10th Oct 04

Put the gun down son!

There are not many people who have shot their own fathers, but Penguin is one of them. This week Penguin, in his peculiar high-pitched voice, talked about the incident.

Penguin’s dad, Bill, had severely beaten Penguin’s mum, Jen. This abuse had been going on for as long as Penguin could remember. One night in 1988, when Penguin was just fourteen, Bill assaulted both Jen and Penguin, almost beating Penguin to death. His entire body from the groin upwards was black and blue. His chin was pulverised so badly that he required reconstructive surgery for his lower face. He still has a two-inch scar where his lip was split open.

After Bill had used Penguin as a punching bag for thirty minutes, Jen, who was somewhat recovered from her beating, intervened. Penguin managed to raise himself up from the pool of blood that he lay in, and made his way to his bedroom. He loaded nine rounds into the ten-round clip of his Ruger rifle, and returned to the living room.
“Don’t you ever threaten me again!” he yelled at Bill.
“Put the gun down son!” Bill said, approaching Penguin menacingly.

With no time to deliberate, Penguin pulled the trigger one time. The bullet entered Bill’s left armpit, tore through his chest muscle, collapsed his lung, passed by his heart and just missed his spinal column, before exiting through his back. The bullet then hit a metal post and shattered. Bill survived.

Penguin was arrested and charged with third-degree aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, He was housed in the juvenile detention facility at Durango jail. Neither dad nor mum nor son pressed charges. Jen’s fingers were paralysed for the next thirteen months, caused by blocking so many of Bill’s blows. Penguin was released after spending six-and-a-half days in jail. After 30 days the State concluded that he had acted in self-defence and the charges were dropped. Bill never attacked his son again. He died last year aged 61.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jon,

I have just found your web diary through a BBC news
article. It is devastating, fascinating and entertaining
all at once.

I am training to be a secondary school teacher. Syllabuses can be on anything from Hinduism to ethics. Your diary has some excellent bases for class discussions on crime and punishment ethics and human rights ethics. The teenage boys will be fascinated by Barbarian.

Perhaps you will publish your diary as a book one day. I think you should become a published author given that you are so well read.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon!

Just read your blog about Barbarian and thought it was excellent. You've a terrific writing style. No doubt you'll be getting a lot of similar mails, now that you're featured on BBCi. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work. Get yourself a literary agent if you haven't already and get this published …….

Best wishes and hope you get out soon,


Anonymous said...

Dear Jon,

I'm afraid I have to add my name to the list of people who "just don't
know what to say". I stumbled onto your blog via the BBC website and
have spent the last three hours reading of your plight.

I'm shocked, appalled and outraged at the conditions that you and
countless others have to endure every day. What you have gone through
under the "care" of Joe Arpaio, and the rest of the American "justice"
system can only be described as a living hell, and I just don't know how
you've been able to keep your spirit and your sense of humour throughout
your ordeal. I certainly couldn't have.

My heart goes out to you, and to your prison-mates. I can only lamely
say keep your spirits up. I am indebted to you for reminding me to
cherish my own liberty.

Best regards, and good luck,

J. (Leicester)

Jon said...


I've found myself writing this after reading sections of your blog. As is
becoming habit for me these days, stuck in a job I despise, I was reading the
BBC News website end to end in a bid to alleviate the boredom. One of the
Magazine articles, on the main page (complete with smiley picture), is about
your ongoing ordeal and points readers to your blogspot. After being thoroughly
disgusted with some of the descriptions in the article (thinking "Nah, they must
just be taking out the really bad points, which only happen once in a blue
moon") I started reading your blog. And here I am, 3 hours later, feeling
utterly guilty at my earlier thoughts of "woe is me, my life is going no where".

What can I say? I just can't get over most of it. The first bit I can't get
over is why the hell your in there for 9 years - 9 years??? Not like you hurt
anyone, for god's sake! The second part is, well, the whole experience from
start to present day. The most advanced, most powerful nation on earth, yet
people are still treated in such an inhumane way. It's sickening. It's no
surprise that Sheriff Joe is on a Republican ticket either. That mob are
looking increasingly like they stepped out of a time warp from the puritan days.
I'd joke that the next step would be burning witches, but I don't want to give
anyone ideas.

I really envy your strength of spirit and character to endure it though, mate.
I really don't think I could continue to function in a rational way if I were in
your shoes. Reading stuff like that really does put life into perspective. 4
hours ago I was lamenting having to drive over an hour every day to a really
shitty part of town and veg in a job I loathe. But I can resign, and not have
to come back. I get to go home at night, and spend time with my family and
friends. And probably hundreds, if not thousands like me, continue the daily
drudge in complete ignorance that there are people like yourself going through
day after day of hell thousands of miles away from their family.

Whatever happened that you ended up there, I don't know, and never will,
certainly not from an objective point of view. But no one deserves that
treatment. No one.

If there's any point to this email, it's that you've given me a good kick up the
arse and pointed out just how bad things could be, where even the simplest of
things we take for granted are luxuries. And for that, you've really put my
derailed train of thought back on track.

You should be really proud of exposing such a vile regime - you're making a
difference, with any luck a big one!

Continue to take care of yourself out there mate!! Don't let the barstewards
get you down. Meanwhile, I'm forwarding the article to everyone I know who may
not have seen it.



Anonymous said...

I can't help likening you to Andy Dufresne.

I've just spent about an hour reading your journal online, which i might
add, i found both humorous and vaguley familiar. I first thought of the
Shawshank Redemption and then secondly i began to feel sorry for you. I had
to then remind myself that you are in prison for a crime that you committed
to. Should i feel sorry for you now? Well no. I do however feel that the
conditions you are in are abominable and that will provide little comfort to
your situation. Cockroaches and flying ants? Thats something no human being
should have to put up with.

Its hard though not to read your life without reference as it being a story.
But its real enough for you. I've never broken the law and i dont think i
ever will, but you did. As much as the squalid conditions you live in are
atrocious, there isnt actually anything that i can do apart from offer my
condolences and pray for your plight. It is strange reading though, i just
think of characters such as Barbarian and Frankie oughta be played by
actors. but they are real. Everythign is real.

I consider myself naive sometimes, but i believe that values such as honesty
and trust ought to be displayed in every land, no matter what it be;
politics, money, prison work, love and war. But to live in 100 degree heat
and then have the air conditioning turned off when inspectors leave? Thats
disgustng and Joe Arpaio ought to spend a stint facing the aluminium
cylinders himself.

He's as much a villain as all of you inside it.
Craig (UK)

Anonymous said...

Dom said...
Wow! Thank you BBC for directing me here. Oddly enough I started reading and the story sounded a bit familiar.I work at Boise State. What an odd connection.Looking forward to reading more! Good luck out there!

Jon said...

Angie said...
Like many else here, you can thank the BBC News for sharing your link. Altho I do believe in the "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime" stuff, still people are people, and should be treated respectfully. Well ... unless they hurt a child. Nice blog tho. And keep sharing the stories.

Anonymous said...

'Barbarian' sounds like a man who deserves to be in prison. In the past he has previously used violence rather than negotiation to settle arguments: the trait of a bully.

I'm not saying that he's entirely responsible for being in prison, however his actions are at least partly responsible for him being there.

I'm glad he has found God, nevertheless he should have to pay for his actions.