16 Sept 06

Duke Resurfaces

Three times a week, Yard 1 inmates have access to a rec field in the centre of the unit.
Recently, while jogging on the field, I noticed Duke (whose story was posted in the early days of this blog) hollering and waving a piece of paper at me from behind Yard 2’s fence.
“Duke!” I said. “How the bloody hell have you been?”
“Oh, you know,” Duke said. “Same-ol’ same-o.”
“How come you’re not on Yard 1? You must be getting close to the gate.”
“They said I cain’t move to Yard 1 'cause I gotta keepaway down there, and I don’t know who the hell it is.”
“Can’t you find out and get it squashed?”
“Shee-it. They won’t tell me.”
“I can’t imagine who’d request a do-not-house on you. Maybe it’s a mistake.”
“Well, I’ll keep tryin’. You must be getting’ short by now?”
“Yup, I’m scheduled to get released to Immigration in November '07.”
“Izzat right? That’s when I get out.”
“Look! Look!” Duke waved a piece of paper.
“What’s that?”
“It’s a copy of what you wrote about me on your blog.”
Duke was interrupted by a female voice over the loudspeakers: “The inmate trying to pass a picture through the fence needs to step away from the fence and return to his cell.”
“Whassamatter with her?” Duke said. “I ain’t tryna pass shee-it.”
“Step away from the fence!”
“I’d better go,” Duke said.
“Take care, Duke.”
“See ya around.”
“See ya.”

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or post them below Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood

Attempted Question Time with Xena

Writers in prison are subject to interruption at any time. Some days, I remain undisturbed for hours. On others, progress seems impossible. Even trying to hold an interview, like this one with Xena, has it's hazards.

“Xena, Jack in Illinois asked how he can become a member of COX.
“To become a member of the Cult of Xena you’ve -”
My door swung open and Frankie, topless and sweaty, charged into the cell. “Englandman, let me make love to ya one time. I promise not to tell anyone.”
“You’re out of your mind,” I said. “Getting boofooed is not my idea of fun.”
Smiling like a fiend, he grabbed my neck.
“I’m trying to write something for Xena. Xena, I’ll keep writing if you’ll put Frankie in check.”
Xena’s long limbs leaped at Frankie. Frankie released my neck. Xena pinched Frankie's chest, then retreated.
“Xena!” Frankie shrieked. Frankie reached for my neck, but found himself tangled up in Xena's limbs. “Are you trying to manhandle me?” Frankie panted. Frankie was holding his own until Xena yanked his pants and boxers down. He fled as frantically as he had arrived. He hurried along the run, displaying his bare behind as he struggled to pull his pants up.
“Where were we?” Xena asked.
“Jack in Illinois wants to know about COX membership.”
“Well, first you’ve gotta be out, or if you’re not out you’ve gotta want out, and if you don’t want out, don’t worry about bein’ out, 'cause nobody has to know.”
“So you have to be in or out?”
“That’s all inclusive. It’s good to know that COX is a politically-correct organisation.”
“Then, you hafta like wearin’ pink tutus and spandex.”
“I hate spandex,” Blackheart said as he entered the room, holding a Palo Verde borer beetle.

An aside on Blackheart. This Lakota Indian is almost seven-foot tall. He has a female penpal in England. When there is a lull in their correspondence he takes it out on the nearest British person to him: me. On such occasions, instead of receiving his usual greeting (a punch in the chest, before being picked up, squeezed and dropped), I’m likely to be picked up, carried off somewhere, and tossed against a door or a wall. On one occasion, he was carrying me, and a female guard yelled, “Put Jon down right now!” He claims the more he beats you up the more he likes you.

“Why don’t you like spandex?” I asked Blackheart.
“It doesn’t show me in my best light.”
“You should insert some packaging,” Xena said. “Try a sausage. That way you can get it warm and eat it later on.”
“Stop tryin’ to kick me away with your legs, dude,” Blackheart said to the beetle and departed.
“What else should Jack in Illinois know about COX?”
“Girls are boys and boys are girls,” Xena said.
“That reminds me of a Killers' song.”
“Which one?”
“Where he says something like: somebody told me you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend.”
“Don’t you know?” Xena said.
“Don’t I know what?”
“That the Killers are members of COX, stupid.”
“I should have known. Duh!”
Looking like a disturbed character from a horror movie, Slingblade appeared at the door. He didn't enter or say a word. He just stood there. His eyes raking my room for signs of food.
“What do you need, Slingblade?” I asked.
“Got any peanut butter?” Slingblade's nostrils dilated in anticipation.
“Sorry, I’m all out, but here’s some crackers.”
He snatched the crackers, grunted, and moved along the balcony. The inmates on the balcony quickly got out of his way.
“This is all happening because of Jack in Illinois,” Xena said.
“Back to Jack in Illinois and COX,” I said.
“When COX members pray, they pray to lord and mistress Xena, which in the word of the Navajo is Na’ da’ hay. Sacred COX rituals include having strangers pee on you, and performing certain sexual favours for strangers in nightclubs - ”
"Rec time is over. Lock down."
"We'll have to try this again, Xena."
"Yeah, rectum is over. We must lock down."

