? "No," he said, "They got protection from me," which caused Hooch to roll his eyes. Then I asked if he did the North Siders laundry. Eventually, he told me he was not sent to the penitentiary until 1998 and was at Joliet C.C. which was less violent than the other maximum security prisons. By the time it was closed in 2001, the IDOC had changed significantly.

Leaving the chow hall, Kojak was meandering at the gate almost as if he was delirious. He went back and forth and then left to right, blocking my path. I was behind him and he did not see me. The nut case in fact seemed oblivious to the world. The lieutenant saw my frustration and told me to just push him out of the way. This I would have done already except a member of Internal Affairs was standing nearby. Other guards would not have cared if I threw him to the ground, but I did not know how I.A. would react. The low-life's I must deal with in prison I thought as I bumped Kojak to the side and left the center feeding circle. However, was not my life just as low and pathetic?

Earlier this morning, I was apparently staring blankly and my cellmate kicked my shoes. He asked if I was still alive. I answered, "The living dead." I have spent 21 years incarcerated and almost everything of meaning or value to me has faded away. I carry on mostly through a sheer force of will and determination to see justice. This week also commemorates 5 years that I have been writing this blog and I have seriously considered making this post my last. I hate my life and writing about it continuously. It is a Never Ending Story and not one that I foresee having a happy ending. Furthermore, I have covered virtually every topic imaginable and have trouble thinking of names to title them. This was just one week amongst 21 years I have been incarcerated.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Emergency Room -- April 26, 2014

Throughout the week, I heard rumors of a large scale Orange Crush raid. However, these proved to be false and operations at the prison except in the Roundhouse continued as normal. I attended commissary, some meals, a visit, and a couple of "recreation" periods. On Tuesday, I had an accident on the yard and was taken to the Health Care Unit's emergency room. The injury was slight compared to other men I met there with major health issues. A number of men at Stateville are old, crippled, or very ill. At some point I imagine I will join their ranks, however, in the meantime, I intend to make the best of my athleticism and physical strength. Despite my injury, I continued to do all the things I normally do including intense callisthenics and cardio exercises. Yesterday evening, I also went to the yard again to lift weights and run laps.

On Easter Sunday, prisoners were served shredded pork for lunch. Because the cell house was last to be fed, men were given larger servings. In fact, I was given so much meat, I put half in a zip-lock bag to eat later in the day. Pork is not served often at Stateville or possibly other penitentiaries in the IDOC. My neighbor Hooch claims Jewish descent and was given a special kosher tray which was not nearly as appealing. He complained for some time and I told him that is what he gets for killing Christ. In the cell, I deceived him into thinking I would give him the pork I brought back with me. While he was at his cell bars, I reached over and poked him with my remote control stick that I sometimes refer to as the Spear of Destiny. Hooch is probably less than 1/64th, but I like to joke with him on occasion.

During the day, I heard a rumor that a statewide tactical team was going from prison to prison ransacking their living units. Galesburg (Hill Correctional Center) was purportedly on lockdown last week while the penitentiary was searched. This week, I was told the SORT would be at Stateville. I was skeptical of the information, but was told prisoners had been drinking heavily recently and I should at least be prepared for an institutional SORT search. Apparently, an obnoxious black convict could be heard throughout the quarter unit yelling and singing in slurred speech. Other prisoners had told East Side to shut up and lay it down but he was too blitzed on hooch to listen. I was totally unaware of the incident because I go to sleep early and the drinking mainly goes on during the midnight shift.

There was little I could do to prepare for the Orange Crush. I did not have any contraband and I could not prevent the SORT from looting or damaging my property. Therefore, I just awakened early before the water may be turned off so I could eat breakfast and use the toilet. The sun was rising when I began to wrap a blanket around my mattress and I watched it through the dull cell house windows go over the prison walls. I wondered if it was going to be an exceptionally rough day until I heard school and some details lines being run as normal. If there was going to be an Orange Crush raid, these men would have been kept in their cells.

