11 Jan 05

Question Time

A lot of readers have asked about chow. Deanna asked if being a vegetarian was sufficient grounds to receive veggie chow. There are two methods of obtaining special diets that I am aware of: the first is for religious reasons, and must be approved by the chaplain; the second is for medical reasons, and must be approved by the Health Unit. Vegetarianism itself does not qualify an inmate for a special diet. My advice to anyone who becomes detained is to provide a vegetarian religious preference when you are initially booked. This will avoid problems getting your diet later on. The inmates say the best diet is the Jewish one. There have been lots of conversions. You even have Aryan Brotherhood Jews, Mexican Mafia Jews, and Italian Mafia Jews such as Junior Bull.

Tolstoy wrote: "A vegetarian diet is the acid test of humanitarianism."

Another question about chow was posed by Jonathan: how much does the diet affect the health, outlook and behaviour of my fellow inmates and myself? Tying in with Jonathan’s question, an anonymous e-mailer asked whether I thought veggie diets would dampen aggression and reduce smashings. (see ‘Sweat, suicide and death’ 13/0704) Hunger does cause fights. At the Madison Street jail men scavenged and fought over mouldy bread and rotten fruit (see blog ‘April Fools Day’ 04/04/04) their behaviour was the result of the lack of food provided. Some inmates would gang up on other inmates possessing store, and extort them into giving up some food. Fights were sometimes orchestrated under false pretences, so that inmates could steal a target person’s store items.

I am not sure if serving all veggie meals would dampen aggression. Perhaps Scott Clouder at the Vegetarian Society could help answer that. I can only speak about my own experience, that yoga and vegetarianism have changed my outlook on life.

Mr. Greg asked if I would be so kind as to arrange a bare-knuckle fight between him and Barbarian. Gladly, Mr. Greg, I was thinking of a Las Vegas venue – MGM Grand perhaps? I can offer you a package deal, fighting Barbarian, and also Frankie. Frankie wanted me to tell you that he is not only a chess champion, but also a boxing champion. You may want to bring a shank with you, because Frankie, referring to his sexual organ as his weapon of choice, wants a "sword" fight. He’s demanding the usual prize: taking you from behind.

Some of you have been complimentary about my writing, but I also want you to know that I am open to receiving guidance and constructive criticism. Writing is new to me and I am sure that I am inadvertently making plenty of mistakes.

Some of you have asked about what I am reading. Recently read: Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, The Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Maxims and Reflections by Francois Duc de La RocheFoucauld, and George Orwell and the Origins of 1984 by William Steinhoff. On the lighter side, I read Homer’s Iliad and have just finished Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, which is the most enjoyable work of fiction that I have ever read. It displaces Orwell’s Animal Farm as my favourite fiction book. I am half way through Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of things Past and am in awe of his literary skills. Last month I read Gustav Herling’s A World Apart. His account of life as a political prisoner in Russia during World War II makes my stay here seem like a holiday. All of the aforementioned books are well worth a read. I’d like to thank all of you who have sent books. Cheers! Jon.

Jon’s address:
Shaun Attwood ADC#187160,
ASPC-Lewis, Morey 2-D-2,
P.O. Box 3300, Buckeye,
AZ 85326, USA

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9 Jan 05

Odds & Ends

George is the homosexual who requested I read him some Harry Potter. For a couple of dollars a week he does house cleaning. Gravano and a couple of others recommended him, so I've hired him. He now calls me "governor" and sings "Rule Brittania" to me. He scrubs the toilet, sink and floor. He washes and folds laundry. He’s chuffed with me for giving him my Christmas dinner. George is also a masseur but I have been warned to sit on a stool and to watch his wandering hands if I get a back massage off him.

Duke (see Duke 29/04/04) resides across the day room in cell 12. He remembered me from his sentencing hearing. He was shot in the head during the Vietnam War and he has been in touch with a veterans organisation who are helping him seek a sentence reduction.

My stint in the kitchen was short lived. Because my anxiety went up, the psychotherapist took me off the job. Now, I may have to take meds.

