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Friday, December 26, 2014

Ebola -- October 25, 2014

Once again, many inmates are sick with colds. It does not take long for the virus to spread exponentially in a crowded prison. Just a few people can go on to pass the airborne pathogen to the entire population of incarcerated men as well as many staff members. I have tried to take precautions to elude the germs and those who carry them, but with my cellmate already ill, I can only hope my immune system is strong enough to fight off the invaders. The situation reminds me of the Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa and threatening to spill over into the U.S. The White House administration has been slow and incompetent to respond to yet another international crisis. Rather than quickly suspending visas and mandating quarantine for citizens exposed to the scourge, the president lackadaisically addressed the matter with a plan which ironically encourages an open border policy. Although the hysteria is certainly overblown by the media and Americans are far more likely to become sick from other germs, this is little consolation to the relative few who will be afflicted with Ebola and die a quick and horrible death.

Earlier in the month I was surprised a memo by Stateville's medical director was posted. It encouraged people to follow a number of common sense tips to avoid becoming ill and passing their germs onto others. The IDOC has a record 50,000 prisoners and continues to pack men as well as women into the system. The crowded conditions increase the likelihood of outbreaks and the percentage of elderly inmates only exasperates the problem. Due to excessive sentencing statutes, people are serving more time and the median age has gone from mid-20 to almost 40. Despite this, lawmakers in Springfield are unwilling to reduce criminal penalties and the problems are passed on to prison administrators. The memo, however, was largely a fruitless effort because the best advice was for people to self quarantine. I highly doubted staff would stay home or convicts would stay in their cells and miss meals. At least flu vaccinations were being offered and when nurses did rounds asking men if they wanted one, I said, "Yes, and write my cellmate down for two."

Anthony was initially in denial about being sick. He tends to believe that if he does not think he is ill, he will not be. Furthermore, he does not want me to ridicule or blame him for exposing me to whatever pathogens he picks up. However, I can be very perceptive of a person's health particularly when in close proximity to them. While I may be oblivious occasionally to some matters like social dynamics, I notice minute changes and details many others will miss. Before my cellmate even showed any symptoms, I was aware he was sick. He claimed I was crazy that I could sense he was incubating germs and that it was noticeable in the air. Later when he sneezed I glared at him and said, "Ebola." I was jesting about the deadly virus but knew the sneeze was not innocuous.

The cold first affected his sinuses and then throat. By Sunday, he had black circles underneath his eyes and could barely talk. Other prisoners were also thankfully muted and as the Chicago Bears lost to the Miami Dolphins, there was not the usual shouting throughout the cell house. I was very busy and glad for the lack of disruptions. Occasionally, I would see what my cellmate was doing. He lay on his bunk watching television, took a nap, and sewed a couple of boxers. Prisoners have yet to receive any clothing this year and are forced to buy it at exorbitant prices or attempt to repair their old underwear or other garments. Last week, however, a guard did walk by asking men if they needed a jacket or blanket. Possibly, these will be passed out before winter.

A few days after I met with the Illinois Innocence Project, the penitentiary was taken off lockdown. The administration apparently saw no need for yet another SORT search or to collectively punish everyone for the actions of a few in the Roundhouse. Some inmates speculated also the administration was partly to blame because they permitted the lieutenant within the wall when his previous conduct reassigned him to the NRC (Northern Receiving Unit). The resumption of normal operations, however, had the adverse effect of allowing the continued spread of cold germs which was temporarily lessened while prisoners were confined to their cells. I intentionally kept myself on lockdown to limit my contact with people. Eventually, though, I realized my seclusion served little purpose with having a sick cellmate and I went out for dinner.

In the chow hall, I could not escape the presence of Anthony as he sat at the same table. He ate his chicken noodles without saying much. It seemed as if we were tied at the hip and I was amused but also a little annoyed thinking about a lieutenant who began to nickname us "M & M" after the chocolate candy and the first letter of our last names. With Mertz sick, I did not want to be stuck in the same bag or anywhere near him. Ironically, after I left the table I happened to bump into the lieutenant and he was asking where my other half was. I told him he did not want to approach my cellmate. Thanks in part to his idolized president, I mused he was stricken with Ebola. The lieutenant probably thought I blamed all the nation's problems on Barack Obama and asked if there was just anything positive I could say about him. I had to think long and hard about the question. I tended to believe he was the worst president in the history of the United States and I thought less of him than Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, or Jimmy Carter. Finally, I said he was poised, articulate, and unwavering in his political ideology even if I found it repugnant.

Monday morning, I looked into my breakfast tray to find a cup of cereal and 3 small pancakes. In lieu of syrup, there were a couple of tablespoons of a substance I am told is Kefir and was donated to the prison in bulk. The vanilla colored liquid is unappealing to me and I refused to ruin my flapjacks using it. Instead, I spread oatmeal cookie crumbs over them and followed with some hot coffee. This was my substitute for syrup and made a tasty combination especially with peanut butter or nuts. My purported twin has noticed the way I prepare my pancakes and did the same later in the day as a snack. I regularly tell him I need to sue him for copyright infringement.

While I ate the bran cereal and improvised pancakes, I watched the news. After much criticism, the U.S. president announced he was taking the fight to West Africa. Just exactly how Ebola was going to be defeated was left up to the Pentagon. Officials created a plan to build 17 treatment centers which were in essence a series of tents. The tents will be used to isolate and help afflicted Africans survive the disease that has already claimed 5,000 lives. Military personnel under the charge of Major General Darryl Williams will not only build the mobile hospitals, but also give a full complement of medical aid. While several thousand troops are deployed to West Africa, only 30 people will be assigned to the U.S. in a rapid response medical team. The president and other liberals like to think of themselves as progressive and forward yet the lopsided use of manpower seemed backwards to me.

Most mornings I will exercise early. However, with my cellmate being ill, it may be wiser for me to wait until he leaves the cell. I did not want to be breathing heavily while he was spewing forth germs. Chow lines will take between a half hour to a full hour to be run and that was almost sufficient time for me to complete my routine. In the meantime I shaved and trimmed my hair by the cell bars. A variety of announcements were made over the cell house loudspeaker including a Jehovah Witness retreat. There are few Jehovah Witnesses in the penitentiary and it was odd to hear this religious service announced. Despite being ill, my cellmate joked by asking if I was attending. He knew that for a period of time during my childhood I studied with them and attended their Kingdom Hall. He also knew soon thereafter I became agnostic and have been ever since. Occasionally, I will quote passages from books by Friedrich Nietzsche including "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" where he mocks Christianity.

When my cellmate returned from the chow hall, I would not let him back inside. I had yet to finish working out and told him to go away. As he walked in the door, I gave him a knee to the stomach and pushed him back on the gallery. A guard who was standing nearby laughed at the exchange. He knew I was simply playing. He also volunteered to put my cellmate in the holding cage until I was finished, but I told him not to bother. Millions of airborne pathogens probably remained floating in the cell with or without him.

During the evening I stayed in the cell to watch NBR, an economics news program, and read a copy of Barron's. Last week, the stock market continued to fall and the Dow Jones even went to 15,855 before recovering. Investors were scared of slowing global growth, tensions with Russia, rising interest rates, and even an Ebola epidemic. Prices were frothy in September and people were probably wise to take profits then. However, now I saw opportunity in the energy sector which had been beaten down. Some stocks were down 40% and that was a bargain particularly for the long term investor. For example, Noble Energy, an offshore rigging company, was selling at $18 and had a sustainable 8% dividend. By 2020, I suspected the price would be over $40 and in the meantime investors would earn 32% on their capital.

