JOLIET, IL—Citing an increase in "leg humpers and peter-gazing diddlers," Joliet Corrections Center inmate Joseph J. Romans told reporters Monday that Cell Block D is not as cool as it used to be.

Romans in his cell on the now-lame Joliet Corrections Center Block D.

"When I first went down, D was straight," said Romans, who is serving an eight-year sentence at Joliet for armed robbery. "Minute I walked in, I knew it was a good stop. I don't know what happened."

Romans said that 2001, his first year in D Block, was his best year in prison.

"D used to have the toughest guys, pruno [homemade alcohol], and pearl handles [commercially manufactured cigarettes], and with my connections-man Willie G on block, we had Cadillac everything," Romans said. "I almost felt like I was in the world with my crew again. Now, all we got left is a bunch of punk-ass june bugs with nothing coming. I don't even know what name half these young kids go by."

New prisoners are often impressed by the severity of the facility, but Romans said it pales in comparison to that of the old Cell Block D.

"These bitches and dumb-ass crackheads come in all wide-eyed, losing their shit over how we got the corners worked," Romans said. "Well, what they don't know is that the old D used to have the straightest crew in [Joliet]. We weren't thugs. We did our own time. But if you crossed one of us, you got a pumpkin head. Everyone knew that and gave us our respect."

A pumpkin head is the injury that commonly results when a pillowcase is filled with heavy objects and used to beat an enemy's face until badly bruised.

"Yeah, things have gone to hell," Romans said. "These fools will sodomize a guy with a pipe for no good reason. Too young to know standards of conduct."

According to Romans, Cell Block D's reputation has been hurt by a number of unsuccessful escape attempts by some of the newer inmates.

"See, if you rabbit and get away, you become a legend," Romans said. "If not, you get your ass beat by the hacks and put in the hole. The guys in the old D would never pull the half-ass stunts they pull here now. Well, 'Smokey' Hudson tried to make a break a few years ago, but he wasn't really solid with the D crew to begin with."

Recent behavior by the newer members of Cell Block D has resulted in punishment for all the inmates, said Romans.

"The last few weeks, the D's been in lockdown for some ignorant stunt," Romans said. "Somebody tried to make pruno in a bag, tie it up, and put it in the toilet. Shit, that's the first place they gonna look."

Continued Romans: "I'm sick of taking heat for these kids. From here on in, I'm doing my own time. When I get called up [to the parole board], I'm walking up packed, bo-bos tied. D is dead."

New inmate Nathan Gold has an entirely different attitude toward Cell Block D.

"The D is dope and everyone knows it," said Gold, a convicted arsonist. "Even the hogs know if you're from D, you ain't to be fucked with. I can't imagine doing my bit in that punk-ass Cell Block A."

Other inmates questioned Romans' credibility. Thirty-year inmate Jerome Hughes said his fellow prisoner is a "cell gangster," someone who boasts in his cell but never amid the general prison population.

"Romans is a bitch," Hughes said. "If he didn't have Big Norman looking out for him, he wouldn't have lasted his first year. Yeah, people get out of line, but Romans doesn't do the correcting, tell you that much."

Continued Hughes: "I don't know why he's knocking his gums. Cell Block D's been a sandbox for 10, 15 years. Hasn't been the same since Stabbin' Jackie Kayne went on 10-10 furlough in '85. Yeah, '83 and '84. Those were the days."