28 Dec 07

Christmas 2007

In the afternoon, Mum had us put on funny Christmas hats. In the living room, we opened our gifts. Lots of chocolates, clothing and wine. I received some books, educational tapes, and cash. ( Thank you, Bill, for the CDs, and Sue, for various gifts including the silky Japanese-style robe.)

Nine of us gathered for dinner at a table with many Christmas crackers and gifts on it. Dad, near to tears, toasted my return home. We drank champagne and discussed how bad prisoners have it at this time of the year. The meateaters had roast turkey, topside of beef, and chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon. The vegetarians had nut roast and vegetarian sausages. We all shared roast potatoes, gravy, sprouts, carrots and turnips. After eating two platefuls, I could barely move.

On Boxing Day, my sister and her husband left to go and visit some of his relatives in the south. At night we went to my aunt Sue’s house expecting a party only to find out it had been cancelled because my uncle had the flu.

The next night I got ready to go to the Odeon in Warrington to watch I am Legend.
“Don’t be snogging in the back row,” Mum said, referring to the lady who had agreed to see the movie with me.
“I intend to be a perfect gentleman,” I said.
My companion was a linguist, an Englishwoman who works in Geneva. Hearing her talk in German impressed me.

I woke up thinking I had the flu. I wondered how long England would remain so cold. I stayed home, ate lots of fruit, and resisted going to the Ring O’ Bells with Hammy, who said, “A couple o’ pints ‘ll pick you up.” It seems I caught a cold.

Being in England is fun but also strange. I imagine that many prisoners arrested in America serve their time and then go back to their homes in America. I miss my apartment in Scottsdale. I miss my fiancee. I miss not being able to jump into my SUV and to go and spend money wherever I want to. My parents are as kind as can be, but it’s weird living where I grew up. It’s times like these I think of Solzhenitsyn, just out of prison, living in an old couple’s kitchen. I’m living in luxury compared to him – and Russia is much colder.

For New Year’s Eve I’m going to my sister’s flat in London. She’s having a small party and she’s going to introduce me to some of her friends.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
28 Dec 07

Two Tonys on Jesus Christ (Part 1)

I asked Two Tonys to comment, with an emphasis on prison life, on some quotes of Jesus Christ.

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

So if a torpedo shanks me in the right kidney, am I to offer the motherfucker my left? C’mon now! For use in prison, this scripture is a complete fuckin’ joke. There’s a lotta weak ones or weakies who can’t fight, who won’t fight, who hide behind their Bibles when confronted. They claim they walk with Christ – which we all know is bullshit. I’m talkin’ about fucks who rape, steal, molest, lie, testify, and as soon as they hit the county jail they grab a Bible and look for a good plea deal. I feel if there’s a beef and I slap a fool and he turns the other cheek I’m gonna knock the shit outta him. And he’s losin’ my respect. But if he fights back and shows heart – win or lose – he’s earned my respect, and everyone else’s respect. You have to stick up for numero uno in prison or else you’re perceived as weak – and then you’re a goner, they’ll be on you like wolves. I’ve personally taken severe ass-kickin’s, but I still fought.

Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

That would be fuckin’ nice but it’s just not practical in prison. Imagine an army of mooches knowin' that you’ll give shit up upon request – fuhgeddaboutit! That’s not even practical on the streets. Whothafuck does that? A guy in here would never have any coffee, zoo-zoos or wham-whams. There’d be a line of mooches at your cell.

Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

You hafta worry. You hafta contemplate your situation. Worry is good to the extent it can keep you alive. But you’ve gotta worry about the real shit, not if the laundry workers put too much starch in your underwear, or if it’s five minutes past rec and your cell door isn’t open. But if some fool wants you X’d out in the chow hall, or if some motherfucker who owes you money is tryin’ to blindside you, then worryin’ may keep you on your toes in those situations.

What do you think about Two Tonys comments?

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
25 Dec 07

Christmas 2006

Holidays such as Christmas are the loneliest times of the year for prisoners.

Here’s a piece I wrote about Christmas last year.

