20th Aug 04


I’m temporarily at a super-maximum facility. The most dangerous criminals in Arizona are housed in neighbouring "runs" (corridors) and lots of them are "lifers" (serving natural life sentences, or hundreds of years).

Our run consists of ten two-man cells, five upstairs and five down. There is a sixth cell on each floor containing a shower. I am not allowed out of my cell except to shower, or go to the Medical Unit.

7.00am: The guards open the trap on the cell door. Waking up, I raise myself from the bottom bunk and grab a breakfast tray. Breakfasts have included hash browns, French toast, oatmeal, eggs, pancakes, waffles and meat. A great improvement on Sheriff Joe’s green bologna!

7.15am: I am back on my bunk.

7.30am: The guards open the trap and demand the return of the plastic breakfast trays.

8.00am: I return to slumber.

9.00am: The guard offers us showers (three days per week). “Shower! Shower!” he yells. I awake, get dressed and grab my bar of soap and a towel. I am handcuffed through the trap. The door is opened and I walk to a cell containing a shower. On entering the shower I am unhandcuffed through the trap. Showering takes ten minutes but I am left waiting for up to an hour before I am handcuffed and escorted back to my cell.

10.00am: Lunch sacks are served through the trap. They contain four pieces of wheat bread, two pieces of cheese, bright-orange crackers, sandwich meat (still no veggie diet) and sometimes peanut butter.

10.30am: I commence reading, writing and studying.

2.00pm: A guard offers to dispose of my trash through the trap.

3.00pm: I am offered cleaning supplies. These consist of liquid soap, a toilet scrubber and a broom on a shortened handle; after usage, I return these supplies through the trap.

4.00pm: Dinner trays are served through the trap. Dinner is usually meat, mashed potatoes, wheat bread and a vegetable.

5.00pm: The trays are collected through the trap.

6.00pm: Mail is delivered. This is the highlight of the day for most inmates. Some inmates boast about how many items of mail they have received, and they taunt the inmates who have received none.

7.00pm: "Kites" are offered. Kites are forms we can use to communicate with the various staff members. Issues concerning classification, operations, inmate grievances, inmate store, laundry/linen, legal, library, programs, accounts, property, religion, security, warehouse and visitation may be addressed using kites. Staff response times vary from one day to up to thirty days.

10.00pm: Lights out. I place my outgoing mail and kites in the trap. The graveyard shift collects inmate correspondence. I commence a lengthy yoga session. Three or four inmates known as "cell warriors" yell obscenities at each other until 1.00am or 2.00am, preventing the less vocal inmates from sleeping.

2.00am: When the hurly-burly ceases, I quit yoga. Using pieces of wet toilet roll as earplugs (a precaution in case the banter resumes) I curl my blanket around me and attempt to go to sleep, which sometimes takes a long time.


Anonymous said...

Sounds real spooky, bet you're glad they're locked down! Who do you share your cell with now? Do you have nightmares?

curious cathy

Anonymous said...

It sounds boring in the secure unit.......You must miss Frankie and his shemales. What happened to him.......does he keep contact with you?

.........an ardent Frankie fan

Anonymous said...

Dear Jon,
I have been having nightmares about bloody insects since I read your diary. I have also been talking to colleagues about your situation, who have read the article. From the reply your parents sent it sounds like you will be a busy guy trying to get back to people. Then the funny side of me says Jesus you have many years to reply . I really admire how
clever and creative you have been in setting up this system to get through this awful experience . Its amazing how when you read something good it stays with you. You must turn this into some sort journal...but
keeping it to your style and not allowing anyone else to change it.
Anyway, I am away for the weekend visiting friends in Kent.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jon,
I came across your blog today. It makes very interesting reading. Your writing shows you to be quite an intelligent and superior-than-the-average person. But what is most attractive about your blog is the spunk and spirit you show in your writing. For you I'm sure, it's the way to keep your sanity, the literary exercise and the 'Chin-up!' attitude. For me this spirit is something to admire. I look forward to reading your blog in future and hope that things work out as close to ok as possible.

A little about myself if you're interested. I'm an almost 25 year-old journalist on a sabbatical to study law full-time, in Delhi, India.