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood
13 Sept 06


Max – a baby-faced Chukchansi Indian – lives on the same run as me.
“Where are the Chukchansi Indians from?” I asked.
“Yosemite National Park is our ancestral land,” Max said.
“How many Chukchansi are there?”
“There are 783 left. There used to be thousands, but they got killed off durin’ the Gold Rush, and pushed off tribal lands. We were robbed of our identity and thrown into an anthropological term known as Yokuts.”
“Do you get casino money?”
“I get a little somethin’-somethin’. You should see the size of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino.”
“So how’d you end up in prison?”
“I got nine years for kidnappin’. It was a carjackin’ and I took the guy in the car with me. I was only sixteen at the time. I’d just finished Carson High in California.”
“Did you have a weapon or any priors?”
“How old are you?”
“So you’ve never had an adult life on the streets?”
“What do your tats mean?”
“On my chest is a medicine wheel. On my left arm is the Chukchansi tribal seal: a basket, and the word Hil-le which is a greetin’. I had to earn this tat, AIM, which stands for American Indian Movement.”
“That’s an impressive tat on your back. How did you earn it?”
“I took off a piece of scalp with a huntin' knife.”
“It’s not like I peeled it down to the cranium. That earned me respect on the streets of California.”
“You must be getting short?”
“I’ve got six months left. Did I tell you I have a tat on my cock?”
“No. What is it?”
“It’s kinda funny, dude. It’s a dicky bird.”

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood
10 Sept 06

Morning Sounds

It’s hard not to wake up at 6am on Yard 1. At 6am the guard in the control room presses a button and the teeth in our doors grind.

Next up are the noises of inmates coming alive: sneezing, coughing, noses blowing, urine splashing, behinds flatulating and defecating, toilets flushing, water running, and razors against sinks ra-ta-ta-tapping.

One of my neighbours, Black Nine, a massive African American, usually wakes up chanting, “I’m sooo very gay”, or singing a song that begins with, “Jack-jack-jack me orrf!

By 6:10am, the first swear word of the day – usually motherfucker – makes itself heard from the circles of smokers forming outside.

Listening to the radio offers no reprieve: Call 1-800-Progressive. Progressive Direct Insurance Company….Krispy Kreme Donuts….Do you suffer from heavy or long-lasting or frequent menstrual cycles? Call 886-800-9060….When you’re a hardcore biker like me, it’s nice to know that Geico….This week on ABC it’s Extreme Makeover….XM Satellite Radio….Do you have what it takes to be a successful rapper?….Zero percent interest for sixty months. Jim Click Dodge in the Auto Mall….Zycam Cold Remedy Swabs….There is a massive shortage of helicopter pilots….M&M Reece’s Pieces….Arizona womens’ basketball is taking off….Circuit City, HD radio….Vegetable oil has an extremely high lubricity factor….How do you not have a celebrity shredding service?

Before breakfast is served, the guards in the control room start to make announcements over the speaker system: “Yard 1, last call for chow….Visitation porters turn out for work….Baker 13, report to the bubble in compliance, you’re going to disciplinary….Education, turn out.” Some announcements have been made by a woman with the gruffest cartoon voice I’ve ever heard. I laugh every time I hear her. She should be in Hollywood doing wicked-witch voiceovers.

Sometimes my other neighbour, Spider (an inmate with long hair who introduced himself as a "dope fiend"), charges into my cell and yells,
“Come on you bloody bloke, the chow hall’s open!”

Depending on whoever is ready first, I either get Weird Al or Weird Al gets me, and we head for our potatoes and porridge and begin the day's banter.

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood
07 Sept 06

Repo’s Return

Seeing Repo standing in line for chow with Yard 3, I asked, “What happened? How long did you last on the outs?”
“Fifty-seven days,” Repo said, swelling with the proudness of an inmate whose prior attempts at freedom hadn't lasted nowhere near as long.
“I was doin’ it, makin’ legit money, repoin’ cars and shit. I even got married to a bad-ass ol’ lady. We were livin’ in a house in Glendale.”
“But you copped a new charge?”
“Yeah. Prohibited possesser. Some jackass stole my ol’ lady’s car, and I repoed it back, but I was pulled over and there was a gun under the seat.”
“That sucks. How much time did they give you?”
“Seven-and-a-half years.”
“You signed for seven-and-a-half for that?”
“I had no choice. Thay said if I didn’t sign and took it to trial, I’d lose and they’d stack all my charges, so I’d get twenty-somethin’ years.”
“Yep. That’s how they get you. Sorry to hear that, man.”
“I ain’t sweatin’ it.”

