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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clemency Hearing - July 15, 2010

On Sunday, I called home to see what plans had been made for my clemency hearing on the 14th. When I called, I found my mother was preparing for the event. She was going over various ideas and making notes. I told her not to be nervous or over-prepared. I advised making a simple outline of the most important issues. I tend to believe the Prisoner Review Board had already made conclusions, and the hearing was mostly a formality. Decisions, I believe in my circumstance, are largely based on the political climate. All of this is beyond my mother's control despite what a great presentation she may make. What was most important, I thought, was to merely show the Board that I had family and supporters who were willing to travel to central Illinois to speak on my behalf.

The hearing is conducted in one of the state buildings in Illinois' capital, Springfield. It is a long drive for my family, and previously they have asked to have their scheduled time later in the day so they would not be late, or have to begin driving before dawn. At my last hearing, the site had been moved to another building without any advance warning. When my family arrived there, they found a sign directing them to a different location. My family had arrived at the last minute, and then had to scramble to find the new place. At the second location they found another note directing participants to yet another location a few blocks away.

This time, I told them to drive to Springfield the day before and spend the night at a hotel. The next day they would be well rested and unrushed. They were taking my advice and as I spoke with my mother, she searched for hotels on the Internet.

I asked my mother who was attending my hearing this time. She told me that my sister, herself and possibly my father. I asked why she said "possibly," and she told me he thought there was no point in the matter. He believes the Board will never grant my petition. I replied that I realized the odds were minute, but it was important to make the effort nevertheless. I reasoned the hearing was mostly a formality with little relevance, but what relevance there existed, in my opinion, was demonstrating to the Board that I had supporters willing to travel and speak on my behalf. Previously, my father has become very passionate and emotionally taxed at these hearings only to later have my petition denied. It must be very strenuous and painful for my parents to repeatedly argue my innocence and the travesty of justice that has occurred to their son time and time again to a Board that seems unmoved.

I wanted someone to go in my father's place if he was not going. My mother asked, "Who?" I said, "Anyone, but preferably male, and it did not have to be a family member." I always speculate how the Board views my mother as an advocate for my release. Almost all mothers back their sons regardless of their guilt, character, potential, or rehabilitation. Many mothers have unconditional love for their sons, and will not be viewed as objective. I wanted someone to attend my hearing who was not biased, but strongly believed in my release.

I asked my mother about various men who were friends of my family and had expressed strong opinions about my conviction and imprisonment. I asked about male relatives and was told they had to work and could not be expected to take a day off on such short notice. I questioned why she had not approached them earlier about the matter, but did not press the issue because I should have asked one of them myself a long time ago. I assumed, though, that my father would be going. I mentioned my brother-in-law. Although he had already given an affidavit that was used as an exhibit in my petition, he could personally tell the Board how my car could not have been used by my co-defendant on the evening in question. I was told that it was his birthday and the last thing he wanted to do was spend the entire day with his mother-in-law. I thought about a man who was not a relative, and of good moral stature that has come to know me very well over the years, and knows the details of my case. Unfortunately, he lives in Canada. Although I have acquired about 780 signatures online in support of my Clemency Petition, I was disappointed that only two people would be speaking on my behalf to the Board.

I hung up the phone, and turned on my television to the World Cup Soccer Championship game. I am not a fan of soccer and in my opinion it would never come close to equaling the sport of American football. However, I had watched a few of the semifinals and found myself hoping for a German-Holland championship. Mexico was among the countries in the original mix, and there were quite a number of prisoners cheering for the country. In one of the games that Mexico won, I heard a lot of banging on bars and saw confetti falling from the upper galleries. Mexico did not go far, however, and although Spain was in today's final, there was not any excitement over the game. I have learned that although Spaniards and Mexicans share the same language, that is about as far as their affinity for each other goes. After learning of the disappointing news from my mother, I was not in much of a mood to hear the annoying and obnoxious horns of the fans at the soccer game and watched it mostly without any sound on my TV. Spain won the game by one 1 to 0, but by the play, it was clear that Spain deserved the victory.

Wednesday morning, I did not fail to remember my hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. At that hour, I briefly imagined what was taking place. Prisoners are never brought to clemency hearings, but it would have been nice if I could speak on my own behalf and witness the event myself. I will have to rely on the second hand information I receive from my family. I believe I wrote a good petition and people tell me I am a good writer. I can have difficulty connecting with people on an individual basis, and possibly a written presentation was for the better. Chow lines were run early and when I returned, I knew my hearing was over. I did not give the hearing much thought, if any, later in the day. This was my 5th clemency hearing, and with each one, I give less and less thought to them. Other than when I wrote the petition earlier this year, I have thought very little about it. Unlike prior petitions, I have not even entertained the thought of it being granted, and what life would be like outside these prison walls. I have been in prison so long that it is exceedingly difficult to even fantasize about a life post prison, and I realize my petition has only slightly better chances than winning the lottery.

Earlier today, my mother came to visit me. It was noisy and crowded as usual. During our visit, I said little and slowly drank a bottle of cranberry juice as I listened to her recall the events from my hearing. Every now and then I would ask her a question. I tried to ascertain an objective, critical, and as unadulterated version of events as possible. It is not beyond my mother to intentionally alter events in an attempt to make me feel less pessimistic or more hopeful about my future. In order to get a better, or at least variant perspective, I will call my sister in a few days. I will then see how their stories match up.

My mother related to me that the hearing was in a large room inside the new capital building. At the front were about ten plush chairs behind a long wooden table or bar. Only three of these chairs were filled, which surprised her. Typically, five or more Prisoner Review Board members are present. The three that were present had been present for prior hearings, but only my sister was able to recognize them at a distance. The room had rows of chairs facing forward that were largely empty. There were only three other people there to speak to the board about petitions, and one prosecutor representing the state. In the front of the public seating area were a few chairs with a table and microphones. I was told the architectural style of the building and interior was of classical design. It had somewhat of a courtroom appearance, but was more lavish in woodwork and craftsmanship. Details, such as this, I like to hear about because of my interest in architecture. I specifically like the romantic-neoclassical style that is present in many government buildings from the 1800s.

I was interested in the other cases that the board heard that day. I wanted to know what type of cases they were, how they presented their issues, how the prosecutor responded, and finally how the Board reacted. To have any sense of perspective, I needed to know about other clemency hearings. My mother clearly wanted to speak about how my hearing went, but she indulged my curiosity and told me about two of the other cases.

The first woman basically had a drug case. She currently had three low level part-time jobs but gained an education over the years and was hoping to secure better employment. She told the Board about her schooling and the line of work she was hoping to do if her request for a pardon was granted. One Board member interrupted her and asked why there was no prosecutor present to oppose her petition. (There is always a prosecutor assigned to cases being reviewed.) She said she did not know, whereupon she was asked if she sent a copy of her petition to the states attorney's office as required. She said she did not know she had to. The Board told her that they could not consider her petition at this time, and told her how to reapply.