Tuesday morning the news fleetingly changed to report on the fate of Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius became famous as the first man to compete in the Olympics without any legs. The "Blade Runner" did not win any medals but was still a champion in many people's eyes particularly in South Africa at least until he killed his beautiful girlfriend, Reeva Steemkamp. He claimed that it was an accident and he thought she was an intruder. I do not know if I believe him, but from my own experience with the criminal justice system, I knew he deserved the benefit of the doubt. The three judge panel seemed to agree and found him guilty only of culpable homicide which in the U.S., I believe, is akin to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but will be eligible for home release in 10 months.

Tuesday was a pleasant autumn day and I went out to the small yard to lift weights. Even my cellmate could not resist going outside and I was surprised to see him have enough energy or breath to play basketball. He was definitely going to pay for that later and I did not believe for a moment his statement of "sweating it out". A person cannot sweat out a cold virus and the only thing he was managing to do was stress his body even further. Later, he would respond that I did squat presses despite having two crushed lumbar discs. However, I used a relatively light weight and took the precaution of using another prisoner's waist wrap.

Part of my weight lifting routine involved overturning a steel table so it was at a 70 degree angle and I could do preacher curls off it. This bothered some people including Bone who wanted to sit on one of its stools. After I finished my 6 sets I began looking for the sickly old biker. I found him lying on the ground and I could not stop myself from running over and pretending to give him a drop kick. Bone said it was just like me to kick a man when he was down. I told him when he is dead we were going to take his shoes, sweatshirt and pants. Horse retorted that he was not touching his pants, insinuating that in death he will crap in them. I really need some new clothes, however, and have no problem washing them. It is not as if he has Ebola.

Leaving the rectangular enclosed yard, I noticed an old black man being pushed in a wheel chair into the cell house. The unit had a number of elderly crippled men serving indefinite prison sentences. It was mostly due to the 1990s "get tough on crime" legislation. What made this prisoner different, however, was that he would be released on Thursday. I wondered what he was going to do. He cannot walk, has multiple health issues, and will require nursing care. No wonder when I passed by him he did not seem the least bit happy.

After taking a mid-afternoon nap, I made tea for my cellmate and me. From his bunk, he insisted I mix in a packet of artificial sweetener (the prison does not sell real sugar because inmates can make hooch and moonshine with it) and a couple of lemon cough drops. "Anything else?" I asked. Yes, he wanted me to pass him a roll of toilet paper so he could blow his nose. The tea apparently perked him up and he was happy to play the game show "Jeopardy" with him blurting out answers before I could. Afterwards he wrote a letter to the assignment officer asking if he could have his kitchen job back instead of a cell house help detail. He sought my help whereupon I told him that in his condition he could not be allowed to work with food. The entire prison would have Ebola in weeks.

At night, I had to yell downstairs to a guard because the nurse failed to stop by my cell. I may try to make do without the sleeping medication, but with the cold virus in the air and probably already in my system, I needed all the Z's I could get. The prior night guards awakened me at 2 a.m. because they miscounted repeatedly. They announced on the loudspeaker that all prisoners were to put their ID cards on the bars. I got out of bed and did this but later was awakened by another guard who did not see the cards. I pointed at them and he carried on after flashing a LED light at me. The nurse eventually did return, but after I had fallen asleep. She was apologetic unlike the guard and said she felt stupid for waking me to give me sleeping pills. I told her it was alright. My problem was not falling asleep but staying asleep.

The following morning while I was cleaning the floor and wiping off all common surfaces with disinfectant, Steve interrupted me. He had been let out of his cell for law library and was locked upstairs until the movement team was ready to escort lines. As I spoke to him, my cellmate looked up from his pillow. He looked terrible and Steve asked him if he wanted more aspirin. Anthony did and the pompous short man asked what he was going to do for him. My cellmate told me to "take care of that," but I replied, "Maybe we should take care of you." Continuing on I said, "You do realize that I have the cure for the common cold?" With dark circles under his eyes he looked at me with skepticism or suspicion as I delivered my punchline, "By killing the host, the parasitic virus is snuffed out."

Later in the day, I left Anthony in his misery to go on a visit. On the way to the front of the penitentiary, I heard there was a hold on all health care passes. The prison hospital was packed and unable to accept any more people. Many prisoners other than my cellmate were sick. The backlog of patients at Stateville is nothing new, however. Commonly, the holding cages are filled and prisoners are sent back. Just getting an appointment can take over a month.

For dinner I left my cell again and on the way out of the quarter unit acknowledged the lieutenant who was a big fan of the president by saying, "Lieutenant Ebola." It was actually a slip of the tongue and not meant as a joke. Ebola, Obama, and the lieutenant's name all sounded very similar. The officer could not help from laughing at my play on words even though it was done by accident. I was still musing about the incident as I entered the chow hall and confronted a large crowd of convicts who were coughing, sneezing, and blowing their runny noses. Some prisoners who had yet to succumb to the virus had pulled up their shirts over their noses. I was not certain a T-shirt could filter a virus and just tried to find the most space where I would not be shoulder to shoulder with sick men.

In the serving line, I went through nearly 10 trays before I found one without any food stuck on it. Then I wondered if it was what I did not see that was most dangerous. The tray washer at Stateville regularly fails to clean off the remnants of the last meal served. I complained to the Snowman who was working the line, however, he had an apathetic attitude. I suppose when a person works in a kitchen that has mice and roaches, uncooked and poorly handled food, as well as rotten and spoiled food, dirty trays were insignificant. As I sat down to eat my meal, I could only hope the water used had been hot enough to kill the germs on the tray.

For entertainment I watched the movie "Kindergarten Cop" before going to sleep. It is an amusing film where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a kindergarten teacher. His partner became sick with food poisoning and he had to take her place. The muscle bound and brusque cop had trouble fitting into his undercover role. He was accustomed to dealing with hardened criminals, thugs, and various dregs of society and not little children. Eventually though, he is able to adjust and of course he gets the "bad guy" in the end.

My cellmate learned his lesson from playing penitentiary basketball on Tuesday and stayed inside the cell Thursday to rest up. I, on the other hand, went to the yard to finish my weight lifting regimen. There are some exercises which are just impossible to do on the small yard despite how much I improvise. While lifting weights I was occasionally joined by black convicts and I had the pleasure of their crude conversation. There was one prisoner though who impressed me by what he learned in a non-credited college course on politics and American history. The class taught by instructors from Northwestern University was one I wanted to take, but did not learn about until it was too late to sign up. Steve, who is in the class, told me I may like the subject matter but not the feminist radicals teaching it or their spin. He said he put a damper on their "girl power" in the first class when they asked if anyone knew when women gained the right to vote. Steve raised his hand and said, "1920, and they have never shut up since."

After yard, I bathed out of the sink and was glad the hot air blower was working. Last week, the boiler at the NRC finally began to send water over to Stateville and heat the pipes. Before then, it was very chilly in the cell house. The cold air may have even weakened the immune systems of elderly prisoners particularly those celled on the lower floor. The circular blower unit is almost directly across from my cell and while it was nice to have the heat sent in, I noticed it also sends in a lot of dust. I assume if it can blow dirt in, it can also blow in cold virus pathogens. There was no way I could avoid breathing them in or washing them off my body.