Shortly after 6am came the first announcement: “Standby for chow, Yard 1. You’re getting breakfast first.”
It was a cold morning. Below a pink and blue sky, prisoners drifted toward the chow hall. Most seemed miserable. But a few swapped gang handshakes and greetings.
“Wassup, dawg!”
“Merry Christmas, homey!”
“Happy Hanukkah, you sarcastic motherfucker.”
“Happy Kwanzaa, dawg!”
“Felice Navidad, ese.”
Prisoners lined up in the chow hall. As quickly as they could be made, orange trays containing pancakes, scrambled eggs, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, cereal, and apples were shoved through a hole in the wall.
A guard with a clipboard checked off our names, and joked about how hung over he was.
After grabbing their trays, prisoners joined their own races at picnic tables, where they traded food and ate.
“You gonna eat your cereal, dawg?”
“Nah, you gonna use your sugar?”
The sunlight in the chow hall illuminated the dust motes, which danced over our food.
Soon the chow hall was empty except for a few guards who seemed to be meditating on the mandala of tables strewn with spilt milk, corn flakes, and apples that had been stabbed to discourage the brewing of hooch.
As if the prisoners had been infected by a winter virus, a sad silence spread across the yard.
Walking past Building B, Officer Stewart yelled, “Put away your hypodermic needles. Don’t let me catch anyone drinking hooch.”
It was sunny and sixty-eight degrees when the swing-shift guards arrived. In a slow sarcastic voice Officer Lewalski made an announcement: “We would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and to thank you for providing us with such a wonderful 2006 - ”
The yard briefly came alive with obscenities and threats on Officer Lewalski’s life.
“ – and you’ll all be pleased to know that we fully intend to keep up the time-honoured Christmas tradition of shaking your houses down.”
Officer Lewalski and her co-worker, a guard known as the “Fruit Nazi” (a Mexican who ransacks our cells with the zeal of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor) had been on the rampage all week confiscating extra food, thwarting hooch brewing, and doling out tickets.
The bright spot of the day was a surprise. The Gatekeepers, a young and high-spirited choir of missionaries carolled us through the perimeter fence. Briefly we weren’t prisoners any more. We were someone’s son, brother, father – we were human again.
At dinnertime, the measly portions of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and broccoli caused the prisoners to gripe
Outside of the chow hall a demolition team of pigeons pecked the cling film from some trays abandoned by the guards – until a group of ravens descended from a burst of blowing dust and appropriated the spoils.
Watching the ravens seemed to be the only entertainment available for the prisoners standing in line to use phones that barely worked. Written on their faces were the usual concerns. Would their loved ones be home? If so, would they accept expensive collect calls? Many of them walked away from the phones, cursing life.
The last announcement came at 7:55pm: “Yard 1, rec is over. Take it in and lock down.”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
24 Dec 07

Happy Christmas!

Thanks for all of your comments and support.

We had a family get-together last night and about sixty people showed up, so I'm taking it easy today.

I hope you all have a great Christmas.


22 Dec 07

Venturing Out

Other than sleeping difficulties, I am having a great time. Last night, Hammy (who works for the post office as a mail-verification officer "making sure the figures add up") and Ian “Aza” Harry (a business manager at Ineos Chlorvinyls Limited and friend of mine from Saint Joseph’s High School twenty years ago) invited me to the Ring O’ Bells on Pit Lane.
“Don’t bring any money,” Aza said. “You don’t need any.”
“What do you drink at the Bells?” I asked.
“I’m a lager drinker, but I’m getting into wine now.”
“Red or white?”
“People keep warning me about the violence in pubs.”
“There’s never any argy-bargy in the Bells. It’s safe, but lively.”
The Ring O’ Bells was full. Aza, who’s never smoked or done drugs, had hardly aged. I shook hands with people I hadn’t seen for almost two decades. I drank two pints of Guinness to Hammy and Aza’s six pints of lager.

After The Bells, Hammy called a taxi and took me to a pub in Runcorn, before returning to the pubs in my hometown. At BB's, a bar that had music from the nineties playing, I tried hard not to stare at the women in glittery mini-skirts on the dance floor. The pub-crawl ended at the Upton Tavern by Hammy’s flat.

The next morning, I had a hangover. I ate some tangerines and cheese on toast, which made me feel better. In the afternoon I went to Aza’s semi-detached house on Pit Lane.
“How are you feeling after last night?” I asked Aza.
“I went for a two-and-a-half-mile walk just to refresh myself.”
Being used to prison Walkmans, I was fascinated by his iPod, the first I’d ever seen.

