26th Sept 04
Jon’s replies to the most common readership questions:
Q. What do you think about Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
A. I have never met Joe Arpaio. I feel that I cannot express an accurate opinion about him. I have been judged negatively by a small number of people that I’ve never met, and I realize how hurtful that can be, so my preference is not to do that to another person. However, the conditions at the jail do reflect badly on him. He should consider how he would feel if he lost a loved one there.
Q. What changes would you like to see made at the jail?
A. I would like the jail administration to obey the laws that establish minimum conditions for presentence detainees. Inmates have the right not to live in an insect-infested environment. Inmates have the right to eat food fit for human consumption. Inmates have the right to receive adequate cooling and ventilation. Inmates have the right to be periodically taken to a recreation area to receive some fresh air and sunshine. None of these laws is being observed at the Madison Street Jail.
Q. Is the warehousing of inmates in thugocractic fiefdoms reducing crime?
A. Absolutely not. I overhead a renowned prosecutor boasting that 2% of the population of Maricopa County have now been indicted, an all time high. The taxpayers have paid the bill for the construction of a much larger jail, which is due to be opened anytime. The grim conditions in the existing jails have not proven to be a deterrent.
The jail environment encourages more crime. It is a meeting place where inmates can share war stories and tactics whilst engaging in rampant intravenous drug use. Dozens of men are sharing single needles. Most people who have been subject to jail conditions (especially the violence and the diseases) tend not to emerge from captivity with good intentions.
I am most alarmed at the deadly disease epidemic. It seems as though it is being allowed to happen. Surely some inexpensive preventative measures would be cheaper than footing the medical bills for the infected inmates for the rest of their lives? It is so blatant that I sometimes wonder if the inmates are being used as guinea pigs by the medical-industrial complex.
Improvements don't appear to be too difficult to implement; have the inmates spend some of their time in educational and training programmes, remove the drugs and the corrupt officers** who are selling the drugs. Upon my own volition, I taught an English class in a cell for a group of paisanos (Mexican nationals), they were enthusiastic and they proved to be quick and keen learners. The majority of the inmates would like to acquire better job skills, but no opportunities are provided in the jails.
‘O slaughterers, jailers, and imbeciles of all regimes and governments, when will you come to prefer the science of understanding man to that of imprisoning and killing him?’
Marquis de Sade’
Among de Sade's numerous incarcerations, he once served eleven years, first at Vincennes and then in the Bastille, during which time he became a brilliant writer.
**(Corrupt officers are a minority, but it only takes a few people to flood a single institution with drugs. Most of the officers that I met were well-meaning men and women working long hours in hazardous environments, for little pay. About one third of the officers were friendly and would joke with the inmates. Respect is a two-way street, most guards only take exception when an inmate provokes them first. But there are some who provoke trouble.)
Q. Did your timeworn wheelchair-bound grandmother really assist in laundering your hidden millions through airport security in the frame of her wheelchair?
A. Poppycock! My octogenarian nan has recently achieved cult status (thanks to the New Times article). Unfortunately, I must put the kibosh on this bunkum. My nan lives in Widnes, Cheshire, England. She is partially sighted, but she still manages to walk to church each morning. As the people of Widnes know, Nan has never had a wheelchair, nor has she ever required one. Until recently, she baked endless apple pies for our family in England. Nan has been my lifelong Scrabble partner. As far as I know, she has never been anybody’s partner in crime.
Q. What do you write with? Do you have access to a computer?
A. No, I do not have access to a computer (I wish). At the jail I wrote with a four-inch golf pencil, which I would sharpen by rubbing it against a rough section of the cell wall. As I used the pencil and it shortened, my fingers became more uncomfortable. (My mum fears I may develop arthritis or something.)
The same pencils are available here at the prison, but I have opted to write with pen refills. Pen refills cost 30 cents each. They bend and are almost as awkward to write with as golf pencils. My right index finger and thumb are permanently callused. The refills are no good for lengthy writing, but the redrafting of my book is coming along slowly. It’s only mild suffering though.
Q. What type of yoga do you do?
A. I do not practice a particular style of yoga. I have formulated a routine, which consists of asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and dhyana (meditation).
I warm up with a vinyasa-style sequence of flowing postures. Then I perform some pranayama, followed by a lengthy asana routine. Some of the more challenging asanas, which I have recently incorporated into my program include the crane, peacock, archer, upward bow and one-legged bridge. After each workout I meditate before I go to sleep. I started practising yoga when my sister, Karen, sent me a beginner’s book shortly after I was arrested. I have become committed to yoga for life and I would love to hear from more yoga practitioners out there, especially anyone who can perform scorpion pose or lotus tail feather peacock. How many years of practice does it take for a healthy person to achieve such positions?
I thoroughly enjoy reading your emails and letters. If you keep the questions coming I will do my best to provide answers. I greatly appreciate your interest in my plight. Thanks, Jon.