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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Continued Lockdown and a Slow Recovery -- May 17, 2014

I continue to slowly recover from aggravating a low back injury last week. Unable to do my high intensity cell workouts, I have spent more time reading and watching television news. During a yard period, I did my best to lift weights but allowed myself to be distracted by conversation. Later, the penitentiary was placed on a low level lockdown and those days were beneficial in helping me rest and recuperate. However, as the pain in my back recedes, I grow more concerned about becoming ill. Yet another cold virus is sweeping across the prison and this strain is the worst I have seen in years. Numerous inmates have become very sick including my cellmate. Temperatures falling below 40 degrees and no heat in the building is not helping the situation. Yesterday morning, a nurse was meeting with sick prisoners. I spoke to her about my back because I knew there was nothing I could do to protect myself from the airborne contagion. Even hunkering down in my frigid cell with extra clothing and blankets will not shield me.

In the morning, I will typically exercise. However, with my back stiff and still causing me a lot of pain, I stayed in bed watching a few hours of political news shows on Sunday. The FOX network was the most critical of the Obama administration, although other shows could not avoid the scandals, incompetence and perpetual propaganda emanating from the White House. The main topic of conversation was the cover up in Benghazi, Libya where a U.S. embassy was overrun by Islamic terrorists. An email was discovered directing Susan Rice to deceive the American public into believing the attack was that of spontaneous unrest after a YouTube video was released. Although Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi claimed the misinformation was not done to help Barack Obama's reelection, a special committee is investigating the matter.

In Ukraine, another referendum was conducted to support succession or union with Russia. The vote, like that done in Crimea, was a sham and meant to give Vladimir Putin justification to invade eastern territories. The Russian president claimed he did not want the vote to take place, however, at the same time government controlled television was directing ethnic Russians where to vote. At the lunch table, I mentioned the ruse to Steve and expressed how the U.S. was making a mistake not intervening. Steve was indifferent to the matter, but my cellmate was sympathetic to the Russians given the U.S. Monroe Doctrine. Fat Pat who was listening did not know what the Monroe Doctrine was and I had to explain that it was opposition to any European intervention in the Western hemisphere. If the U.S. forbid any power from meddling in the affairs of countries nearby its borders, Anthony's reasoning was that Russia could do the same. However, I had to remind him the doctrine from the 5th president was outdated and spheres of interest were continually challenged as the world has become geopolitically much smaller. The USSR even placed nuclear missiles in Cuba and to create an independent Ukraine was not at all hypocritical.

After chow, I returned to the cell and began writing my previous post. Writing is challenging to me and is in no way easy. I have no natural ability to write and often am stumped as to what to say or how. There is also the problem that I cannot easily make corrections and must write very neatly so it is legible for someone to type. Although I have pencils, the prison does not allow pencil sharpeners or erasers. When I use a pen purchased at the commissary, I must start all over if I make a mistake, or use white acrylic paint as white out. Not surprisingly, I wrote throughout the afternoon and long into the evening using notes I had made the day before. Increasingly, I am thinking about ending my blog.

The guard who picked up mail stopped at my cell to talk. He told me he took some time off work and last week attended a Blackhawks game at the United Center. The professional hockey team was once again in the playoffs and contending for a consecutive Stanley Cup Championship. I would be watching the games except they are not broadcast on any of the stations Stateville receives. The guard complained about the cost of the tickets despite getting them for half their retail price. I told him if he will take me with him next time, I will pay for his seat. I doubt, however, even if I was friends with the warden, this would be a possibility. The IDOC does not have a furlough program even for prisoners in minimum security penitentiaries. It is extremely difficult to be given permission to see a dead family member in a funeral parlor for 15 minutes with armed escorts while restrained in shackles and handcuffs.

Monday morning, I ate a large breakfast of bran flakes and crumb cake which I spread peanut butter over. Therefore, when lunch lines began to leave the cell house a couple of hours later, I was not hungry. I considered not going but was informed that sliced ham was being served. Prisoners are not often fed real meat and it was enough to entice me to go. In the chow hall, I used a few sandwich bags to bring the bread and ham back with me to the cell to eat at a later hour. Unfortunately, a guard on the movement team pulled me out of line to be frisked and confiscated my lunch. Guards randomly pat down prisoners looking for weapons and contraband, but sometimes they will take food as well.

