Jon has started writing for a new newspaper called The Citizen. Here is his first outing as a columnist

Prison Penned

Shaun Attwood
Contributing Writer

Shaun Attwood, Our writer on
“the inside” presents his humorous
and eye opening perspective
on the realities of life in prison.

Ecstasy, GHB, and Special
K. A foolish affinity for these
drugs—that accompanied my gluttony for the
sex kittens of clubland—landed
me behind bars. My pre-arrest
self firmly believed that the philosophic
meaning of life amounted
to partying. My time in prison
has been the most stressful and
soul-searching period of my life.
While incarcerated, I have fallen
in love with writing, and begun a
blog that has attracted more
attention than I deserve.

My slide into lawlessness took
an unconventional route. I am
a British business grad who became
a stockbroker in Phoenix.
I later quit the rat race to throw
raves. On May 16th, 2002, I was
arrested for money laundering
and a cornucopia of drug
charges.

From the media, I learned I was
facing life in prison and that we
had done enough designer drugs
to kill a herd of elephants. The
latter claim was grossly inaccurate,
as I alone had dumbly done
enough drugs to kill every elephant
in Africa, never mind some
itty-bitty herd. It was all fun and
games until some heavily-armed
gentlemen wearing SWAT garb
knocked my front door down.
Even though it was my behavior
and the harm I was causing that
had invited them, I was shocked.

Those who work for the justice
system have a propensity for crime
that dwarfs even my own. My
right to a speedy trial, a reasonable
bond, and humane living
conditions were nonexistent. I
was held for twenty-six months
without trial, and the bull market
in my bond peaked at $1.5
million (cash only). Here’s how
I described the conditions in my
July 13th, 2004 blog entry: “At
the weekend, two inmates on
my floor attempted to commit
suicide. One threw himself off a
balcony and survived. The other
was discovered trying to hang
himself. Sadder still, an inmate
housed in a medium-security pod
was found dead in the shower. Inmates
are often ‘smashed’ in the
shower area because it is out of
view of the cameras.

When I was a small child, I
imagined that hell consisted of
caves in which the damned were
trapped, tortured, and burned. I
imagined serpents and indescribable
creepy crawlies tormenting
the captives. I never imagined
that man’s nature could be so
hateful as to recreate these conditions
on earth.”

Friedrich Nietzsche was right
about thoughts of suicide being a
great consolation; they helped me
get through many a cockroach-
riddled night. But there is another
outlet that commenced freeing my
repressed emotions and has ultimately
enabled me to transcend
my punishment: writing.

When it felt as if the full
weight of the judicial apparatus
had crushed my mind (I was seeing
imaginary cockroaches and
hearing unsympathetic voices), I
sought solace in documenting the
minutiae of cellular living. I used
golf pencils sharpened on the
wall and paper that often became
drenched in sweat as I wrote. My
parents saw glimmers of hope in
my prose, and encouraged me to
expose what was going on via an online
blog.

We launched the blog covertly
due to fear of reprisals by the boss
of the jail, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and
his goons. Prisoners died mysteriously
each year, and Arpaio (the most
sued sheriff in America) has been
found responsible by the courts
for so many inmate deaths that he
qualifies for serial-killer
status. So my scrappy notes were
smuggled out of the Madison
Street jail by my aunt who visited
weekly. She then e-mailed them
to my parents who posted them
under a pseudonym.

The media caught wind of my
blog when I was out of Arpaio’s
reach, and in the custody of the
Arizona Department of Corrections
(serving the balance of the
nine-and-a-half-year sentence I
had signed a plea bargain for).
The subsequent outpouring of
support was staggering. Media
requests came in to publish blog
excerpts, and I teamed up with
Mothers Against Arpaio to campaign
against Sheriff Joe.

It has now been two-and-a-
half years since the genesis of
the blog, and I continue to receive
positive feedback from a
steadily-growing, international
readership. These days, I mostly
post my own experiences that star
a colorful cast of prison characters.
Such stories include how I
dodge booty bandits, deal with
embarrassing medical problems,
and attempt to romance a young
woman called Royo Girl. Here’s
an excerpt written on April 24th,
2006: “In a diner full of prisoners
seething over their puny pizza
portions, the Machiavellian food-
dispenser dealt me a gargantuan
piece of pizza putting my life in
immediate danger…Word of my
massive pizza migrated to surrounding
diners, so I wolfed it
down to ease table tension.”

Through this column, I hope
to humanize prisoners, give you
a tasted of this netherworld, and
if all else fails, at least make you
laugh.

The paper can be viewed online here

Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below

Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

3 comments:

Paul said...

Hi Jon

I really enjoyed the new piece, eloquently written as always. I read the Guardian article a couple of years ago and was overwhelmed by the horrors of your incarceration.

I find it so inspiring that you maintain your spirits in the face of such adversity, and it's a credit to you that you strive to find humanity in a place where it would likely be so lacking.

I'm not sure if these comments reach you, however I'd just like to wish you well and to keep up the Papillion spirit!!! I'm currently working as a trainee criminal solicitor in Scotland, so I'd also be interested in the legal dynamics of your case etc

Anyways take care

Paul McCue

di said...

A further step in what should be, could be an amazing career writing about injustice. Followed your site for many months and always impressed.

Anonymous said...

This was a lovely read. Each word well chosen to put across the reality of the situation. You have done extremely well. God bless Shaun.