Thank you for all of the Christmas cards, which I am still receiving. Inmate banking erroneously double billed my account $66.05, wiping out my balance, so, I have been without postage stamps for the past two weeks. My parents deposited some funds, so I now have stamps and everyone that mailed Christmas cards should soon receive thank you's.

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Jon's mailing address is: Shaun Attwood ADC#187160
ASPC-Lewis,Morey 2-D-2, P.O. Box 3300, Buckeye, AZ 85326, USA


3 Jan 05

Recreation – headstand nearly banned

I get two hours of recreation each day. The rec schedule runs for two weeks and starts over again. Here are the starting times:

Week 1 Week 2
Sunday 4.30 pm 8.45 am
Monday 6.30 am 4.30 pm
Tuesday 1.00 pm 6.30 am
Wednesday 8.15 am 1.00 pm
Thursday 4.30 pm 8.45 am
Friday 1.00 pm 6.30 am
Saturday 6.30 am 1.00 pm

One-hundred inmates are allowed to go to the rec field together – in our case Building 2, pods C and D – but out of the one hundred, only about one third of them actually attend, and that fraction is much smaller for the 6.30 am rec. I’ve been going to rec two or three times a week, usually when it is offered in the afternoon or the late morning.

The rec area consists of a large field surrounded by a running track. Chain-link fencing and razor wire protect the perimeter. Overlooking the rec field is the gun tower – it was recently featured on the news after two inmates seized control and held a male and female guard hostage. The female was repeatedly raped. Looking at the tower you can usually see a guard toting an AR15 assault rifle or a pump-action shotgun. The rec field contains two basketball courts, a volleyball court, workout stations for isometric exercises, and six picnic tables. Three of the picnic tables have covers that enable inmates to chat or play chess in the shade. There are also eight charge-per-call telephones, a urinal and a drinking fountain. I am told that the average price of a fifteen-minute collect call to Phoenix is three dollars.

Most of the inmates at rec participate in team sports or mob around the picnic tables. I usually find a secluded area of grass where I can perform yoga.

During the last rec session, I had my first run-in with a guard. While doing a headstand, I heard a female voice yell from the gun tower, “Stop doing headstands!” I was wondering whether she was serious or not, when she repeated, “Stop doing headstands or else I’ll throw you off the field!” The inmates bacame upset and one shouted, “Are you gonna ban push-ups next?”

At the opposite end of the rec field stood the Assistant Deputy Warden, known as the ADW. She is second in command of this unit. My Buddhist friend Gizmo told the ADW that the guard who had stopped my headstand had violated my freedom of religious expression. A guard, Officer Noah, verified that my religious preference was Hinduism and the ADW gave me permission to keep doing headstands. The female guard was instructed not to stop me again.

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WakeUp - Inmate Newsletter sent the following:

Thank you for sending Jon's most recent blog to us. I will include the “Farewell Mum and Dad” article in our next WakeUp newsletter. I expect it will touch the hearts of many inmates and assist them in turning around their lives as Jon will do. We thought we had enough money to publish the newsletter in mid February but didn’t expect having to pay about $600 in taxes. A lot of money for a non profit organization that is always low on funds wouldn’t you say. Now we have to raise that money again. Do you know of any person or organization who may be interested in contributing? We will publish as soon as we have the funds after mid February.

I appreciate Jon’s talents and am grateful for your sharing his writings with us.

Carill Ina Nicoll
AzCEG Executive Director, Arizona Coalition for Effective Government, VM - 602.234.9004
www.azceg.org
2 Jan 05