The second case was a man who was convicted of domestic battery. The man had been separated a long time from his ex-wife, and had not had any other problems with the law except failure to pay child support. He wanted a pardon so he could get a better paying job, which would help him pay all the back child support he owed. A Board member asked him how far behind he was in child support payments. The man said he could not recall. However, the Board did not believe him and insisted several times that he answer. Finally the man admitted to still owing over $90,000. From what I was told, this did not sit well with the board, and my mother tended to think he will not receive a positive recommendation. The prosecutor for the state in that case was the same one who appeared to speak against my petition, James McKay. He ranted against clemency for that man, saying that the man had a few arrests regarding violation of an order of protection filed by his first wife and nonpayment of child support. He said some hateful things about this man, and concluded that it was doubtful he would be successful at any job. The man was given a 5 minute rebuttal, but my mother didn't think it did any good.

Upon entering this courtroom, both my mother and sister immediately saw James McKay sitting in the far back corner. McKay was the lead prosecutor at my trial, and may be the most unscrupulous and unprofessional assistant states attorney in Cook County. At my trial, McKay lied about the law of accountability and the evidence during his opening and closing statements. He also intentionally used witnesses that he knew were lying or incredible. McKay, furthermore, over dramatized and acted like he was the leader of a 3 ring circus to appeal to jurors' emotions and distract them from the facts of the case. He was successful in convicting an innocent man, but I suppose in some circles he is thought of as very good at his job. However, in my opinion, a good states attorney is not one who wins every case, but one who follows the laws and seeks truth and justice, not just convictions.

Typically, the petitioner is permitted 20 minutes to speak, which is then followed by 20 minutes for the prosecutor. The petitioner then gets 5 minutes in rebuttal. During these times, the Board will ask questions from time to time. The Board chairman has the authority to grant a speaker extra time, and my mother and sister were probably given close to an hour total to speak and rebut the lies of the prosecutor.

I am told the chairman was very friendly in greeting my mother when she approached the bench. My family has spoken to some of the same board members several times, and through three different executive administrations, so they have been acquainted for some time. My mother began by telling the Board that, although the petition was printed on her computer, everything contained in it is my words which I had written and sent to her. She also vouched for all the exhibits being authentic copies of the originals. The exhibits included transcript excerpts from my trial, police reports, affidavits, and various other documents. My mother sought to make this clear from the onset because of the prosecutor's penchant for lying. My petition has about 100 exhibits intentionally she told the Board, so despite what the prosecutor may claim, they will have the facts.

Board members stated that they have read the petition carefully and were very well acquainted with the facts and issues I presented. In prior hearings, my mother had been told not to rehash the petition, so my mother thought she would go over subject matter not contained within it. The night before, or during the week, my mother had researched pardons on the Internet. She found an article written by an authoritative source about the history of pardons and how it has been used for centuries. She gave a copy of the article to each board member, who I am told looked at it with interest.

The word "pardon" apparently comes form the French word "pardona" The monarchs of Europe often pardoned people as merely an act of mercy. Sometimes entire prisons were emptied on special occasions as the king sought to demonstrate his power and compassion. My mother told the Board how I had been locked up since I was 18 and had spent half my life in prison for allegedly lending my car to my co-defendant. She spoke of my diagnosis of having autism and how maximum security prison was a harrowing and anguishing experience, and exceptionally cruel for me.

One of the modern day reasons for granting pardons listed in the article was because of dubious or uncertain guilt. My mother spoke about how despite what my trial lawyer did (by not contesting the prosecutor's theory of accountability), there was ample evidence available to show the interrogating officer was lying and I did not know about my co-defendant's intentions, nor did I lend my car to him on the day in question. She continued pointing out that none of the interrogating officer's notes were corroborated, nor was a signed wavier of Miranda obtained as required. Unlike my co-defendant and others questioned by police, there were no signed statements, recordings, or stenographed reports. There were also witnesses available to demonstrate that John Robertson's claims that I lent my car were false. Finally, my mother spoke about how I was roughly interrogated for two days without a lawyer or parental figure, despite being only 18 years old and having autism.

The Board was interested in why my trial lawyers did not put on any defense witnesses. My lead attorney is well known, and apparently well liked. At the time of my trial, he was a partner at the prestigious law firm of Jenner and Block. He is now currently the Vice President of Exelon Corporation. My mother told them that Bill Von Hoene was not a criminal lawyer, but mostly only practiced civil law. He had limited criminal trial experience and had never been counsel in a capital murder case. A board member questioned how my mother knew this and expressed that possibly my lawyer did not make a strategic error in trial strategy because perhaps the state had actually not proven its case.

Another factor cited in granting pardons was rehabilitation. My mother spoke about how I earned a college degree while in prison, and how I was class valedictorian with a 4.0 grade point average. She spoke about the numerous books I have read while in prison and I currently read considerable amounts of information on economics, investments, and corporate reports. She said that I could probably make a good stock broker if the Board would recommend a pardon, and I could seek such a job. My mother has often told me she envisions me as a stock broker, but I would never want to work the floor buying and selling stocks. A job in finance or investing does appeal to me, but there are also other fields I cannot pursue in prison that interest me.

In my petition, I presented the Board with three new affidavits. They were from people in whom my co-defendant had confided before the trial, and years afterward, that he murdered Dean Fawcett. He tried to persuade one of the people to fabricate a story that contrarily I had admitted to the murder to him. Another person was a close friend of Bob Faraci's in the 1980s, and when they happened to meet years later at Centralia C.C., Bob told him how he killed and dismembered the victim. The last affidavit was from a man my co-defendant went to court with, and it also confirmed the other statements. My mother knew the prosecutor would attempt to discredit these affidavits, and thus explained to the Board how I came into possession of this evidence. I did not know any of the people who gave affidavits, and it was only by chance that I met them during my years at Stateville.

Before my mother let my sister speak, she told the Board why my father had not attended today's hearing. My father did not believe the Board would ever give a positive recommendation to the governor despite what evidence I presented of my innocence. The Board Chairman asked my mother how she knew they had not previously recommended that my petition be granted. My mother responded that it seemed obvious since she was back there presenting my case for the fifth time. The Chairman responded that the governor had the final say on petitions, which seemed to imply that it was not the Board who was rejecting my requests for clemency. I asked my mother if she thought they were trying to give us false hope, attempting to obscure responsibility, or were inferring the truth. She was not certain; it was difficult reading most of the Board members.

My sister spoke for only a few minutes, from what I was informed. She mainly talked about how she knew it was absolutely impossible for Faraci to have used my car on the evening he killed the victim. I had traveled to her house on that day, and did not leave till late that night. She was positive that I had used my Ford Mustang to get to her house and recalled seeing it parked on the street.

It was now time for the prosecutor, James McKay, to speak. He began by complaining that my mother had filed a complaint against him after the last time he appeared to oppose my petition. He attempted to defend himself, but there was no excuse for his conduct. At the last hearing, he screamed at the Board many lies about me. He acted like a mad man and literally foamed at the mouth and spit when he spoke, from what I was told. The clemency hearings are largely civil proceedings and James McKay's conduct was outrageous. It seems the prosecutor believes theatrics, rage, and emotion can make up for the falsehood he speaks and the hollowness of his case. Possibly, he believes the more forcefully he lies, the more they will believe him. But, at the last hearing he came across as crazy, and this was not just my family's opinion.

