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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The First Week of September -- September 6, 2014

I have kept calendars with notes for several years. They were meant to assist me in writing posts and also to remind me that my life in prison has not been completely empty. However, this week I destroyed them all. I care not to remember my miserable and meaningless time within the penitentiary. The only calendar I kept is a tiny card which I have taped to a gusset of the upper bunk simply for quick reference to the day and date. It is one of those card calendars sent out by the Salvation Army and on the opposite side it has the story "Footsteps". Looking back in time, neither Jesus nor anyone has carried me. Throughout most of these decades I have walked alone. However, I continue to post here so that people can trace the footprints I have left in the sand before they are washed away by the tide. In this story, readers can follow my path during the first week of September 2014.

Sunday morning I was let out of my cage for a health care pass. At the bottom of the stairs I noticed the lieutenant dribbling a basketball. Before I stole the ball away from him, he pretended to go up to make a shot. He then inquired if I had a visitor. It was uncommon for me to be out of the cell unless it was in a chow line or to be escorted to the visiting room. No, I told him. I had an appointment with the psychiatrist. He asked if I was hearing voices whereupon I said, "All the time and they will never shut up."

The psychiatrist I see is a little East Indian woman who despite being in the U.S. for many years has a slight accent. The small office she has was completely rearranged and for some reason this bothered me immensely. Her job was to prescribe or adjust medications as needed by her patients but I was more interested in knowing why all these changes were made. Eventually she ascertained there was no need to modify the melatonin or Klonopin I was taking before going to sleep. I returned to the cell house with a loud group of prisoners coming back from Islam services. Like those in Iraq I thought they may be ostentatious, but there was little to be feared.

My cellmate was in a cheerful mood. He does not regularly receive visitors, but his sister and niece came to see him. I inquired if the visiting room was as crowded and noisy as it has been for me the last couple of weeks. He said on the contrary, it was almost vacant. Prisoners are only permitted 5 visits a month and only 2 of them can be on the weekend at Stateville. I assumed that this was the reason why his visit was much more pleasant.

In the evening, Anthony was excited to see a segment on 60 Minutes regarding former Serbian soldiers who had been nicknamed Pink Panthers after a series of brazen burglaries across Europe. The news program showed a clip from the movie The Pink Panther which I had been imitating a couple of months ago. It was where the actor Peter Sellers asks a man, "Does your dog bite?" and when he says "no," Sellers reaches down to pet the dog only to be mauled. He then calmly says, "I thought you said your dog does not bite" and he is amusingly told that the dog was not his. Anthony never saw any of the Pink Panther movies and was perplexed by my French voice imitation that Peter Sellers uses as well as the humor to the scene until finally seeing it for himself. Hopefully, he will someday get to see the movie Dr. Strangelove where the actor plays a German scientist the U.S. co-ops with after WWII.

On Labor Day, the penitentiary was placed on lockdown. Initially guards claimed it was due to security reasons and a pipe was found in X House. However, it was apparent operations were restricted for the holiday. Prisoners were kept in their cells except for some workers. Bucky, who is cell house help, stopped at my bars to give me bleach and the cardboard case that Boost drink boxes came in. I used the bleach with laundry detergent to scrub my gym shoes which often become dirty and stained by rust. The weight lifting equipment on the yards is corroded and the iron easily gets on clothing including footwear. The biker also sent the cardboard case because he knows how meticulous I am about trying to keep my property box in order. Prisoners' state issued property boxes do not come with any dividers or compartments. They are just thick plastic containers with a sliding lid. While seeing how I could use the cardboard to order my belongings more effectively, I thought about the declining condition of Bone. Bone is dying of liver failure and all health care staff would do for him was treat the symptoms including his great amount of weight loss.

Lunch was passed out to prisoners in Styrofoam trays. Towards noon, I ate the baked chicken with a slight glaze of barbecue sauce. A black inmate who lives a few cells from me was shouting loudly and to block him out I put on my headphones and listened to Rush Limbaugh. On Friday he was ridiculing Barack Obama for having no strategy in the Middle East and that his spokespeople were in full damage control. The liberal media were very accommodating to the excuses. On Monday they also tried to slant polling numbers to emphasize the low approval ratings of Congress instead of the President's. Obama's approval rating has dropped to its lowest level ever during his tenure, but Americans had an even lower opinion of the legislature. Hopefully, this will result in Republicans taking control of the Senate.

After the talk radio show, I read while listening to music until the television show "Running Wild" with Bear Grylls was telecast. I enjoy watching the former British Special Ops soldier innovate to survive in some of the world's least hospitable places. However, I am disappointed how this TV show is meant for the least capable survivalists and focuses attention on various semi-famous people who I could care less about. During this episode, Tamron Hall accompanied Bear Grylls in Utah. They did some mild repelling and ate a dead squirrel. Hall was fearful of the loose rocks they climbed down and disgusted to eat a squirrel. I wondered what her fear would be locked in a maximum security prison and how she would enjoy the slop generally fed inmates.

The following day I went to the large prison yard to lift weights. My cellmate played basketball and left me in the company of several black convicts. I thought it was amusing Big Jr. gave me advice on how to increase my bench press. The black man has an impressive bench, but I have been lifting weights since I was in middle school. I was fully aware of techniques to increase strength and was more intent on my overall fitness. Later, Keon joined us after attending his GED class. Keon and I both had LWOP and were arrested around the same time. Fortunately for him he was 17 rather than 18 and should be re-sentenced to a term of years between 20 and 60. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that natural life without parole for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional and the black man with a gold tooth was already making plans for life outside these prison walls. Initially, he intends to be squeaky clean and work hard as a truck driver. Eventually he aspired to save enough money to buy his own tractor trailer when he may become a smuggler. I have no idea what he planned to smuggle and I did not inquire.

After exercising, I was exhausted. During these workouts, I ignore back pain and push myself to the limit. In the cell, I took a little nap. When I woke my cellmate asked me if I heard the ruckus. No, I had used earplugs thick enough to muffle the noise of jackhammers and I was very tired. Apparently while I slept two convicts fought each other in a cell on a gallery above us. The commotion was followed by screams of the defeated. Cell fights can be extremely brutal and at a maximum security prison a man is fortunate to have a cellmate he gets along with. I asked Anthony if the guards or any medical staff responded. He said the incident occurred during a shift change and went unnoticed.

My neighbor who is a pedophile has surprisingly not been beaten. In prison, child molesters are regularly the target of violence. Occasionally even I contemplate striking him, but instead display my repugnance in other ways. In the evening I heard his squeaky voice ask my cellmate or me to pass a bag of potato chips. I went to the bars and grabbed the bag he held out in front of our cell. Then I asked him whose chips they were. When he told me they were his, I crushed them up and tossed them on the ground in front of his cell. I told the pedophile to get a cell house worker to pass things and to never bother me again.