Farewell Mum & Dad

It is 3.09 pm, fifteen minutes after the final visit with my parents. My angst began when I gave them goodbye hugs. During the final minutes with my parents, I felt miserable for breaking their hearts by putting myself behind bars; I felt guilty seeing my mother weep as she departed the visitation room; I felt ashamed for failing those who raised me and stood by me no matter what I have done: I considered myself blessed for having their support when so many of my neighbours receive no help from beyond the prison walls.I was most conscience-stricken by my mother’s tearful eyes; an unproud image now permanently carved into my subconscious. My father put on a brave face by bantering and jesting, but his body language betrayed his vocal masquerade; his smile was surrounded by quivering facial expressions, and those windows of truth, his eyes, shone with unconcealable sadness.It is stomach-turning to realise that my parents, my pillars of strength and support, are victims of my wrongdoing. If I could have shielded them from this hurt I would have moved mountains to do so.This year I shall try harder to make amends and to outdo all of my previous accomplishments. By channelling my passion and energy relentlessly from my cell, I hope to repel the lingering tempest troubling my heart. Years of bondage cannot contain the enormity of my love-inspired drive that knows no fetters or chains. I am hopeful that my achievements thus far are a mere fraction of what’s in store, and that my parents will be proud of their prodigal son’s turnaround.

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New Years Day

Interview with a Murderer

It’s New Years Day and the world is hung over. Today seems like a good day to interview an inmate convicted of murder.

J How old are you Brian?
B Thirty-four

J How old were you when you were arrested?
B Nineteen. I can remember bein' on the bus goin' to prison. I was cryin' and some old-timer told me not to worry because I’d be lookin’ back on this day and thinkin’ it was all just a bad dream.

J You killed someone?
B Yeah.

J How?
B I shot him.

J Why?
B He was gonna stab my friend.

J Can you explain what happened?
B We were at a club called , and my friend – a big Mexican dude – got into an argument with a guy who he’d bought an ounce of crystal from. My friend was showin’ off in front of a bunch of women, and he hit the dude. The dude acted all cool at first, he backed off and said that everything was okay. Then he returned with a huge, buck knife and went for my friend, so I shot him.

J Were you drunk or on drugs?
B I was buzzed from drinkin’ a fifth of Jack Daniels. I wasn’t on drugs.

J What happened next?
B It was like...a…lucky shot. I used a .357 Magnum. A .357 Magnum makes a hole the size of a grapefruit if it hits someone. (Brian makes a fist.)

J What did you think when you looked at him and saw him dead with a massive head wound?
B I told myself that I had really fucked up. I regretted it immediately.

J How does it feel to kill a man?
B I had nightmares for months.

J In your dreams could you see him, his dead body, the hole in his head?
B As well as the nightmares, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for months. I replayed it over and over again.

J Are you still having nightmares?
B No.

J So you shot him in the club?
B Yeah.

J
In front of how many witnesses?
B Maybe forty.

J You killed someone in front of forty witnesses, in the State of Arizona and you didn’t get the death penalty, how come?
B I come from a good family. I was in college. I played football. The victim was a biker – a member of the Hell's Angels. He was a known drug dealer and always in trouble. He even had a one-hundred-thousand-dollar contract out on him. The police didn’t care too much about his death.

J How’d you know about the contract?
B My attorney told me. The prosecutor wanted to know if I’d killed him to collect the contract money.

J How much time did you get?
B Fifteen years.

J When do you get out?
B January.

J What’s the first thing that you want to do when you get out?
B Go to church.

J What else?
B Put flowers on the victim’s grave.

J Most inmates, when asked that question, say they want to get laid. Is sex a priority?
B No. I’ve been gettin' laid.

J In here?
B Yeah.

J With men or women?
B Women. Whiteshirts.

J What’s a whiteshirt?
B Kitchen workers who are contracted from outside.

J How many whiteshirts have you had sex with?
B Three.

J You had sex with them in the kitchen?
B In the freezer actually.

(We laugh)

J What does serving fifteen years feel like?
B Like a rollercoaster. Ups and downs. Its hardest around Christmas time and other holidays because that’s when I miss my family the most.

J Are you in a relationship with a woman?
B Nah. I learnt that relationships make your time harder on you. It’s best to be friends.

J Does killing a man make you view yourself differently?
B Yeah. I feel guilty because of what I did.