Yesterday, I was handed a stack of newspapers going back into the previous week. I was not surprised many of the articles focused on the Ebola epidemic. The headline for my most recent paper was "Ebola Hits New York" and I read about a doctor who had been treating afflicted Africans being allowed to meander around the U.S.'s most populous city until he tested positive for the disease at Bellevue Hospital. Mayor Bill de Blasso tried to reassure the public there was nothing to fear and people are not contagious until they develop a fever. In other articles I read stories also trying to counter the hysteria which pointed out influenza, measles, and norovirus were far more common and infectious. This was true but the mortality rate for them was not close to that of Ebola which killed almost 3 out of every 4 people. Fortunately, a few governors such as Chris Cristie were now mandating quarantines of all aid workers returning from West Africa. Despite liberals' cry that it will dissuade assistance, public officials' first priority was to protect Americans. It was a false premise that free Western nations could not keep out deadly epidemics. Throughout the 18th century, diseases of cholera, yellow fever, and small pox were stopped at the border by travel bans.

The U.S. President's unwillingness to restrict travel and sending troops to fight a plague but not engage in combat around the world are symptomatic of his liberal, international political ideology. He does not care about America, but creating a Marxist utopia. The military has been rescinded while enemies abroad proliferate and take advantage of power vacuums. The borders are not only open to deadly diseases but millions of illegal aliens with foreign allegiances if not hatred for their host country. A robust economy is weakened to fulfill a socialist agenda. People along with business are also oppressed for egalitarian purposes. Ebola was not the scariest thing the U.S. and other Western nations faced. It was the 5th column growing within.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Meeting with the IIP -- October 18, 2014

Since the beginning of the year, I have been in contact with the Illinois Innocence Project. The law school in Springfield was given a grant to take cases in the northern part of the state provided there was exculpatory DNA evidence. I filled out their comprehensive questionnaire and then followed by sending various appeals, police reports, and evidence which demonstrated my innocence including a great amount not presented at trial. Over the summer, I was concerned that despite the egregious nature of my conviction they, like numerous other law schools, were not interested. Many of them are overburdened and do not accept accountability cases. They typically will only represent prisoners who were found guilty as the principle and whose convictions can easily be overturned by irrefutable DNA. Recently a lawyer from the University of Illinois introduced himself over the telephone and this week I met with him as well as two students. The meeting went well, however, it remains to be seen how much help they are willing to extend.

On the last day of September I was on one of the penitentiary's small yards working out. The music of the heavy metal band Slayer and a cup of coffee had me amped up. Quickly, I was sweating and began taking off layers of clothing on the chilly autumn morning. My cellmate noticed me and said, "Go Putin!" in reference to Vladimir Putin who is occasionally made fun of in Western media for being televised bare chested. Not long thereafter I was the subject of other similar jokes when a guard went to the gate and began yelling my last name. He could not pronounce it correctly and inmates thought it was Russian. The Elephant exclaimed, "Russian mafia. That must be you." I was not certain whose attention the guard was trying to get but eventually he verified that I had a legal call.

Lawyers can arrange to speak with prisoners on an unmonitored phone line. A counselor will come into the unit and place the collect call. She was not present and I was told to wait in the holding cage. A black convict who had just returned from a hearing on a disciplinary ticket was in the cage with me and inquired why I was there. I told him I had a legal call, but from whom I did not know. I hoped it was a representative from the Cook County States Attorney's Office or the governor. Anita Alvarez claimed to be reviewing my case under her appointed Conviction Integrity Unit, and Governor Pat Quinn to my knowledge has yet to decide my plea for executive clemency. Both of these possibilities were farfetched and regardless not anything I would tell another prisoner about. Instead, I answered it was most likely a private investigator or attorney that I had contacted pertaining to a successive post conviction appeal. He then began to tell me how he hoped to get back into court with a DNA test which excluded his DNA on a gun. At his trial, the prosecutor claimed the test was inconclusive.

I waited about a half hour for the counselor to arrive. She escorted me into a little hallway which led into the adjacent quarter unit. Inside was a counter with a telephone on it. Before she began dialing, I asked who she was calling. She seemed a little puzzled and said, "Your attorney, of course." Then she showed me a paper with a phone number and name on it. The name was that of a lawyer at the Illinois Innocence Project and I was glad the law school was finally reaching out to me by phone. Previously, there had only been written correspondence between us.

After connecting me with the attorney, the counselor stepped outside the annex so I could have a private conversation. John came across as a personable and friendly man. It seemed his call was just meant to introduce himself and be social. However, I am not good at chit chat and sought a more substantive dialogue. I asked him about his credentials and what he was willing to do for me. Apparently, law professors are not accustomed to being asked how competent and experienced they were. The fact that hundreds of convicts were probably seeking his help also may have made my inquiries seem odd. After realizing this, I told him how many attorneys had let me down in the past and then joked he needs to send his resume before I would consider letting him work for me. At present, he was only looking at the DNA aspect of my case. I was disappointed because I had numerous trial errors as well as ineffective assistance of counsel issues to raise on appeal. There was also plenty of evidence outside of the blood found in my co-defendant's car which proves my innocence. Despite this I could not look a gift horse in the mouth and thanked him for whatever assistance the IIP was willing to give. In the following month John told me he along with a couple of students would meet me in person.

I did not expect the lawyer to visit this week. The previous Wednesday the penitentiary had been placed on a level 1 lockdown. A lieutenant was beaten by an inmate in the Roundhouse. The assault was in retaliation for the corrections officer bashing another inmate in the face, but I doubted this would matter to administrators. Any violence against staff was considered serious. Even a reluctant warden would be pressured by union officials to exact strong collective punishment. Furthermore, there was talk the prisoner did not act alone and gang members distracted guards in the building. Internal Affairs would probably want to conduct a prolonged investigation. Thus, on Sunday morning I was not surprised there was no prisoner movement except for kitchen workers.

I began my day as usual working out at the front of the cell. I was focused on my callisthenic exercises but had to comment to a guard standing nearby. He was escorting a nurse who passed out medications to both my neighbors in the morning. I asked "Sonic Hedgehog" why he was wearing the hat. The nickname I gave to this guard was due to his wildly spiked haircut similar to the video game cartoon character. The guard said he was having a bad hair day. I was wearing a T-shirt bandanna to prevent sweat from rolling into my eyes and retorted, "Me too." When I looked around to see if my cellmate had caught my humor, I found him underneath a sheet sleeping. Apparently, he had awakened early simply to watch VH1 music videos and then went back to sleep before I noticed.

Most of the day I spent reading newspapers other than to watch the end of a football game and the CBS television show "60 Minutes". The news program had devoted a large segment to government eavesdropping. The exposures of the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden had finally awakened the public to pervasive snooping and in response, Apple as well as Google created encryption features to meet demand for privacy. FBI Director James Comey claimed these new security measures will put more personal data out of reach of law enforcement and hinder investigations Possibly, it will keep local police from prying but I think CBS, which advertises itself as a big all seeing eye, was just a tool for Big Brother who wanted to lure those it saw as threats into a false sense of security. Also of great interest to me was an interview of James Risen who formerly worked for the New York Times until he exposed illegal spying practices in his book "State of War". How many freedoms and Constitutional rights Americans have forfeited or been usurped to fight terrorism I think can never be quantified.

The loss of my own liberty weighed heavily on my thoughts and when a nurse who was dispensing night time medications asked me how I was, I sarcastically told her it was just another wonderful day. The nurse is one of the rare pretty women who work at the penitentiary who I find attractive. If I did not have a sentence of natural life without parole I might ask her out on a date. She seems to be trying to hide her beauty by putting her long blond hair in a tight bun and wearing nerdish glasses as well as baggy scrubs. I see through the disguise, unfortunately, and it made me gloomier. I took out photos of a former girlfriend that were over a decade old and I listened to the cassette tape "The Wall" by Pink Floyd. A song called "Hey You" resonated with me the most.