After the incident, I jestingly asked my cellmate if our neighbor could be innocent. Based on his prior record, what I knew of his current conviction and his overall demeanor in prison, it was a big stretch. However, recently, he has been telling guards he is going home. Guards seem to indulge the intellectually challenged man and I overheard one say, "Don't come back". I assume he still has appeals to go through and has unwarranted optimism. Later in the week, I asked my jail house lawyer to look into the matter. He is always sniffing in the law books. He will be able to tell me where the pedophile is in his appeals and the issues raised unless the case was unpublished due to protecting the identity of the minor or have yet to be ruled upon.

Prisoners were fed a very paltry meal for dinner but later I made a tuna sandwich on rye bread to eat. Stateville occasionally receives donated bread and when served I will bring it back to my cell to make sandwiches. I thought it was unfortunate that I could not make a Reuben sandwich while I watched a PBS documentary on Fidel Castro, and that John F. Kennedy did not have Castro overthrown from power or assassinated. The Cuban communist dictator was a menace to the U.S. for decades and I was perturbed by the way he was nicely portrayed. The government run television station, financed with public money and contributions, generally is heavily slanted to the left. Occasionally, it almost seems like a propaganda outlet for liberals.

The following morning I delayed my cell work out to watch the president give a speech from Estonia which was meant to reassure East NATO countries that the U.S. was fully committed to their defense. Russian forces have moved into Ukraine and Vladimir Putin was talking about creating a new country in the areas his military occupies. The speech was not very comforting to Poland and the Baltic states in my opinion considering Obama's failure to respond to other foreign crises. In fact, despite the U.S. having a treaty to protect the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, the president said there was no military solution. If this was the case, there would be no military solution to Russia pushing its military to cold war boundaries.

Towards noon I was told by the sergeant that I had a visitor. His office is below my cell and rather than get on the loudspeaker he will occasionally just tell me in person. I was not just ready to leave and told him I needed 5 minutes. About 10 minutes passed before a guard unlocked my door and then I spent a half hour in the holding cage waiting for an escort. When I did finally make it to the visiting room I noticed my mother patiently waiting alone at a table. I cannot imagine what it is like for her to visit her son in prison for two decades. It was probably made worse for her that the people at Stateville are so radically different than those she interacts with in her sheltered upper-middle class neighborhood. Everyone in the visiting room was either black or Mexican. Many of them were from the inner city of Chicago and wore the most bizarre clothing. One woman wore a bright red shirt, had ruby red lips, and bright green hair. If she was not black, I would have thought she was the Joker's sister.

After jokingly asking my mother if she thought that was the woman's natural hair color, we spoke about a new petition drive. The online petition is old and addressed to the former governor, Rod Blagojevich. Many people seem to believe because it is addressed to him that Governor Pat Quinn will not receive the signatures or be moved by them. It is extremely important the current governor knows there is a great amount of public support for my request for executive clemency. Granting pardons or even commutations of sentences is highly political and most governors will not even contemplate releasing a prisoner unless he is leaving office or not seeking another term. Furthermore, Governor Quinn has been inundated with thousands of requests and I not only need my case to be uniquely deserving but one that will catch his attention. My mother spoke to me about a petition website called "change.org." She believes it is the best way to gain the largest number of signatures, however, we disagreed about what it should say, as well as the wording. Hopefully, by the time this post is printed, it will be up and running. Quinn may lose the election to his challenger, Bruce Rauner.

On Tuesday, I received a bundle of letters including two from lawyers. I did not have time to read or respond to all of them immediately. With the cell house being very noisy I looked through my collection of cassette tapes to listen to as I wrote. I have owned these tapes for a long time and I sought something different. I asked my cellmate if he had anything other than "Insane Clown Posse". He listed a few and I told him to give me Bob Seger's Greatest Hits. There were some classic rock ballads on the tape and I listened to them until I fell asleep.

Thursday I was looking forward to prisoners going out to yard and having a couple hours of quiet time in my cell. However, Rec was cancelled for all the upper galleries to give these men commissary they did not receive on Labor Day. For nearly the entire day, prisoners were let out of their cells to collect their bagged purchases downstairs in front of the sergeant's office. The lieutenant supervised the slow process and seemed to grow increasingly irritated. He was not the only one to be annoyed and I was disappointed not to have the least bit of peace while my cellmate was at the gym.

Prisoners were angry they lost their yard time and early the next morning they began throwing a fit. They screamed from their cells, threw some garbage off the galleries, and rattled their doors. The sliding barred doors to cells can be shaken and the reverberations could be felt throughout the quarter unit. Prisoners demanded that the Rec period they missed be made available to them. Eventually, a major walked in the building and he was not greeted with any reverence. Contrarily, I was told he almost was struck with a milk carton. To prevent inmates from protesting in the chow hall, lunch trays were brought to the cell house. The prison was also placed on a low level lockdown due to a fight erupting in one of the dining rooms when men from the Roundhouse were being fed.

Despite the lockdown, visits were still being permitted and I was surprised to receive another visitor in the same week. While being escorted, I met Wild Bill who was going to the Health Care Unit. Bill asked me if I had a blog and after I told him I did, he told me some convicts were accusing me of writing about "all their secrets". I told Bill that I do not publish anything Internal Affairs is not already fully aware of. Some inmates have a perception that security personnel at the prison are deaf and dumb. On the contrary, Internal Affairs is similar to the NSA.

I was not certain if Cindy would continue to visit me, but there she was again. As we did before, we spoke about junior high and classmates we knew. I finally recalled the Jason she met earlier in the year and his elf-like appearance. I saved my most disparaging remarks for her first quasi-boyfriend. I was easily amused telling her stories about Ryan and making fun of him as well as her for liking him at least at the time. Our light hearted conversations about our school years, however, eventually were overcome by sadness. I had been wrongfully convicted and will spend the rest of my life in prison.

Last night I woke up having a dream I could not easily pass from my thoughts. In the dream I was in junior high school and was happy to be there. I remembered many of my former classmates nostalgically, including Cynthia. However, all of a sudden, they were taken away from me. In fact, everything I once had was taken away. I did not know the reason why I was arrested but it was for some horrific crime I knew nothing about. This did not matter to the police and with dread I thought I would be condemned to prison forever. When I awakened, I was of course in a cell at Stateville and, yes, I did have a sentence of natural life without parole. The dream had blended fact with fiction. The only significant difference was that I was only 13 years old, not 18.

Along with my dream, a cold front had moved through overnight. It was a chilly 60 degrees and my vacant cell felt like a tomb. I noticed the sun is rising much later now and is farther to the south. Very little of its angled rays now shine through the opaque windows. It is only the first week of September, but already the warm weather of summer seems to have abruptly ended, similar to how my brief life was snuffed out long ago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Last Samurai -- August 30, 2014

For centuries Japan had evolved into a powerful feudal system. During the era of the shogunate, the emperors were merely figure heads with warlords exercising authority over their fiefdoms. The power of the warlords derived from a warrior class known as the Samurai. The Samurai conducted themselves under a strict code which emphasized the values of loyalty, bravery, and honor. From early childhood, boys were trained in combat and their ethics were comparable to the ancient Spartans. They were not only the defenders of their lords but of a way of life. In the 19th century, however, a movement largely created through interaction with the U.S., caused a shift towards modernization. Feudalism was replaced with a centralized state under Emperor Meiji Tenna. Along with military technology developed in the West, Japan became a world power defeating China and Russia in two successive wars. Unfortunately, it then had the audacity to challenge the U.S. which led to its destruction; the Empire of the Sun had risen only to be quickly blotted out.