J I see. Can you describe what it feels like to be known as a convicted killer?
B Imagine the worst crime or thing that you ever done to a person in your entire life. How does that make you feel? Now imagine if everyone knew what you’d done. How would that make you feel? That’s what I have to live with every day of my life.

J What are you plans for when you get out?
B I’m gonna attend a culinary course.

J And then what?
B I’d like to get a job as a chef…ideally on a cruise ship or for a hotel company. I want to see the world, especially Greece, France and England. Some of the best chefs in the world are French.

J
That’s a good plan. No more sex in freezers though!

(We laugh)

J Thanks for the interview. Good luck out there.
B I’ll be alright.

(We shake hands)

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31 Dec 04

New Year’s Resolutions

I have two New Year’s resolutions: firstly, I will try my best not to harbour ill-will towards people, no matter what they say or do; secondly, I will intensify my reading and studying. I hope to read 1000 books by the time I get out.

The first resolution necessitates I gain better control over my emotions. Yoga and meditation have made me a calmer person. I pay less attention to the drama here. I forgive those who have hurt me in the past, especially the people involved in my case.

From time to time I read something maddening – especially instances of injustice – and I feel compelled to write something scathing; however, by the next day, I've calmed back down, and if I’ve written something not lacking in emotional content I’ll tear it up. That’s one of the advantages writers have over public speakers.

For my second resolution, I intend to study six new subject areas: ethics, international business law, justice, military science, behavioural finance and commodity price behaviour. I concocted this list after looking at last year’s bibliography and categorising the hours spent on each subject. It became evident that my study program has been lopsided towards the stock market, history, philosophy, biographies and Spanish.

To where my fanatical studies are leading I do not know. I relate to how Jean-Jacques Rousseau claimed he felt in his youth when he had not yet solidified his opinions:

"…by collecting a store of ideas, true or false but all of them clear, until my mind is sufficiently equipped to be able to compare them, and choose between them."
My feelings about injustice grew stronger in 2004. This blog is a platform I will continue to use to highlight injustice. To end injustice we all need to speak out.

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.’Edmund Burke

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Poem about Jon by Prophet

Creative Isolation

These four walls surround my soul
but yet they've set my spirit free
with each passing moment inside this cube
another spark ignites inside me
burning a fuse that leads to a ballpoint
I explode on to the paper
all my sentiment
emotions not to be exposed
not while in this modern day dungeon
but I must have release
and these writings like the air I breathe provide me with survival
my hand sore from clasping pen innards
the only ventilation for my words to escape this musty chamber
once trapped in life now imprisoned in a cell
I transcend these walls through my written word
I rise above the wire fence to touch you with my intellect
for my arms may not grasp beyond this cage,
but my thoughts have traveled father than mortal limbs could ever reach
my mind-set entered homes I may never see
this so called 'correction' is nothing but my own creative isolation
and as long as there is creation there is life...
and I will,
live on

I'm a friend and faithful reader of Jon's Jail Blog. I recently wrote the above poem on a poetry forum I belong to based on your son's circumstance. I wanted to share it with you as well. I wanted to draw more attention to his ordeal so I added links to his webpages. I hope you enjoy and please tell Jon Happy New Year and that I pray for his safe return to you his family.
sincerely,
Prophet


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27 Dec 04

Escape

On the 8th of December, Maniac Mack was charged with Offence 009 – Attempted Escape from the Madison Street Jail. I obtained a copy of his Disciplinary Action Report, which contains the following Formal Statement of Charge(s):

While conducting a perimeter walk on 12.8.04 at approximately 0050 hours with Officer ------------, we noticed a Stream of Debris leading from-------[Maniac Mack’s cell]. Upon further investigation we located a hole leading through the wall to the outside. The hole appeared to have been on the exterior of the jail, apparently to facilitate an escape. Refer to IR #04-217500. These inmates were placed on the loaf program*** for the destruction of County property. [Sic]

Maniac Mack is housed on the fifth floor, and each floor consists of two stories, so his cell is ten stories above the surrounding streets. How was he going to escape from so high up? Perhaps the author of the Disciplinary Action Report had recently watched the Spiderman movie or maybe Maniac Mack had studied up on aeronautical engineering and had constructed a jet pack from his scant belongings. And let’s not dismiss the beanstalk theory: at visitation Mack met Jack and keystered beanstalk seeds.