The prosecutor conducted himself more professionally this time, however, his lies were the same. He told the Board I was not guilty of merely lending my car, but of actually killing Dean Fawcett. He said the reason my attorney put on no defense at trial was because I was guilty and he was too ethical to put on witnesses whom he thought were lying. As for all my new affidavits, he read from the criminal files of the affiants. They were murderers, rapists, batterers, and so on. Then he went on to talk about my juvenile history and told the Board I had beat up and bullied students. He also claimed I stabbed one classmate and a dog owned by a girl I once dated. Finally, he denied that I had autism, and said I appeared highly intelligent and normal to him at trial and pretrial motions. Although the trial court never addressed the issue, the prosecutor told the Board that "Even the judge said he was not autistic."

I am not surprised by the prosecutor's rhetoric. He has said the same things before and it is all he can say in defense of my conviction and protracted death sentence. If the prosecutor would admit that I was found guilty on the basis of a marginable case of accountability, no reasonable person would say that I deserved a life sentence. If my attorney had made a collossal blunder in strategy, I deserved a new trial at a minimum. And what could McKay say about the new evidence corroborating what I and others have been saying for years? He could say they were terrible criminals. My prison record is relatively good and, thus, the prosecutor goes back about 20 years to try and demonstrate I am a bad person. He has no problem exaggerating, distorting, or outright lying about my past in an attempt to slander.

James McKay is an unscrupulous, corrupt prosecutor who does anything to win. Truth and justice seem to mean nothing to him. Victory is everything. The end always justifies the means to this trial prosecutor. Ironic that he and his colleague, during closing arguments, told my jury that I was guilty by accountability for Faraci's actions, and yet now he wants to say I killed the victim myself. During closing arguments they would argue dramatically to the jury that I was guilty for lending my car, letting the victim go to his death without warning him, for not cooperating with police or hiding the murder weapon when I packed Bob, his wife, and my own belongings when moving to another apartment. Ironic how the prosecutors repeatedly told the jury Bob was my buddy, partner, and best friend to impress upon the jury that I was guilty by association. Ironic how the prosecution told the jury about the "beauty of accountability" and how it was not necessary that I actually be at the crime scene. Ironic how they jumped up and down pretending to be one of the "Three Musketeers", shouting things like "All for one and one for all. The actions of one are the actions of all!"

I do not think James McKay would ever change his attitude or admit he was wrong. He seems to be fully entrenched, despite what evidence develops. Bob Faraci's wife told him that she and her husband lied to frame me of the murder, yet he was still unhesitant in prosecuting me. A man tells him it was Bob, and not I, who expressed wanting to kill Fawcett. Blood is found in my co-defendant's car and his wife tells an informant her husband returned covered in blood. Witnesses speak to police that my car and I were 50 miles away from the crime scene. I am still guilty of accountability. After trial, more witnesses come forward to say Bob confessed to them. They are criminals. I tend to think even if I got a confession from Bob himself, McKay would say he was a liar. I could even get NSA spy satellite images of Bob driving the victim to the murder site in his own car and shooting him, and I tend to believe that James McKay would still vehemently argue I was still guilty.

During McKay's monologue, my mother scribbled notes. When it was her turn for rebuttal, she responded to most of McKay's lies. He spewed forth so many, I am told, it was difficult for her to write them all down. Normally, a petitioner is only allowed 5 minutes to respond. However, the Board Chairman let her speak for much longer. My mother repeatedly called the prosecutor a liar until one board member interrupted and said she did not want to hear name calling. My mother then said, "I may be old fashioned, but to me when someone misstates the truth he is lying. The Appellate Court said McKay 'misrepresented' the law of accountability to the jury, but to me that is lying. McKay is a liar."

From what I am told, the Board seemed disinterested in most of what the prosecutor said. They had heard it all before and they were aware that I was not at the crime scene. The judge at sentencing said so, and so did a former, more ethical, prosecutor at one of my hearings. Furthermore, the evidence that my co-defendant killed the victim is overwhelming. Interestingly, what the Board most wanted to hear about from my mother was about the dog McKay mentioned. "Did Paul really stab a dog?" one asked. My mother had to tell them again, "No," and reminded them that all my criminal history, all juvenile matters, was at their disposal and was listed in my clemency petition. I was never arrested or convicted for stabbing a dog. A girl I dated for a short time in high school had her home burglarized, and her dog was stabbed. The girl was a vindictive ex-girlfriend and at my sentencing hearing she told the judge she believed I stabbed her dog. She said this despite how another teen had admitted and plead guilty to making harassing phone calls, taunting her about how he had stabbed her dog. The prosecutor has this man's police and court files, including how he killed two of his neighbor's dogs. He also admitted to the break-in and stabbing of the dog in a tape recording made by undercover police investigating a string of other burglaries in his home town.

Leaving the air conditioned visiting room to return to my sweltering cage, I thought about what my mother had told me about the clemency hearing. It would be nice if the Board recommended my release, and I appreciate all of the people who have signed my online petition in support of this. However, I doubt anything will come of it. Most likely, I will wait a few years to finally be told by my parents that it was denied, just like the previous four were. My cellmate asked me how my visit went when I returned and I told him crowded and noisy as usual, though the air conditioning was nice. I did not mention my clemency hearing. He does not even know I filed one. It is not worth speaking of. My life in prison will continue as it has for the last 17 years. There is no point uttering fanciful ideas or creating any unwarranted envy in him. Sitting in my cage, it seems even a waste of thought to consider a life outside these walls.

Editors' Note: The Illinois Prisoner Review Board only allows 3 speakers for any Clemency Petition. Paul knows this, but must have forgotten about it. Paul's mother and sister love to go speak on his behalf. Since only three speakers are allowed on any petition, any other attendees would not be allowed to speak. Those wishing to speak are required to give their names far in advance.

A prisoner/ petitioner is not required to have a hearing, and no one need appear on behalf of the prisoner/ petitioner. Most prisoners do not have anyone appearing on their behalf. Prisoners are not allowed to attend their own hearing. Many clemency petitions are filed by non-prisoners; these are people who were convicted of a crime, perhaps served time, and later seek to have the conviction removed, usually for job or social purposes.

Illinois law requires the Governor to act upon petitions in a timely way. Former Governors Ryan and Blagojevich, both entrenched in corruption, neglected the petitions. A judge stepped in and said the law required the governor to respond to petitions. Governor Blagojevich routinely denied all petitions, other than those that appeared to involve some type of financial or political remuneration. --

Monday, August 16, 2010

Penny Pinching -- July 9, 2010

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has been cutting corners to slightly reduce their enormous and grossly obese budget. While at Stateville Correctional Center, I have noticed some of this penny pinching that borders on the absurd. It reminds me of the broader state budget fiscal fiasco where the legislature and governor are unwilling to make the necessary spending cuts and nitpick about tiny, insignificant deductions. Illinois has over a 13 billion dollar deficit, not to mention massive pension obligations. The legislature gave the governor power to put the state's finances in order, but of course, he declined to do so. Instead, the state will penny pinch a little here and a little there, while borrowing huge sums of money. The incurring interest will ultimately cost the taxpayers much more than the tiny cuts being made. Illinois now has the worst financial outlook in the U.S., other than California, and it does not appear to be changing any time soon unless there is a major shift in elected representatives this November.