On Sunday, the highlight of my day was watching the Little League World Series Championship game. Jackie Robinson West had amazingly been given the national title after barely winning their last 3 games. It was doubtful they were the best kids baseball team in the U.S. considering that they squeaked by their competition and then tied with Las Vegas. Both teams had the same record in the regional playoffs double elimination round losing one game to one another. There seemed to be a need for a third game where either Jackie Robinson West or Las Vegas would have the opportunity to break the tie. However, this was never questioned by liberal media which adored the all black inner city team from Chicago. They never cared who was most deserving to succeed, but only in promoting equality.

Japan was ultimately brought to its knees in World War II when two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the country was to rise from the ashes largely emulating past U.S. values and culture. Oddly enough, although baseball has ceased to be America's favorite sport, it remains to be in Japan and South Korea. Furthermore, unlike the U.S. which has moved away from a competitive meritocracy, the Japanese and Koreans still strive for excellence. Despite having only a third the population of America, I knew any baseball team they fielded in the Little League World Series most likely would win based on merit. When I turned on my television to watch the championship game I looked forward to seeing the South Koreans crushing Jackie Robinson West.

I surmise a quarter of prisoners in my cell house watched the game. Black inmates enthusiastically cheered for the inner city team throughout the series and they hoped Jackie Robinson West would be crowned world champions. I relished cheering for the Koreans as their pitcher struck out player after player and they tallied points when at bat. I thought the game was going to end by slaughter rule, but Korea played conservatively. I was reminded of the Samurais strict code of Bushido. Grandstanding was not acceptable and they played with strong self discipline and respect. The final score was 8 to 4, although this did not reflect how the South Korean team dominated.

After eating a "breakfast of champions" the following day, I began my cell workout. I was not a fan of karate which I did not think was as lethal as other martial arts. The Japanese sport relied too heavily on strikes regardless of how disabling or destructive they were to an opponent. Instead I had my own mix of martial arts which has served me well in prison. I practiced some of these movements in combination with my cardio vascular exercises. It was a hot humid day and by the time I finished my clothes were drenched in sweat. The sink in my cell had broken again requiring I wash with cold water. Getting a lather in cold water was difficult, but otherwise I did not mind.

The sergeant announced "chicken bones with noodles" for lunch over the cell house loudspeaker. I think he and other staff take joy in mocking the food prisoners are served. I did not intend to go to the chow hall, however, and would eat a package of sardines with Ramen noodles later in the day. South Koreans and prisoners in the U.S. apparently share the commonality of eating the instant noodles regularly. According to a newspaper I read, it is the most popular food in that country and they were upset that a college in America conducted a study which concluded it was very unhealthy. I have noticed it does have a high fat content, but assume the worst aspect is the level of sodium. In every seasoning packet is 4,800 mg. of sodium which is two times more than the FDA recommends in an entire day. This does not matter much to me, as I rarely use the salt.

Towards 11 a.m., I was allowed out of my cell and I walked down several flights of steps to the front door of the quarter unit. Steve was at his cell bars and asked me where I was going. Before I could answer, he said, "Crazy doctor?" Indeed, the high functioning autistic prisoner had a pass to see the psychologist. This time the doctor seemed more engaging and tried to be constructive. I was asked about my case and mentioned how I was convicted largely because the jury was misled to believe that I knew the victim was going to be killed. Members of the jury later remarked how awful they thought it was that I did not attempt to intervene or just warn him, allowing him to go to his death. I was impressed the psychologist remembered they also held me accountable for purportedly lending my car to my roommate. Occasionally, I do not know how much mental health care staff care or pay attention to their clients in prison as long as they are not hearing voices, about to kill themselves, or kill someone else.

Before my arrest, I had fewer problems dealing with the idiosyncrasies of autism. In prison, I cannot escape my environment and the persistent aggravations accumulate and prove to be greatly disturbing. The psychologist told me that the IDOC was considering opening up a ward in what once was the juvenile penitentiary in Joliet. The details have yet to be worked out but if appropriate she would recommend that I be transferred there. Because of my natural life sentence, I can never be eligible for a medium security prison where conditions would be better. However, it was clear to her that I should not be at Stateville.

In a Barron's newspaper which I read recently, there was an editorial condemning Germany for not returning all the artwork, property, and other valuables or assets taken during WWII. The editorial greatly annoyed me because never before in the history of warfare have countries been held liable for the seizure or expropriation of property. War is raping, looting, and killing. Furthermore, no other country has been held accountable for their conduct including the Soviet Union which by far committed the most horrendous and wide scale malevolence. On the yard while waiting for my turn to bench press, I spoke to Steve about the matter. He eventually receives my newspapers with the angry comments I made in the margins. Steve readily concurred with the hypocrisy and for a few minutes we also discussed the atrocities the U.S.S.R. committed in eastern Europe yet are commonly ignored by the media and writers of history.

The serious nature of our conversation was interrupted by prisoners around the bench. Another inmate, Horse, had gotten everyone's attention talking about the VH1 show "Dating Naked". According to him, there was an episode where a woman's genitalia and anus were shown without being blurred. She was suing the program for the indiscretion and claiming her current boyfriend dumped her after seeing the show. Apparently, he did not have a problem with her being on a naked dating TV program, but he did have a problem with the gaping expanse of her orifices. The Elephant, yet another inmate, stupidly asked me if there was a correlation between how big a woman's mouth was and the size of her "box". I would not entertain the silly question and told him to ask my cellmate "Quagmire".

The talk of prisoners abruptly ended when a torrential rain began to pour down. There is no cover on any of the yards and men did not know how to escape it. The Elephant took the top off of an ice bucket and put it over his head. Others seeing him with the improvised umbrella tried to get under the lid or his enormous 350 pound body. However, not everyone could get under The Elephant and they complained bitterly about being soaked. Amusingly, on the parallel yard a prisoner dumped ice water over another man's head. Inmates on the yard threatened to give Dr. Smith the ALS challenge as well but simply joked that he could not avoid a shower today. Smith was an old disheveled and filthy black man who was often the butt of jokes or ridicule. Personally, I did not care if it was pouring rain and lightning zigzagged across the sky. I continued to work out and was pleased I no longer had to share the two barbells. Unlike many people, I have a tremendous amount of self-discipline, fortitude and after 21 years, enhanced perseverance. A thunderstorm only had the effect of invigorating me.

Typically guards will take prisoners off the yards at the first sign of lightning. However, later I learned they were distracted by a fight in the chow hall. From what I was told, two men housed in the Roundhouse began to exchange blows and would not disengage. Guards had to subdue, handcuff, and take them to segregation. Since segregation is in the lower two galleries of the Roundhouse, they were simply sent back to the same unit but separated by placing them in different cells without their property. Eventually, they will be given their books, clothes, and hygienic items. After a month they will be moved yet again to the upper floors. Fighting is only disciplined by one month in Seg, although they could be cited with assault if anyone was seriously injured; assault carries more Seg time.