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood


The Prison Machiavelli

Two Tonys relates quotes of Machiavelli to prison life

And, above all things, abstain from taking people’s property….

“In the joint you should abstain from takin’ people’s property, 'cause, firstly, you can get hurt, and secondly, it’s not the right thing to do. Readers may be saying', ‘But Two Tonys done robbed, done stole, done conned, and now he’s sayin’ takin’ someone’s Snickers and two bars of soap is wrong,’ so lemmetellyasomethin’: there ain’t nothin’ worse than a jailhouse thief. Also, extortion of property by gang members ain’t right. It’s hard enough in here with the boot of the man, society, on our necks, to then hafta experience man’s inhumanity to fellow man from yer brothers in chains - shit like protection rackets, quid pro quos, I’m gonna give you two boxes of cigarettes a week to handle my problems. Here the strong prey on the weak and the smart take from the strong.”

…it is much more safe to be feared than to be loved….

“Here, bein’ feared can hurt you or can help you. If you’re too feared motherfuckers might wanna take yer out. I whacked a motherfucker outta fear. He scared me, so I had to get there first. There’s a happy medium. Love in prison is a word thrown around a lot, love and respect, wah-wah-wah. If you get right down to it there ain't too many motherfuckers who love yer in these fuckin’ shithouses. You’re pretty much on your own. Respect is a more common emotion – and a form of fear. I respect the Rock outta fear. I’m not gonna pull his moustache and poke him in the eye if I see him in a bar. That’s respect.”

Politics has no relation to morals.

“Prison politics have changed since my first time down in 1980. There was a code. If you were a good person of your race they wouldn’t beat you down and take your shit, they’d show you the ropes, the dos and don’ts. If some ese or black dudes run up on your store bag and say, ‘Whatchu got in there. I’m hungry. Gimme some,' and you’ve got no allies, you’re in big trouble; so, you need six or seven white guys to roll over to prevent a situation. The white guys aren’t supposed to exploit you later on but they do. Politics changed when DOC STG’d [classified as a Security Threat Group] the gang leaders, and sent 'em to SMU. The cons used to run prison. DOC runs it now. The days of the old wise-crackin’ con talkin’ outta the side of his neck are gone.”

…a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.

“That’s so fuckin’ true. When somethin’ bad's goin’ down, you feel it, it’s in the air, you know it’s about to happen. I seen a guy one time they were gettin’ ready to kill. I knew him, and somethin’ told me to warn him but I didn’t do it. They killed him. The virtuous thing to do woulda got my ass killed. You can’t be too virtuous in here. If I see a guy comin’ outta a cell with some jabroni’s TV that I don’t give a fuck about, I’m not gonna get involved. If it’s a partner’s TV, yeah, fuck, let’s get it back. In society you see your neighbours house gettin’ robbed and you call the cops. In here that’s a no-no.”

For men are so simple… that the deceiver will never lack dupes.

“No question about it. There’s a lotta dupes in prison - some smart people too. Turned loose on society, there’s some motherfuckers in here that’ll run big game.”

Hatred is acquired as much by good works as by bad ones.

“Churchgoers are not privy to a lotta things goin’ on. You can’t be too good in here. When you start feedin’ hungry motherfuckers, it’s seen as weakness, and yer gonna have a line at yer door every night.”

How perilous it is to free a people who prefer slavery.

“You’ve gotta lotta institutionalised prisoners. State-raised from the cradle to foster homes to juvenile hall to county jails to prison. These guys hit the gates, get out, and can’t cope with it. They’re freer in here than with the bunch of worker ants I see on my television at 5:30 in the mornin’, on the freeways, bumper to bumper, bunched up line after line, all headin’ downtown. Here we don’t decide what we eat, wear, or what doctor we see. If this is all you’ve known yer entire life how are you expected to get out there and get a job, buy clothes, get to work, pay bills? It’s a drain on a motherfucker who’s not ready for it. You’ve gotta be a well-oiled machine. The tiniest infraction – a speedin’ ticket – and the whole machine is kaput. Suddenly you’re down $175, so you’ve gotta boost some canned ham from the meat department at Safeway so you can eat. When I wave goodbye to motherfuckers like Repo at the gate, I know they’re comin’ back. Slavery is a state of mind and prisoners are mentally conditioned to be in prison.”