On Monday, the penitentiary was placed on a low level 4 lockdown. Cell house workers as well as other men were permitted to go to their details. Phones were placed on the galleries for prisoners to use and I heard visits being announced. The change in lockdown status was a surprise to me, but because it was a holiday I did not expect the lawyer I had spoken with on the telephone a few weeks previously to come. Thus, I did not prepare and went about my morning as usual. I exercised, bathed, and then dressed in sweats to read. Before I opened up the first newspaper, however, I was notified I had a legal visit and scrambled to get ready. My cellmate noticed my agitation while multitasking, and reminded me to be nice. He also advised not slamming a mug of instant coffee but otherwise I may be a nonsocial autistic mute.

My hurry to be escorted to the front of the prison was unnecessary. While in line to be strip searched a guard told me my attorneys were meeting with several clients and I could wait in the holding cage until they called me. I was not aware the IIP planned to see anyone other than myself but it made sense that they make the most of their trip. Most law schools and attorneys who visited with their clients were from Chicago or the suburbs. John and the students who came with him had at least 4 hours of driving. The state capital is over 100 miles from here.

The holding cage is actually two that are side by side in a narrow enclave off a hallway at gate 5. The barred door of one of them was unlocked and I sat down next to a bald headed Caucasian prisoner. It soon became apparent to me that the guard was separating men according to whether they had already gone on a visit and were waiting for an escort back to their living unit and those waiting to go on a visit. Since there was no backlog, I deduced the sole prisoner sitting on the bench near me was also there to see John and Co. Prodding the man to open up about his case was not difficult.

Interestingly, the prisoner was convicted of a murder near Eastern Illinois University, the same school my cellmate was attending when he was arrested. Coal County he claimed was very corrupt and he was unable to get a fair trial or for that matter appeal. His conviction was upheld along with his 72 year sentence. I was not so much seeking information about the murder, his trial, or appeals, but how he came to be represented by the IIP. From what I was told, a local private investigator who was digging into the various malfeasance and or scandals ongoing in the county believed in his innocence. He worked with the creator of the Innocence Project at Springfield and asked if he would take on his case. Bill, however, was too busy and therefore told his colleague John to look into the matter. This was the first time he was meeting John and he was impatient to do so. Chuck, "The Hammer," though, would have to wait until after I saw him.

From my experience with other law schools, I was expecting the school professor to be accompanied by a couple of young students in their early 20's. However, I was surprised that they were much older. It was puzzling why a person would wait until in their 30's to seek a degree in law, although this may be to my advantage. The students under Professor David Protess appeared to be in high school and lacked maturity. They also seemed lost as to what to do and were easily scared off when they were threatened and told to stop investigating my case. I knew Brian Palasz was concerned about being scrutinized but I also knew he was mostly bluster.

After a round of handshakes and introductions, John sat at the end of the large table and the two students sat across from me. This I also found unusual until later. The lawyer began by saying all he was prepared to do was a motion for DNA testing. He was not only going to have the blood stain tested but the victim's clothing, shell casings, and various other things alleged to be evidence. No previous attorney had mentioned a desire to do this and John said the body may have been dragged and the casings planted. Police did a thorough search immediately after the victim was found and oddly nothing was found until months later when Robert Faraci took them to the site. It was an intriguing theory that I have pondered myself. However, what did it matter even if trace DNA still remained? I was not found guilty of committing the murder or even being present but simply for lending my vehicle. John thought any new evidence could open up doors.

I was skeptical the prosecution would not object to what in legal jargon was referred to as a "fishing expedition." Furthermore, I was seeking counsel that would represent me on a comprehensive post conviction appeal. John said the law school had limited resources. There were over 1,300 prisoners who had requested their help and they had to pick and choose amongst them. Personally, I thought my case was one of the greatest if not the most blatant miscarriages of justice, but I could not argue. With that the law professor told me they had only 30 minutes to spend with me and they came here to see what I had to say. I did not know what he meant by this and there was a long pause. Was I expected to acquaint with the law students? Ramble on about my case? Give a sales pitch? I hope it was not the latter because I was not good at selling myself. Therefore, I thought to put the ball in their court by asking for their perspective and when they said they thought I was innocent, I asked why.

The female student seemed to have done her homework and I was impressed by her vast scope of knowledge. At times, I thought she knew my case more than I did. She must have been the person who voluntarily stayed on campus to conduct research over the summer. Despite this, there were still some questions or curiosities she had such as, "How did you meet Bob? Why did you go to Florida with them? Why did you return?"

I met Robert Faraci through Brian Palasz. Brian was out of state to avoid being picked up by police in connection with a burglary of a jewelry store. It was then that his friend Bob was released from prison. Brian asked me as a favor to him to take care of Bob and help him get on his feet. About a year later when I was having troubles at home, Bob invited me to stay with him and his wife, Rose. I was not aware there was already an eviction proceeding in the works and moving back to my parents' house was out of the question. I also was not aware Bob had killed anyone and to my knowledge that was not the reason they were moving to Florida. The victim's body had not yet been discovered and I assume they never thought it would be identified if or when that occurred. Rose had family connections in Clearwater and they both sought to get away from conflict with their other connections to organized crime. For me, the move was only temporary because I intended to go to school in the fall. I left early because I was tired of always being caught in the middle of their fierce domestic fights, among other reasons.

As I spoke, the professor seemed to like just listening or watching my interplay with the students. Despite having cloudy blue eyes, he made intelligent comments or inquiries every so often. For example, he wanted to know what the prosecutor argued in Faraci's trial. This was important because major court rulings have come down overturning convictions when the state's theory diverged. The prosecutor cannot have his cake and eat it too. Many times assistant states attorney James McKay and Paul Tsukuno used unscrupulous tactics to kill two birds with one stone.

Another question the lawyer had was about the many inconsistent stories of my co-defendant. The brazen lies Robert Faraci told over the course of his talks with his wife, a mafia informant, various friends, jail detainees, the police, and even his own testimony at trial went far and wide. From saying he drove me to the Brown's Chicken Restaurant in Palatine where I went inside and killed everybody, all the way to I just told him that I committed the massacre of those seven people. There was one where he shot Fawcett and then he said he was only present out of a fear for his own life. A half hour was simply not enough time to go over all of Bob's tall tales. Thus, I said one of the most glaring reversals that is documented by the police was his insistence that Brian Palasz was present at the murder site until he was told that Brian had an alibi. Coincidentally, Brian also disappeared from Rose and Nadine's narratives as well. It must have been a conundrum for the Cook County States Attorney's Office when the     "3 Musketeers" changed to 2, and then became only 1.

Ultimately I spent almost two hours with the attorney and students. In fact, we could have continued talking except it was almost closing time and they still had to see another prisoner. I tend to believe my case is one of the more intriguing case studies. However, if it was just mere interest that mattered, I would have been freed long ago. What I need most is action and there does not seem to be anyone willing to lend a hand. John said he would represent me solely to request the court for forensic testing, but thereafter he could make no promises. In two year's time, I may be back to square one. Often I am reminded of the Greek myth of Sisyphus who is condemned to roll a heavy stone up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again, time and time again.

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.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Update on Clemency Petitions

Dear Blog Readers:

I just read a news article today that may be of interest:

Since taking office in 2009, Governor Quinn has made decisions on over 3,000 Executive Clemency Petitions, most of which were filed when former Gov. Blagojevich was in office.

Just 3 days ago, Gov. Quinn granted another 126 clemency petitions, and denied 185. The 311 people's names were published online along with the offense that no longer is on their record.