While my cellmate's wet clothes and my own dried in the cell, I took a nap and then watched news on CNN. The television station had on Bernard Sanders, a socialist congressman from Vermont. He was ridiculing U.S. companies like Burger King for moving their headquarters out of the country to avoid paying taxes. The practice of buying a foreign business and relocating is known as an "Inversion". I did agree inversion laws should be narrowed, however, a company's first loyalty is to its shareholders and they cannot maximize profits while paying the highest tax rate in the world. As former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan proposed, tax rates need to go down while closing loopholes. Strength through fair competition was not understood though by socialists like Sanders or Barack Obama. They appear to despise capitalism and most everything the U.S. once represented.

While not winning the Little League World Series, Jackie Robinson West was still given an enormous salutary celebration in Chicago. All local television stations broadcast the event and even CNN gave it some live coverage. Many of the prisoners at Stateville tuned in Wednesday to listen to the undeserved praise and tribute. Although I had my headphones on, occasionally I would hear them yelling to each other from their cells about the superiority of the black athlete. One convict claimed the only reason why the Asians beat them was because they cheated. He accused the South Korean Little League players of being older. This was preposterous and also ironic. All the players in the Little League tournament were between the ages of 11 and 13 and if there was any favoritism it was towards Jackie Robinson West. The Urban Initiative and other affirmative action programs or charities gave millions of dollars to advance baseball for inner city children. Also, the support given the team went well beyond financial aid and reminded me of how pervasive liberal ideology was in America.

Marxism sought a utopia where all people were equal despite how this was inherently false. Thus, the weakest groups of people had to be uplifted while the strongest were pushed down. They wanted to invert the natural order and along with it the values and culture which came with it. This was a great contrast to free and traditional societies where the strong prevailed and their ethics were emulated. During the era of the shogunate, it was the Samurai who reigned and their values were passed down within Japanese culture. The founders of the American Republic also sought a hierarchical order but without the rigid caste system. They created a Constitution which divided government to help secure liberty. It was a system where the individual was not only empowered but succeeded and failed on their own merit. The ideals of meritocracy are now embraced by conservatives and fought by liberals.

I left my cell to go to the chow hall. Had I known I would be waiting almost an hour for some plain turkey-soy tacos, I would have stayed inside. The reason for the delay was a prisoner in the line in front of me was knocked unconscious. I watched as guards gathered around him laying on the concrete bleeding. What I did not see was him being blindsided. Apparently it happened so quickly that guards did not know what occurred either. Later, in the chow hall, they collected all the IDs from inmates who were in line with the man who needed to be helped to the Health Care Unit. I believe they later used video footage to learn who struck him. Cameras are almost everywhere at this prison and although they may not be all monitored 24-7, they are always recording. In the serving line an inmate whispered to me that the man who was struck was a snitch. The code of convicts has deteriorated over the years I have been in prison, however, snitches still risk being the target of violence.

Later, mail was passed out and I received an old email from a private investigator I had been attempting to reach on the phone for a couple of months. Apparently, one of the blog processors misplaced it or had forgotten to forward it to me. John, the investigator, said that he would be willing to help investigate leads which will further corroborate my innocence except he was very uncomfortable seeking evidence which will demonstrate that my trial attorney was ineffective. The P.I. worked with William Von Hoene at Jenner and Block many years ago and he continued to feel a loyalty towards him. This is a problem I am beginning to realize. No one wants to cross the lawyer whose failure to contest the lies of the interrogating officer caused my conviction. However, I respected his sense of loyalty and will appreciate it if he is willing to work on other matters.

The following day I visited with my mother. She informed me that she spoke with the Illinois Innocence Project's case coordinator. The coordinator said they never received my Petition for Executive Clemency and suspected Stateville staff of tampering with my mail. The mail room staff is very slow and can occasionally mix up mail, but they did not open up my package, drive to Springfield and remail my petition using the unique return address sticker of the IIP. The only conclusion was that faculty or a student had mistakenly sent the petition back to me without making a copy for themselves. The confusion upset me. I will remail the thick brief. I think it is important the IIP sees my request to the governor for a pardon or commutation of sentence because it is very comprehensive and contains all the exhibits that show my innocence.

Before my visit with my mother I was listening to the John Kass and Laura Cohn radio talk show. It was amusing hearing them make fun of Governor Quinn's reception at the Jackie Robinson West celebration. When he was introduced there was dead silence and even when someone said, "Please give it up to our governor!" you could hear a cricket chirping. The humor of the show was disrupted when news reported thousands of Russians with tanks were crossing into Ukraine. This was reprehensible and can be fully blamed on the weakness of the Obama administration. Incredibly, he later addressed the nation beginning with an upward revision of the country's 2nd quarter GDP before talking about the crisis in Iraq and Ukraine. The country of Iraq was falling into chaos due to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He responded that he had not yet developed a strategy. As for the invasion of Ukraine, perhaps he will increase economic sanctions against Russia. The incompetence and aloofness of the U.S. Commander and Chief was amazing.

The U.S. had to retake Iraq not because people had been decapitated or any humanitarian mission. It also was not necessary to react to ISIS because they were a significant threat to the U.S. The purpose is to control a strategic position in the Middle East and oil. America cannot be a dominant power using solar panels and wind mills. NATO needs to be beefed up and expanded to counter the power of Russia. The most significant purpose of the military alliance with European countries was to counter the power of Russia after Germany was defeated in WWII. It is very similar to the military presence the U.S. has in Japan and S. Korea. When Japan surrendered, it left a power vacuum. The Empire of the Sun was a counterweight to Chinese and, to a degree, Russian hegemony.

The centralization of feudal power and advanced Western weaponry made Japan a military juggernaut. It quickly came into conflict with Asia's historically dominating authority, China. In 1894, war erupted over influence in Korea. The superior Japanese forces easily decimated Chinese troops despite their far greater numbers and they were forced to grant the penninsula independence. After Japan defeated Russia a decade later, Korea was annexed and it remained a part of the Empire of the Sun until the end of WWII when Soviet forces flooded into North Korea as in eastern Europe. Their communist allies attempted to take full control, but U.S. General MacArthur retook Korea and sought an invasion of China. Unfortunately, President Truman relieved him of command and a peace treaty was signed leaving Russia and China ominous threats to this day.


Having not secured a new lawyer to represent me on appeal, I asked someone to contact a few on my behalf. Yesterday, I was informed this was done but their responses were not very promising. One said he would look into the matter which I took as a polite way of saying he was not interested. Another wanted a minimum of $50,000 up front which I also took as a rebuff as it was well beyond my means. The last attorney had the most haunting words for my former classmate and they continued to reverberate in my thoughts into the night. He suggested that she quit chasing ghosts. Often I think of myself as a dead spirit from a bygone era.