For the last couple of months, I have been eating all my meals with a plastic spoon. Earlier in the week, I asked a kitchen worker why they no longer pass out forks. I was told that Stateville has ceased to order forks to save money. From now on, all we will be given to eat with are spoons. Have you ever tried to eat all your meals with a spoon? Believe me, it is not easy. Today, we were given lettuce and spaghetti. The spaghetti had to be cut up into bite sizes instead of spinning it around a fork to eat. I did not even attempt to eat the lettuce with a spoon and just used my hands.

I have made it a mission to locate a fork. Somewhere in this prison there must be a fork. I asked a few people I knew on the gallery if they had saved any. Most of them told me no, they had not bothered to save any plastic utensils because they did not know forks would cease to be given out at meals. A few people had forks, but they only had one and were unwilling to part with them. I then asked a kitchen worker to bring me a fork after his shift. Surely the kitchen still had a few stashed away, I thought. The kitchen worker told me they were all gone. I did not believe him and said, in a serious tone, "Listen here. You will find me a fork and put it in my hand later today when you come back from work." I was about to grab him from my bars, when he continued to plead that there were no forks, or he would have no problem bringing me one. He had already looked for himself and his cellmate, but came up empty. After a number of inquiries, I finally was able to locate a fork at an unusual place. I happened to mention to a gym worker my quest for a fork, and he surprisingly told me there was a half full box of them in one of the gym storage rooms. Next week, when I go there, he said he will get me a few.

IDOC ceased paying their suppliers of Styrofoam trays and cups several months ago. After demanding payment, the distributor simply stopped shipping to Stateville. At lunch and dinner, prisoners were given Styofoam cups, and at the end of the serving line they could fill them up with water. Not any more. With no Styrofoam cups, the large cooler of water was removed. Prisoners have their own plastic cups and bottles, but the administration would not allow us to bring them to chow. Many prisoners have hepatitis C, tuberculosis, or HIV, not to mention colds or other illnesses. Although considerate people would never touch their cup to the cooler's nozzle, many are not that thoughtful or caring. Allowing prisoners to bring their own cups and bottles would be unsanitary.

After a couple of weeks, Stateville began giving out juice cartons. One would think that juice would be more expensive than an empty Styrofoam cup, however, all the juice and milk cartons come from inside IDOC. Instead of paying vendors, Stateville just told the prison industries to send them more juice and milk. Of course, this will ultimately cost the state more money. The inmates who work at the milk and juice plants are paid very little, but the cardboard, milk and juice is not free, nor is the electricity to run these plants and maintain them.

The lack of Styrofoam trays was a bigger problem for Stateville. How does staff feed inmates in Seg, the infirmary, or court writs without Styrofoam trays? These inmates can not be brought to the chow hall, and the plastic trays cannot be used because they do not have lids. Plus, there were all the Styrofoam trays needed to give inmates in general population who had missed chow due to being at the health care unit, chapel, visits, barbershop, or library. There were also numerous job assignments that had their food brought to them in these Styrofoam trays. Finally, all of Stateville's prison population is given Styrofoam trays at breakfast. No one is allowed to go to the chow hall at 3 a.m.

Immediately, Styrofoam trays were stopped for all general population inmates. At breakfast, we were given brown paper bags. Those with prison assignments before going to work were sent to the chow hall to eat lunch at 8:30 or 9 a.m. Those returning from the HCU or other places that had missed their cell house feed lines, were sent into one of the chow halls to eat. The Styrofoam trays left in storage were only used to feed those in Seg or the infirmary.

Last month, the prison was placed on lockdown four times. However, for only brief periods of time, and twice the administration only locked down a single cell house instead of the entire prison. Possibly this was done because of the incidents were isolated and not a threat to the security of the institution. Possibly this administration is more reasonable than prior ones, and sees no point in long periods of lockdown for certain matters. However, it is quite possible the short, isolated lockdowns were due to the prison not having any Styrofoam trays to feed inmates in their cells.

It seems Stateville officials have resolved their problem of not having any Styrofoam cups and trays. This week inmates have been given plastic cups to fill with water at meals. These plastic cups are collected after meals and washed along with the trays. I have been told that Seg inmates are now given special plastic trays that have lids. Those are also collected after meals and reused. Furthermore, I have noticed Stateville has ordered or received additional plastic trays to supplement their limited supply. Three times this week, when I have been to chow, the kitchen workers have run out of plastic trays and the line has had to wait a half hour for the dishwasher to finish cleaning trays. Obviously the greater use of plastic cups and trays has caused a problem.

Every three months inmates used to be able to place an order for new clothes. However, the clothing room is now only filling those orders every 6 months, and inmates are only permitted to get two T-shirts, boxers, and socks, and one pair of blue state pants and button-up shirts. The clothing room has run out of towels and wash cloths, and if you want one of these, you must buy it from commissary. The commissary towel is $4, but much better than the rags the clothing room gives inmates. Inmates can also buy T-shirts, boxers, and socks from commissary as well. These prices have all increased 30% so Stateville can make a profit.

Stateville has begun selling clothing they used to give out for free. Gym shorts and skull caps are sold for $5. Recently, I noticed on the commissary list that IDOC towels are also being sold for a dollar less than the other towels. An inmate would have to be a fool to buy an IDOC towel. For a dollar more you can get a much better product. Stateville is also selling sweatpants and shirts that are given to prisoners being released during winter. The cost varies from $11 to $14, and is about the same price as the ones made outside of IDOC. I do not like IDOC to make a profit off me. I know all these clothes are made at Dwight C.C., and the female prisoners there are making a dime an hour. While I believe industry jobs for prisoners are a good way for them to repay society and learn new skills, I believe this contributes to the prison industrial complex and wasteful spending. Despite this, I did buy some IDOC sweatpants earlier this year because the other product had no elastic at the waist or ankles. I was tired of having to pull up my pants all the time. The IDOC sweatpants are also much thicker, which was another plus. There is a rumor that Stateville will cease giving out any clothing, and inmates will have to purchase everything. However, I doubt this is true. As a ward of the state, the prisons must adequately clothe and feed you.

Commissary once was ordered four times a month here, so long as the prison was not on lockdown. However, this year, a new policy of only two shops per month has been made. This was done because the unionized commissary workers intentionally slowed down their work to demand overtime. The administration refused to pay them double for that overtime that was due to their own laziness. Instead, they reduced their workload, so now they do half the work for the same pay. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles to firing union members.

Every year, prisons are repainted. Oftentimes it is unnecessary and just done to give prisoners jobs. Keeping prisoners busy is often a goal of administrators, even if they are busy accomplishing nothing. This year, however, Stateville cell houses were not painted. Earlier this year, I asked a lieutenant if I could paint my cell. My cell walls are a patchwork of different shades of peeling gray paint. In parts there is no paint at all, just bare concrete. Most inmates do not seem to care about how their cages look, but the look of my cell bothers me. The lieutenant said he had no problem letting me paint my own cell, but he said, "Good luck finding some paint." Prisons always have large quantities of paint stored away, but from what I was told, no paint was ordered this year.

My cellmate works at the barbershop, and for a little while they were having to be very frugal with the use of disinfectant used to clean their clippers, shears, and other equipment. Earlier this year, the barbershop supervisor was going to close it down. However, he made a call to Sheridan C.C., and their barbershop lent Stateville some germaquad. From what I am told, Stateville was not paying its bills for not only cleaning liquids, but all sorts of supplies.