We travelled along the M62 to Liverpool, a city swarming with Christmas shoppers. I hadn’t seen so many beautiful women in one place in a long time - it made a pleasant change from being around hairy men. We went inside Alma De Cuba, where I sat in a chaise lounge by an altar, and drank orange juice.
“This bar and restaurant,” Aza said, “was Saint Peter’s, one of the oldest Catholic churches in England. It was derelict from - I think – 1984 to 2003, and then they made it into this. They had to exhume the bodies from the back.”
In the shopping centre, I heard East European accents.
“The Poles just started moving here,” Aza said. “Crewe’s got the largest Polish population in the UK. They work really hard. The Polish car wash on Deacon Road is the best ever.”
Aza tried on a pair of jeans. “These are seventy quid [pounds] and they’re crap.”
“Seventy bloody pounds! Do you think people can tell I’m wearing clothes from America?”
“Yeah, they can’t miss you in those blue pants.”
“These are all clothes my parents salvaged after the police raid.”
Aza bought me a black jumper from Burton for Christmas and some mixed nuts from Holland & Barrett.
Good lookin’ out, Aza!
At Next Aza bought some shoes. “Thirty-six quid. Not too bad.”
“I can’t believe how much prices have gone up. When I left England chips curry and rice were less than a quid. I got charged three quid the other day.”
“Yeah, just look at house prices.”
I was able to get Christmas presents for my dad and sister at Marks and Spencer. For Mum I went to The Body Shop.
We took a different route home, down by the Albert Dock, past one of the cathedrals. I enjoyed the view of the Liver Building, especially its twin clock towers below a pair of mythical Liver Birds. We listened to an eighties compilation on CD – "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" by Soft Cell, "Brilliant Mind" by Furniture, and so forth – which brought back memories of discos at high school, and the girls I had crushes on. We chatted about our school days. I learned that two of my friends had died, and so had my art teacher Mr. “Spud” Murphy, who didn’t like to be called Spud, and once caned me for it. “I’m the hardest caner in Saint Joe’s,” Spud said, before jumping off a chair and whacking my palm with a cane.

I’ve had enough excitement for the time being, so I’m back to writing again. Around New Year’s Eve, I’m staying with my sister in London for four days. That should be fun.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
17 Dec 07

Homecoming (Part2)

During the two days I spent being transported my vision worsened. By the time I got to the airport at Gatwick, I was unable to see my parents waiting at a gate crowded with hundreds of other people. Then suddenly, Mum came running at me, her jacket flying in the air and landing on the floor. I put down the box containing the few items I’d brought back to the UK, and I hugged Mum, lifting her off the floor. My sister, Karen, tears streaming down her face, joined the hug fest. And finally Dad.

In Dad’s Ford Mondeo we travelled to Karen’s flat in Fulham, London. I looked at this blog online for the first time. I posted a blog. Your comments made me smile. At Karen’s, I was inreviewed by a documentary maker who began to record my return to society. I met my sister’s husband, a tall and handsome photographer, who had recently survived an attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan. At night, we went out for an Indian meal, and I was still eating fifteen minutes after everyone else had stopped.

The next day, after doing two BBC radio interviews, we travelled home on the motorway system. The journey took five hours.

Seeing my hometown and hearing the accents of the people in a fish and chips place brought back all kinds of memories. I felt as if I were in a dream. Seeing inside my parents’ home brought back even more memories. I ate, went on the computer, and tried to sleep. But the cold made it hard to get to sleep even though I wore socks, a beanie, and a dressing gown, and I was buried under two fifteen-tog duvets in a room with the radiator on. My head trembled and my ears felt as if they had turned to ice. Allergies started, and I only slept for a few hours, making my vision worse.

The next morning my parents took me on a shopping spree at ASDA Wal-Mart. I loaded up on fruit, nuts, cheese, bread and beans. I haven’t stopped eating since I arrived home; it’s as if my body knows there is food available. The evening meals cooked by my parents seem to be coming from food heaven.

Claudia called and wished me good luck. She has a boyfriend now. My best friend from my hometown, “Hammy” stopped by with a bottle of Lanson champagne. Hammy and I used to copy Miami Vice fashions in the eighties, including wearing pink tops, white pants, and no socks. He offered to make me a key to his flat and to hook me up with some of the local nymphomaniacs. Hammy looked healthy and I enjoyed our talks.

I managed thirteen hours of sleep that night. My moods have been mostly up, but interspersed with tiredness. My mum is upset with all of the time I’m spending on the computer. I have begun the long task of editing the blog.

I’m happy to be home, and I feel no urge to sneak back into America. I’m enjoying concentrating on my literary projects, and listening to some tapes from The Teaching Company, a course called “Classics of Russian Literature”.