Again, if you haven't written a letter or sent an email to Governor Quinn in support of Paul's petition for clemency, please do it soon!  And, yes, prayers are requested and appreciated.

A Blog Helper

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Four Visits -- October 4, 2014

Visits are extraordinarily restrictive at maximum security penitentiaries. At Stateville, prisoners must submit information about prospective people who may come to see them including their race, age, relationship, and address. If an unapproved visitor arrives, they will be turned away. Visitors are subject to a thorough frisk and are not permitted to bring anything with them other than identification and debit cards. During visits, prisoners must remain seated and no contact is allowed except upon greeting and departure. Visits are limited to 5 a month and each cannot exceed 2 hours. Visits are only one hour on weekends and holidays as well as during lockdowns if they are not cancelled altogether. Due to the 3 week lockdown last month, my opportunity to see friends or family was limited, however, I made this up in quick succession with four visits within a week's time.

On the 24th of September, the penitentiary was taken off lockdown after repeated searches by the tactical unit. After a large contingent of Orange Crush had raided an adjacent cell house, I was not expecting normal operations the following day. However, in the morning, a guard announced barbershop, library, and all details were to get ready to leave. A couple of hours later, chow lines were run and I went out along with most of the prisoners in the unit who were pent up from being confined to their cells. I sat with Hooch, Fat Jimmy, and the ailing biker, Bone. Bone has lost so much weight that he was not only being given Boost drinks but extra portions at meals. He gave me one of his turkey-soy burgers and I made a double of my sandwich. Kitchen workers also gave men a small bag of cheese puffs and I offered them to him, however, he declined and I tossed the bag towards Fat Jimmy who rarely ever declines food.

On the walk back to the cell house, I noticed the hyper lieutenant pacing around outside looking for someone. Eventually, he pointed at me as if I was in big trouble. I had natural life without a chance for parole, however, and was mostly amused by his gesture. I dodged behind another man pretending he could not see me. There were a lot of convicts in the lines returning from chow and maybe I could just blend in with the herd. After a moment of play, I walked over to him to see what he had to say. As expected, he told me I had a visitor.

I knew my father was going to visit because he must reserve a side room in advance and I am sent a memo. Side room visits are only for attorneys meeting with clients or incarcerated men in protective custody. However, the administration will also make accommodations for those who are severely disabled. My father has lost most of his hearing and in the crowded general population visiting room he is for all practical purposes deaf. Even with hearing aids or if I were to shout, he could not make out a word I would say other than by reading my lips. Worse still is his crumbling spine and severe degenerative arthritis. He can barely move about despite taking strong pain medications and the steel rods screwed into his spine have only exasperated his problems.

After being strip searched, I walked over to gate 2 to give the staff my identification card. There are five gates which lead into the penitentiary, although two are not used because they are redundant. Gates 3 and 4 are left open and unmanned. In between them sits a large wooden chair that looks like a throne a medieval king may have sat on. Possibly, half a century ago, the warden once sat on it to have his shoes shined. While the chair and two gates go unattended, there is plenty of security at the entrance of the penitentiary and I am leery of even approaching gate 2 alone, less some guard would think that I may make a bold escape attempt out the front door. For that reason, I asked the officer in the strip search room to escort me before I greeted my father who was waiting in a room off to the side of the hallway.

My father resembles the actor Jack Nicholson in both appearance and demeanor, although not as ostentatious or charming. He has never been a flashy person and for most of his life he was very serious and stern. During my childhood, he was a difficult man to get along with and as a teenager I often avoided him. We rarely spoke and usually when we did it was in anger. Like most old men, he has mellowed with age. It is unfortunate that he has fallen apart so greatly physically, I thought as I gave him a slight embrace. If I squeezed him too hard or patted him on the back with too much force, I worried I may break something.

I sat down at a table with my father across from me. He told me I was sitting in the wrong spot and pointed to a piece of paper that was taped to the wall. Written on the paper was "Inmates Sit Here" and it had an arrow pointing down. My father said I had to sit directly underneath the sign. He was being sarcastic and regularly we will mock the ridiculous security precautions taken at Stateville. Later my father asked a sergeant why a simple clock could not be put in the room. Not long ago all visitors have been prohibited from wearing watches and he did not know what time it was. The sergeant said a clock could be dangerous and also added that was why the room was so empty and austere. Everything was scrutinized at a maximum security prison as a possible hazard and I told my father about how all the plastic milk baskets were removed earlier in the year until someone realized how there was no way to store or move the milk in any practical fashion.

One of my father's favorite topics of conversation is complaining about my mother. The woman, I am told, is not only forgetful and a clutter bug but nags him almost ceaselessly. I had to readily agree her increasing senility was annoying. Because her memory is poor, conversations are repeated and occasionally I wonder what information she is retaining. The clutter would bother me immensely and I told my father just to throw it out. That is what I will do to cellmates' property if they refuse to put it away or order it. As for the nagging, some of it I assume was well deserved but he can simply turn off his hearing aid. Furthermore, he has a large sprawling house and can come and go when he wants to. Contrarily, I am trapped in the confines of my cell of this prison and cannot get away from people who regularly bother me. My father tells me he is putting off another spinal surgery to go to his second residence in South Carolina and although I am concerned about my parents' abilities to live alone, it may be best for them to spend some time apart.

The log cabin home is spacious and I was told that I am welcome to stay there when released. Both my parents live in a fantasy world where they think I will be coming home. I did not bother to tell him how unlikely this was, however, I did jest that the last time we lived under the same roof it was far from ideal. Of course, that was over two decades ago and our relationship is much better now. Ironic that it was not until I was condemned to a lifetime in prison that we learned how much in common we had.

A couple of interests my father and I share are history and politics. In fact, despite his career in real estate, he has a major in history and a minor in political science. During our visit we spoke about both subjects and later in the day I watched news regarding the president's latest response to ISIS or what he calls ISIL. Barack Obama was insisting on an international coalition which included Arab states. He also again reiterated that the U.S. would not put any boots on the ground. A saying my father often told me as a child was "if you want something done right, you do it yourself" and this seemed very applicable in the crumbling states of Iraq and Syria. On CNN, however, the coverage of air strikes on Mobil Oil refineries tried to show the president's plan was succeeding.

I could not watch the biased news station's reporting for long. It was almost like a propaganda wing of the White House. After turning off my television, I wrote a 5-page letter to a woman I had gone to school with in junior high. Since I had not seen or heard from her in a few weeks, I thought she may appreciate it if I wrote in greater length. Short and shallow correspondence is not appealing to me, although I wonder if this is the new reality with texting, email, and tweets. I also wondered if my efforts to maintain ties with her were in vain. These prison walls create a barrier that is very difficult to overcome.

At 6 a.m. the following day I was awakened early by loud convicts. They were let out of their cells for the law library but then locked on the gallery when a distress call went out over the radio. Later, I learned cellmates in a different quarter unit were fighting. The situation was contained to one cell in one cell house and yet all the operations in the penitentiary were temporarily suspended. This hold on movement was over by the first shift and I went out to the yard. Soon after returning, though, the prison was placed on a low level lockdown. The lockdown prevented inmates in C House from attending evening yard and many were displeased. The warden had a memo posted on the cable system alerting that all night yards were over at the end of the month.

Although the penitentiary was on lockdown Friday as well, the administration was allowing 1 hour visits. Close to noon my name was announced over the cell house loudspeaker and I quickly changed into my state blues. My rush was unnecessary because a guard did not come to let me out of my cell and handcuff me for some time. All prisoner movement on lockdowns requires handcuffs despite what the reason may be. In this case, I was later told by a lieutenant that it was a "system's failure" which I assumed meant the guards' new radios were not working properly.

