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?

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.


Anonymous said...

I am part of an organization that publishes a periodic WakeUp newsletter that goes to about 2,000 men and women (and their family and friends) who are incarcerated in the Arizona prison system. I would like to reprint a little bit of your Hell on Earth journal. I only have space for about 1 ½ pages – for this issue – maybe we could print more in future publications.

You may go to our website www.azceg.org to find out more about us. There are many of us in this organization who have had loved ones in Madison – your stories are consistent with theirs.

nuala said...

I find it ironic that you are 'dissing' the jailers for distributing drugs.

Anonymous said...

once again jon,we are so impressed about your writing and you positive attitude. you are an inspiration to us all. you are truly a great writer, and we will be there to see you as soon as the papers get back. love always my friend,

Anonymous said...

P.S. - since big dog's demise, we now have a mini sausage dog! quite ironic huh?

Anonymous said...

have just read your latest two blogs and am astonished at your resilience and humour. I don't know how you do it but keep it up, our thoughts and best wishes go with you.

Regards to your nan! As an 'expatriate' Warringtonian, I know Widnes well.

Ken B.

Mumbly Peg Goo said...

In regards to nuala's comment "I find it ironic that you are 'dissing' the jailers for distributing drugs." Nuala, you are missing the "true" irony here.

People who are part of the criminal justice system should not be distibuting narcotics in the prison system. Jon is in prison for this, yet it is perfectly acceptable for his keepers to engage in these activities.

In addition to the irony here, its quite hypocritic, absolutely unacceptable and definately shows the criminal justice system for what it is.

The fact that Jon is in prison for the same practice that representatives of his accusors are doing is the true irony. Open your eyes.

nuala said...

yeah, you're right, the jailers shouldn't be distributing drugs while poor poor jon is in jail for doing the same. As a matter of fact, no one should be distributing drugs.

I have a problem with drug dealers, whether they be in the jailhouse or on the street. So you'll forgive me if I don't jump on the 'poor poor jon' and the 'you're so resilient' bandwagons.

Anonymous said...

Dissing the guards? PLEASE, It is supposed to be that the law is the law. HOWEVER they do the same thing as the criminals perhaps moreso. and that is ok? They come off as people better than the rest. that is why they are supposed to uphold the law, not break it. They take an OATH to uphold it. When did the law just become a job like any other? We are in sad times when this is allowed to happen. Keep up with your incredible spirit and don't let those who have no understanding be allowed to break it.

karen said...

Shaun is very keen to receive letters directly to him at prison - could you send any mail to :

Shaun Attwood ADC # 187160
Unit SMU 2 1B27B
P.O. Box 3400
Florence, Arizona, 85232

nuala said...

the guards aren't sworn to do anything other than keep peace among the inmates. You're thinking of law enforcement officials. That's not jail and prison guards.

Don't get me wrong, I do feel bad for the people that are in there that are WRONGLY ACCUSED, and I also think that the living conditions should be humane but I have no sympathy for drug dealers.

The question is whether he's reformed; whether he is going to resume dealing and using drugs when he is released. If he has indeed reformed, then that is a good thing.

karen said...

what planet are you living on nuala? - you obviously have no experience of the crimial injustice system.
it is estimated that around 60% prisoners worldwide are innocent of charges against them and this includes people inside for murder and rape - shown many years later to be innocent when cleared on DNA evidence.
If the richest most powerful country in the world can launch a costly war which has claimed thousands of lives on the false basis that there were weapons of mass destruction when clearly none were found, then an less intelligent police force can launch a costly investigation on the basis of rumour and myth.
there has never any evidence of drugs or money found in this case relating to shaun. he was forced to sign a plea because unintelligent people choose to believe crazy stories written in the tabloid press then to actually try and find the truth.
the legal system was not set up to protect citizens from the evil and corrupt but to keep money and power in the hands of the few.
open your eyes and mind nuala and don't try and see the world in black and white - it is many shades of grey.
if this case had come to the attention of brtish police they would have realised there was no case and never investigated.

Anonymous said...

I love you Jon, I love your blog, I think you are great, you make me laugh, you make me cry, your words brighten my day


Mumbly Peg Goo said...

In government class in high school I was told that every citizen had a right to a speedy and just trial. Taking 2 years to get this man to trial while bleeding his family monetarily dry is not speedy nor just.

I read that they threw out trial of the freeway killer last week because they didn't bring him to trial within 5 months. Whatever nickel and dime shit that Jon was accused of hardly compares. For Jon, there comes a time when you have to cut bait. I guess after 2 years without a trial the time came.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon. I'm sitting here bored in work on a Friday afternoon and have just realised that this is something you would dearly love to do. It is incredible that those with freedom take it so for granted?!?

I am one who came accross your site whist browsing the Guardian website, and have since kept up to date with your periodic journals. There are many things in this world that make me angry, your case is just one that encourages me to voice my opinion in a number of expletives, however if I was to start my ranting here then I don't think that ^^*% -0(&^*&% would provide condusive reading. Anyway...stay focussed (I know you will) and write a book or get into politics (heaven knows, you may feel like a breath of fresh air to all the red-necks) when you are finally released.

Stay Funky


Anonymous said...

the unjust method of this whole situation is sad but unfortunetly true. i should know, because a member of my family was also accused in the same situation. unless you were there, which is doubtful, and you were to see it first hand, you could never understand. Until is is your family or loved one, it does not seems real, but it is. my family and i were there, through the whole thing, the arrest, the accusations, the neverending court sessions, and finally the sentencing. all we can hope for,is for jon to do the time that was unfairly given him and for him to be able to go home. we live in arizona, and had only seen things this in the movies. " midnight express" comes to mind. the innocent until proven guilty rule had completely made a reversal in this situation.

we love you

John said...

"it is estimated that around 60% prisoners worldwide are innocent of charges against them" Estimated by who, Karen? What rubbish is this, and what kind of gullible fool do you have to be to believe this?