Well before 9 a.m., I had completed my exercise regimen and bathed. While waiting for either commissary or chow, I read an issue of Scientific America. The April issue was entitled "Cosmic Dawn," but covered various topics other than the formation of stars in the early universe. One article was an apocalyptic global warming treatise by Michael Mann. In 2001, the professor of meteorology worked with the International Panel on Climate Change and came up with the ridiculous prediction of a high rate of temperature increase which was nicknamed "the hockey stock." Mann was upset the IPCC last year lowered one of its climate models by half a degree Celsius and claimed, although the "faux pause" may buy the planet a few extra years, it was doomed by 2036. All long range speculations on climate were pure pseudoscience but those by the IPCC let alone Mann were of the worst kind. My opinion of Scientific America continues to decline.

When prisoners filed out of the cell house for chow, the lieutenant asked my cellmate if he slept in his clothes. Anthony had just recently awakened, but his shirt and pants were wrinkled because he sends them out to be washed. Prisoners' laundry is washed and dried while inside mesh bags. The polyester state blues are more likely to be returned deeply wrinkled than whites which have a higher cotton blend particularly if put in a small bag. I and many other prisoners will wash our blues by hand and hang them neatly to dry. However, this is too much work for my cellmate who can be lazy.

Immediately after lunch a group of inmates were escorted to the commissary building. The line of prisoners was stopped repeatedly but I did not mind. It was a pleasant 70 degree day and the warmest it has been all year. North America has had one of its coldest and most enduring winters in decades making me yet again scoff at the global warming Chicken Little's who continue to claim the sky is falling. I did not worry about dubious conjecture temperatures may rise a couple of degrees. However, at the prison store I did ponder if the water at Stateville is safe to drink.

The pipes at the prison are very old and regularly I will notice the water turn orange. If drinking rusty water was not bad enough an inmate I waited with after shopping told me there were a lot more problems. Moon claimed the levels of radon, lithium, and lead were high. He also said the guards were instructed not to drink the water and my cellmate added he just heard a corrections officer mention the warning. Prisoners have been speaking of a conspiracy since ever since I could remember and a person would need to be blind not to notice all the guards bring their own water to work or buy it in their cafeteria. In fact, I have heard many complain about the increase of prices in the vending machines which charges them $1.75 for a bottle of water. Then there is the large cooler I look down on from my cell that is in front of the sergeant's office that is always filled with bottled water. The next time I shop I may buy myself a dozen bottles, although I have always thought water sales were one of the biggest rackets in the U.S.

In the evening, I made myself a meal from commissary food and then looked for something on television to watch. After watching a segment on Headline News about relationships between female teachers and high school boys, I turned on WLS talk radio. Mark Levine had a good critique of Attorney General Eric Holder expanding clemency for drug offenders and decreasing the deportation of illegal aliens. Apparently, Barack Obama through executive decree was once again going to ignore the laws of Congress, not for the good of the country but for political expediency. There was a good chance Republicans will take control of the Senate and the Democratic Party was trying to galvanize support amongst black and Mexican voters.

On Tuesday, I again awakened early to get ready for yard and to allow my cellmate to do the same without me being in his way. For breakfast prisoners were served rice, bread, and a greasy turkey-soy burger. It was disgusting and I quickly dumped the meat in the toilet. Instead, I used the bread to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Temperatures had dropped from the previous day and over my shorts and T-shirt I wore sweats. It was indeed chilly when I first went outside, but after exercising I warmed up quickly and shed the outerwear.

I began my workout with bench pressing a 220 pound barbell. Towards the end, the number of repetitions I was able to do declined and I did forced presses. Not trusting other prisoners to spot me, I sought my cellmate out who was walking around the small yard and listening to his Walkman. This ended up being a mistake because he did not have the strength of other men I was lifting weights with. On my last set, he struggled pulling the barbell up and dropped it in the rack crushing the side of my left hand. Oddly, I had been the one warning him to watch his hands.

The injury did not cause much pain, but looked serious. An inch of skin had torn away and underneath was a deeper wound. Blood quickly began to flow out and I thought of ways to improvise a dressing. Before I ripped off a piece of my T-shirt, I walked over to where Horse was standing on the basketball court and asked him if he had any toilet paper. Many prisoners will keep some on them to use as napkins during meals or to blow their nose. Horse fortunately had about 10 squares on him and I folded them up and pressed it on the wound. From another prisoner I procured a rubber band and used this to tie around my hand twice. Problem solved, I thought, and began lifting weights again.

Despite my makeshift band aid, the blood did not coagulate. My cellmate asked me sarcastically if maybe I should quit working out. I was not going to stop my exercise regimen for some superficial wound and like Jesse Venture in the move Predator, I quipped "I don't have time to bleed." Another prisoner noticed blood dripping from my hand and expressed concern. After my set, he gave me another wad of toilet paper and this time I rinsed the wound, folded the flap of skin over it, and made a new dressing. This one held, but at the end of the yard period I wanted some band aids or gauze as well as antiseptic and possibly a tetanus shot. The barbell and bench were rusted and there was no telling what type of germs other prisoners had left on them.

Instead of following the line of convicts to the chow hall, I stopped at the cell house door and asked the sergeant if he would have a guard escort me to the Health Care Unit. He told me to step inside and he would call a med tech to come to me. In the holding cage, the Elephant was waiting to be escorted to the visiting room and asked me about my injury. After I told him what occurred, he ridiculed Anthony for being such a terrible spotter. Later, I spoke with Mac who was waiting to go to the personal property building regarding his case. He was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and one gun charge. Oddly, he was given almost more time for the weapon than allegedly trying to kill two people. For the attempted murders, he was sentenced to 26 years and another 20 were tacked on for the gun. Illinois has one of the harshest criminal statutes in the U.S. for illegal use or possession of firearms.

After waiting over an hour, a med tech finally came to the cell house. When he saw the wound, he told me I was going to the H.C.U. with him and we left immediately. The place was packed with prisoners waiting to see a doctor or other health care staff. A man in the crowd yelled to me but I did not have time to stop to acknowledge him. The med tech led me straight into the emergency room. The ER was actually used for a variety of purposes and mainly standard care rather than emergencies. In a sink basin in the back, I washed my hands with antibacterial soap and then the med tech poured iodine over the wound. Using gauze, I blotted the chemical and blood before bandaging. To take with me, the med tech gave me a couple of alcohol pads, ointment, and Band-Aids. Two Band-Aids were not going to last long and I asked for more. Almost reluctantly, he gave me an additional four. As for a tetanus shot, I should have known better to ask. As I left, I told the med tech I will personally blame him if I contract the infectious disease.

Just outside the emergency room was an old Caucasian prisoner in a wheel chair. I asked Cowboy why he was there. Earlier, while waiting in the holding cage, I noticed he had been wheeled out of the shower room. He said it felt like nerve damage and he could not feel his arm. Cowboy is 77 years old and has been assigned a cell just across from the door in the quarter unit. He does not go anywhere, however, and nearly every time I walk by he is lying down on his bunk. I tend to think he is just waiting to die.

As I walked past the holding cages of the H.C.U., I heard someone shout, "Terminator! Terminator!" The only people who called me by the name of the science fiction movie cyborg were those that were in the Cook County Jail with me. Sure enough, I turned to see a man who had been on my deck about 20 years ago. Once he got my attention he asked if I recognized him. Yes, I did. The somewhat insane serial killer was called Frankenstein. It had nothing to do with his murders but scars. He had been in some horrendous accident and had stitches across his entire body. Nude, he looks like he had been put together from an assemblage of pieces. Frankenstein looked happy to see me after all these years and asked what cell house I was in. I told him, but did not have much time thereafter to talk with him because a guard was ready to take me back to my unit.

A cell house worker was nice enough to give me a lunch tray and as I ate the cold macaroni and cheese with turkey-soy, my cellmate asked me what they did for me. After I told him, he asked if I had seen Lunchbox at the H.C.U. Apparently, Lunchbox had blacked out again. Just the week before, he lost consciousness while going down some steps and smacked his head pretty hard. In fact, he has been sporting a big goose egg on his forehead as if someone tapped him with a baseball bat. No, I missed Lunchbox, I told my cellmate. He was not in the E.R. and I must assume he was hidden in the crowd of men waiting to see the doctor.

Lunchbox was not the only prisoner to fall down stairs last week. When going out for dinner, Old School had a tumble knocking down a couple of other men in front of him including Mr. Lewis. None of them were seriously injured, but Old School was kept in the infirmary for several days. When he returned, he refused housing and was sent to Segregation. I am not certain why because while my cellmate was explaining the story, I was listening to news reporting about a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing states to prohibit racial preferences given to minorities. I assume, however, the prisoner wanted to be celled on the first floor so he did not have to climb stairs.

On Wednesday, I peeled off my bandage to wash the floor before I worked out. A cell house worker happened to be walking by and he wanted to see the wound. He thought it looked ugly, but when I finished, I put it back on and did an exercise regimen close to that advertised on TV called P90X. Exercising did not bother me as much as bathing and doing other tasks. Every time I got my hand wet, I had to take the Band-Aid off and afterwards carefully clean, dry, and fold the skin back over the wound before putting it back on or a new one. With only 5 bandages I changed them only once a day and I do not know what I will do next week. Actually I do. As always, I will improvise.

Wednesday evening is my survival reality television time. At 7 p.m. I watch the CBS show Survivor and then I turn to Discovery. For weeks, I have been tuning in to Les Stroud, but his survivalist show ended and this week was the season premiere of Dual Survivor.  Dual Survivor films two divergent types of men in various inhospitable environments. In this episode, Cody Lundine and former Special Ops Joe Teti were in Sri Lanka dealing with a tropical jungle full of dangers including poisonous snakes, wild elephants, and crocodiles. Often they had to overcome the elements and improvise to survive. It is inspiring to me and over the decades I try to do the same except at maximum security prisons.

I carried this attitude with me when I went to the yard after dinner yesterday. Immediately, I went to the weight pile to do some heavy incline presses. Instead of my cellmate spotting me, this time I had the Elephant. The fat man had the nerve to tell me he was stronger than me because he could do more repetitions. I countered that he was only able to outdo me on a flat or incline bench press and not any other exercise. Furthermore, if we considered he weighed twice as much as me, he was comparatively a lot weaker. I then did 15 chin-ups with ease and asked him how many he could do. The Elephant could not do one. After embarrassing the fat man, I went to other exercises, seldom resting. I was well past my prime in life, but I was far from done. Hopefully, I will miss regular trips to the emergency room for as long as possible.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Prison Cell -- April 19, 2014

In maximum security prisons, incarcerated men spend the vast majority of their time in their cells. Lockdowns are frequent and can occasionally last months. Unlike medium or minimum penitentiaries, there are no dorms or day rooms where inmates can walk out of their cells to spend some time. Furthermore, jobs and programs are greatly limited. When there are normal operations, yard lines are run twice a week for 2 hours and these yards usually just consist of a couple of basketball courts. An extra "recreation" period has been added for part of the year, but this is only a couple times a month. There are a variety of religious services, although most convicts only attend these to socialize and escape the confines of their cells. Even for men who are not as reclusive as me, the prison cell dominates their lives.

My cell is 6 x 11 feet with a 7-1/2 foot high ceiling. On average, it is a larger cell than most in the maximum security prisons of Illinois. Other than the former death row, cells in X House are 5 by 10 feet, the same as those in the Roundhouse, although they have a slight wedge shape due to the buildings' circular configuration. Pontiac correctional Center has a city block long building which is almost identical in design as the one I reside in and thus the cell parameters are the same. The penitentiary also has an older long house which has 5 x 10 foot cells. Although Menard Correctional Center has various living units, it has some of the smallest cells in the IDOC. The North and South cell houses have 4 x 10 foot cells. "North 1" is infamously known amongst convicts. The cells in the unit are referred to as coffins and men can barely walk from the front to the back because there is less than a foot of space between the bunk and the wall.

All of the cells in maximum security now house two men except for a few galleries in Pontiac Segregation. For me, a cellmate is oftentimes a greater punishment than being in Seg. While at Pontiac, some guards could not understand that I voluntarily remained there and refused to leave. Eventually, I was tricked to give up my one man cell by being told I was being transferred to a medium security prison. Instead, I was bused to Stateville where I have been ever since. Stateville was the last maximum security penitentiary I wanted to go to for various reasons, however, mostly because I knew I would be assigned horrible cellmates. Fortunately, after some rough times and a couple of fights, I have someone who I can get along with.

My current cellmate is one of the best I have had while at Stateville and hopefully I will not have to roll the dice for another any time soon. Some readers may think he is a terrible person because of what they have read about his conviction and aggravating factors at sentencing, however, they have no clue what my alternatives are. For example, there is a hoodlum celled galleries above me who is continually yelling. I have never met the man but just by listening to him, I know he is a very stupid, annoying, and loathsome person. Initially, I thought prisoners called him by the name of a Star Wars character played by actor Harrison Ford. However, it soon became apparent they were not calling him "Solo" as in Hans Solo or just a person who was a loner, but "So Low". Earlier this week, I heard So Low shouting he was being transferred and I am glad there will be one less loudmouth in the quarter unit, however, I know he will just be replaced by another obnoxious, low-life, if not immediately, eventually.

Before the turn of the millennium, prisoners could muffle some of the noise in the cell house from convicts like So Low. Thick curtains were made which were draped across the bars. Floor rugs and various furnishings also prevented sound from echoing. However, now cells must be left barren. Nothing can be attached to walls and they are an unadorned, mottled grey with patches where paint has pealed leaving exposed concrete. Most prisoners at Stateville violate the restrictions to at least put up a mirror, some hooks, and extension or cable cords. Despite these things, cells look drab and austere.

The majority of cells in maximum security are void of any permanent fixtures except for a double bunk, a sink-toilet combination, and a light. Decades ago there was only one single bunk per cell, but due to the exponentially growing prison population, a second bunk was welded above it. The bunks are 2-1/2 x 6 feet causing my feet to hang off a little if I lay out straight. More bothersome, however, is how narrow in width they are. I frequently roll or change positions in my sleep and now must do so without going to the left or the right. Being accustomed to king or queen sized beds, I regularly fell off the narrow bunk in the Cook County Jail. Hitting the concrete a few times helps a person adjust quickly, but I still sleep with great difficulty.

I tend to think most readers can easily visualize the sink-toilet combination due to how common they are in jails and prisons across the U.S.  Even if one has never had the honor to visit one of these facilities, they have probably seen them on television or at the movie theatre. The plumbing unit is made out of stainless steel and connected to the back wall. In the maximum security prisons of Illinois, it is used for multiple purposes other than what is normal outside these walls including bathing and washing clothes. Instead of levers or dials, the sink and toilet are controlled by buttons. These buttons regularly break and since I have been in this cell, they have had to be repaired several times. Despite this, my hot water continues to dribble water so slow that it will take a full minute to fill a 20 oz. mug.

Except in the middle of night, the tap water does not get hot enough to cook even a Ramen noodle. Prisoners will thus use a variety of means to heat meals or coffee including electric, fire, and the heat emitted from their lamp. My cellmate commonly places a bottle of water on his upturned lamp to make himself hot coffee. The incandescent light bulb, however, has ceased to be sold in prison possibly due to federal mandates to phase it out in favor of more expensive and purportedly more environmentally friendly CFL's or LED lights. There are also rumors the prison administration wants to eliminate them to prevent prisoners from using the glass as a flimsy weapon. Regardless, I use an electric device and when I can, I have a cell house worker microwave my water. This week, I have repeatedly used Bob as a gofer to bring me steaming hot water. A perk of being a cell house worker is being able to use the guards' microwave oven and before Bob is sent to a medium security penitentiary, I plan to get the most out of him.

Some cells in the quarter units have a counter, table, and or stool. The table is near the bars next to the bunk beds. It is approximately 2-1/2 feet wide and 1-1/2 feet deep. Like the counter, it is bolted to the wall and made of steel. The steel was rusting and did not make a good surface to read or write on. My cellmate and I sanded the corroded metal before painting it and then adding a few layers of wax. The counter top which is on the opposing wall of the table took a lot more work not only because it is longer but has a shelf underneath it. The shelf is divided and on my side I keep a broken clear plastic radio, mug, and a roll of toilet paper. Anthony has a pair of gym shoes, a few books, some clothes, a plastic spoon, and a couple of rolls of his own toilet paper.

The table in our cell has no stool to compliment it and instead we sit on a property box. This week I used the table to read newspapers and a couple of corporate reports. I also made new stock charts which incorporate various information including price to earnings growth (PEG) ratios. To block out the cacophony of noise from the cell house, I stuffed ear buds in my ears along with some toilet paper. On one day, I became bored listening to my cassette tapes and the few radio stations I was able to pick up. I sent my neighbor an extension to connect me to his radio which has much better reception. Hooch and his cellmate listen to K-Hits 104.3 FM, a radio station that plays mostly light rock music from the 1980s. It is a bit mellow for my tastes, but played songs from a few classic bands like Journey, Fleetwood Mac, and Duran Duran. I also listened to a song by Banarama called "Cruel Summer" which caused me to stop my work and think about a girl I dated over two decades ago. There have been many more than just one cruel summer.

The counter top typically goes unused by my cellmate and I. The only time I had a purpose for it this week was to make us a meal. With commissary food, I made 4 burritos to go with the prison DVD "Pale Rider". I have seen the Clint Eastwood movie numerous times, but thought I would watch it again without the annoyance of commercials. Both my cellmate and I have our own televisions. His has a 15" flat screen that is tied to a vent above his bunk and rests on a thin cardboard shelf glued to the back wall. My TV is an older 13" RCA which I have squeezed between a horizontal bar and the upper bunk. Their positioning is not only the most convenient location for us, but keeps the counter and table free for other purposes.

Occasionally, guards and other staff will remark how clean and orderly our cell is. Most convicts at Stateville leave a lot of property out and in a disorganized fashion. I hate clutter and along with ASD, I probably have a mild case of OCD where everything must be in its proper place. With other cellmates, I have had arguments about moving their property or even tossing it in the garbage, but Anthony does not seem to mind. He is allowed to keep anything he wants on his shelf, but nothing can remain on the sink, table, counter, or main area of the floor. In addition to keeping our shared areas clear of clutter, I clean them nearly every day. Sometimes to annoy or have fun, my cellmate will intentionally put something in the wrong spot or throw garbage on the floor realizing it will eventually bother me to such a degree that I will put it away or discard the item.

Prisoners have two property boxes made of thick plastic and with sliding lids. The smaller of the two boxes, I currently have on my mattress next to me. The lid is fully extended and I am using it as a table to write on. Every now and then my cellmate will drop down from his bunk during breaks of a PBS mystery marathon to say, "Dear diary..." He knows I am writing a post and likes to make fun of my blog writing. In any event, this box is roughly two feet in length and is one foot deep and wide. Inside, I keep all my folders, magazines and books. Recently, I had to make room for a new book someone sent me from the publisher called No Longer a Slumdog. Apparently, it is a story set in the slums of India with a Christian theme. I appreciate people who send me letters and books, however, this is not a book that appeals to my interests or values and have contemplated discarding it. A better book to send me would have been on Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi who will most likely become India's new president next month after decades of socialist dysfunction.

The large property box is 3 x 2 feet with the same depth as the other. Because of its dimensions, it would fit perfectly side by side with my cellmate's large box underneath the bunk. However, gussets prevent us from being able to pull them out. Therefore, I keep my box turned the opposite direction and keep the lid off unless we both leave the cell. The lid I leave upright against the bars and occasionally hang wet clothing on it to dry. Prisoners in the IDOC once were allowed to use clothing lines and in the 1990s I always had 3 or 4 going across the cell near the ceiling. However, this like the curtains, furniture, and etc. is now verboten. The only line I currently have is well hidden underneath the counter and is seldomly used. I do not know how the administration expects prisoners to dry clothes. Unlike medium or minimum security prisons, there is no place we can go to use a washing machine or dryer. Our dirty clothes are put in mesh laundry bags and must remain in the cell until they are picked up on wash day.