Before I went to sleep I watched the film "The Last Samurai" which is what gave me the inspiration to write this post. The movie takes place in the late 1800's when a young Emperor Meiji Tenna was influenced to dismantle the feudal system. U.S. military equipment as well as some personnel were sent to help the emperor consolidate power. In one of the ensuing battles an officer played by actor Tom Cruise is captured by the Samurai. Because of the courage and skill he displayed, they allow Cruise to live. In the Japanese village, he begins to admire the warrior class and that of their traditions and values. He knew modern society was going to vanquish it and later he battled alongside them as a Samurai. They fought gallantly, but were vanquished in the end. The Japanese troops were armed with the same weapons which had created fields of blood in America's Civil War. The Samurai knew they would be defeated. However, as I learned over the decades, it was better to die with honor than live an empty and sorrowful existence.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Visitor from the Past -- August 23, 2014

A couple of months ago I was surprised to receive a letter from a girl I had not seen in nearly 25 years. "Cynthia" had gone to junior high school with me and I was elated she contacted me after all these years. For all practical purposes, my life abruptly ended at 18 and the years before my arrest consequently have an enormous significance. Her letter brought me back to a time that was not filled with ceaseless misery and emptiness. Quickly, I wrote her a reply and we have exchanged a few more letters since. In our correspondence she expressed how she would like to see me once again. Although I had some reservations, I filled out the necessary paperwork to have her approved as a visitor. Yesterday, she came to the penitentiary and despite the terrible circumstances, I was very happy to see her. The nostalgia I have for the distant past cannot be broken.

Cynthia's first letter was written with large round print and a few smiley faces. It reminded me of the notes girls in middle school wrote minus the looping cursive. Oddly, Cindy was not certain if I would remember her, and did not enclose any photos because she thought they may not be allowed. She did not have to send me a picture, however, for me to recall who she was or what she looked like. Simply recognizing her name on the envelope I imagined the friendly girl with long dark hair and slim figure. We did not date or even attend any of the same classes together, but the junior high school we went to was rather small. It had students from 6th to 8th grade who were basically from 3 grade schools in the west suburban town. There were fewer than 300 students and I remember most of them particularly those who were in my grade.

Over the decades that I have been incarcerated, family and friends faded away. At the Cook County Jail, my Sundays were filled with visitors and I spent much of the day talking with people through a mesh screen in Plexiglas. Immediate family drove into the inner city to see me every week. My extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins also visited regularly. Often Brian and other friends including a few girls I had dated in the past showed up. Remarkably, my first visitor was a girl I had not seen in a couple of years. However, after being convicted and sent to the penitentiary, people become disconnected as the years pass by. They realize my life was within these walls and theirs was outside them. Despite my conviction, one girl continued to visit me until she learned a life sentence literally meant life. The former statute where people were eligible for parole after 12 years ended in 1979. Life literally meant life. I never saw her again.

Since Sue created this blog forum in 2009, a few former classmates of mine have contacted me. The emails are far and few between and usually brief. Some have signed my petition for executive clemency which is still pending before Governor Quinn. However, rarely does anyone write and they are all aware of my arrest and conviction. The news media coverage was immense and I did not think there could be a classmate who missed it. Amazingly, though, Cindy was not aware until earlier this year. After high school, she moved out of state and only recently returned to the Chicago metro area. She reacquainted with classmates who mentioned what happened to me. From her letters she seemed to be shocked by the news and that is what compelled her to write.

I assume most of the students I went to school with believed I was guilty. The news media was incredibly negative and full of slanderous reporting. It may not have been until the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders were solved that they began to question my conviction. Cynthia did not ask but I knew I had to address the pink elephant in the room. In my letter to her I said that during my high school years I increasingly began to associate with men involved in criminal activity. I did so for various reasons but mostly to escape living at home. After my 18th birthday I moved in with Bob Faraci who only a couple of weeks later allegedly killed someone in the northern suburb of Barrington. She would probably have more questions but I left them for another time.

In junior high, as throughout most of my school years, I was on the honor roll. I was also an exceptional athlete and played on numerous sports teams both in private leagues and at school. The students I associated with during that period of time that Cindy knew me were also very clean cut and heavily engaged in sports. The exception may have been Tom and his older friends who were in higher grades than us. Tom had failed a grade or maybe two. He was probably considered a trouble maker, but he was fun to be around. He was also probably the only other student who could be my equal on the football and wrestling teams. We were also a good duo in other activities in junior high social life. Like Cindy, however, he moved away and I never saw him again after 8th grade.

This week it was entertaining for me to watch the Little League World Series. The televised games reminded me of when I played in junior high. Sunday was my favorite game because it was between Law Vegas, Nevada and Chicago's Jackie Robinson West. Numerous prisoners at Stateville were cheering for the all black team and thus I intentionally sought to antagonize them by rooting against J.R.W. Furthermore, I felt a little connection with the kids from Vegas. There was Austin Kryszczuk who teammates nicknamed "AK-47" apparently after his initials, size, and physical prowess. Also playing on the team was Brennan Holligan and he also reminded me of myself because of his pitching. Throughout nearly all my 7 years playing baseball, I played the position of pitcher. Coaches wanted me on the mound because by 8th grade I was able to regularly throw over 80 mph fast balls. On the small Little League diamond, 77 was the equivalent to a 100 mph pitch in professional baseball. It was very difficult for any middle schooler to hit and Holligan with almost similar speed kept Jackie Robinson West to only a few hits. Boasting, I said to my cellmate, "If I were there, it would have been a shut out." Anthony retorted that there also would be a few batters hit with wild pitches. I cannot deny that my fast ball was not as accurate and sometimes came with collateral damage.

More amusing than the comments between my cellmate and I was my exaggerated cheers for the benefit of convicts in the building. Early in the game, Las Vegas had the bases loaded and I was just waiting to burst with applause. When Brad Stone hit it out of the park for a grand slam, I shouted, "It's going, it's going, it's gone!" and then clapped loudly. The cell house went quiet except for a few disgruntled mutterings. Vegas went on to win by slaughter rule in the 4th inning, 12 to 2, and I was very pleased. The news media has been heaping praise on the all black Jackie Robinson West team. I knew it was simply due to their race. Later, the black Little League girl, Mone Davis, would become the darling of liberals and even placed on the cover of ESPN magazine.

After the game, a biker asked me if it was I who was making "the natives" unhappy. I could not deny my fun, but quickly changed the subject. Bone looked very sickly and moved almost like the living-dead. He said he felt like he had one foot in the grave and this was ironic because the following day he was to break his foot. Early Monday morning I heard him telling the sergeant that he fell out of bed and needed to go to the Health Care Unit. The sergeant seemed unmoved and Bone then added that there was blood all over his mattress, sheets, and the floor. Despite trying to bandage the wound, he continued to bleed. A few hours later when I went to commissary, I noticed a trail of blood on the concrete and knew it had to have come from the biker.

I do not think my cellmate was a jock during his school years, however, on Tuesday he went to the gym to play full contact basketball. The black inmates he plays with have begun to call him "Hatchet," apparently due to his physical defensive play and flagrant fouls. It was a humid day and inside the unventilated gym the building was like a hot house. Anthony returned almost soaked in sweat and hung up his soiled under and outer clothes to dry. Unfortunately while he was gone I washed my blues after working out and the cell had wet clothes draped everywhere. Although we used our fans, a heat index near 100 prevented them from drying until well after midnight.