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood
03 Sept 06


“Do you wanna blow some money?” I was asked in the library by Certified, a squat youngster with a face like Al Capone's.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“I wanna show you my new tats.” Certified dropped his pants and boxers. Above his urethal opening, etched on purple skin, was a dollar sign with blood coming from it. Originating at the base of his glans penis, Harley Davison-style flames flickered down the shaft. Jiggling his penis magnified the visual effect.
“Did it hurt?” I asked.
“Hell, yeah!”
“How bad?”
“It felt like someone puttin’ a cigarette out on my dick.”
“Why do they call you Certified?”
“’Cause they say I ain’t mentally stable.”
“How many mental disorders do you have?”
“I’m bipolar, and diagnosed as severely mentally ill.”
“What meds are you on?”
“Lithium, Prozac, and Tegratol. Check this tat out” Certified removed his T-shirt and revealed a tattoo the size of a license plate at the top of his back that read: CERTIFIED.
“Where’s your next tat going to be?”
“I’m thinkin’ of more tats to get on my dick.”
“Does it take long to do a dollar sign?”
“About fifteen minutes. Why dontcha get one?”
“I’m sensitive down there. It would hurt too much."
“I wanna have sex with midgets,” Certified said, “’cause then my little penis would look big in their small hands.”
“You should try and hook up with Bridget the Midget when you get out then.”

What should Certified's next design be?

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood
02 Sept 06

Legitimizing Prison Tattoo Shops

I've met many prisoners who contracted diseases from getting tattoos - most with hepatitis C, one with AIDS, and some with staph infections - so I was pleased to read an article by Gary Hunter in Prison Legal News (August 06) about six Canadian prisons, including Manitoba’s Rockwood Institution, that have set up prison tattoo shops as a measure to prevent diseases. Prisoner skin artists are paid $6.90 per day, and prisoner customers pay $5 per tattoo.

The adoption of such a program in the US would prevent some prisoners from contracting diseases and reduce healthcare costs in the long run.

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood

01 Sept 06


I was moved to a cell on the upper tier.
Blood free. Less mosquitoes. Much better.
The cell had one occupant, Too Tall, who moved in with Midnight, so now I have no cellmate.

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood

August 31 06

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood
Thank Yous

Numerous people have helped me in various ways, so some thank yous are in order.
I would like to thank everyone who wrote a letter of support for my commutation of sentence hearing.
My birthday would have been just another day without the cards and letters that cheered me up no end. Thank you to those who went out of their way to put a smile on my face.
Because of the generosity of people sending books, I’ve been able to read over 200 this year, and have donated hundreds to the prison library to be enjoyed by others. Due to your kindness, I’ve discovered Don DeLillo, and enjoyed David Sedaris, Woody Allen, Martin Amis, and Amos Oz.
Good lookin’ out!
August 29 06

A Reluctant Stool Inspector

“How did it go at Medical?” I asked Midnight.
“Apparently,” Midnight said, “I’ve got three stomach ulcers, and the biopsy shows cancer in my upper intestine. The nurse said I need to quit smokin’. And the doctor wants me to look at my stool, at my bowel movements. If they’re real dark, then there’s blood in it and he wants a sample. I’m supposed to pick my shit outta the commode and bring it up there to Medical.”
“You’d better do what they say if you’ve got cancer. That’s serious.”
“Nope. I drop one, flush one. I ain’t lookin’ at my shit. To be honest, I don’t wanna know if I’m bleedin’ outta my rectum. I’ve got enough problems.”
“But you could die. It’s in your best interest to do as they say.”
“I’m not gonna put shit in my hand, put it in a bag, and bring it up to them.”
“You should at least look and see if there’s blood in it.”
“I don’t wanna know if there’s blood in it!”
“Cancer’s serious business. You need to determine the extent of it in your body.”
“I ain’t ever looked at my shit. Maybe tomorrow I will. Knowing my luck, I’ll see that it’s full of dark blood, and I’ll hafta siphon it out for 'em.”
“Won’t they let you do it at Medical? Then giving a sample would be easier.”
“No. I’ve gotta do it up here. I told 'em I go in the mornin’s, and they said to just put the stool in a plastic bag and take it on up to Medical.”
“They expect you to carry a bag of it all the way across the unit to Medical?”
“Yeah. Do you know how embarrassing it would be to bring a bag of shit up to the control booth and say to the guard, ‘I gotta get this bag of shit up to Medical right away.’ They’re likely to put me on report: at 0800 hours inmate E. brought a bag of shit to us.”
“I don't doubt it. I almost got put on report for telling a guard that my scrotum was bleeding.”
“And they’ll charge me three dollars for takin’ the bag of shit to 'em. They’re quacked, fuckin’ quacked.”
“But still, with your health at stake, you’ve got no choice.”
“OK. I’ve gotta deal for you: tomorrow, I’ll take a peak and if there’s blood in there, if you want, you can fish some out and take it down to them.”
“If I’d just been diagnosed with cancer, I’d be fishing it out in a heartbeat.”

Midnight didn't inspect his stool. He's more concerned about them telling him to stop smoking than the cancer diagnosis. Does anyone have medical advice for Midnight?

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Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood