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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Return of SORT -- September 27, 2014

The SORT returned to the cell house to finish searching cells. There were only 2 galleries remaining including the one I am confined on. The experience is never pleasant, however, the tactical unit used more restraint than during prior mass conducted searches I have been through. Prisoners only spent a few hours in the chow hall wearing handcuffs and the guards were nice enough to place them in the front. Property was thoroughly searched but not thrown about and I only heard one complaint of damage. Furthermore, there was no pervasive looting of inmates' belongings and little of consequence was taken from cells. The treatment prisoners received in C House, however, was much different than that in an adjacent quarter unit. From what I am told, an enormous tactical team from outside penitentiaries was brought in to search their cells. The Orange Crush ensemble tore through the cell house in a single 8 hour shift.

Sunday morning I awakened near 7 a.m., and as customary, I ate my breakfast while watching the news. On my tray were a couple of small biscuits, a scoop of dry cereal, and some disgusting gravy I tend to believe only very hungry men in Segregation will consume. After the top news stories, I went about getting ready for the rest of my day. The penitentiary was on lockdown and I intended on working out, reading, and writing a letter or two before the late afternoon football games came on television. The Denver Broncos were playing the Seattle Seahawks in what would be a rematch of last season's Superbowl. This time, I expected a much better game.

My plans were for naught because a chorus of prisoners began yelling, "SORT on the walk!" Indeed, when I went to the front of my cell, I saw a group of about 40 guards going towards the front door of the quarter unit. I knew they would soon be on the gallery and banged on the metal bunk to wake my cellmate before I sat on the table. He did not expect the tactical unit to come until Monday and was possibly even buying into rumors that the lower two floors of the cell house would not be searched at all.

Guards conducting the search were not dressed in the infamous Orange Crush attire. They wore regular uniforms and were without billy clubs or body armor. The guard who stopped outside my cell bars seemed oddly casual. The first thing he mentioned was how clean and orderly the cell was. He asked if we were in the military. I told him my cellmate was in the Marine Corps for 4 years but I was arrested just out of high school. He was familiar with Lincoln-Way Central as well as their football team, the Knights. He asked me if I was aware there were now four Lincoln-Way high schools. Yes, despite being incarcerated 21 years, I knew of the additional schools, however, what was puzzling to me was why each town did not have their own school. It seemed to make more sense for there to be a Mokena, Frankfort, and New Lenox high school now that there were so many more students. The guard explained Lincoln-Way had such a good reputation the residents did not want to rename the schools.

Both my cellmate and I had to undergo a strip search. As I undressed, I placed my clothes on the bars and the guard checked them for contraband. Naked, I then raised my hands before opening my mouth and pulling my lips to expose my gums. Turning around, I lifted both my feet so the guard could see I was not hiding anything underneath them. The most humiliating part of a strip search is bending over to have the crack of your ass inspected. While dressing, I asked the guard how long the search was going to take. He said considering how ordered and clutter free the cell was, he thought he would be done within an hour, however, I should not expect to be back until close to noon.

Half the gallery of inmates were brought out of their cells in handcuffs behind their backs. Guards escorted us outside where we were lined up in two lines parallel to each other. Unlike chow or other movement lines, prisoners were quiet. It was a chilly autumn morning and strong gusts of wind made my eyes tear up. I tried blotting them but it was difficult with my hands cuffed behind me. I brought my shoulder to an eye and then a knee. At least prisoners were able to wear underclothes and shoes, unlike times past. Without them, I would have been cold.

Prisoners were led to the chow hall and told to sit at a specific group of tables. I was seated with my neighbors except for Hooch who sat at a table next to us to speak with Horse. In his place was a Mexican inmates call Memo. I thought it was interesting the pedophile who I regularly ridicule and give a hard time was sitting across from me. However, while I was thinking of all the crazy conversation I was going to have with him, he switched seats with a black man my cellmate will occasionally converse with. I said to Anthony, "What did you do? Why did you scare off my good friend John?" My cellmate had not said a word to him and blamed me for him bolting as soon as possible.

Not long after being seated, a few prisoners began to yell about their handcuffs. I assumed SORT had put them on too tight and they wanted them loosened. Handcuffs behind the back will always gouge into my wrists leaving bruises for a long period of time. If we were left in the chow hall passed noon, I intended to bring my arms under my feet so they would be in front of my body. However, this proved unnecessary and a couple of guards came into the fenced in area to re-cuff everyone with their hands in front of them. The guard who redid mine I knew from his working in the penitentiary. In fact, I recognized about a dozen guards on the SORT. They were all Stateville correctional officers and this may explain in part why they were not as malicious as those who are brought in from other institutions and suited up in Orange Crush attire.

The tables in the chow hall are made of metal and are hexagonal in shape. Six prisoners can sit on the steel stools which are bolted into the floor. To my left was Leprechaun and to my right was Anthony. Both men sat close to me and I could smell their foul breath. To the midget I said, "My cellmate just awoke, but what is your excuse?" He did not know what I was talking about so I went on to inquire what he ate for breakfast. He told me he never eats the gravy but had a couple of biscuits. "Were those shit biscuits?" I asked. Setting Leprechaun up for the zinger was all too easy, although I wish the pedophile was there to amuse me. I could ask him about his fondness for 10-year-old retarded girls and a lot more.

Memo worked in the kitchen and was being allowed to go to his assignment during most of the lockdown. Prisoners naturally wanted to know if he had heard anything the rest of us had not. Security had purportedly found some shanks and the administration was concerned about what their intended purpose may be. Was there a gang dispute? A plan to stab a correctional officer? Or just an inmate who had a vendetta? If weapons were indeed recovered, it could mean none of the above. Regularly, men at maximum security prisons prepare for self-defense or any eventuality.

Prisoners at the table were curious what changes in the IDOC would occur if Bruce Rauner was elected governor. The governor has enormous power over the state's prison system. He appoints the director and all the top administrators who effect policy. He also has the ability to close or open penitentiaries as well as curb or increase the number of people incarcerated. Recently, Rauner put out a deceptive campaign ad that accused the current governor of releasing thousands of criminals. The only thing Pat Quinn has done is reinstate meritorious good time credits for nonviolent offenders during their first 60 days which allowed some people to be released on parole a couple of weeks to a couple of months sooner. Personally, I think Bruce Rauner will keep the same policy in place if not think of other ways to reduce the state's bloated prison system. Although he has pledged to reopen Tamms, he also has pledged to shrink the budget by 10-20%. Thus, either prisoners or staff must be cut. Hopefully, the shrewd businessman realizes that both need to be greatly reduced.

After nearly 3 hours had passed, prisoners were brought back to the quarter unit. I was dreading what type of mayhem SORT would leave in my cell. However, it was not so horrible. My cellmate and I both had all of our property searched thoroughly, but it was not tossed about or damaged in any way. In fact, the guard seemed to carefully stack my property on my bunk and Anthony's on his. Furthermore, he did not tear the hooks off the wall, pull our televisions down, or pillage our meager possessions. I told Anthony he had me to thank. If it were not for my Lincoln-Way connection, the cell would have been ransacked. However, it seems the SORT was much more considerate than in the past.

Despite how the guard had neatly stacked my property, it took me about the same amount of time I was in the chow hall to put everything back into place. First, I had to clean the two boxes with soap and water. I generally do this once a month or every other month and since all my property was already out, I felt I may as well complete the task. After the boxes dried, I had the more arduous job of putting everything back in systematic order. My cellmate says that my autism is probably not as much as a problem as my need to have everything perfectly placed. Regularly, I am cleaning the cell and keeping things in immaculate order. I will even order his property when it bothers me.

While I was diligently working to get everything back in the cell to its previous alignment, the tactical team returned. This time, they took out the second half of prisoners on the gallery. Every gallery has 58 cells, but when the building was split into quarter units, that left only 28 in C House. I assume SORT searched the cells on the gallery by taking the first 14 cells' occupants and then the second. However, I was too preoccupied to look out my cell bars to take notice. I wanted to finish as soon as possible because I still wanted to watch the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks at 3:30.

The Superbowl rematch was as good as I had anticipated. The Broncos stunningly came back to tie the game in the last seconds and they lost in overtime. I was offered 6 points in a wager after I haggled for a couple of extra points. Initially I was only offered 4, but I insisted on everything short of a touchdown as a handicap to take the underdog who was routed 43 to 8 in February.

After the game, I worked out for an hour. By the time I finished bathing out of the sink, it was past 8 p.m. Exhausted, I sat on my bunk and contemplated going to sleep early. However, I had a letter I wanted to send out in the mail and worked on it until mail pick-up. Half way through my letter, I stopped and made a chocolate pudding-peanut butter sandwich. For dinner, we were served pudding as a dessert and I had saved my tray. The high calorie snack was enough to keep me awake for another hour, but then I crashed for the night.

The following day, prisoners shouted for showers early in the morning. On lockdown, men are still supposed to get one shower per week. Even my cellmate had his laundry bag full of shower supplies and a clean set of underclothes ready. However, staff told inmates they must wait until the 2nd shift. This did not satisfy men on the lower galleries because they knew the 2nd shift would say it was the 1st shift's job. The argument, though, became mute when another group of SORT rushed into the unit to search the remaining cells on the lower floor. Getting these men out and to the chow hall took some time because of how many are elderly or crippled. Looking out the window it looked like a line of men from an old folks home.

While the first half of the lower floor was being searched, Internal Affairs walked into the building. The security unit went upstairs and brought back down with them about a dozen inmates. I assume they were taken to I.A.'s headquarters across from the kitchen to be questioned. Most convicts will not give I.A. any information but a few can be coaxed especially if pressured or if they have leverage. There are also snitches in all of the quarter units that security personnel rely on for information. The men taken in for questioning did not return until 1 p.m. and I do not know if I.A. is any wiser.

Monday the mail room was nice enough to process all my newspapers from the previous week. I always enjoy reading old news. At least the USA Today's and Barron's are not as outdated as my personal mail. Blog readers are probably annoyed that my posts are sometimes 2 months old. Most of this delay is not due to blog volunteers who type what I send them. In any event, I spent most of my evening reading. There is news I may have missed or more elaboration on a story that was sharply edited on TV. Weeks ago I heard about Bill O'Reilly's new book Killing Patton, however, I was not able to read more about it until I saw a piece about it in the newspaper. The book is a conspiracy story that concludes that the WWII general did not accidentally die after a truck crash but was poisoned by Soviets. George S. Patton was very popular in the U.S. and could have made a bid for president, as Dwight Eisenhower did. Unlike Eisenhower and others though, he was brashly anti-communist and may have decided to crush the U.S.S.R. and Red China before either developed the atomic bomb. I am skeptical of conspiracy theories, however, I may still read the book because I like the general and am also fiercely against communism.

Another article I read with interest was regarding the U.S. president's refusal to give military aid to Ukraine. Barack Obama was the antithesis of General George S. Patton. If Patton was in control of U.S. forces, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would not have to beg for assistance. Already NATO would be on Russia's doorstep just waiting for any provocation. There would not have been any Russian forces ever entering Ukraine in the first place. Vladimir Putin would have accepted the revolution and been happy he was still in power. After all, his dream of recreating the Soviet Union would not even exist had Patton had his way in 1945. From Berlin, U.S. forces would have stormed right through to Moscow. Communism, decades of cold war, etc. never would have occurred. Yet due to the pacifist-socialist in the White House, American power is retreating globally and withering within.

While I read about Petro Poroshenko not being able to win a war with blankets, the vast majority of prisoners watched the Chicago Bears play on Monday night football. At Stateville, 20 miles from the city, there are a lot of Bear fans and they cheered whenever a big play was made. With my headphones on, I could still hear the shouts and applause. I changed positions from the table near the cell bars to the bunk. Just moving several feet into my cell could lessen the noise, although not greatly. Using my small property box in lieu of a table, I finished most of the newspapers before going to sleep. For the night, I put ear plugs in despite how the cell house became quieter. I always wear ear plugs to sleep.

On Tuesday, prisoners in the quarter unit thought we would be on a low level lockdown with visits, access to phones, showers, and some health care passes. However, the prison was still on a level 1. In fact, early in the morning men could hear the rumble of the Orange Crush storming into B House. I was not able to see it from my cell, but according to others, a small army of guards dressed in full tactical gear was about to ransack the unit. These guards were bused in from other penitentiaries and, from what I was told, were not nearly as friendly. They also looted and damaged a great amount of property. Later, prisoners speculated why the cell houses were treated so differently.

On the 9 p.m. news, WGN reported a prisoner from Vandalia had escaped. Vandalia is a minimum security penitentiary in southern Illinois. I was not surprised the inmate who escaped was in prison for stealing a car and only had 4 months left to serve. The administration for IDOC has a tendency to overreact, however, I highly doubted convicts who yelled from their cells were correct in drawing a correlation between the Orange Crush raid and an escape.

Most likely, B House was where the weapons were found or where the investigative leads of I.A. led them. The quarter unit I am in is less violent and has more elderly prisoners. The following day, the penitentiary was let off lockdown a few hours before the escapee was apprehended trying to catch a ride on the interstate. For the first time in nearly 3 weeks, Stateville has normal operations.


  1. Why the heck would that dude try to escape when he only had 4 months left? I think now he'll have to serve 7 years in a max facility? Stupid. Stewpid. Stoopid.

    1. You know nothing. You get the itch nicely related to some woman...and you start walking instead of waiting 4 months then run not know nothing :)

    2. I know something. The guy's a dimwit for escaping. Four months is nothing compared to SEVEN YEARS.

  2. Paul,
    Republican Terri Bryant was elected for the 115th district state rep. She comes from Pickneyville prison. She has already publicly announced that she wants Tamms re opened.
    Rauner has a history with corporation run prisons. She is quoted saying this,

    “It would be a facility that is a permanent segregation facility. Not inmates permanently in segregation, but a facility that is always for segregation and so if an inmate misbehaves in another facility and you need to get them separated you move them to that facility. They can earn their way out, they earn their way in, they earn their way out,” she said.

    Watch and see how this goes down. Rauner will make $$$$ for investors, and Bryant will gain campaign funds for her next step in politics. Rauner will also secure funds or his next step up in politics.

    Tamms is ready to go for a private run penitentiary. It can be bought at a cut rate. No need to spend the dollars building a new facility, buy one at a quarter on the dollar that already fits the bill.
    Sit back and watch it unfold.

    My question here to those that voted for Quinn in the past, what did he do that hurt you? What do you think Rauner will do to help you? I feel Rauner will help the rich, appease the poor, and fuck the middle class.

    My prediction, Tamms will be fully privatized in 2015, and house Illinois inmates by 2016.
    Watch what happens to medical care, phone calls, and commissary in Illinois prisons with Rauner in charge.

    The sad thing is, the black voters didn't vote this time. The white voters did.

    Before you question my knowledge of Tamms, I was incarcerated there in the minimum security unit. I know about the shower that goes cell to cell, (the cell is opened and you walk into the shower, 2 min later, your back in your cell, then the shower is slid to the next cell), the hallway behind the cells that the inmates take to the dog cage for their 1 hour of outside yard a week, and the blocks of cells that are underground with no outside light. The inmates housed at Tamms saw 1 hour a week of daylight.

    The nation was outraged after the girls in Ohio were discovered locked in a basement, yet it's ok to treat humans (prisoners) this way. At least the girls saw sunlight.

    Paul, keep your head up. We grew up in the same neighborhood, in Westmont.

    1. You have some good points. Personally, I dont think it matters who sits in the IL governor's seat. Nothing is going to change. We're just lucky to elect a governor that doesn't get sent to Club Fed.

      I've read good and bad about.private prisons. Interested to hear Paul's opinion.

    2. Privatize everything. Public Unions are destroying this Country.

    3. Tamms being built was a pork barrel giveaway for a piss poor region of Illinois. Wonder how that water will taste when they start fracking down there.

    4. I think people in Illinois just wanted "change" and didn't get any! Chicago is known as the murder capital of the world, its near impossible to park a car in Chicago without paying a fortune, and Quinn raised the state income tax. Chicagoans pay low property taxes but the rest of the state pays an "arm and a leg." A few people I know said they voted for Rauner to give someone else a chance to fix the state.

    5. Agree--the unions force taxes to continue higher and higher to pay their wages and lush benefit packages. Many unions in Illinois provide lifetime health insurance and pensions with guaranteed cost of living raises. Yah, I'm jealous, but the rest of the people are taxed to death to pay for all that. You pay higher property taxes, rents, gasoline, utilities, sales endless list of taxes!

    6. Terry Bryant was in prison?!

    7. Anonymous 11/15: My opinions will be discussed in a future post entitled "Elections". My mail, both in and outgoing, continues to be slow and erratic.

    8. I tend to believe Rauner will reopen Tamms as a Seg facility, however, while opening up Pontiac C.C. to general population. To reduce costs, he may also close Stateville which is the most expensive and worn down penitentiary. I highly doubt the supermax will be privatized, although certain divisions within the IDOC could. By the way, Tamms is still owned by the state.

    9. Anonymous 11/15: We may have grown up in the same neighborhood, but our opinions on this matter could not be farther apart. If I were not incarcerated, I would have voted for Bruce Rauner. He will be a much better governor than Pat Quinn for all people: rich, middle class, and poor. I also believe he will be better for the IDOC. Unfortunately his power outside of his direct executive authority will be thwarted by a Springfield dominated by Democrats.

    10. Anonymous 11/21: Chicago is not close to being the murder capital of the world. In fact violent crime rates in the city and across the country have been falling since the early 1990s. However, I do agree that many people in Illinois voted for Bruce Rauner because they wanted change. Whether or not they will get this with Democrats maintaining super majorities in both the House and Senate is another question.

  3. Always happy to see another blog entry. Have a sane week.

  4. The Glenbard schools are like that too, keep using the same name over and over.

  5. Why lockdown Stateville if the escapee was from Vandalia? Were they afraid the guy was trying to hitchhike TO Stateville?

    1. He might as well have hitched a ride to Stateville. He'll probably have to do the rest of his time in a maximum security prison.

    2. Good one! LOL ! Perhaps the guards will use any excuse to keep everyone locked up for a day--less work for them!

  6. Glad to have found this blog.

  7. I wonder what effect Bruce Rauner will have on IDOC

    1. Very astute comment, Miller. Bruce Rauner will have great difficulty in passing legislation with the Democrats maintaining their super majorities in both legislative chambers.

  8. The Madigans run Illinois, matters not who is in the governor's mansion.



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