13 Jul 04

Sweat, suicide and death

I am still at the jail. A sudden spate of tragedies has compelled me to write this entry.
At the weekend, two inmates on my floor attempted to commit suicide. One threw himself off the balcony and survived. The other was discovered trying to hang himself.
Sadder still, an inmate housed in a medium-security pod was found dead in the shower. Inmates are often "smashed" in the shower area because it is out of view of the cameras. The jail has refused to release the cause of his death.

The temperature outside is 114 degrees. The trickle of air into our cells feels like hot air blowing from a hair dryer. We are soaked in sweat all day and night. It is difficult to write on this sweat-moistened paper. The majority now have skin infections and rashes, which persistently itch. My skin is so soggy from perspiration that when I scratch it the skin detaches and I end up with clumps of it under my fingernails. Between the sweat trickling down my body and the cockroaches tickling my limbs, it is impossible to sleep properly. Last night, while sleeping on my side, my ear filled up with sweat, and when I moved my head, the sweat spilled onto my face. I woke up, startled. It felt like someone was touching my cheek.

I once asked a guard how the jail’s administration gets away with this and his response was, "The world has no idea what really goes on in here."

When I was a small child, I imagined hell consisted of caves in which the damned were trapped, tortured and burnt. I imagined serpents and indescribable creepy crawlies tormenting the captives. I never imagined man's nature could be so hateful as to recreate these conditions on earth.
2 Jul 04

Final Entry from the Madison Street Jail.

Periplaneta Americana, more commonly known as the American cockroach, has an average lifespan of 440 days. As of today, I have been a resident of this crowbar motel for almost two cockroach lifespans. I have endured enough. It is time for me to move on, so I have signed myself over to the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Shortly, I will be shipped to Alhambra Unit, an intake facility, where they will decide which prison in Arizona I am to be housed at.

Parents of inmates, horrified by the conditions in the jail, have directed this blog to local groups who are working to get changes made.
Winston Churchill – once a POW in South Africa – stated, "The treatment of prisoners is a good indicator of how civilized a society is.”

Although I shall soon be gone from here, I hope that changes are made so that other unsentenced inmates – who are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty – do not have to be warehoused like animals in such subhuman conditions. When a society treats its prisoners like animals they will behave like animals when they return to society.

During my stay, I have experienced medium security, maximum security, general population and lockdown housing. Outside of lockdown, inmates are warehoused like battery hens. Intravenous drug use is rife (see blog entry 03.06.04 ‘Wedded to Dope’). Hepatitis C, TB, and MRSA proliferate due to inmates being packed together, the high levels of violence, the sharing of needles and tattoo instruments, the unsanitary conditions, and the lack of medical treatment. A racist thugocracy that controls the drug trade regularly holds kangaroo courts; inmates are "smashed" on a daily basis by goons known as "torpedoes."

Temperatures reach over 100 degrees in the summer months, but the air conditioning is rarely active. Throughout the jail labyrinth inmates are deprived of air. Presently, it is hard to stay conscious because the swamp cooler is barely blowing. Inmates are getting sick and being taken for emergency medical treatment. A fellow pod member collapsed earlier today. Here, filth, squalor and disease are the norm. Utilities that are permanently broken, magically work for a few days when the county health inspectors do a "walk through."

Protests were recently held outside of the Madison Street jail because of the conditions. The local news stations countered with some pro-Arpaio propaganda and specifically reported how good the food is. They displayed some carefully-staged fresh and appetising chow. In reality, for the past three weeks, our one lukewarm daily meal has consisted of rotten potato pieces and potato peel (see food blog entry 06.04.04 ‘April Fools Day’ and the incident of the rat’s head, which I saw). I survive by eating nuts that I purchase from the jail, thanks to the generosity of my family and friends who put "money on my books" every week. Most inmates are indigent and have no support from the outside. They exist in a constant state of starvation and are willing to fight over scraps of food.

I have tried to write a frank, first hand account of what I have experienced. Whilst doing so I have also tried to remain upbeat and humorous, and I hope I have not detracted from the suffering here. I would rather cut off my little finger than go through this again.

Suicidal thoughts seem normal for most inmates, including me. But with the support of my family and friends, I have managed to keep such thoughts in the realm of fantasy. Many in here are not so fortunate. They are the lost and forgotten souls you never hear about. Some do take their lives and their voices remain forever unheard of.


"Pain is neither intolerable nor continuing, provided you remember its limits and do not let your imagination add to it."

Marcus Aurelius:

"Delve within; within is the fountain of good, and it is always ready to bubble up, if you always delve."

Bye for now! When I am resituated in prison, I will resume blogging. Thank you for all of the kind letters of support from all over the world and the visits to the jail I have received. I would like to thank my Aunt Ann for transmitting the blog entries on a weekly basis to my mum who edits and types them out – good lookin' out, Mum! - and my dad, who posts them in as timely a fashion as possible.
24 Jun 04

AK’s Karma

Frustration with AK climaxed on Monday morning. No one could sleep thanks to our resident cantante singing musica romantica for hours on end, interspersed with gunshot sound effects and feminine shrieks of "Sinaloa!" Enough was enough.

At the behest of the majority, Frankie implemented a plan to oust AK from our pod.
He had Cupcake borrow AK’s most valuable possession: a new radio. When Cupcake refused to return it, a dispute ensued. Frankie and Cupcake cackled at AK’s invective, and AK exploded. Pounding on his cell door, he yowled at the two unsympathetic guards, “They stole my fuckin’ radio!”
“Why’d you lend it to 'em?” enquired Officer Bloch.
“I thought they’d give it back,” AK said, emphasising each word.
“Lending your stereo to other inmates is against the Inmate Rules and Regulations!”
“Roll yer stuff up! You’re being moved!” Officer Perez ordered.

Walking toward the pod door, AK suddenly dropped his mattress. Before the guards could stop him, he dashed to Cupcake’s cell and yelled, "Gimme my fuckin' stereo back, you scheming fuckas!”
The guards restrained him. As they briskly steered AK out of the pod, applause from the cells rose to the ceiling of the day room.

My right shin looks like I spilled battery acid on it. A cluster of thirty or so red sores emerged last week when we were denied showers for four days. Some are bleeding, but I’m reluctant to make an appointment with the penis-grabbing Filipino doctor.

Half of the shower area is refusing to drain. Hair matted with semen has clogged it up. To shower, I had to step into the puddle of scum. This disturbed the multitude of tiny black flies ensconced on the white clumps and they formed a cloud around my head. Fortunately, they bolted when the shower was turned on and migrated to the dried fruit peel in the trashcan. When the water was turned off, they abandoned the fruit peel and returned to the shower. The flies prefer the semen.