From what I was told by workers who unload the trucks, Stateville is often stealing supplies and food stuffs that are headed to other prisons. Trucks often come from Chicago and stop at Stateville first before going to southern Illinois penitentiaries. Last month, I was told a specific story about how some real smoked turkey that was headed to a downstate prison was hijacked by kitchen cold storage workers with the thumbs up of supervisors. Stateville prisoners never get real turkey. We are always fed soy-turkey meal, even on Thanksgiving. Stateville never has the money to buy quality foods. This is the most inefficient, lazy, corrupt, and costly prison in the IDOC. Despite this, I was glad to have real turkey lunch meat for once in many years. The kitchen supervisor working the line was even kind enough to give me a double portion, and I had enough to make three turkey sandwiches.

As I mentioned in my prior entry, IDOC has consolidated the psychiatric work between NRC and Stateville. Now, there is only one psychiatrist for both institutions. Further staff cuts are going to take place at the health care unit. When the medical director retires, rumor has it his job will be replaced by a woman who currently sees people with minor health issues. She has some medical education, but is not a doctor. I am not sure how Stateville can have a medical director who does not have at least a Ph.D. However, the woman taking his place is much more competent and caring, in my opinion, than the current medical director. The director should have been fired a long time ago for malpractice and negligence.

I saw Dr. Ghosh, the current medical director, today. I have been writing him letters for years about medical treatments only he can authorize. I have written and filed several grievances against him for deliberate indifference to my medical needs. He finally saw me today, after complaints my parents and I made to the assistant warden. Although the medical department has been scaled back, the new wardens at Stateville seem much more responsive and competent. Dr. Ghosh finally agreed to authorize the cortisone injections that have been recommended by specialists for years. He was also agreeable to surgery if these were not effective. However, after telling me this, I was told that Waxford had to approve the treatments and because of their increasing cost-cutting efforts, I could be waiting a long time or even be denied treatment.

After leaving the doctor's office, I met a man with prostate cancer and heart disease. He told me that he had filed lawsuits against Waxford, Dr. Ghosh, and the former administration for failing to give him proper and timely medical treatments. He also told me that Waxford now had a policy of only approving 15 people per month to have procedures and/or see specialists at an outside hospital. I am skeptical of this man's claims. I do not know how a health care insurance company could legally set a quota system like this in order to save money.

Almost every Saturday, guards pass out razors for inmates to shave. These are very cheap, single blade, disposable razors. I have an electric razor, but I sometimes like to use the disposables, especially on hot humid days. The last week has been very hot and muggy, and I was looking forward to razors on Saturday. However, for the third week in a row, none were passed out. I asked the lieutenant about the matter and was told that razors are no longer being ordered, and the prison is out of them. While I and a number of others have money to buy an electric razor, many at Stateville do not. I suppose I will be seeing many more men with beards in the future.

This week I confirmed the rumor that only one person is working in the mailroom. The incoming mail for inmates is over a month behind, but it appears there is no discussion of hiring more staff to sort and search mail. While there is only one person in the mailroom, Stateville recently received 50 more guards to add to the already overwhelming force of correctional officers and lieutenants. I have never in my 17 years of incarceration seen such a high ratio of guards to inmates, even when maximum-security prisons were incredibly more violent. Every time I go to chow, I see 10 or more lieutenants, and sometimes a major or two. Fifteen years ago, I only saw a lieutenant on rare occasion. While IDOC penny pinches with prisoners' health care, mail, food, and medical care, it does not seem to be making any cuts where truly necessary. In fact, I have noticed acts of "penny wise, dollar foolish" quite often, including the recent plans to re-open I House.

Federal courts condemned I House many years ago, and in 2005 it was finally closed down. However, last month, approximately 30 inmates were given full body suits with breathing apparatus and face masks to clean out the building. The vacant building is infested with cockroaches and rodents. It also has a number of toxic materials decaying or laying about. The empty cell house has been torn apart by plumbers, electricians, and others seeking parts to use in other cell houses. Years ago, when the state's fiscal status was much better, administrators decided it was too expensive to repair in order to meet federal standards. However, for some reason, millions of dollars have now been appropriated to rehab the building.

The plans to rehab I House remind me of the millions spent to rehab Joliet C.C. That facility was the oldest prison in Illinois. In fact, it had been built during the Civil War. I was incarcerated there between 1997 and 2000, during which time hundreds of millions of dollars were spent renovating the various buildings. After spending all this money and making union constituents very happy, the state closed the prison down in 2001. Apparently there was not enough money to keep it in operation. Although Joliet CC was centuries old, it was better maintained than I House here, and I will be willing to wager that after spending millions on this building, the legislature and executive branches will find it will not have the money to operate Stateville anyway. Stateville will become a relic, just like Joliet CC.

The solution to Illinois' fiscal woes and its Dept. of Corrections is not pinching pennies or cutting corners. The budget crisis is far beyond not ordering plastic forks. Massive across-the-board cuts need to be made to IDOC's bureacracy, administration, staff, and prison population. IDOC has over 40 prisons, and over 40,000 prisoners with many more waiting to come into the system from the county jails.

The bloated prison industrial complex is an enormous abyss of taxpayers' dollars, resources, productivity, and rotting human flesh. IDOC does not create anything: not a better economy, nor better people. The service of justice and protecting society is greatly oversold to the general public. There is little common sense to systematically throwing everyone in prison and warehousing a significant percentage of the population in cages. There are far better ways to punish people for crimes and make them repay society. There are far better ways to use taxpayer dollars and improve the economy without prison jobs. And there are far better ways to use the state's resources, both human and capital, to increase productivity and improve the lives of society.

Sunday was Independence Day, and as always, I find it ironic--and not just because of my imprisonment--that the land of the free and home of the brave has become a socialist, police state. America has more people in prison per capita, more laws, more police, more guards, and more cameras or satellites spying on their citizens from above, or monitoring phone or Internet communications than any other country on this planet. More people than ever before are financially dependent on government, and if the current White House administration has its way, this will greatly increase along with Americans' tax burden. This is not the vision of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, or John Adams. This is the vision of George Orwell in "1984". Hopefully this election cycle, those that still love liberty will send a message to foolish penny pinching representatives who have no clue how far government has gone out of control.

July 31, 2010

This evening prisoners were told over the loudspeaker to put their IDs on the bars if they wanted a razor. This announcement surprised me because razors have not been passed out for nearly two months. "I thought IDOC had cut spending for razors," I said to the guard passing them out. He said, "I don't know. I just work here."

With my plastic mirror taped to the wall, I lathered soap on my face, and with my cheap orange colored disposable razor, I gave myself a close shave. My shave was possibly a bit too close. My neck and jaw were covered with numerous cuts, and the water in my plastic cup that I used to rinse my razor was red from my blood. Maybe I will use my electric razor next time, I thought, if IDOC continues to pass out these quality razors.

This week Styrofoam trays began to be used again at breakfast. Apparently, the brown bags just could not be used all the time. It is somewhat difficult to put oatmeal or grits in a bag.