I’m going to be seeing plenty more of my family and friends over Christmas, including Aunt Lily and her numerous descendants.

More details of how I’ve been doing since arriving home are available at Mum’s blog:

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
20 Dec 07

The Royo Romance (20)

Click here for Part 19A.
Recently received from Royo Girl:

I had no idea that you were back in England until I by chance wandered on to your blog page. My reaction was interesting to say the least and took me completely by surprise. If I gave this more thought, I probably wouldn't tell you, but I am just going to go ahead and tell you. I was at work when I was reading it and was shocked that I didn't know you were already there. Shock quickly turned into sadness and I was actually crying. I was and am selfishly sad that you were not in the states for me to go visit. I had sincerely wished that our last visit could have been more personal than through glass and that I only received 45 mins. I was down for the rest of the ENTIRE morning. Although I am happy that you are now a free man and are with your family, I wish that you were here and I could celebrate your new found freedom with you. Unfortunately I can not and will have to be content to write you and hopefully, talk to you. Speaking of which, I have a calling card and would LOVE to call you. You have my number, but I do not have a number to call you on. Would you give me one so I can or do I have to wait until you have your own mobile? Let me know ASAP and I will call you tomorrow morning. I MISS YOU

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

18 Dec 07

Podcast of Interview

Here is another interview I did recently. The interview begins seven minutes into this broadcast. It can be downloaded to your PC as a podcast or listened to as is.

Pods and Blogs

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
17 Dec 07

Homecoming (Part 1)

"Attwood, roll your mattress and bedding up. You're being deported," a guard yelled shortly after breakfast.
Another guard escorted me to Property to collect the release clothes my mother had mailed from England.
I spent the morning in a holding cell talking with some Mexicans who barely spoke any English. Around noon we were cuffed, leg shackled and belly chained.
Instead of opening up the entire bus, a redneck cramped me and dozens of Mexicans, some just teenagers, into a small front section. Many of them were drug criminals. They seemed fascinated when I explained I was an Englishman arrested in America for Ecstasy - las tachas. They asked me to ask the guard where we were going. The guard said it was none of our business. Leg cramps set in, and I had to stand up from time to time. The bus parked at a small airport near Phoenix.
"The plane isn't here yet," a guard said.
"It must have been delayed."
Ignoring our requests to use the toilet and be fed, the guards left us in the bus with no fresh air.

Hours later, I boarded the first "con-air" plane. Still in chains, we were seated in the middle rows. Guards filled the rows in front of us and behind. But they did not sit down. The ones in front turned around and glowered at us. The ones behind formed a second wall of eyes.
"You'll be offered the bathroom when we're in the air," one said.
Speeding up for take off, the plane's alarm sounded. The pilot hit the brakes.
We spent an hour on the plane, awaiting repairs. Vans arrived. They squeezed so many of us into each van, there was less room to move than in the bus earlier. Compressed into a row, I inhaled my neighbours' odours. It became hot and hard to breathe.
"If it's not repaired soon, we're gonna take you back to Florence, and we'll have to reschedule everything all over."
"I have a flight I've got to get in L.A.," I said.
"You're not gonna make it."
A tremor of anxiety shot through my body.
The guard made eyes at porn downloads on his phone, and ranted at guards passing by about having to work late.

It was getting on for nine when we reboarded. Some of the Mexicans had never flown before. They couldn't understand why they were being sent to California to be deported when they had been caught crossing into Arizona.
The plane zigzagged across California picking up Mexicans. The guards continued to lord it over us. Some of them praised Sheriff Joe Arpaio for doing such a wonderful job. I wanted to speak up about the conditions I had experienced at Arpaio's jails, then I thought better of it.
In the small hours, the plane landed near L.A.. The guards escorted me and an Asian-looking Australian to a van. In a lisp, the Australian explained he had no family or help in Australia, and he had no idea how he was going to survive. I slid around in the back of the van, trying to ignore the nagging pain of the cuffs and chains.