The hot weather continued into the week and when my mother visited on Wednesday, it was very uncomfortable. A fan was placed near an open door in the back of the room but this did not help. The visiting room was filled with a crowd of people, many of whom were fat. In addition to the heat, it was very loud and my mother could only hear me if I spoke loudly or leaned forward. At Stateville prisoners must visit with friends and family at specially designed tables. The tables are lower than the stools and the stools are intentionally set far apart to prevent the passing of contraband or touching. A prisoner sits on one side of the table and up to 3 people can sit on the other side.

In contrast to the visiting room, the strip search room was cooled with air conditioning. Visits in summers past were also but purportedly the A/C unit was broken. I did not believe this was true and most likely administrators were trying to save money or intentionally make visits unpleasant to discourage them. Typically, prisoners were in a hurry to be done with a strip search but on this occasion me and the other men undressed and dressed slowly while conversing with guards. Everyone was making fun of the guard who passed out legal mail. She had a lot of attitude and could greatly annoy men. I was not aware but she also is on the "crisis team" which is staff meant to help prisoners deal with trauma or some other psychologically upsetting event. Men in the strip search room joked that she could be the source of distress and when an inmate asks to see the crisis team, she would only leave and come back to give him more grief.

In the evening I watched the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It was an amusing 80's film about high schoolers. My cellmate tried to make character connections with me. Initially he said I was ticket scalper who tried to be cool and left the girl hanging when she needed a drive to the hospital for an abortion. He knew this was not true however because it was impossible for me not to be myself. Furthermore, I wanted children and was opposed to abortion. Then I was the black football player who goes ballistic when his younger brother crashes his car. I told him I was always a brute when I played football and did not need a reason to blast the quarterback or some other offensive player. His last comparison was to the stoner played by Sean Penn. This was ridiculous but I had to agree that I did attend classes other than my own and while I never thought of ordering pizza delivery to class, I may miss a class to leave for lunch. During high school there was no stereotypical clique or student Anthony could compare to me. I was a rogue and did not fit into any square.

Thursday, the penitentiary was placed on a low level lockdown. Thunderstorms had rolled through and purportedly disrupted guards' radio transmissions. I spent the day in the cell doing what I commonly do. Occasionally, I would reminisce about my years in high school and even to the time period I knew Cindy. In my last letter to her I wrote that she had been approved to visit and she could drop by the penitentiary any time she wanted. I was a little hesitant to put her on my visitor list, however. In my mind, I had an idealized image of her I did not want altered. I knew it was foolish but I wanted her to be the exact same girl I remembered from 8th grade. Also weighing on my thoughts was how much I had aged or may be disappointing to her. I had fallen in so many respects from my years in high school. The prison visiting room was definitely not going to help any impression I wanted to make. In fact, it was the last place I would like to meet a classmate I had not seen in 25 years.

Close to noon on Friday my name and cell number was announced over the loudspeaker for a visit. I told a guard to give me 10 minutes to get ready. I was not expecting anyone and if it was not my sister, I assumed it was Cynthia. As I brushed my teeth and looked myself over in the small plastic mirror taped to the wall, my cellmate began razzing me that I was preparing for my big date. Going on a visit at a maximum security prison was hardly a date and his insinuations that I had a girlfriend were silly. Despite this, I did want to make a good impression if this was even possible in my circumstances. For me it was like the class reunion I never had the opportunity to attend.

From the air conditioned strip search room, I walked down the stairs into the visiting room. The heat was even greater than that on Wednesday and what I would expect in a Brazilian rain forest. The place was also mobbed with over a hundred people all talking and yelling at once. It was a zoo and the worst possible circumstances. However then through the crowd I saw Cynthia and I could not help but smile as I approached her. For a moment all the noise, people, and other unpleasantries disappeared and there was just the girl I remembered from junior high.

After so much time had passed, a person may expect a disconnect, but I felt the opposite. Conversation was easy and there was alot to talk about. We spoke about school, classmates we both knew, and our lives since 8th grade. For me there was little to say regarding the latter. Just out of high school I had been arrested and charged with murder. My attorney failed to contest a lying cop and I have been in prison ever since. Unlike me, she has lived a very full life. She had married, had children, and divorced before my first appeal was heard. Thereafter, she was employed in various lines of work in various different states. Eventually, Cindy earned a bachelor's degree in education and was now a school teacher. I must have expressed disappointment that most of my life was a great empty void and she said it was not what one does but who they are. Contrarily, I thought all meaning and value came from accomplishments and I was a pathetic failure.

I asked what classmates she met earlier in the year. I expected to know most of them but only remembered Kristen. I had several classes with her and inquired how she was. I was told she was well and was married with 2 children. She could not say the same about a punk skateboarder who I came close to putting into some shop machinery. Troy was shot and killed in a mugging. I said, "How terrible," but in my flat sarcasm I wondered if some students thought the same about my wrongful conviction and sentence to life, a fate comparable to death. In fact, I would have preferred to be shot dead. I asked what the other students she had met thought about my plight. I was told they just talked about what occurred and did not express an opinion. Possibly, that was Cindy's way of being nice.

I then asked her what she thought about my conviction. She said it was incredibly bizarre. "How could you be convicted for someone elses actions when that person was acquitted?" she asked. As I have done countless times before, I explained that the courts look at the cases separately. They do not consider the killer was set free while I was made to languish in prison indefinitely for purportedly lending my car. Cindy asked if I had a public defender or a bad attorney representing me. "No, Bill Von Hoene was actually a prominent attorney from the prestigious law firm of Jenner and Block, and he is now on the board of Exelon Corporation. However, because he lacked experience in criminal law and was primarily a civil attorney, he made a horrendous blunder in trial strategy," I replied. I went on to describe the arguments we had when he failed to contest the testimony of the police officer who interrogated me and again when he refused to allow me and my alibi witnesses to testify.

At times I gave her long looks. It was like peering into a portal to the distant past. I was also scrutinizing her appearance and every slight movement. She was the same in many ways but also different. It was the differences that I quickly picked up on and disliked including her eyebrows which were trimmed excessively. Girls could often be unnerved by my steady gaze and I suspect she also, even as an adult, became uncomfortable. "Would you prefer if I were sullen and disengaging?" I asked. No, she did not want that and said she was glad I was happy to see her again. I told her I have probably not smiled so much in months. Prison was the most miserable and soul draining place to live.

At 2:30 sharp a guard yelled for everyone to get out. Cindy asked if we could hug. On the walls are signs that no touching is allowed. These rules applied during visits and not upon greeting or leaving. I did not particularly like hugs, but I gave her one and then grabbed her belt buckle to pull towards me. She said she will come again to see me and I wondered as I let her go. Sitting at the table, I watched her walk out of the visiting room and up the short flight of stairs. She looked back a few times and I tried to imprint a mental picture of her in my mind. I may never see her again or revisit the past. Those times were over, and no matter how much I would like to, there is no going back.