Also this week I heard that administrators changed their minds about opening up I House. No inmate or union workers went out to clean or repair the condemned building. Possibly there is some common sense in Springfield afterall.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Groundhog Invasion -- July 1, 2010

The grounds of Stateville are inhabited by numerous groundhogs. They are virtually everywhere, and have dug holes on the yards, under sidewalks, and even under some buildings. When you go outside during the day, you see them hopping about, peeking their heads out of holes, scavenging the lawn eating grass or weeds. Mostly however, you find them eerily lined up on the way to chow, begging for food.

Prisoners, and guards as well, regularly feed them. Inmates will pocket bread, apples, cakes, peanut butter packets, cookies or other foodstuffs to give the animals. These rodents will eat just about anything, and seem to have an insatiable appetite. I understand groundhogs put on a lot of weight before they go into hibernation for the winter, but summer has just begun and many are already fat. Some are so obese they cannot run, but only waddle. A few are so big they have trouble fitting into their holes.

Groundhogs have lived on Stateville grounds for many years. However, it seems this summer there is an extraordinary number of them. On a sunny day walking to the chow hall, I may see 30 of them. They are semi-domesticated and many will walk up to you without fear. Earlier this week, I was standing in line and one stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on my leg, beseeching me for some food. I told him I did not have any, but he seemed to not believe me. Somewhere this human has a tasty morsel hidden away, I imagined him thinking.

The inmates and staff often treat them like pets. I have seen men hand-feed the animals and even attempt to pet them. I have no desire to pet these often dirty rodents. Only on rare occasion will I toss them some food from the chow hall. These groundhogs are not aggressive, but they have some mighty big front teeth. I am surprised people will risk being bitten and having to undergo rabies shots. Last summer, a prisoner was bitten by one on the way out of the chow hall. The warden, at the time, told guards to forbid any more feeding of the animals. A few people were caught doing so and were sent to Seg. That warden is no longer here, and I am glad he and his petty rules are gone. In my opinion, inmates should feed the groundhogs at their own risk.

The groundhogs apparently do not have any natural predators to control their population inside the prison grounds. A few years ago there were a few fox that chased them down, but I have not seem them lately. On occasion, hawks will fly overhead and dive down for small prey. However, these groundhogs are so fat, other than the young ones, even bald eagles may have trouble picking them up.

I am still suffering from insomnia and have been spending most of my time in the cell trying to avoid irritations as much as possible. However, on Monday I did go to the South Yard. While out there I saw a few people playing with the groundhogs on the open field within the quarter mile track. They had brought some snacks out with them and were attempting to get the groundhogs to perform tricks. I do not think it is possible to train a groundhog, but this did not stop them from trying.

As I usually do, I ran laps on the track. I was extremely tired and did not bother timing myself. My lower back and left leg were not very accommodating either. While I jogged around the course, I noticed a groundhog at the edge with a pal. They were sitting upright eating what appeared to be Pop Tarts. They do not serve Pop Tarts at Stateville, nor are they sold at the commissary. I was a little envious that they had foodstuffs that I did not even have access to, but what was more weird was how they ate them as they seemed to watch me. These groundhogs often eat with their hands, just like people do. And as I jogged by them, they followed me with their eyes. They were not at all frightened by my movement and seemed to be entertained. I thought about how, before my arrest, spectators would watch sporting events I played and munch on sandwiches or other goodies. These are some odd groundhogs, I thought.

After yard, inmates were brought directly to the chow hall. The noise and crowds were almost unbearable for me. Some obnoxious and inconsiderate man screamed in my ear to a man far away. I told this man, "What the fuck is your problem?!" as I grabbed him by the shirt and pressed him up against the fence. I added, "Do not scream in my ear!" This exchange could have easily led to a fight, something in my adult years I have tried to avoid, especially when under a gun tower. However, I was at my wits' end. I had only slept several hours over a week's time, and was very distraught and easily irritated.

When I went down to eat, I barely touched my food. It was more turkey-soy meal and totally unappetizing. Instead, I filled up my water bottle with a few cartons of milk to bring back to the cell house. Later, I would eat some cereal, apples and peanut butter. I put my fingers in my ears and stared at my tray. Someone asked if I was alright, and I said I was just tired. He remarked that he thought I was having a severe migraine and offered me some Tylenol. No, I was fine, I told him.

In the cell house, a person bumped into me in a seemingly playful fashion. I have sometimes joked with this man, making fun of all of his missing teeth or calling him a 100% nigger. Nigger is a word used often in prison, and does not cause the same outrage as it does in the extremely sensitive and politically correct world outside these walls. I call the man a pure, or 100% nigger as a compliment. Most of the Africans in prison are mixed race Americans, but he was born in Nigeria and is entirely black. A while back, my cellmate had attempted to convince me and this man that no one was of pure race anymore. I told him, "Speak for yourself. I am 100% white." The African chimed in that he was "100% black." From that day on, I chide him as being the 100% nigger.

Although I have joked with this African in the past, on Monday he did not catch me in a good mood. Because he has no teeth, he is allowed to bring his food back to his cell on a tray. He was holding his tray with a sealed cake on top of it when he bumped into me. I knocked his cake on the floor, and then slowly crushed it underneath my shoe. He gave me a dirty look and told me no one plays with his food. I told him not to get so upset. The cake was perfectly fine. I had just changed its shape. The African has not spoken to me since then, and just as well. He is a known snitch and I tend not to like his company. At the time, I did not want any company, and after washing up in my sink and eating some cereal, I lay down and put my pillow over my head.

Wednesday was an irritating day as well. I slept a few hours the night before and around 11 a.m., I tried to get a few more Z's. The cell house noise was incredibly loud, but I put in my earplugs and tried to relax. When I think I was just about to fall asleep, I heard the boom of a shotgun blast. The guard in the gun tower just outside our cell house fired a warning shot to inmates fighting on one of the small yards. The guard was a moron because not even an expert sniper could have made a shot from our cell house to the small yard, which was approximately 500 meters away. All he managed to do was excite all the inmates in B House so they began yelling and banging their bars, and disrupting my much needed sleep. Guards were already on the scene and about to break up the skirmish, which I was later informed, was not the least bit serious.

All movement was put on hold after the shotgun blast. It was B House afternoon recreation day, and inmates continued to scream and demand that they get their yard and gym. Two hours passed until it was announced that lines would indeed be run. The administration had chosen to only put E House on lockdown. It was E House inmates who were on the small yard when the fight broke out.

As inmates began being let out for recreation, my name was announced on the loudspeaker. I had an unexpected visitor. I quickly got dressed in my state blues only to wait an hour to be taken out of my cell. The visiting room was incredibly noisy and crowded, as usual. Visits are greatly prized by most inmates, and inmates can become depressed when their family does not come to see them. This week my cellmate's mother failed to visit him for the fourth straight week, and he was glum. Visitation for me at Stateville, however, is seldom a good experience, and yesterday it was no different.

On the way back from the visiting room, inmates were escorted outside. There were a few groundhogs out and about. One of the inmates picked up a rock and beamed it at one of them. The animal fled quickly into his hole in the ground. I envied that groundhog, and wished that I had a hole to escape into. However, I was brought back to my cage to suffer indefinitely.

