Day in the life


A Day in the Life of a Prisoner

During the month of October, about twenty-five letters were sent out in the mail asking inmates at various facilities to submit a description of their daily activities. Several replies came from Tamms, and two other prisoners at Pontiac and Lawrence, respectively. One letter from Tamms was chosen because the description was exceptional. However, the others did provide some insight into prison life in general. The following chart was compiled using these letters; due to the fact that they come from individuals, they are not to be taken as general schedules that may apply to all inmates.



Tamms Supermax Prison

Level 1: Maximum-Security Adult Male

(Kevin Blumenberg)

Pontiac Correctional Center

Level 1: Maximum-Security Adult Male

Level 3: High Medium-Security Male

(Charles “Solo” Harris)

Lawrence Correctional Center

Level 1: Maximum-Security Adult Male

(Tom Odle)

4:00 A.M.

BREAKFAST inside cell, wash eating utensils, brush teeth, prepare laundry bag ready for shower in the morning 

4:36: awake, reading the Bible, making tea, cleaning or exercising; “bird bath time”—washing up in cell


5:00 A.M.

6:00 A.M.

7:00 A.M.

Daily count of inmates, make bed, wash down floor, workout-pushups, jumping jacks, dips, lunges

7:30: Daily count of inmates; BREAKFAST

7:30 Compliance Check–“which is making sure all your toys are put away like good prisoners because if something is out that is not supposed to be, that would be deemed a serious security threat.”

8:00 A.M.

8:30: SHOWER

8:00: Inmates place outgoing mail on the bars of their cell;

8:00-12:00 P.M.: Assignment: “I am a worker at the Culinary Arts Cooking Center. I cook, bake, and make salads.”

Saturday: Anger management/substance abuse classes

Work or free time: paint draw or listen to music

9:00 A.M.

Back in cell: hang up clothes that were washed in shower, put on lotion, deodorant, clean cell door, wash down floor

9:30: LUNCH

10:00 A.M.

Brush teeth again; Go to yard, play chess or read

11:00 A.M.

Watch TV or listen to walkman/radio

(NOTE: Inmates are allowed to keep their own personal TV or radio in their individual cell provided they purchase it themselves or have one given to them by relatives, and are well behaved.)

12:00 P.M.

Work as part of maintenance crew

1:00 P.M.

Reading or studying Swahili, Spanish or writing


4:30: DINNER: wash eating utensils, bless food, eat, brush teeth

Inmates have the option of returning to their cell, going to the Law Library or going to the yard, where prisoners can play basketball, play cards or chess, etc.

2:00 P.M.

3:00 P.M.

3:30: Second lock-up and count of the day, MEALTIME, SHOWER

Tuesdays: Jaycees’ meeting


4:00 P.M.

4:30 College courses

5:00 P.M.

Watch news on TV

6:00 P.M.

Write or finish reading

7:00 P.M.

Watch TV or listen to radio

Return to cell, relax

8:00 P.M.




9:00 P.M.

10:00 P.M.

Wash myself, cell, clothes, floor, door sink, and toilet


11:00 P.M.

Read, “bless my night,” go over Swahili and Spanish words

12:00 A.M.



1:00 A.M.

2:00 A.M.

3:00 A.M.

Comments on the experience of prison life overall:

“Daily life at Tamms Supermax prison consists of constant isolated confinement, and can best be described as a mundane and stagnant existence.” – David Ayala

“Blacks and Whites do not fraternize together in comfort here.”

“I want to devote my time to reading and writing with everything else secondary, but I can’t do that in prison. I have to keep my eyes open at all times or I won’t make it.”- Charles “Solo” Harris

“Most of us being locked up is dealing with the shame that put us here.” – Tom Odle

Tips on surviving prison life:

“Taking time out to think beyond this place is good [meditating] and remembering who you are can all help you survive this place.”- Kevin Blumenberg

“I engage in all kinds of petty intrigue which I’ve found necessary to survival.”- Charles “Solo” Harris

“We try, pray and find ways to keep hope alive while doing a natural life sentence.” – Tom Odle



Day in the Life of a Police Officer: People Can Change

editorial: Alyssa Hill

Sirens go off in the car, the call comes in and the next thing you know you are flying past cars with people inside wondering, “What happened.”  Every day police officers all over the world go to work with the intention of helping and protecting the general public. 

In order to see what it is like for an officer day in and day out, I decided to do a ride along with a Northwest Suburban police officer.  I rode in the squad car for eight hours to see exactly what a day in the life of a police officer was like. 

It took place on a Saturday early in November during the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift with Officer Michael Spohn. The day started off slow, which gave me time to get to know the officer and why he chose the career path he did.  Officer Spohn said: “I always wanted to be a cop when I was growing up, and I knew it was a secure job.  There will always be a need for police officers.”  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of police and detectives is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2016.  Officer Spohn has been at his current job for the past seven years and before that worked in the Information Technology field. 

While interviewing Officer Spohn a call came in for possible domestic violence.  Within seconds he flipped on the lights and sirens and we were on our way.  When we arrived at the location other officers were already inside.  A neighbor had called 9-1-1 because she heard fighting across the hall.  After the officers talked to the couple for approximately fifteen minutes everything was resolved. 

We then went back to patrolling, which allowed me some time to ask Officer Spohn some more questions.  What I really wanted to know was how he felt about the people he arrested. He said: “I don’t think of them any differently than anyone else, everyone makes mistakes. I treat them how I would treat anyone else, and that is with as much respect as I can.”  People make bad decisions every day that they believe are impossible to recover from, but recovery can be possible according to Officer Spohn.  “Some people will always have a certain stigma with them, but can someone change? Sure they can. Everyone has made mistakes, some worse than others, but generally I think everyone can change.  We all make mistakes and learn from them and become better people,” Spohn said.

As we drove through the town I couldn’t help but notice all of the looks we were getting, whether they were cold, angry, confused or scared.  People assume that if a police officer is by them that they are going to get pulled over or that they did something wrong.  People think that police officers do whatever they want whenever they want, but that isn’t necessarily true.  According to Officer Spohn, he will not do anything that he would pull someone over for.  He said that just because he was a police officer it doesn’t give him the right to break the law.  We were approaching a stop light that had turned yellow and that we could have made it through before it turned red, but Officer Spohn slammed on the breaks.  I looked at him with confusion because I expected him to go through it and he said, “I can’t go through the light, I would pull someone over it they did it.”  

If a job is surrounded by the negative aspects of everyday life, then why do people do it?  Officer Spohn said: “The occasions that I can actually help somebody, whether it’s giving them advice or stopping something bad from happening to them, where you can actually make a difference.  That is what keeps me coming back each day.”

After a long day of serious conversation and 9-1-1 calls coming in, I wanted to lighten up the mood a little.  I wanted to know what the best excuse Officer Spohn had ever heard was.  He said: “I pulled an elderly lady over for speeding one time.  She was substantially over the limit, probably twenty to twenty-five miles over, and she told me that when she was driving she got something stuck in her eye and it made her speed up.  I thought, “Yeah that’s really when I want to speed, when I’m blind in one eye.”  Then I went and checked her in the system and she already had 2 other speeding tickets within the past month, so obviously she bought herself another one.”

At the end of the day I had learned a lot from Officer Spohn.  I learned that not every aspect of the job is negative, that police officers aren’t all out to get you, that if an officer is following you extremely close he wants you to get into the other lane so he can pass you—and most importantly that people are human and humans make mistakes.  A lot of people have the wrong impression of police officers, and the majority of people have the wrong impression of prisoners.  Everyone messes up throughout their lives; some mistakes are just harder to correct.



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