As I write this post there are dark skies outside the barred windows of the cell house. The rain is falling and I recall a song which became popularized by the 80's movie The Breakfast Club. I believe it is called "Don't You Forget about Me" (by Simple Minds) and the lyrics repeat in my thoughts. The Breakfast Club was about a group of students who had to serve a Saturday detention. All of them came from divergent cliques or paths in life until they converged on that day. At the end of the film, a person is left uncertain whether they will ever meet again and this is how I feel. Regardless, I am glad to have had this one visit from the past. Even the dead like to be remembered by the living on occasion.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Mundane -- August 16, 2014

Life in prison is often eschewed by television and movies. To entertain audiences they portray a riveting tale or emphasize the extreme. However, the truth is much less dramatic. Generally, men incarcerated in maximum security prisons have an unexciting and monotonous existence. They deal with the austere and oppressive conditions of their confinement day after day. It is a slow grind which eventually crushes all men into dust. During my 21 years of incarceration, I have experienced much turmoil, brutality, and mayhem. However, my life is predominately mundane.

Almost every morning I will exercise for one hour.  I conduct my workout in the small   3 by 6 foot space in the front of the cell. My routine is a mix of high intensity calisthenic exercises. Occasionally people walking by will inquire what I specifically do or if I am following a workout program such as that popularized on television infomercials such as P90X. No, I do not have any ordered system. In fact, at Stateville where yard and weights are limited, I intentionally seek to mix up my exercises. From the most bizarre improvisations to the most common calisthenics or cardio exercises, there is little I have not done. The only thing which remains consistent is the time and pace. It is always 1 hour and there are no rest periods.

After working out, I will bathe out of the sink. If my cellmate is awake, he will go to the bars and watch television, occasionally on both my TV and his. Bathing in the cell is time consuming and never enjoyable. For privacy I will hang a bed sheet up which will go from the wall to the upper bunk and across it forming a square in the corner. I use a piece of cardboard to stop the water from draining. The sink basin takes a long time to fill, not because it is deep but because the warm water dribbles slowly into it. After soaping up, I will again repeat this process to have fresh water to rinse with. Almost always, I leave a mess of water and soap on the floor. I keep a large rag to soak up the water and when finished to clean with. My "shower curtain" needs to be dried and a fan blows air on it as I wipe off or scrub the floor, walls, sink, and toilet.

If I wash any clothes, it will be after I bathe. With the toilet scrubbed and disinfected, I empty it of cold water and slowly empty bowl after bowl of hot or warm water into it. The floor rag is rolled up and shoved into the toilet to prevent any of this water from exiting. Prisoners are permitted to purchase liquid laundry detergent and I will pour a little of this into the commode before tossing in some clothes. There is laundry service at Stateville, however, bags are only picked up once a week. During a lockdown, they may not be picked up at all. The shorts I work out in need to be cleaned every other day or they begin to stink. I also must do my prison blues by hand unless I want to wear deeply wrinkled clothing.

Rinsing clothes in the toilet is relatively easy. I simply flush the water to get new fresh water. In between flushes, I spin or dunk clothes until all the soap is removed. Then I wring them out by hand to be dried by my fan. There are rules against using lines and thus I will typically drape the clothes over a property box lid. Oftentimes, I will wrap clothes around a fan so air flows through them. Drying clothes in humid weather can take many hours if not overnight. Since I have a bad back, agitating clothes while bent over the toilet for an hour or longer can leave me in more pain than my workouts. I hate washing clothes by hand in the cell, but it is something that must be done regularly.

If I have completed my workout and washed any clothes that needed it, I may go to lunch. The food served in prison is commonly the same week after week. It is also commonly distasteful. Some prisoners tell me they are just going out for the walk which I interpret to mean to get out of their cells and possibly socialize with someone other than their cellmates. Personally, I hate "the walk".  A large group of noisy men are assembled into two lines. This may take 5 to 10 minutes or longer. Then, the two lines walk about 100 feet only to stop and wait until a guard is content with the formation. At the end of the concrete path surrounded on both sides with high cyclone fencing topped in razor wire, prisoners are again ordered to stop until given the green light. One line will proceed followed by the other to the front of the chow hall. Yet again, prisoners must wait to enter the building and even inside there is a gate leading into the feeding circle. Returning to the cell house is often the same slow and annoying procedure. There are times I will spend an hour going to and from the chow hall, but with only 5 minutes to eat.

On one occasion this week, I kicked Trigger in the stomach while bored and waiting in line. I did not give him a spinning back kick that sent him flying into the fence or any other object. It was just a tap which I simply meant to convey hello. Despite this, the prisoner became very upset with me and said he just washed his blue shirt. Trigger has wild mood swings and sometimes I think he may have intermittent explosive disorder. He can be very playful and goofy sometimes and then other times it seems like he is about to go into a rage over the most trivial matter. His seesawing nature, though, breaks the zombie-like walk back and forth from the chow hall.

I attempt to avoid the chow hall as much as possible. I often do not like the walk, the food, the crowds, etc. Instead, I will make snacks or meals in the cell. After 21 years of eating prison food, I am not too particular as long as it is healthy. An easy meal to make is a tuna or sardine sandwich. I just tear off the top of a package, drain, and put the fish on bread. If I have no bread, I will use an uncooked Ramen noodle as if it were a cracker. On Sunday, prisoners were given miniature potatoes again and I used those to put my sardines into. I am becoming tired of eating fish so regularly, but it is one of the cheapest and most nutritious foods sold at the prison store.

On occasion, I will break up the monotony of food served at the penitentiary or the food I make for myself with something unique. However, cooking and preparing more exotic meals is difficult. First, I am not able to go to a grocery store and the food I have access to is limited. Secondly, I do not have a stove, grill, or a microwave. Cooking is mostly done by boiling water using various different improvised methods and instant foods. Because the process is laborious, I will also make enough for my cellmate. It only takes a little extra work to cook for him also. This week, I made a favorite of his, beef burritos, to eat while watching the classic movie "Jaws".  If Anthony thought my food was free, he was mistaken. A few times while watching the film I would say, "Man-shark!" in reference to a Saturday Night Live skit and his conviction for killing an unsuspecting woman in her apartment.

The DVD system at the prison is broken or not being used. There is a rumor that Stateville will soon get movies from Netflix rather than rent them from a store. I am told places like Blockbuster have gone out of business and similar stores that rent videos are almost extinct. Jaws and other movies prisoners at Stateville watch are currently restricted to the ones played on broadcast TV or the 13 satellite stations such as TBS, Spike, and TNT. They regularly play the same films that are many years old. Despite this, at night when tired I will watch a good movie even if I have seen it numerous times before.