Anonymous said...


I bet you've had a lot of emails after your Guardian
appearance so sorry for jumping on the bandwagon! I was very interested in your writing and I think you have a very accessible style especially considering the emotion you surely feel compelled to convey when you write. From reading the rest of your blog on the
internet, a few things struck me. Aside from the clearly appalling conditions of the American prison/jail system, as well as the political manourvres surrounding it, your particular situation
interested me.

Firstly, I was surprised that your letters from jail were not more heavily censored. Do the authorities just dismiss you as a liar when you highlight things like the fans only being turned on when inspectors come round? Anyway, my main question was about your life, and feel free not to answer if you feel uncomfortable or if your response would be censored...

When I saw the Guardian with your diary in it, you were advertised on the front as the former stock-broker in the U.S.'s worst Jail. Considering you pleaded guilty, I was wondering what made you decide to break the law in that way? Was it that you always had a
soft-spot for drugs and making a quick buck (or pound)? Or did you get so bored with stock-broking that you decided to do something a bit adventurous? I've just got a degree and am now sat at a very
menial job. Although this particular job won't be the start of my career, I am very wary of having a life that gradually spirals into decisions about curtain-patterns forming the highlight of the week. I've just turned 21 as well and have given up smoking, including
weed, and it's making me feel boring. Although all this must sound despairing trivial to someone in a ruthless American prison, I would appreciate your thoughts. Can you reconcile professional success with a zest for life? Did you find that the two clashed or that they went together all too easily? I am already trying to safeguard against getting a taste for concaine that could turn into an addiction as soon as I have the money to feed any habit. Without knowing any details of your case except that you were convicted for
money-laundering and drug offences, I'm only guessing as to what led to your current situation. However, if you are willing to reply I'd be very grateful, and I hope I could provide some amusement to you in return for satisfying my curiosity and helping me work out how to get the most out of life.
How long can you stand on your head for? Apparently that's a good measure of yoga ability?

Jamo Boggins

Anonymous said...

You're in prison for selling drugs, right? So why is it necessary to put you in super-max? I mean, it's not like you killed somebody. Ah, gotta love the USA, where you can get more time in prison for drugs than for murder.


Anonymous said...

great tone in your writing, congratulations. An inspiration to me to keep sane in a world that tests our patience.
Kind Regards

Anonymous said...

Can't we send him extra peanut butter supplies??! would they let him have it?? I guess not. Can we send him anything??

I read the blog every day now.

love Katie x

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add my voice to the numerous good wishes you must be getting from all over the world. I knew that conditions in US jails were bad but what you describe is barbaric and mediaeval, deliberate calculated callousness. Anyway you’ve certainly got the good old Brit fighting spirit and sense of humour to pull through.
By the way your writing is excellent and any eventually published book will surely be a best seller, so there’s a silver lining in there somewhere. Joe

Anonymous said...

As well as numerous other disturbing details of your time behind bars printed in the Guardian last week, I found the bit about bed sores the most worrying – hope these have cleared up now. Be strong mate and hopefully all of the publicity that your diary has received across Europe will strengthen the case for improvements to the living conditions of prisoners in the US.

Will keep checking in on you via the journal – stay well and be strong.


Anonymous said...

I have been trying to contact people where Jon is. I have been studying law on my own for a number of years.
There are a couple of things that need to be brought out:
1) The American judicial system is totally corrupt. It is run, to a great extent by the Bar Association, which operates as a "legal cartel". It controls the law, or what passes for it. It is not concerned with right or wrong - or justice - but instead to making money for its members, and creates so-called laws that people will violate in order to bring them into the system and take their money.
It is also responsible for the "drug laws" which do not lawfully apply to the people, but only corporations. Their own statutes state this.
The head DA in each county in America operates their own organized crime syndicate. They decide what will be prosecuted and what will not. They control all major drug deals in their county. If a major drug deal goes down, and the DA does not get their cut, the people are tracked down and prosecuted.
2) There are two sets of laws in America. The laws that apply, as per our constitutions to the free people, and the rest, political or commercial laws, those apply only to corporate "persons".
Corporations come under different laws in America. They fall under the commerce clause, and are therefore subject to every rule that a legislature or municipal corporation might make.
The attorneys know this, but are bound to silence in order to earn a living. Even thought the written law prohibits it, the commerce clause corporate law is secretly imposed upon everyone.
That is how the Fed Gov manages to appear to have the power to reach the average person in violation of the constitution.
3) If the people, whom I have tried to contact, were to bring suit in fed court against the people responsible for the human rights violations, they would ultimately win.
The things that are being done have been forbidden by the higher fed courts, including the supreme court.

