Your Life as an Inmate (Guest Blog by Tommy Chandler)

Tommy Chandler went to the Denver Detention Center two times this year for 54 and 55 days. One was a theft charge and the other was urinating in public. He is 44 years old and 93 days sober after using meth and marijuana for 33 years. He wrote this in jail:
The bricks have no warmth here, nothing but the cold reality surrounding you. Caged in like the mighty lion that got caught, his instincts slowly fading away. Your aching back is begging for freedom again. Until then nothing but a cold metal bunk bed with a two-inch-thick broken-down mat is all you get. The loud snoring in both cells on each side has you sandwiched into never-ending sleepless nights.
Once a week, most look forward to commissary day. Some will be smiling like kids on Christmas, others just sitting enviously like kids in the corner that Santa forgot, wishing they would have heard their name called to go get their bag of goodies.
Loneliness constantly creeps into your mind and heart. But you’re never alone as you’re constantly surrounded by other inmates and guards. Most of whom couldn’t care whether you existed or not.
Few inmates can remember phone numbers of contacts in their cell phones. Those that can need their friends or family to prepay phone time to accept collect calls. Unfortunately, most have burned everyone outside due to drugs, bad behavior and bad decisions. So phone calls and visits are rare.
The food is repetitive and lacks in so many ways they just call it chow. It is served three times a day. There is a twelve-hour span between your last meal that day and breakfast the next morning. So your options are to starve, save and hide food for a snack later or eat commissary. Some pitch in together and combine items to make spreads, giving them something that tastes good and fills stomachs until the next meal. The hungry ones sit watching and wishing they could join in, almost like that little fat kid who didn’t get picked to play ball.
Once a week, you get a clean uniform and linens. First you turn in your dirty ones. Then before being given clean ones, everyone is put out into the courtyard. Then the guards search the entire place. They rummage through everyone’s belongings, making a mess to clean up, confiscating items not issued to you or bought through commissary, removing anything extra that might provide comfort, individuality, or a sense of home until your release.
This wasn’t written to complain or condemn the system, jails or prisons in any way. Reform and retraining grown adults is not easy to do. I commend all you officers trying to do your best to enforce our laws and protect our rights. What I am saying is if you have ever done drugs, domestic violence, been abusive, or if you just plain keep making bad choices and bad decisions, then please change or this will be your life as an inmate.

Prisoner Art Exhibition in London

For the next two months, the annual Koestler Trust exhibition of prisoner art is in the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre, London. Entrance is free, so please come along. Here are some photos, mainly from the space I curated. I chose mostly portraits and my theme ended up being "faces," including the clock-face painting. I made a brief appearance on BBC Vietnam. Unless you speak Vietnamese, you won't be able to understand it, but you get a good view of the prisoner art at the exhibition. Here's the clip. 

With Tim Robertson, CEO Koestler Trust

Paul Denham's winning entry

With Molly Denham, mother of the blind artist Paul Denham

Shaun Attwood

From T-Bone (Letter 31)

T-Bone is a massively-built spiritual ex-Marine, who uses fighting skills to stop prison rape. T-Bone’s latest letter:

They put a guy in our pod who had got into a fight in the kitchen. He said he had to fight a guy because several of the food workers were coughing and sneezing over the food as it was being prepared. In front of everyone in here, I asked him if that was going on all the time and he said yes.

When they served chow after that, everyone walked over to the trash can and dropped their trays in. That got the guards’ attention. Shortly after that, the commander came up here with the Strategic Response Team (goon squad). He said that the food was safe to eat, so I said please eat it then. Twenty guards looked at him. He wouldn’t eat it.

So a sergeant picked up a tray, looked at it, took a bite and stopped. He extracted a piece of wood from his mouth.

The commander turned red and locked us down. They stripped us naked, had us sit down with our hands on our heads and pepper-sprayed four prisoners. They took those four to lockdown. The commander said if he heard any more out of us, he would lock us down for a week.

Word got out to some of the other pods and all hell broke loose with the other prisoners over the food. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is crazy feeding us this stuff that is so nasty.

I still want to grab some of these jokers in my pod by the neck and make them tell me who stole my stuff and make them pay me, but I’m going to wait on God because that’s what my heart is saying to do.

My leg is much better. I had to stop a situation the other day, but I’ll write about that later.

I now have two books featuring T-Bone, the hard-hitting Prison Time and a self-help book, Lessons

Shaun Attwood  

From T-Bone (Letter 30)

T-Bone is a massively-built spiritual ex-Marine, who uses fighting skills to stop prison rape. T-Bone’s latest letter:

Things have been on edge for some time now because of the racist attitudes a lot of these guys have here. Apparently the “fellas,” the guys who are in charge, who call the shots for the Mexicans and the whites, said that none of their race can live with a black man. The Mexicans and the whites will back each other up on this rule and will even riot over it.

They moved a Native American guy in with me and all hell almost broke out because I am black. I said, “Why are you guys tripping? Why do you act like black people have an incurable disease or something?”

The Native American guy moved out and the guards moved a white guy in and the same thing happened. I couldn’t care less what colour a person is.

The next thing that happened was a butt bandit came up to me and said that a gay white boy in our pod is his, and that I need to mind my own business if he wants to take him in the shower.
I said I couldn’t care less what he did with his own body and all I can do is tell him the truth about things.

So the gay kid went into the shower with him, and there were three other guys wanting their turn. I was in my cell, reading, when someone yelled T-bone. I walked out and looked towards where the yell came from.

The butt bandit and his friends saw me and stopped. The gay kid came by my cell and said thank you, before rolling out of the pod.

It’s a huge misconception in here that gay people want to be harmed and/or gang raped because they are gay.

After we came off lockdown, I talked to those guys. It simply came down to them not having the spirit of self-control.

One of them came up to me and tried to take advantage of the fact that I am a Christian. He started yelling at me, saying that I owed him this and that and he got up in my face. I didn’t owe that guy anything at all. He was trying to play me with the old game of testing me. He made a move like he was going to hit me and down he went.

I know I have a long way to go. A looooooong way to go. Self-control!

I now have two books featuring T-Bone, the hard-hitting Prison Time and a self-help book, Lessons

Shaun Attwood