Prisoners in maximum security will spend vast amounts of time watching television. In the cell, it is their main preoccupation. Contrarily, I watch very little and instead read. On Monday, I received my weekly Barron's newspaper and that was the subject of my attention most of the evening. Russia retaliated last week to the meager economic sanctions imposed on it with their own. All food imports from the West are banned. Considering Russia only receives about 7% of their food from the U.S., it has little significance. It does account for $15 billion yearly of sales from Europe, but this also will not greatly damage their economy. European countries have much greater problems with their economies than a food export ban. Hopefully, the West is willing to accept whatever Russian sanctions are imposed on them and give military aid to Ukraine before it is too late.

Even before my arrest, I had a strong interest in politics. However, trapped in a cell for long periods of time has given me more time to study and keep up with world affairs. This week the focus of news has been the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, a town just outside of St. Louis. The black mobs believe a white police officer maliciously shot to death a black 18-year-old. I do not know if there is any truth to the matter or if race was at all a factor. Oftentimes, black provocateurs stir up unrest and the liberal media is more than happy to oblige them with pervasive coverage. What I will note, however, that is an issue, is the militarization of local police agencies. Police officers are now armed with weapons, vehicles and other equipment from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They no longer just have a revolver and possibly a bullet proof vest but helicopters, machine guns, grenades, and assault vehicles. According to news I read or listened to, the Defense Department has given police agencies across the country billions of dollars in military equipment including 600 MRAPs. Why local police need mine resistant armored protected trucks is beyond me. Police have now become soldiers and hopefully if anything comes out of the controversy in Ferguson, it is that the American public realizes the country has become a militarized police state far removed from the free republic it once was.

Midweek the penitentiary was placed on lockdown. Lockdowns are so frequent in maximum security that commonly the only reason why I inquire about them is to inform the readers of this blog. Half the time I do not care. It is a regular part of life here. Initially the people returning from the kitchen and school could not provide me with any answers other than to mention that two people were arrested trying to smuggle drugs into the prison over the last week on visits. However, later in the day, staff would mention it was unrelated and the Roundhouse was being searched by SORT. Internal Affairs also was conducting interviews of various men throughout the institution. Ten prisoners from C House were taken away for questioning. All of them were brought back to their cells after a few hours, but a couple of days later two Hispanics were taken to Seg for investigation. The build up of SORT and I.A. has been an oppressive and harassing development in prison. However, having said this, it seems that the administration is using them less sweepingly.

My father was planning to visit me on the day SORT ransacked the Roundhouse. In lieu of talking with him, I wrote him a 4 page letter. Writing letters is another common activity of mine. This year, I have written well over 200. The majority goes to blog handlers and consists of posts and replies to comments and emails. However, I also write family, lawyers, private investigators, and others. A pen pal I had thought became bored of corresponding over the years, sent me a letter which finally reached me this week. After writing my father, I also wrote him back a reply. Unlike people outside these walls who communicate with phones, texts, emails or Facebook, my communication is limited mostly to snail mail.

The two day lockdown gave me a little extra time to do a few things I had been delaying. The first of these was fixing my watch. Just the week prior I had purchased a new time piece. Immediately I noticed the pins which keep the bands in were too small and fall out. Thus, I made my own pins with a paper clip. I also exchanged the clear plastic band with a cloth band I had made myself. Security at the level 1 and 2 penitentiaries in Illinois is ridiculous. Does the administration really believe I will hide something dangerous in my watch or under the band? Soon there will come a time when they will want prisoners to wear sheer or see-through clothing, although for the last several years it does not seem like they want to provide any clothing at all.

My T-shirts, socks and underwear have not been replaced by the clothing room in a long time and are falling apart. During the week I became fed up with the holes in my socks and sewed a few. Unfortunately, the elastic in them has been lost to such an extent they fall to my ankles, but at least my toes do not stick out any more. While I sewed my socks, I noticed my cellmate was sewing a pair of boxers. Apparently, the old underwear tore on the inseam when he played basketball. Commissary does sell underclothes, but like most everything they sell, the prices are exorbitant. Two boxer shorts in my cellmate's size cost $15.23. A T-shirt (XXL) is $13.75 and these are not quality clothes or with any color. They are made of thin material and are always white.

Once a week I shave using an electric razor and periodically I will trim my hair. The guards will usually pass out disposable razors on Saturdays, however, I rarely use them. They are dull and so tiny that I can barely hold them. There is also a barbershop at Stateville, but it is a school where prisoners learn how to cut hair. Needless to say, they are not very good particularly with cutting Caucasian's hair. Instead, I will use a pair of beard trimmers and cut my own despite the difficulty of doing so. This week, I spent a few hours trying to perfect my hair. Accidentally, I cut off a little too much on one side and for symmetry I had to bring it all down shorter. When I finished, my cellmate said I looked like Ivan Drago, a character played by Dolph Lungren in the movie Rocky 4. It was not exactly the look I was going for, but imitating a scene where he faces off against Sylvester Stallone, I said, "I must break you."

Generally, I will become tired in the early afternoon and will take a nap. Even if I am confined to the cell, I keep busy and the continuous aggravations of prison add up. Furthermore, a nap will not only give me renewed energy, but break up a monotonous grim existence. On Thursday, however, I was awakened by my cellmate taking a shit a few feet away from me and the yelling of prisoners. Black convicts typically do not follow baseball, but they are big fans of Jackie Robinson West Little League team. The team of all black kids is from an inner city neighborhood where a number of men at Stateville lived in or near before their arrest. They played Lynnwood, Washington and the game was broadcast on ESPN. Jackie Robinson West won by "slaughter rule," 12 to 2 in the 5th inning. The liberal media so intent on promoting the success of minority groups had it on all news stations later in the day, including the world news.

Unable to sleep, I got up from my bunk and thought of something productive to do with my time. I had been putting off cleaning and fixing my fan until there were cooler temperatures and I did not need it to dry wet clothes. The fan was very dirty with dust, blanket and hair fuzz which continually drifts into the cell sometimes like tumbleweeds. There are 5 floors and approximately 300 prisoners in this quarter unit of the big house and the airborne dirt from all these people will turn a fan black over a summer. Fortunately, I have an older model without security screws which is easy to disassemble and clean all the dirt out. This fan has been through a lot and the plastic is cracked in many places. After cleaning it, I considered gluing pieces back together again but I knew the adhesive I could procure would not hold long. Instead, I just fixed the problem of it pivoting too easily by wedging a couple of cardboard squares in between the moving parts.

On Friday the prison was taken off lockdown, however, as I write this post it is back on. Purportedly there is not enough staff to run normal operations safely. This news is difficult to believe considering how much manpower has increased over the years. In fact, just recently 150 new guards were hired. Never during my time in the IDOC have there been more guards, SORT, or members of Internal Affairs. Despite this, just before the 7 o'clock shift, I heard the radio dispatcher asking over 50 correctional officers to stay and eventually many were mandated. The prison system needlessly pays millions of dollars in unneeded overtime yearly, all the while incarcerated men spend vastly more time in their cells than they did before the turn of the century.

This post was probably one of the least interesting. However, it was done intentionally. There are many weeks that go by which are boring and lackluster. Life in a maximum security prison is oppressive and often dull. Without freedom there is little joy, excitement, or purpose. This blog is not the movies or a sensationalized television production. It is my reality that is often filled with the mundane.