Mack suspects that his outspoken nature – particularly his recent comments about the jail’s conditions – caused the queer charge. Mack wrote, “The gathering dark-side of this place rallied and attacked yours truly enmasse. Now I’ve got an additional and notorious charge: Attempted Escape, for which I could face up to 7 years if convicted!” The stresses and strains seem to be getting to Mack who ended his letter with, “Man is born to die. To wait around, in lines, for transportation to arrive, in welfare and unemployment offices, for toilet paper and chow, waiting, waiting for the mouse to sing….”

It is clear what they want you to do Mack: hand over the beanstalk seeds and the jet pack, confess your sins, yell your guilt from the roof tops, sign a double-digit plea bargain, and join Jon in the land of the throwaway people.

My former cellmate Mark signed a plea bargain and was put on house arrest. He now wears a device on his ankles that emits radio signals. He is allowed to travel to work and back, and to attend church on Sundays. He is due to be sentenced early in 2005 and he hopes to get probation. I hope he does. But in Arizona's legal system anything could happen between now and then.

*** The loaf program
Inmates on the loaf program are housed in two-man cells, which remain locked for twenty-three hours a day. They are served the loaf twice daily.
One morning, a young Chicano who had not been fed was offered the loaf.
“I’ll take it,” he said.
This occurred during my hour out. Sensing an opportunity to taste the loaf, I said to the Chicano, “Break bread, dawg. Gimme a little piece of the loaf.”
And he did.
The loaf's outer surface resembled burnt bread. It smelled like shoe polish. I snapped the hard crust and observed a mush with what looked like carrots and bean skins protruding from it.
“It’s yesterdays left-over food mixed into bread,” shouted one of the chow servers. It looked foul, but I was compelled to taste it so that I could describe the experience. The taste was bad, like eating burnt food. The taste overwhelmed my mouth, as if I had eaten a poisonous chemical. I swallowed a small amount and spat the remainder out.

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26 Dec 04

Kitchen Slave

After today’s special visit, I was sent to work as a dishwasher in the kitchen that serves chow to the whole unit. For 20 cents an hour I emptied hundreds of trays containing left over food into trashcans, and then drenched them with a hose. After being locked down for so long, the hustle and bustle of the kitchen raised my anxiety.

Please Note Jon has changed cells and is now in 2D2 and not 2D22

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Boxing Day Punch
My honeymoon period seems to be over. Today, I discovered that one overgrown thug can cause serious problems. This morning, immediately before my visit with my parents, one of BHF’s cronies – who I’ll call Ogre to keep his identity secret – said he would spare my life if I gave him my Walkman. I declined his offer and later on he snuck up behind me and attacked me, smashing me in the back and knocking me down. I couldn't tell my parents what happened even though they could see I was injured.

The inmate who told me about his experience with a transsexual in Texas advised me that BHF had put Ogre up to this. There's also some inmates thinking I have a lot of money because the detectives told the media that I have hidden millions in offshore accounts, making me a target for extortion.
Cell Move

Yesterday I was moved from cell 22 to cell 2. BHF and I weren't getting along. BHF's robbery and torture anecdotes made excellent story material, but we had differences in other areas. On one occasion, I was returning to the cell after having a shower, and Greg (an Aryan Brother from California who murdered a child molester) blocked my entry and said, "You can't go in your cell right now 'cause the fellas are shooting up in there." I was also getting sick of pricking my feet on the needles BHF would leave out and the cell being full of smoke. And he was getting sick of waking up with my chest hair in his mouth. I was relocated to cell 2, which is downstairs in the same pod.
 
19 Dec 05

The First Visit: Two accounts by Jon’s parents …..

Driving south on Highway 85, Lewis Prison lies in the foothills of the Buckeye Mountains, a picturesque setting for a State incarceration facility.