When I walked down the steps into the general population visiting room I was pleased to see Cindy sitting at a table waiting for me. It was unfortunate we would only be able to talk for an hour but on the positive side since everyone was being kicked out early, there were fewer people there. It was a marked contrast to the first time we met when every table was filled and there were over 100 people talking over each other. After a brief embrace I asked her how long she had been waiting. She did not say but mentioned that a guard had given her a hard time about a bracelet she was wearing. The bracelet had two tiny interlocking handcuffs which I thought was cute. Apparently so did another guard and he asked her if she had the key. There was no key and he then said, "I guess you're going to have to keep them on."

Cynthia had some complicated questions for me which were difficult to answer in such a short period of time. Regularly, I would look at the clock on the wall to see how much time we had left (the G.P. visiting room has a clock on the wall). One of her questions was if I felt sorry for the victim. I knew people expected prisoners, particularly those convicted of murder, to go on and on about their deep sadness if not shed a tear or two. However, the truth was much more nuanced for me. First, because I was not the least bit culpable or even aware of the murder, I did not have any feelings of regret. In fact, the longer I spent in prison the more bitterness and anger I had. Second, I did not know the victim well and what I did know I did not like. I remember the prosecutor confronted a witness at trial about his prior grand jury testimony where he testified that I had told him I did not like the man that much.  Although this was true, it was a far cry from wanting him to die or being indifferent about his death. I know some people will watch the news and have great amounts of empathy for those they have never met. However, I usually do not think about it.

Her second deep question was "Why was your co-defendant acquitted of the murder yet you were convicted of being accountable for his actions?" This is a question I get asked a lot and it cannot be answered in a sound bite. Our trials, while held simultaneously, were separate. There were two juries and they did not hear all the same evidence. For example, Robert Faraci's jury did not hear the testimony of his wife, Rose Faraci, when she talked about him coming home with his clothes soaked in blood the night in question and he asked her to burn them while he showered.  Or how they later conspired to frame me and Brian. Furthermore, my jury was unaware that Faraci was acquitted when they decided days later to find me accountable based on the testimony of the detective who interrogated me. My attorney was an expert at civil and corporate law but lacked experience representing clients accused of criminal wrongdoing. He was also arrogant and did not concern himself much with jury selection despite how heavily biased people were against me due to the enormous negative media exposure I had. My co-defendant's attorneys, contrarily, knew trials could be won or lost with jury selection and were able to win an important challenge preventing the prosecutor from eliminating favorable jurors. Finally, the befuddling results of our trials were also due to the state's attorneys office overzealous desire to have a scapegoat for the then unsolved Palatine Massacre. More money and resources were used to convict me than John Wayne Gacy, while there was little concern about the Fawcett murder and convicting Robert Faraci. Robert was the bird in the hand, while I was the bird in the bush. Considering the politics involved, they were more than willing to accept losing one for the chance to get the other.

Our visit seemed to go by very quickly. There was no way I could explain all the details of my case in an hour and I told her if she wanted she could come back before the month was over. I still had one visit left for September. On the way out of the visiting room, I was astonished to hear a prisoner talk glowingly of my current appellate lawyer who I was seeking to replace. For over 5 years I have been waiting for Jennifer Blagg to put together a post conviction petition and I had lost all faith in her competency. I assume the prisoner had just recently hired her and mistakenly took her initial enthusiasm and very personable style for results.

Returning from my visit, I discovered a new mattress on my bunk. Apparently, while I was gone, a couple of crates of them were brought in and passed out to prisoners who had submitted requests over a year ago. Imitating a scene from the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" I told my cellmate that the prosecutor finally caved in to my demand for a SertaPedic mattress. While laying on it comfortably, I said, "Don't get any ideas. This is a single." Anthony had heard enough of my jokes from the film about injustice and revenge. He responded that I should enjoy it while it lasts. He was given one a few months ago and already it was flat. By Christmas, I will probably be feeling the steel underneath, but for now it has been very comfortable.

Sunday evening I was concerned Cynthia would be turned away at the front gates of the penitentiary. The prison after being taken off lockdown was back on and various rumors were flying. According to an inmate returning from the Health Care Unit, a man committed suicide in the Roundhouse. However, I then heard there was yet another fight between cellmates where one used a shank to stab his opponent. Finally, a guard commented that there was a staff assault. According to him, a lieutenant in B House was struck. Possibly, all of the stories or none of them were true, however, the next day I was pleased there were normal operations and 2 hour visits were being allowed.

On my visit with Cynthia, she wanted to continue to talk about my case. Why did it say in a newspaper article that we spoke to a newspaper-magazine store owner in Florida about guns? Why did they insinuate I was connected to a group of criminals? How did I meet these men? I answered all these questions and then emphasized I had absolutely no involvement in the Fawcett murder. I was not even aware he was killed when I left with the Faraci's to Clearwater, Florida. I did not want to spend another visit trying to address every aspect of the underlying circumstances of the murder, my prosecution, conviction, etc. Instead, I said I will just send her my Petition for Executive Clemency which is 50 pages long and has even more exhibits. The Illinois Innocence Project had just returned my copy so I will put it in the mail for her to read.

The main reason why I like seeing Cindy is to talk about our years in junior high school and to be flirtatious. Other than my mother or sister, no woman has come to see me in years. I knew she had a crush on me in school and it may be 25 years too late, but I wanted to try to make up for it. When she mentioned finally finding some more photos of herself to send me, I inquired if they were naked. She complained that in a letter I said she was fat and asked why would I want to see her naked. I was about to say sarcastically that maybe I like chubby girls, but instead told her she could lose the excess weight if she wanted to. This is always a sensitive subject with women and I got an earful of excuses including how it was genetic. This led me to playfully guess what her background was. Finally she gave me a hint: it was where people went to get laid (leid). I was baffled by her play on words and she then told me she was part Hawaiian. When I told her I thought she may be an eighth or quarter Eskimo she laughed. She also seemed amused when I asked if that meant she could hula dance.

I remained flirtatious throughout most of our visit. Sometimes I was serious and other times joking. The combination along with my flat humor threw her off balance. She probably still does not know what to think. Despite how she may be confused, other people watching us were not. As soon as she left, a guard asked me if she was my girlfriend. I answered simply by saying Cindy was a girl I knew in junior high. The guard then went on to say she married her high school boyfriend. Later in the week Snowman also asked me if she was my girlfriend. Apparently, he was in the visiting room on Monday or the previous Friday. My cellmate has never even seen me interact with Cynthia, but he will joke whenever I write her not to forget to say "I love you".

On the first of October, I had another set of 5 visits and my mother came to see me. She has been the most faithful person to stay connected all these years. I will guesstimate she has visited more than 800 times at various maximum security penitentiaries that I have been at over the last two decades. She also will write regularly and this week she finally was able to set up an account with the Dept. of Correction's collect call phone company. As I suspected, Securus Technologies is forcing people to give their credit card information or to pay in advance. They will no longer allow another phone company to bill for them. I assume there is some advantage for them, although the costs after taxes remains the same (about $4 for a 30 minute local call).

My mother and I visited for two hours and then I had to go straight to the Health Care Unit. Initially, the guard was not going to let me in. There was a hold on all health care passes due to the holding cages being so jammed full. However, when he saw my pass was to see a psychiatric doctor, he let me in the door. Mental health care passes are now mandatory and guards cannot refuse them or at least they are told not to.

When I saw the psychologist I must have looked troubled or distant. She asked what was wrong. I told her I was just exhausted. In the last week, I had 4 visits and had in fact just came from one. The constant barrage of noise and people in the penitentiary is very draining. If I want to be engaging on visits I must push myself to the limits of my ability to be social. With Cynthia, I was drinking large cups of coffee before I met her so I would be more communicative. After all visits, I crash for an hour or longer. Having a son with autism, the doctor seemed to understand and ended our appointment briefly so I could get back to the cell house before I was stuck in the crowded Health Care Unit's holding cages. There is no movement between shifts and I may have been tormented for a couple of hours unless I just tipped over into sleep or my own little universe. I am glad to have had 4 visits in such a short period of time, but it was taxing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TO ALL BLOG READERS:

In April 2010, we set up a petition on petitiononline.com to gather signatures in support of Paul's Executive Clemency Petition. The petition letter was addressed Illinois Governor Blagojevich who later was prosecuted and sent to prison. The petition site refused to change the governor's name when Patrick Quinn replaced him because there were already hundreds of signatures.  We left it up with the hope that the new governor of Illinois would understand and periodically we sent the signature lists to him.

Paul's Petition for Executive Clemency was reviewed by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, and an oral hearing was conducted in July 2010.  (See 53. "My 5th Clemency Petition" and 67. "Clemency Hearing").  After the hearing, the board made a recommendation to then Governor Blagojevich, but he never responded to Paul's petition or hundreds of others.

Over the last year or two, Governor Pat Quinn has made decisions on some of these old petitions, but not Paul's. If you haven't already written to Governor Quinn, now would be the time to do so. Illinois will have a new governor in January.

Letters encouraging Governor Quinn to grant Paul's request for clemency should be sent to:

Governor Patrick Quinn
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL  62706
USA

With our thanks and appreciation to all of you,

Paul, the Modrowski Family, and Blog Helpers

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Return of SORT -- September 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cleaning House -- September 20, 2014

Last week the Orange Crush ransacked the cell house. SORT was dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits and black body armor including helmets with face shields. The 100-man force also carried batons and canisters of mace. Prisoners were strip searched and handcuffed before being escorted to the chow hall. Once removed from the building, SORT rummaged through their property for a few hours. Only a quarter of the cells were searched and inmates who thought they could rest easy were mistaken. This week, SORT returned without tactical gear to go through cells again. They began on the upper floor and seemed to be working their way down systematically. My gallery has yet to be searched by this second round, but I expect them to toss my cell soon.

After the Orange Crush searched the quarter unit, it was placed on a level 4 lockdown. A few inmates were allowed out of their cells to assist guards with work such as sweeping and mopping floors, passing out food trays, and picking up garbage. One hour visits were permitted and prisoners were also able to use the telephone. Surprisingly, the administration even told staff at the commissary building to bag up store and have it brought to the cell house where it could be given to inmates in their cells. Most wardens would make prisoners wait until after a lockdown. Despite this, men were not happy and I overheard some shouting to one another that they did not receive their complete orders. I thought they should not look a gift horse in the mouth.

A better gripe for inmates and staff alike would have been the lack of heat. Day time highs were in the 50s, but at night temperatures dropped to under 40. I have been sleeping under two blankets and miss the warmer clothes I sent to the laundry building. Laundry bags were picked up on Monday but not returned for a week. I did not even have clean underclothes to wear and was forced to wash some in my sink several times. Last weekend, guards on the midnight shift complained about the cold and how they should have a space heater in the sergeant's office. At least they had warm clothes to wear and could go home after their shift. I was confined to a cell and had to persevere the austere conditions in the prison, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

A new sergeant began working the first shift in the cell house this week. She is a middle aged black female who was recently promoted. Rumor has it that administrators wanted her in C House because the inmates here are older and generally cause less trouble. The quarter unit was a good place for her to learn how to run operations. Over the lockdown, I was not able to see if she was up to the task or learn her disposition. The previous sergeant was a good manager of affairs. He was never rattled by convicts and had a strong, cool, and collected personality. His experience allowed him to do his job well and I tend to think his presence will be missed. For the time being, he has been assigned to the movement team.

Throughout the week, prisoners have been fed meals in their cells. Some kitchen workers are making the food, but it is still as unpleasant as usual. For lunch on Sunday men were served tamales, and I do not believe they are the same the public at large eats. Regardless, I gave them away to my neighbor and ate a package of sardines with Ramen noodles. During my meal, I watched the New England Patriots destroy the Minnesota Vikings 30 to 7. The Patriots were going to win the game regardless, but the Vikings would have performed much better if their star running back, Adrian Peterson, was playing. Peterson was suspended due to allegations of child abuse. When did parental discipline even with a switch become unlawful or the business of the NFL? The NFL needs to resist pressure from the liberal media to become involved in the family matters of its players.

Prisoners' favorite football game was that between the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers. There are many Bear fans here and men cheered loudly when quarterback Jay Cutler led a come-back to win in the second half. I missed most of the game watching an episode of Naked and Afraid on the Discovery channel. A fat female bartender tapped out after only a couple of days in the wilderness of Botswana, Africa. Even the man could not make it for the full 21 days and tapped out. I have survived living in the concrete jungles of the state's most violent and oppressive penitentiaries for over 21 years. Living a few weeks in the Kalahari Desert would be a piece of cake. In fact, I may have more difficulty living in modern society given how much it has changed over the decades.

Monday prisoners were allowed to use the shower for the first time in a week. My cellmate after being handcuffed walked down the gallery and stairs to the shower area. Handcuffs are required during any movement on a lockdown despite how unnecessary it may be. While he was gone, I used the toilet. It was more for his benefit than my own. Prisoners regularly must defecate in their cellmate's close proximity even when not on lockdown. Unless sleeping, we will go to the front bars of the 6 by 11 foot cubicle, however, this is still similar to being in the same bathroom. Occasionally, I think of the cell as a standard sized bathroom in most American homes except instead of a shower and tub, there is a steel double bunk.

When prisoners returned from showering, I was at the bars shaving with my Norelco electric razor. Men told me rumors of the tactical unit continuing to search the penitentiary. Purportedly, some weapons were found last week and the warden thought there may still be some hidden. There are always weapons available at maximum and even medium security prisons. They can never be totally eliminated. This does not stop administrators from trying with ridiculous safety precautions or ever continuous searches. Every now and then, they clean house and it is expected by incarcerated men that have done a lot of time. However, what was odd was cleaning house again after just having done so.

Tuesday was another brisk morning and I did not warm up until I began my exercise regimen. While at the bars, I occasionally looked down on the lower floor. The lieutenant was joking with a couple of prison workers. He told them the administration thinks they were getting too close and therefore he, like the sergeant and other staff, were being reassigned. The lieutenant went on to say the next thing you know convicts may be asking him for weed. Later, he said loudly whenever approached by cell house help, "No. I will not smuggle you in a cell phone!" To another he said, "Stop asking me for a hair weave!" The shifting of staff was indeed the administration's efforts to prevent relationships forming between guards and inmates. However, it was counterproductive in the fact they had to learn an entirely new group of prisoners or job they had become good at.

After washing up in the sink, I heard inmates yell, "I.A.in the cell house!" The 10 man crew, however, I believe was just a contingent of SORT. They were simply not dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits or other tactical gear. The group searched a handful of cells on the upper galleries and then left for lunch. In the afternoon, they returned and attempted to catch some prisoners off guard. Some of the SORT quickly perused galleries looking for anything suspicious, while others went directly to cells. The occupants were strip searched and placed in the cell house holding cage for a couple of hours or sent to the offices of Internal Affairs to be questioned. One prisoner was sent to segregation, but I do not know the reason.

