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Monday, December 8, 2014

Retribution -- October 11, 2014

The week began with normal operations and there were no restrictions on prisoners' movement. On Sunday, I went to the Health Care Unit and then later watched football on television. The following day, inmates in my unit were permitted to shop at the commissary for the first time in over a month due to repeated lockdowns. There were large crowds of men and plenty of drama, much to my annoyance, but later I received an unexpected visitor which was pleasant albeit brief. Tuesday, my cellmate and other prisoners attended "recreation" lines. I stayed in my chilly cell to exercise alone and have a little time to myself, although later in the evening I did leave for dinner. A full moon was rising above the prison wall which I did not want to miss. It is always a stirring sight and I was disappointed not to be able to see its eclipse when setting in the west. The earth casts an eerie red shadow on the satellite and is commonly referred to as a blood moon. The phenomena may have been a portend to violence for not long thereafter a lieutenant was beaten harshly. Initially, the motive of the assault was unclear and I wondered if it was simply rage. However, I have since learned the battery was retaliation for a malevolent act by the lieutenant a couple of years ago.

Sunday morning, I awoke to a dark and cold cell. Outside temperatures were in the 30's and strong gusts of wind brought the chilly air inside. Convicts as well as guards complained about the draft and lack of heat. Despite this, my cellmate left to take a shower. The shower room is located on the lower floor where most of the cold air settled. Upon his return, he told me not only was there a lack of heat but light. The lights in the shower room were not working and it was almost pitch black. I asked him if the pedophile copped a feel in the dark. He said, no, he thinks John only likes children but it would have been an opportune time for someone to bludgeon him. Guards almost seemingly read his mind and an announcement was made over the loudspeaker that all showers were cancelled until electricians could repair the lighting.

After chow lines were run, I got ready for my health care pass. The issue I most wanted to discuss with the psychiatrist was not receiving the melatonin the nurses were supposed to hand out to me at night. Some of the medical personnel hired by Wexford were incompetent automatons, and those who go cell to cell passing out medications I occasionally refer to as Pez dispensers. I did not know why I was not allowed to keep the over the counter drugs in my cell. How could a prisoner abuse a sheet of melatonin tablets? Medications often are problematic, though not because of the nurses but the pharmacy, and I ended up spending the majority of my time with the psychiatrist talking about my case. She was appalled by what happened and encouraged me to write to law schools such as Northwestern University.

Most prisoners were excited to watch the Chicago Bears play the Carolina Panthers. In fact, while waiting to return to the cell house I overheard men complain to the guard at the HCU that they were missing the game and to try to get them an escort back ASAP. The only game, however, I cared to watch was the New England Patriots play the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals. Despite losing some players the Patriots were still one of my favorite teams if not favorite. After being trounced by the Chiefs the week before, I expected them to rebound and rebound they did--crushing the Bengals 43 to 17.

The football game happened to be a matter of contention the following day at the commissary building. I had advised a prisoner to wager on the Patriots. He was reluctant to do so because the feeling was they were not a good team and he thought he should be given a handicap of several points at least. He took my advice, though, and wagered $40. At the store, the prisoner he had bet with did not want to pay him. He claimed the agreed upon wager was for only $20 of commissary. I did not want to get into the middle of the dispute, but eventually after conferring with me and others, they agreed to split the difference. There are a lot of convicts without any integrity and my best advice was not to bet with someone you could not trust.

Store day is always very chaotic. There are a number of movement lines on Monday plus men are seeking to pay off debts, help out friends, or trade commissary goods. The prison store only permits men to buy one jar of peanut butter, and one of this or that. People often exchange or trade for the commissary products they wanted. Since men are locked in their cells upon returning from store, we rely on cell house help workers to pass the items. Many prisoners want to move their commissary immediately and yell to one another obnoxiously until they can. I was not in any hurry, however, I was annoyed by all the noise and almost did not hear my name called for a visit.

While in the holding cage I spoke with Dave. He told me about a lawsuit he filed pertaining to the poor conditions at Stateville including lead paint, tainted water, and black mold growing on the ceiling and inside the plumbing tunnels. As he spoke, I noticed a man from Internal Affairs leave the building with a bag full of what looked like garbage and a piece of foam. Earlier the sergeant had taken a prisoner to Segregation, but none of us knew the reason. Dave did mention, however, the prisoner who was sent to Seg the previous week was found guilty of possessing contraband. Apparently, SORT wrote him a disciplinary ticket for having another prisoner's ibuprofen. This seemed very petty not only because it was an over the counter NSAID but because it was sold at the prison store.