Our first journey to the complex was enlivened by the sight of the rising sun to our left. The sky above the line of the Estrella Mountains became blood- red before the emergence of the Phoenix sun.

Along this stretch of highway are instructions to keep headlights on ‘day and night’, as the length of the road and its straightness makes it look as if distant cars are invisible without headlights on. As we passed the notorious road sign ‘State Prison – DO NOT STOP FOR HITCHHIKERS’, we knew that we were getting close to our son’s new home.

Arrival at the facility brought the first of many ID checks and searches. A swinging barrier stopped all cars as a guard with a clipboard stooped to check our passports and driving licence. We were waved on to the visitor car park, where we deposited our valuables into the boot of the car, only being allowed to take in 1 watch, 1 ring, 1 car key with remote, prescriptions glasses only, and $20 per person in quarters (to purchase food and drink from vending machines). The quarters have to be in a clear bag for the guards to check that no other items are being smuggled in. We had no quarters and no plastic bag. Fortunately other visitors seeing our plight kindly offered change for dollars and gave us a plastic food bag to put them in.

At the next check point we filled in the paper work; queued to hand it in at the office with our ID and joined the numerous visitors to await our name call.

When the guard shouted, ‘Attwood’, we were asked to remove our jackets; empty our pockets; take off belts; and our belonging were sent through an X ray machine, as we walked through the scanner.

In spite of the bright sun, at this time of the year it is very cold early in the morning and with our jackets off we started to shiver. Visitors with high boots which could conceal a weapon, had to walk through the scanner bare foot.

With our items returned, we were moved on through a fenced passage where a guard with a large, sniffer dog shouted, “Backs to the fence and hands by your sides”. We followed his instructions, lining up against the chain mail fence while the enthusiastic Alsatian jumped up and down behind us.

Given the 'all clear', we filed through a turnstile whose melancholic sound resembled that made by the squeaking windmill in the opening sequence to Sergio Leone’s masterpiece ‘Once Upon a Time in the West”.

The turnstile led to a bus stop. A trustie driving an old yellow school bus around the complex picking up and delivering the visitors to the various units, gave us a friendly, "Hello". A short ride brought us to a vast iron gate with a buzzer which signalled to the guard that visitors have arrived. The gate clanked open and we walked passed the grassy visitation compound surrounded with razor wire.

Inside the unit our paperwork and IDs were checked once again and the guard picked up the phone and asked that our son be brought to the visitation area. We went through another scanner, and after setting the alarm off with my belt buckle and shoes, I was ‘wanded’ by the guard, who gave us back the paperwork. We went through 2 more electronic doors which slid back to reveal the visitation room.

Once again the paperwork was checked and the guard assigned us a white, plastic table. We sat down, looked at each other and waited for our son to come through a door.


..........Passing the desert scenery that Jon had described so well in his blog, I became him, looking out from the transportation van, longing to be free.

Scanning the horizon the desert stretched for miles, skirted by the Estrella Mountain range: there were no signs of the prison, as we sped further into the arid landscape.

I thought my eyes were deceiving me, as, in the far distance I spied what looked like rows of silver pods suspended against the dark hills. Blinking hard, I tried to focus my distance vision, and as we drew closer I realised that the pods were flood lights: luminous eyes surveying the scence.

My heart sank to the pit of my stomach as the low sprawling mass of Lewis prison gradually revealed itself, and I wondered what part of the complex held my son captive…. …. …

… … …Chatting to Jon across the plastic table, we could have been in any cafĂ©, in any country, smiling, talking, exchanging views on crime and justice, life and death, sorrow and joy. I stared at his animated face and time stopped. Glancing away, the walls of razor wire glistening in the bright Arizona sunshine remind me sharply of where I was.

Jon's parents would like to thank the prison authorities for granting us extra visits. After travelling 5200 miles this was greatly appreciated, as was the kindness and courtesy we received from all of the visitation staff.

Jon's impressions of our first visit have been held up in the Christmas mail and will be posted asap. He is doing well and sends everyone his regards.

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