EDITORS' NOTE: Please note that Paul has autism, a condition that makes it hellish for him to be in the noisy, crowded conditions of prison. Also, please note that Paul is innocent of any crime and yet has been imprisoned in a filthy, tiny cage for many years, with no hope of release.

Paul writes with truth about what he thinks, does, and feels. He has asked that we do not "doctor" these things to make them more pleasing to the readers. If at times, it seems as if his behavior is unravelling (such as smashing the piece of cake), Paul has written about it because he wants to share the truth of how being in prison is affecting him. We ask that, before you judge, read more posts and think about how you might hold up or act while living under such harsh conditions for years on end.

We give you Paul's words, as he writes them. This is real, folks. Paul is really living this horrific life and really writing this blog. Thanks for reading.

--

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Insomnia -- June 25, 2010

In the last five nights, I have only slept about 10 hours. Sleeping is very difficult at Stateville Correctional for many prisoners. The cell houses are very noisy, and this noise reverberates off the concrete and steel into our cages easily. Noise on the other side of the cell house or many floors above or below does not dissipate easily. Some prisoners will cover their heads with pillows when trying to sleep. Others will listen to music with earbuds in their ears. My cellmate has started to use the whirl of his fan to block out noise. I have a pair of earplugs I use which do not block out all the sound, but muffle the noise.

Sleep is much more important and difficult for me than most other inmates. I have autism, which makes sleep essential for me to be able to cope and function. Stateville is incredibly volatile, crowded, and full of distractions. The environment is incessantly disturbing, and I have no ability to escape or remove myself. Even while in my cell, I am bothered by noise and events outside. Cellmates, even good ones, are disruptive and can prevent me from relaxing. Serving time in a maximum-security prison is not nice for anyone, but for those with autism, it can cause deep anguish.

On Sunday, I met with a new psychiatrist. Her name is Usha Kartan, and she is a very petite Eastern Indian. She is not attractive, but has a friendly personality. Dr. Kartan works at Stateville's Northern Receiving Center, or NRC. The NRC is beyond the walls of the prison, but not far outside them. IDOC is attempting to save money and has eliminated Stateville's full time psychiatrist. Now, Dr. Kartan will work both institutions, mostly working weekdays at the NRC unit and weekends at Stateville. Enormous cuts can and should be made to the IDOC. However, I do not believe the focus should be prisoners' health care, which is already severely deficient.

Dr. Kartan has an enormous list of clients she must attend to. I do not know the exact number, but I estimate she determines the medications of a couple of hundred inmates. Psychiatrists should be well acquainted with all their patients' backgrounds and mental health issues. However, I have found that at Stateville, they do not even know why you are there until you tell them, or they glance at your file.

I have been incarcerated over 17 years, and my medical file is several inches thick. The file contains not only psychologist reports, but all medical reports, and not in any order. Every time I have been to sick call, had my blood pressure checked, been prescribed a medication, been tested for TB, or had a dental check-up, there is a written record. The various documents and notes of doctors, nurses or dentists are often scribbled in almost illegible script. Thus, I was not surprised the new psychiatrist did not even bother to look in my folder.

Dr. Kartan asked me how I was doing. I hate ambiguous questions like this, and I do not know how to answer. I assume she wants to know how my medications are working, but the possibilities are almost indefinite. I asked her if she could be more specific in her question, whereupon I was given a long speech about what her job entails and how it is important for her patients to communicate with her. I admit that I am not the most social person, however, I was just seeking clarification of her question. I could have answered in a multitude of ways, many of which she would probably not have been interested in hearing.

She was apparently unaware that I had been diagnosed with autism. She had no idea about the problems I experience living here. I doubt she even had much knowledge, except the most rudimentary, of autism spectrum disorders. Without asking me for any background, the doctor asked me if the former doctor's prescriptions were effective. I said "No," and explained that I was continuing to have difficulty sleeping. I also told her I continued to experience high levels of anxiety, aggravation, and exhaustion from various and almost unrelenting disturbing environmental stimuli. She did not inquire about the specifics of my anguish, but gave me a general empathetic response about how she knew how bad conditions were at Stateville. She then expressed, in a very nice and sincere tone, how she would like to help me. Despite her tone, I was skeptical.

Since my former medications were not working well, Dr. Kartan suggested discontinuing them and trying something new. "How do you feel about that?" she asked. I am not sure, but I certainly saw no point in continuing to take inappropriate medications that did little to help me. The former psychiatrist, Dr. Tinwallay, also had no understanding of my problems and did not care. He had prescribed two medications that boost serotonin levels. One was taken at night to help me sleep, and the other was taken in the morning to help me cope during the day. Both drugs are psychotropics used to treat people with bipolar disorders, a condition I do not have. The medication at night helped me sleep a little, but seemed to oppress me physically and mentally. It reduced cognitive sharpness, caused lethargy, and even shortness of breath. The morning pill served no purpose except to make me feel nauseous, and I had stopped taking that a long time ago.

Instead of prescribing bipolar medications, Dr. Kartan's brilliant plan was to give me allergy and "happy" pills. She said Benadryl will help me sleep, and Zoloft will cure my depression! I told her that I was not depressed, and I do not need any happy pills. For almost ten minutes, she went on and on, persistently trying to convince me that I was depressed. Yes, I have a natural life sentence, and, yes, I will probably die in prison. I have even contemplated suicide, but, no, I do not need to be treated for depression. I must give the impression that I am unhappy, bitter, or sad, because the doctor insisted that I take Zoloft (an antidepressant). It was almost comical how she continued to try to convince me that I was depressed, despite how I repeatedly denied being so.

The night my prescriptions were changed, I only slept two hours. I tried to sleep at the usual time, but I did not even feel sleepy, and after a few hours lying there, I got up and read the newspaper. I was up when breakfast was passed out at 3 a.m. I ate the two small self-contained bowls of generic rice crispies with some commissary trail mix, brushed my teeth and then tried to sleep again. It was not until about 5 a.m. that I fell asleep, and I awoke two hours later.

Normally, I fall asleep with little problem. My problem is typically staying asleep. I wake up repeatedly during the night, and without medication, I will wake up 50 or more times. Although I usually fall quickly back to sleep, I almost never get a deep sleep, and the repeated disruptions cause problems for me during my waking hours.

My sleep troubles did not just begin with my arrival at Stateville--they just got worse. My parents tell me that I slept very little as a baby, and as a child, I recall lying in bed for hours before falling asleep. Although I had an early bedtime, I sometimes stayed awake long into the night. I would watch the moon rise and fall from my window, and daydream. No, counting sheep did not work.

During high school, I slept in two shifts. I went to sleep between 3 and 4 a.m. to arise for school around 7. After school, or any sporting events, I fell asleep for four more hours. My mother was sometimes incredulous to discover me in a full sweat lifting weights and exercising at 2 or 3 in the morning. Once, I remember her finding me cooking a full meal in the middle of the night.

If you knew me in high school, you may have found me sleeping in class. Sometimes I had not slept at all the following night. I was a night owl, and I often preferred to sleep during the day. The day was bright, noisy and full of distractions; often I felt irritable and lethargic. The night was tranquil, quiet and beautiful. I would much rather be alone under a vast night sky than the crowded, loud, hallways of school.