Last week, SORT had the cold water turned off to prevent prisoners from flushing contraband. However, this week, this was all incarcerated men had. The hot water button only dribbled cold water and the plumbing problem was not resolved until the following day. It was particularly chilly in the cell house and cold air blew out a vent so strong that I had to block it with a floor rag. My neighbor was disappointed he could not drink any hot coffee and when he complained to me about the matter, I told him he needs to watch more survivalist programs. "Rub a couple of sticks together and make a friction fire," I said. Apparently, this Leprechaun not only lacked magical powers, but could not improvise the least bit to make a cup of hot instant coffee.

Stateville's tactical unit did not meander about searching cells or other parts of the prison during the second shift and prisoners could relax in the evening. I spent my time responding to readers comments. When this blog began, I only received a few comments weekly, but now there are dozens. They also are spread out amongst a couple hundred stories. This makes it very difficult for blog handlers to "cut and paste" commentary to send to me. Furthermore, because of the volume of comments and emails I can no longer respond to all of them. However, I did read all the messages posted or sent to me from the month of August and just in time to watch an ongoing series on PBS about former Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.

SORT returned on Wednesday to finish searching the 5th floor. Most of these prisoners had already been through a thorough shake-down the prior week. Despite this, I noticed bags of property and garbage being removed. A cell house worker later told me that the SORT was not only searching cells but making prisoners go through what was called a "compliance check". This meant all their property except for a TV, fan, and radio had to fit in their two state issued boxes. What men could not fit was being confiscated. Neither I nor my cellmate were concerned about a compliance check because neither of us keep a lot of property. Most of our belongings were kept inside our boxes even when we were in the cell.

General mail was a few weeks behind, both going out and being delivered to prisoners. However, legal mail was a priority and is generally processed within a week. Before I went to sleep, I was surprised to receive a letter from the Illinois Innocence Project. They notified me the petition for Executive Clemency I sent to them earlier in the month was in their possession. They will make a copy before sending my original back to me. I was glad there was no confusion this time. I had already sent them the petition in January and somehow it was sent back to me without anyone at the law school seeing it.

The following day a group of about 50 SORT rushed into the building early. Once again they were not dressed in their bright orange jumpsuits and black body armor. They also did not have any billy clubs in their hands or on their belts. I was not certain where the tactical unit was headed until I saw the inmates they led down the stairs in handcuffs. Juan Luna was amongst those prisoners being sent to the chow hall to wait while his cell was searched. Despite how he has cut his hair and now wears a bald head, he will always be easily recognizable to me. It was the mass murder he committed along with James Degorski that I was blamed for. If not for suspicions in the Palatine Massacre, I would have probably never been prosecuted let alone convicted and sentenced to an eternity in prison.

Half of the 4th floor was searched in the morning and the second half in the afternoon. The SORT removed a considerable amount of property, however, much of it was extra state issued items. For example, about 10 mattresses were brought downstairs and inmate workers stacked them on top of the sergeant's office. Extra pillows, sheets, and blankets were also confiscated. For a moment, it seemed like there was a snow storm in the building as I noticed numerous white bed sheets fluttering down from above. Prisoners are only allowed to keep two sheets, however, most men keep at least four because when laundry is sent out there is no telling when it will be returned. No one wants to sleep on a vinyl mattress or not have anything to cover up with especially in this chilly weather.

It was apparent SORT was only going to search the 4th floor and my cellmate and I went about our day as usual. Stateville now has a contract with Netflix, but the DVD player is broken. The LTS (leisure time service) supervisor brought in another DVD system but it is an old model which cannot be programmed to play automatically. Thus, the supervisor must manually start the disk and he is playing movies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. During the day I use my energy to work out, read, write, and do other things. Thus I doubt I will be watching any new movies in the near future, but my cellmate does not mind the early DVDs and spent a couple of hours watching a film.

While I read a newspaper, I listened to the Rush Limbaugh show on my Walkman. The subject of discussion was a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Federal Appeals. Incredibly, they ruled a high school principal in California was not violating students' constitutional rights by forbidding them from wearing T-shirts with the U.S. flag on them. Principle Miguel Rodriguez argued the Caucasian students could anger Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo, a day they celebrate their country's independence from France. Ironically, Hispanic students could wave the Mexican flag or wear T-shirts, buttons, or other foreign patriotic symbols. The court ruling demonstrated how white Americans were losing their Constitutional rights and their country in general. Already, non-white Hispanics make up a greater percentage of the population than any other racial group in the southwest as well as in Texas.

In the evening, I noticed prisoners on the lower two galleries including my own having cell house workers move property upstairs. The bags were filled with excess property they could not fit in their 2 boxes and did not want to lose. Incarcerated men assumed the SORT was not going to search or conduct compliance checks of cells they already went to. Some prisoners also sent quasi-contraband to people they knew on 8 and 10 galleries. Amongst those items were rolls of tape, good writing pens, and bowls with lids. Nothing I saw was anything the SORT would write disciplinary tickets for. However, they were most likely going to throw the property out.

I forgot to take all the medication I am given at night to help me sleep and woke up early. The sun had yet to rise and the cell house was quiet. The calm in the 300 man quarter unit, however, abruptly ended when the SORT rushed into the building. The shakedown crew went directly to the 3rd floor and I could hear them giving orders to prisoners above my cell. About 20 minutes later, half the men on the gallery were led down the stairs in handcuffs to the chow hall. Their cells were searched for a couple of hours before they were brought back. In the afternoon the second half of the gallery was searched. Mostly garbage and extra state issued property was taken. No contraband to my knowledge was found by guards. They also did not conduct compliance checks before searching cells and inmates who had excess property moved had did so in vain.

NFL Live was still talking about the issue of domestic violence rather than football. Because I did not care to hear any more about the subject or liberals demanding that Roger Goodell resign as commissioner, I watched Jeopardy with my cellmate. Anthony likes the game show and it is only from time to time that I will watch it with him. He was able to answer more clues than me although I ran the gauntlet on a couple of categories. On afternoons prisoners are not on lockdown, guards will announce "night yard" just after shift change at 3 p.m. Unsatisfied with the Jeopardy play, I thought I would play with staff. Looking down into the sergeant's office, I saw one guard and yelled to him like the common convict, "On that night yard!" It was prisoners appointed day for yard after dinner, but of course due to the lockdown there was no movement. The guard commented after seeing me at the bars, the extra yard period was probably over for the year. It was only a privilege enjoyed during the summer months.

In lieu of yard, I wrote my mother a letter. The Dow Jones Industrial average had hit another record high of 17,280. I advised her to put automatic sell orders on many of her stock holdings. I also recommended selling immediately other equities, although I have been doing this for some time since the Dow hit 17,000 or lower. The bull market is about to wane as government security purchases end and investors see interest rates moving higher in the next year. Any trouble in economic data will increasingly have the potential of setting in motion a correction.

This morning, I was anticipating the SORT to search my cell and the others on the gallery. Early on the midnight shift, I overheard a guard saying he was mandated to stay at the penitentiary. Regularly, guards are told they cannot leave and the IDOC pays them time and a half for unnecessary overtimes. However, I had a suspicion the administration wanted extra manpower to continue their search. When the tactical team was indeed assembled again today but sent elsewhere, some prisoners speculated the lower 2 galleries would be skipped. These galleries cell the oldest men in the unit and are less likely to be involved in a staff assault or conspiracy to commit one. Furthermore, the only weapons they may have are crutches. However, although older prisoners are probably considered less of a priority, I tend to believe it is just a matter of time before SORT is back to finish cleaning house.