In the visiting room, I led Cynthia to one of the back tables. I told her I reserved a table for two where we could have some privacy. There was no privacy, of course, and I believe the sergeant was just being nice allowing me to move from the center of the mob to a quieter area. Some of the staff other than those in the Mental Health Care Unit are aware I have autism. Once again I spoke to Cindy about junior high including if she went to any dances. She did, but apparently not as anyone's date and never danced with any boy. That seemed sad to me and if I had known I would have asked her hand in a slow dance. Later, she inferred that she would have wanted to go to the prom with me.

A couple of weeks prior my cellmate had inquired why I never dated Cindy when we went to school together. First, I did not become uber self confident until high school. Second, she was not the type of girl I sought out. At the time I was watching the movie "Fear" and mentioned how the actress Reese Witherspoon appealed to me. He joked how she just made a terrible film where she plays an employment counselor who befriends Sudanese immigrants. Apparently, she also was pulled over by police while her husband was driving. Both were intoxicated and Witherspoon began to tell the cops in slurred speech that this was America. My cellmate is an expert on celebrities, even their personal lives. I should have known better to then mention Alicia Silverstone's role in "Crush" because then he began to tell me how she was regurgitating food into her toddler's mouth like a bird.

Tuesday morning, I was without my cellmate. There was no purpose for me to go to the gym. All of the equipment on the 3 universal machines is broken except for one pulley. Last week prisoners had an opportunity to speak with the LTS (leisure time service) supervisor about the lack of weights and exercise equipment as well as their terrible condition. He claimed there were no barbells, benches, or other equipment to replace what was broken. He also added that there was no money to buy anything new. This is a farce. Prisoners know very well there are stacks of iron in the penitentiary hidden away most likely in the M and M shop. Furthermore, money was not an issue because there was plenty in the inmates' trust fund, and charitable organizations have offered to donate new gym equipment. While prisoners were talking with the supervisor, I even offered to donate all my exercise equipment and pay for broken cables out of my own account. He said the warden needed to approve any donations and this was the crux of the matter. Neither the administration nor union want prisoners to have access to weights or other equipment that will make them strong. Strong prisoners were dangerous prisoners in their perspective.

For dinner incarcerated men were served noodles with estrogen producing soy meal. Snowman, who was on the line, joked about the matter and then countered by saying, "Here, have some extra vegetables. They will make you live a long time in prison." The soggy broccoli and carrots were overcooked and the vitamins in them were probably boiled out. I did not come out for the food, however, nor the Snowman's quips, but to see the Harvest Moon. I love autumn with the waning summer light and shadows which only seem to bring out the colors of trees turning gold, orange, and red. I also do not mind the chilly nights as long as my dwelling has heat. The full moon, however, was the most impressive as a prisoner. Watching it rise over the penitentiary's 33 foot high concrete wall was spellbinding. If I were a wolf, I would howl longingly for the freedom so greatly deprived me.

The regular cell house lieutenant went on vacation and in his place was an obnoxious, loud, black woman. Wednesday morning she was screaming and bitching at various prisoners. They were let out of their cells to attend law library, barbershop details, and various passes. Convicts loitered and did not come directly down the stairs thus ensuring her wrath, although she seems regularly angry. The lieutenant also yelled at cell house workers and told them to stay on their assigned galleries. These men do not work for the extra $18 in state pay they receive monthly but to be out of their cages and wandering about. Regardless, laundry had been returned and they had to pass out all the bags.

Toward 11 a.m., the lieutenant was yelling at cell house workers again. This time she told them all to go to their cells to lock-up. I assumed the lieutenant was angry because they did not follow her commands, but then I noticed prisoners returning from the library and other places. The entire penitentiary had been placed on lockdown and everyone was locked in their cells. As this was going on, I heard a prisoner shout to another that a lieutenant was beaten up. From what I could make out over the noise, he said an inmate wanted to get a basketball before going on the South yard. The lieutenant refused to let him and an argument ensued. When the correction's officer became insulting, the convict reacted with a barrage of punches. The prisoners in the cell house shouted that the lieutenant working in the unit should get a beating, although the exchange abruptly ended when someone shouted "Warden in the cell house!"