Like my cell, my property box is clean and meticulously ordered. I recall a guard once commenting upon searching the cell, it was way too immaculate and seemed to insinuate this made it suspicious. He was a good humored correctional officer and I miss him being reassigned elsewhere in the penitentiary. My property box is sectioned with cardboard that I get from the writing tablets I buy from the commissary. There is a section for clothes, hygiene items and food. There are also divisions between them to separate the three categories further. For example, my white underwear, socks and T-shirts are folded in a subdivision next to my blue and grey colored clothes. Within these subdivisions are also containers such as peanut butter jars and oatmeal boxes. Each jar is marked on top and has a different food product inside. There is a jar of instant coffee, mixed nuts, refried beans, instant rice, etc. I like having my boxes ordered like this because I can easily find whatever I am looking for.

A prison cell house worker happened to walk by when I had my large property box pulled out and he took note of what was in the "vault". Reggie was only joking but this is another example of what little privacy prisoners have. Without curtains, any passerby can see what you have and what you are doing. Later, I had to return the workers humor while he was wiping the dust off of every gallery bar. I told him he is doing such a great job that I am going to write a letter of recommendation to the governor so he could pad his resume when he asks for parole.  Reggie is in his mid-40's and he has dreams of the 50/25 law being passed. Prisoners on Monday received copies of Stateville Speaks, a newsletter put out by a prison rights advocate, Bill Ryan, and Northeastern Illinois University's Justice Studies program. In it, they went on and on about the bill which has yet to be voted on and may never become law. It was somewhat cruel to give all these convicts false hope, but at the same time amusing.

None of the jobs or programs offered at Stateville are likely to impress the Prisoner Review Board. For example, wiping off bars, sweeping and mopping floors, picking up trash and disposing of it can be done by anyone. Having a cell house help job is not going to teach any marketable skill particularly outside these prison walls. Weeks ago, my cellmate and I were amused also by an attorney who suggested his client should get a reduced sentence based on him learning how to write some rudimentary poetry at Stateville's creative writing class. The reason why Davis will most likely get time served is because he was only 14 years old, has already done over 20 years in prison, and was convicted under a theory of accountability for a double murder.

I rarely left my cell this week, however, I did leave for a few meals. In the chow hall I spoke with Steve who is taking a restorative justice class that seemed much deeper than those commonly taught at the maximum security prison. It is being sponsored by the University of De Paul, the same school he purportedly received his masters degree in music. Not only was a professor from the university teaching the class, but about 10 students drive to Stateville to participate and interact with prisoners. After receiving my degree from Lewis University while at Joliet Correctional Center, all college courses were eliminated and I never thereafter attended any low level or non accredited class. However, I thought this one may be interesting and would be worth leaving the confines of my cell. Unfortunately, I am told only a small number of men were permitted to be in the class and it is now closed.

The heat in the prison was recently turned off. Considering it snowed earlier in the week, it may be premature. Yesterday, I awakened very cold despite wearing thermals to bed and using two wool blankets. Temperatures were in the 40s, although the sun brightly shined into my cell and I could tell spring was here. Earlier in the week, I watched a PBS Nova program on the special sensory abilities of animals. A shark was able to detect magnetic fields and dolphins that were blindfolded could mimic the movements of swimmers in the water with their use of sonar. A dog seemed to know exactly what time of day it was. Later, researchers figured out the Vizsla could predict its owner's return by his nose as the man's scent dissipated throughout the day. Similarly I thought I could tell the time of day and year even if totally isolated and without a watch, TV, radio, or calendar just by the angle and strength of sunlight entering my cell. It was mid-April and close to the day 21 years ago that I was arrested and my life in prison cells began.

Earlier today, I learned Governor Quinn pardoned roughly 40 people of nearly a hundred clemency petitions. According to the news report, the petitions go back to 2007 and the Blagojevich administration. The people pardoned had already served their sentences or never did any time and were simply seeking to have their records cleared. I doubt Pat Quinn will boldly use his clemency powers until after the November election. In the meantime, I will wait in my cell. There is little I care to do outside these bars at the maximum security prison in any event. Even if Stateville was locked down permanently, it would matter little. In fact, unlike most prisoners, I prefer isolation within these walls. What matters to me is not life outside the prison cell, but life outside of prison.