I was annoyed to have gone to the chow hall for no reason. I hated the crowds and noise. There were numerous obnoxious, loathsome, and loud prisoners I had to put up with. Many of them were also sick and coughed or sneezed indiscriminately. In addition, due to the way lines are run, it can take an hour to leave and return. Often I feel like I am amongst a herd of cattle being taken out to pasture and then corralled. Finally, I was still in a lot of pain and I was exasperated with movement. Upon returning to my cell, an announcement was made over the loudspeaker for the 2nd floor to be ready to leave for commissary. At the prison store, I could look forward to more of the same aggravations. Why did I not just stay in the confines of my cage?

By noon time, I was exhausted. I had shaved, bathed, gone to chow and commissary, reordered my property box and put away the new items I just purchased. I also had put together all my laundry to be sent out and washed the floor. As I was tying the knots in my laundry bags, I asked a gallery worker if he would get me a lunch tray. I did not want to bother making myself a meal. The prison worker came back quickly with one of the trays which had been sent to the cell house. It did not have any ham on it, but poorly processed turkey with a lot of gristle and even a couple of chips of bone. The food would have to do and after eating it, I went to sleep.

Refreshed from a nap, I read a financial newspaper. A family member is paying 2% fees to a mutual fund and I searched for an alternative investment. For a long time, I have been trying to persuade this person to move the money to Fidelity which had a very similar fund but was performing better and had less than half the costs. It was stupid to pay 2% in management fees especially considering how narrow the sector was. In addition to Fidelity, I highlighted all the ETF's available with the same objectives including a few which used "fundamental weighting". All this information I cut out of the Barron's newspaper and placed in an envelope along with a letter. Hopefully, it will convince her to switch funds and my efforts were not in vain.

Typically, my dreams are pleasant because I rarely think of prison and they are set in a time period before my arrest. The dream I awakened to Tuesday morning was no different and I was 14 or 15 years old. However, there was a disturbing dimension to it that haunted me for hours thereafter. While in bed a stoner from my high school had broken into my house and attempted to kill me. I took a heavy brick-like object and struck him in the head. The blow shattered his skull and I noticed not only blood but brain matter splattered against a bedroom wall. Clearly it was self defense, but because I was suspected of another murder, I was concerned how it made me look. The prosecutor may now press charges against me and I would be sent to prison for a crime I did not commit.

It was a dreary and chilly day with a light drizzle. The weather seemed to befit my injustice and 21 years of incarceration. Despite my back pain, I went to the South Yard and lifted weights. Unlike Saturday evening, I was able to do most exercises albeit with extreme caution. A biker worked out with me and my cellmate for half of the recreation period. Bone was more interested in talking than lifting weights, but I did not mind considering I could not go 100%. Plus, he had some amusing and wild stories to tell from when he was younger and free. For some reason, he had the impression that we may have been good friends in our high school years which made Anthony laugh. Bone did a lot of drugs, alcohol, and partying. In high school, he would have been considered a stoner, a clique of students I clashed with frequently during my freshman and sophomore years before I attended Lincoln-Way. Bone asked if I was in Friends Stand United which I never heard of but was told the group was fervently against drugs and frequently started fights.

On the 2nd shift, the prison was placed on a level 4 lockdown. I did not inquire why and was glad I would not have to go out for meals. In the evening, game 6 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild was being played. However, because it was not televised on any station at the prison, I watched an interesting documentary about the National Security Agency. Before Edward Snowden revealed the vast spying conducted by the U.S. government, I doubted many people were aware the Orwellian predictions in the book "1984" had come to fruition. The PBS program Frontline did a good job exposing the NSA, however, I doubt all its secrets have come to light.

Windows had been closed in the cell house, but it did not prevent the unit from being cold and damp. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, I heard prisoners complain there was no heat. I also heard them coughing and blowing their noses. Another cold virus was making many men sick. I hoped I did not catch it but I suspected my cellmate had already succumbed to the pathogen. It was only a matter of time before I became ill.

Also in the morning before noise levels became too high to hear anything below a shout, I heard guards using different frequencies to circumvent problems with radio communications. Last week, a radio tower was allegedly hit by lightning and the prison was placed on lockdown. Many prisoners thought it was not true particularly when the antenna began working just fine after the last day of Officer Appreciation Week. However, it seemed something was causing glitches and they have yet to be worked out. Around 8:30 a.m. an announcement was made that there would be no movement except for visits and necessary medical treatment. The latter did not include my pass to the Health Care Unit, but close to noon my name was called over the intercom system for a visit.