This county and jail are also in violation of international treaty in regards to prisoners rights.

There are a number of important things to understand in regards to culpability:
1) the sheriff is not working alone
2) the county attorneys probably put him up to it and they are in fact
personally liable, since it is their duty to make sure that he and his
people are properly trained in the law in regards to their duties and
3) The county commissioners had to approve his actions due to their being
the ones to appropriate the money.

The courts have been very clear that the government has a duty to provide a
safe environment for those incarcerated. Up until the 60's and 70's this was
not always true - yet the courts have since made it clear that people are
sent to jail or prison AS punishment, not FOR punishment and that a jail or
prison authority shall not impose a death penalty without a jury's consent,
and then only in accordance with the law.

Also, the law is very clear in dealing with pre-trial detainees. Almost very
jail now violates the law in this regard.

It is time that someone took this nazi regime to task for the human
rights violations that they are engaged in.

Bill - Oregon

Anonymous said...

Dear Jon

Like many others I read your diary in the Guardian. I was struck by your great sense of humour. Will you get time off your sentence for "good behaviour " as in the UK? I am a solicitor working in the City of London. I know about UK prisons. I was interested to hear your account of the US jails. I am not surprised and you have all my sympathy for the appalling conditions in which you live. As others have offered I can send toothpaste!

Best of luck. I hope the Guardian prints more of your diary/articles. They use to do an article by a UK prisoner but he has now been released. His name is Erwin James I think. Perhaps you can take his spot?


Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine the reality of your ordeal but you have put into my imagination some thought provoking scenes. You have done this to me with some fine writing. I know that many others will be affected in a similar way after reading your work.

I'm sorry, I'm beginning to sound like a critic or therapist; and I'm sure you don't need either!

Just keep it up!


Anonymous said...

Jon's diary screams at us to look at the state of us -- Look at me!
He says I am a British man, living in the 21st Century! This is
America! Look at this! Live with me for as long as you can bear... I
dare you. I can do it... could you?

Amazing. Jon is a hero.

Anonymous said...

Terrific writing! The very best!

I've been inside myself for a spell, when we had character forming short sharp shocks in the UK, there were 7 suicides that year. And I spent ten years in a very violent area in the tropics too, so I identify very strongly with your experiences on several levels. You write very well and I do encourage you to continue with it, it is important for people outside to know what is going on inside, and your writing is compelling so people will read it and talk about it. I read out extracts from the Guardian to my wife last night. You have an important role to play in highlighting the plight of prisoners, and getting us all out here to reflect on the way society deals with prisoners. I hope you can continue to use your talent as a writer to do that, to champion prisoners' rights.

I visited Mandela's cell in Robben Island a few months ago, with a recently released ex-prisoner from Burundi. "This isn't a prison" he told me, "this is a five star hotel". It didn't look that way to me, but he'd been in a cell for four years with 200 men, 8 men per square metre, one died every week in the cell, one tap between them, that was turned on sometimes. Security lighting was on 24 hours a day in the cell. His eyes are permanently damaged. No one expected to live more than three years in there. He might have a few good suggestions for ‘sufferer of the week.’

With warmest regards

Anonymous said...


I hope you get to read this comment. You are a remarkable man, and a beautiful writer. Your prose is lucid, spare and sincere. Prison life is awful, yet within it you have created a space of true humanity; that space being inside yourself and your writing.

I can see you are working through your karma; the journey is profound and painful. Your mind and eyes have been opened. I am not saying prison life is innately noble, but you have reponded to your condition with courage and great openness.

My love and heartfelt admiration.

Anon x