With the warden in the building, I did not think I could gather any more information and put on my headphones to listen to the Rush Limbaugh show. The radio talk show host was discussing Ebola and the president's flip flop on Iraq. He believed Barack Obama was now acting in part due to very low approval ratings. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had also come out publicly rebuking the president while on his very candid book tour. According to Penetta, Obama should have never taken out troops from Iraq. To temper his words, he said the president was moving in the right direction and those "advisers" were actually soldiers. Obama may say "no boots on the ground," but these people were military forces and would be wearing boots.

Kitchen workers were surprisingly let out for work and I wondered if it had something to do with the meal. Inmates were preparing grilled cheese sandwiches and although this may seem like a very easy thing to make, my cellmate who once worked in the kitchen tells me it is very laborious. The meal was not very filling and I added tuna fish to make two tuna melt sandwiches. As I ate, I watched the CBS TV show "Survivor". In this episode, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker was voted out by his "tribe" because they thought he was a bigot. About a decade ago, he gave an interview while in New York City where he spoke candidly about his terrible experience in the subway. He said it was filthy and crowded with low-lives. I say this all the time about Stateville and could not imagine why his teammates were upset. Even if he was intolerant to other people, he was their best chance to succeed in challenges and it was dumb to vote him out. It reminded me why I did not like the TV show. It was much more about popularity and conniving rather than surviving.

The following day, I watched television news as I ate my breakfast. News programs had footage of the lunar eclipse I would have liked to see with my own eyes, however, it occurred on the other side of the building. My cell house faces the east where the moon rises, not sets. Regardless, I did not know if I could see the shadow through the quarter unit's dingy windows. After the first 15 minutes of news, I went to the sink to brush my teeth and discovered the cold water was not working. My immediate thought was the Orange Crush was going to raid the cell house. It was just searched a couple of weeks ago, but regularly the SORT was used as retaliation. When a guard or particularly a high ranking correction's officer was assaulted, inmates were collectively punished. I quickly awakened my cellmate so he would not be caught off guard, however, it was for naught. Staff in the cell house did conduct some cell searches, but the tactical unit never came.

The prison was on a strict level 1 lockdown and the only men let out of their cells were kitchen workers and those in need of emergency medical treatment. I did not mind the confinement to my cell because there was little I wanted to do outside it. True freedom was not meandering or socializing in the building or within these walls, but outside of them. Furthermore, I had fewer distractions and "room service" where trays were brought to my cell. In the evening, a stack of newspapers was handed to me and I had plenty to read if not too much so I saved most of it for later. There was no telling how long the lockdown could last.

Speaking with a kitchen worker, I was told the name of the lieutenant who was beaten up. However, it was very common and I could not put a face to it. I asked my cellmate and he ridiculed me for not knowing. He said she was a short, heavy-set black woman who I see all the time. "Where?" I asked. He told me she is often on the walk going to chow or onto the big yard. I still had no clue. "Why do you think someone would beat up the woman?" was my next question. "Was she like the lieutenant who occasionally works in the cell house?" He said no, but if an inmate got "jazzy" with her, he could see her giving it right back. Later a guard claimed the lieutenant was jumped by a group of gangbangers.  I was skeptical of this story because it did not take several men to pummel a woman.

On Friday, Internal Affairs was in the building, but I did not know what they were doing. I was listening to the John Kass/Laura Cohn radio show and my cellmate was, as usual, tuned into his TV. He was watching the film "World War Z" again which apparently is popular again due to Halloween approaching and the continual news reporting on Ebola. The president seems ironically to think the U.S. must take the fight to Africa while he is unwilling to do so for military crises in Ukraine, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Ebola is an untreatable disease however, and the best thing to do is isolate and contain it similarly to the zombie movie my cellmate was watching. It is only when an antidote is found that something can be done about it.

Being on a lockdown, word is slow to trickle through the penitentiary. However, I finally learned that the lieutenant thought to be assaulted was not. Apparently there is another lieutenant with the exact same name. The person is not a "she" but a "he" and he is not black but white. He was also working in the Roundhouse where most of the high aggressive inmates as well as staff assaulters are confined. Despite purportedly having an eye patch, I do not know who the corrections officer was but I am told he was assigned to work at the NRC unit because of misconduct within the wall a couple of years ago. After an inmate was subdued, he allegedly took a pair of handcuffs and bashed the man in the face. The inmate's gang never forgot the incident and when the opportunity presented itself, they retaliated. A few Hispanics diverted the guard's attention with a fight leaving the lieutenant alone to fend for himself. It was only one prisoner, but apparently retribution was delivered.