On my visit, I had to apologize for my unpleasant phone call on Mother's Day. On Sunday, I had called home and almost immediately became embroiled in a heated argument. My parents do not want to assist me in finding a private investigator or new counsel. I must just learn to accept this and try to find help elsewhere. I also had to apologize for being so critical. Although I do not have a natural writing ability, I do have the extraordinary talent to find the fault in everything and everyone. In the I.Q. tests I have taken, I score 100% on parts dealing with locating errors in numbers, symbols, or pictures. A psychologist was stunned when showing me pictures that I was able to find many flaws in addition to the one answer expected, and with great speed. To demonstrate my unique talent, I listed a number of imperfections and abnormalities that I had noticed just when I walked to the table we were to sit at, including a midget sitting at another table. I thought she was strikingly obvious, but my mother was oblivious.

After my visit, I listened to the sergeant complain about how some prisoners thought it was a "Motel 6". She was talking to another convict and I was surprised he agreed with her. The visiting rules were extremely strict and no touching is allowed except briefly before and after a visit. A prolonged kiss or embrace was forbidden. Men incarcerated for decades and with natural life sentences could not engage in the slightest romantic gestures or risk being sent to Segregation. The policy is outrageous and I was very frustrated and upset when a girl came to see me from across the Atlantic. It made me wish I had met her before the IDOC became so oppressive. I suppose it does not matter to me now that my only visitor tends to be my mother, however, I do not know how it does not bother prisoners with wives and girlfriends.

When I returned to the quarter unit, I noticed two new prisoners in the cell once occupied by Kojak. Psycho and Memo were vigorously cleaning the cell and I did not blame them. Kojak was not only semi-insane but very dirty. Later, I learned the "bug" had been sent to Seg and now I hoped my neighborhood would be improved with the removal of the pedophile next door. I rarely ever have any contact with John. Every now and then I will be given his mail because his last name is spelled closely to mine. The child molester does not get any personal mail, but a lot of health care passes. Depending on my mood, I will pass them over or crumple the papers into a wad and chuck them into his cell.

The penitentiary continued to be on lockdown Thursday and I spent my day mostly reading, listening, or watching TV news. In the morning, I listened to the John Kass and Warren Cohn radio talk show on WLS. They spoke about the pension crisis in Illinois and the city of Chicago. A judge has ordered an injunction against legislation passed last year reducing pension payments to retirees and increasing the amount of money current state union employees must put into the system. Despite this, Rahm Emanuel, the major of Chicago, is considering doing the same or increasing property taxes. The city and state are wallowing in debt due to decades of reckless spending, dysfunction, and corruption.

The day before, I listened to the growing scandal surrounding the "Neighborhood Recovery Initiative". Just before the 2010 election, Governor Pat Quinn gave the city $55 million to be used to combat violent crime. Instead, the money was doled out by Chicago aldermen to various questionable organizations. Much of the money simply vanished. There are accusations it was a political slush fund to drum up city votes. Years ago, a prisoner told me about the matter and he was excited yet another governor would be impeached and possibly sent to prison.

At 4 p.m., I tuned into CNN's Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room. He had the governor of California on babbling about how the wild fires in his state were the cause of global warming. Jerry Brown was an idiot and he should be a lot more concerned about his state's finances which are almost as bad as Illinois'. Carbon emissions were not increasing temperatures and at Stateville prisoners are freezing in their cells. There was actually snow in the northern and western suburbs of Chicago. On Friday, I was wearing thermals, sweats, and even a skull cap. Occasionally, I put my jacket on or draped a wool blanket over my shoulders.

Despite the lockdown, in-house sick calls were run yesterday. Prisoners were let out of their cells to see a couple of nurses in a makeshift medical office. The men I saw were all coughing or sniveling. A Mexican inmate a couple of doors down from me even came out of his cell with a cloth mask covering his nose and mouth. While I was waiting for my turn, I spoke to the lieutenant and guards in the sergeant's office. They were all bundled up as well. They said even if the boiler was turned back on, it would take a few days for it to be producing heat in the building. Surprisingly, the boiler is at the NRC and hot water and steam is piped a long distance underground to Stateville.

The nurse probably also thought I was there to be treated for the virulent strain of cold which has many inmates extremely ill. Instead, I asked her if I could be prescribed a narcotic pain medication for my back injury. I did not want to receive it every day, just when my back goes out and I cannot move. She told me the doctor did not prescribe medication this way and I should just tell them when I am in severe pain. I told her it could be weeks before I was seen, if not months, and then how would I get over to the hospital if I could not walk? She said that I can notify a nurse or a guard and they will get me over to the H.C.U. right away. I was skeptical. Fortunately, though, the severe pain in my lower back has receded and the NSAIDs I currently have are sufficient.