In Cook County Jail, I did not go to sleep until after eating breakfast around 5 a.m. I slept the entire first shift until about 3 p.m. There were no cell bars and I had a solid steel door to keep noise and distractions at bay. The only days I awoke early were visitation days. On Saturdays, I received numerous visitors. My parents, relatives, friends, and former girlfriends would come to see me. Although visits were limited to a half hour, I often spent most of the day in a visiting booth.

The county jail had a day room where I could have watched TV, played games, socialized, or just walked about. However, I preferred to stay in my cell, and detainees typically did not see me until mid or late afternoon. Cook County Jail was dangerous, and people may be surprised that I slept all day. However, I had the guards keep my cell locked during the first shift. I slept fairly well there, except it took me some time to get used to sleeping on a narrow bunk. I would toss and turn, and I often rolled off my bunk onto the floor.

Initially upon arriving at Pontiac Correctional after my conviction, I had a terrible time sleeping. I had never experienced so much chaos, noise and people living on top of each other. However, after orientation, I found a permanent cellmate and discovered the cells could be made comfortable. My cell had thick curtains in the front of the cell that blocked out noise and provided some privacy. My cell was furnished with carpeting, furniture, paintings, a stereo system, and even a hammock. Plus, I quickly purchased stereo headphones and earplugs. I did not have much problem sleeping, although I did go back to sleeping in two shifts as I did during my high school years. Maximum-security has changed enormously, however, since I first came to the penitentiary, and not for the better.

Tuesday night, I slept possibly two hours. Again, I tried to sleep, but to no avail. I was given 200 mg. of Benadryl, but I do not think 1,000 mg. would have made a difference. I suspect the only result would be my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and a nosebleed. After lying in bed awhile, I turned on my TV only to turn it off after seeing CNN's Anderson Cooper continue to rant against British Petroleum. Cooper says he has repeatedly asked officials at BP to come on his show, but they refuse. Imagine that. The company you have been trying to demonize for two months does not want to come on your show. I would not go on your show to be crucified either.

Wednesday morning, I had an appointment with Dr. Tolley, the prison psychologist. She is an intelligent Asian woman of about 50 years old. She is not very well acquainted with autism, but she is one of the more competent doctors here. Dr. Tolley typically tries to give me practical advice, and social or behavioral feedback. I am now 35 years old, and there is little insight I can gain, but I appreciate her attempts to be helpful. When I saw her Wednesday I must have clearly looked miserable, and she asked what was wrong. She also noticed that I had hand tremors. I told her the new psychiatrist ceased my prior medications in exchange for Benadryl and Zoloft. I went on to say that I had only slept a few hours since Sunday.

Dr. Tolley was alarmed that a psychotropic medication was abruptly discontinued, and she was baffled by the new prescriptions. She asked me if the new psychiatrist understood my medical issues. I told her that I did not know what her understanding was, but I had made it clear to her that I was not depressed and could use a sleeping aid--not a drug for allergies. Doctors often prescribe medications for ailments they are not specifically designed to treat. Usually, doctors do this wisely and because they know it is the best prescription to help their patient. However, in prison this is often not the case. I am given Benadryl and previously other antihistamines, or even psychotropics to treat insomnia instead of much more effective medications like Ambien, Lunesta or Melatonin that are sleeping aids and have less detrimental side effects. Doctors get away with this because we are prisoners. However, I must add, and as Dr. Tolley correctly pointed out, Stateville doctors often have their hands tied because the managed health care agency, Waxford, will only permit certain drugs. These prescriptions are generally generics ordered in bulk to save them money.

Dr. Tolley notified me that my father filed a complaint against the medical department. I have filed numerous complaints as well, and was not surprised my father contacted a supervisory agency. Many of the doctors here are incompetent and negligent. Just this week another man died at the prison due to the malpractice of medical staff. The 21-year-old man died of Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the GI tract, not known to be fatal. This is not the first time the attending doctor has been negligent in an inmate's death, and I have heard many complaints about Dr. Zhang as well as the medical director, Dr. Ghosh. Dr. Tolley informed me she will be sending the new psychiatrist a memorandum, and I should see her again over the weekend.

Later on Wednesday, I received a visit. I did not want to go. The visiting room at Stateville is incredibly loud and very crowded. After having only a few hours of sleep since Sunday, I just wanted to go to my cell and hide away if possible. My mother said I did not look too bad for having so little sleep, but she noticed I had hand tremors. She opined it was withdrawal from the psychotropic medication, and I bitterly agreed. I was angry that doctors prescribed me these inappropriate medications. I would probably be fine with just an over-the-counter melatonin supplement. I was irritable during our visit, and when visits were declared over, I was quick to say a hasty goodbye.

Last week, a man asked me to write a letter on his behalf to the Prisoner Review Board. I was not certain of the man's innocence, but he had been incarcerated for 20 years, and I thought he was an intelligent and industrious person. I did not agree with his natural life sentence without a chance of parole, and believed he could be an asset to society. However, I did not believe the Board would care to have my opinion. In the last several days though, various people approached me with messages that this man would really value my letter. Hence, yesterday I wrote with great difficulty, a 3-page letter on his behalf. After having virtually no sleep, it was difficult for me to focus. This journal entry is difficult for me as well to write. It is now 4 a.m., and I intentionally waited for it to be so late so I would not be disturbed by cell house noises and commotion.

Thursday night, I was determined to get some sleep. I laid down early and put my earplugs in. After tossing and turning, I gave up trying. Instead, as I did when I was a child, I daydreamed. Initially, I brooded about my co-defendant who sought to pin the Palatine Massacre on me, and has had no sympathy for the 17 years I have been in prison. Then I thought about the lying cop who interrogated me, and my incompetent trial lawyer who refused to contest his testimony. These broodings were not going to help me sleep and, thus, I turned to more pleasant thoughts.

I reminisced about my life before my arrest. I doubt people who I knew back then realize how much I appreciate the memories of them. Even grade school friends will always mean more to me than any of the people I have met at Stateville. This life means little or nothing to me. I then fantasized about what my life could have been if I was not convicted. Finally, I thought about all the pretty girls I used to know. I especially thought about the girl I had to let go last year because of the futility of our relationship. I miss her very much, and in sadness, I finally fell asleep.

July 4, 2010

Last night I had my first full night's sleep in weeks. Yesterday, I met with the psychiatrist again, and she prescribed me Klonopin. I had tried to persuade her to ask Waxford for special permission to order me a true sleeping medication like Ambien or Lunesta. I even said I would be happy with melatonin. However, she told me that even if I paid for the brand name, Waxford would not agree.

Dr. Kartan ceased my prescription for Zoloft, which I never took anyway. When the nurse came to my cell in the mornings, I would just tell her to go away. I also ceased taking the allergy pills. They were worthless. My psychiatrist now realizes that Zoloft was inappropriate, but for some reason wanted me to continue taking Benadryl. She even insisted the nurse bring me both Benadryl and Klonopin. In a few weeks, I will see the doctor again to report how the medicine is working. From this first night, however, I noticed a remarkable difference. I fell asleep at 10 p.m., and awoke a little past 7 a.m. only awaking a few times during the night. I feel much better today, and hopefully this will continue. I was quite miserable the last couple of weeks.