There was nowhere to sleep in the huge holding tank at the detention centre in L.A.. There I met Bo Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish businessman who had crashed a $1.5 million Ferrari Enzo into a pole in Malibu. He mocked the media reports that he was driving at 162 miles per hour. A big deal had been made out of a traffic accident, he claimed, because players in the local justice system were after his money. He said he had made millions from a video-game company, that he often stayed in London, and I was welcome to visit him there.
Whether they wanted to hear it or not, most of the detainees were being told the life story of an Argentinian. He had the physique of a wrestler, and his voice filled the room. He paced as he spoke: "I'm a personal trainer. My clients pay me hundreds of dollars an hour. They're famous people: actors, supermodels, artists. My girlfriend's a supermodel. She's six foot, and has perfect breasts - she paid one of Hollywood's top surgeon's for them. She's not fake like most of the women in L.A.. She's so kind, she always stops to help homeless people, and she makes me stop for them too. She's great in bed. She wakes me up every day with oral sex. She's the only one who understands me. She's giving up her career and family ties to move to Argentina to be with me, to come and marry me. What does that say about how much she loves me?"
His monologue lasted for hours. When I grew bored of it, I would go and pace at the other end of the room, and struggle to tune his voice out. And when I got bored of pacing, I would come and listen to him again, even going so far as to fake enthusiasm when his eyes, enthusiastic and bloodshot, met mine.

Shortly before noon, an officer transported the Argentinian and me to the airport.
"I've waited so long for this. I'm so excited. It's such a long flight to Argentina, but I just don't care. I'm free. I'm gonna see my family. I'm so happy." The look on his face said, If I wasn't in chains right now I would be hugging and kissing you.
The officer went inside the airport and returned shaking his head: “Your flights aren’t authorized. I’m taking you back to the holding tank. You’ll have to reschedule.”
I almost threw up.
“What do you mean?” the Argentinian asked, panic rising in his voice.
"I can't give you any more information."
Getting angry, he said, "What do you mean you can't give any more information? Are you saying I'm not going home? Answer me. Damn it!" He banged on the divide.
The guard ignored him.
"Do you know how long it takes to reschedule?" He turned to me, his face a picture of devastation.
"No," I said.
"It takes three weeks to reschedule - three weeks! Can you imagine having to spend three more weeks at these jails? This is one of the worst days of my life. I thought I was out of the system. I thought I was going home. I'm fucked. I can't believe this is happening to me.”
"Maybe he can tell us more when we get back to the detention center. The paperwork probably just got messed up somehow, and it'll get fixed."
"But my flight is in one hour. It'll be missed. I'm not going home. It's all got to be rescheduled. My girlfriend has flown to Argentina to meet me. Oh, God, how can this be happeneing to me?" He prayed. Every now and then he made the sign of the cross. Tears flowed as he entered the building. "I know I can't smoke in this building and you're not allowed to give me a cigarette, but please, please, give me a cigarette. I really need a cigarette right now."
"This is a federal building. We can't do that, sir."
"I just really need a cigarette," he said, sobbing. "Please, anyone, someone, give me a cigarette. I just wanna cigarette."
The guards put him in an isolation cell.
On the way back to the airport, the guard explained I had almost lost my flight due to a clerical error. The Argentinian had lost his, and was being rescheduled.

For hours, I remained cuffed in a van next to a United Airlines plane.
"I've gotta pee," I said.
"You've been well behaved so far, you're not gonna try anything funny are you?"
"No. I'm not going to jeapardise my flight back home."
"I'll take you then."
In the restroom, he said, "You pee first, then I'm gonna chain you to the rail in that toilet while I pee, so you can't escape."

An hour later, he said, "It's time. I'm gonna put you on the plane first so you don't scare the passengers. One time, I tried to put this big scary guy on the plane and the captain said, 'No way am I allowing him on my plane.' He had to be rescheduled."
There's still a chance I may be rejected and rescheduled, I thought, and said, "Tell them I'm a former stockbroker, and perhaps they'll be less frightened."
"Let's get your cuffs off then."

At the top of the stairs I was received by some of the crew.
"I'm Jonathan. If you need anything at all, Mr. Attwood, just ask for me," he said in a London accent.
"Angela will show you where your seat is. Have a great flight, Mr. Attwood."
The passengers began to board. An attractive woman with tribal tattoos sat close by. I appreciated her perfume. Afraid of looking weird, I avoided looking at people. Then I figured that by not looking at people, I probably looked even weirder.
"Can I use the restroom?" I asked, and immediately felt stupid for seeking permission.
"The restroom is right there," an air hostess said, her face crinkled with amusement.
Taking off, I thought, You are free at last, free at last.
The flight went smoothly although I was convinced it was going to crash the whole way home. To take my mind off the crash, I watched five mindless movies.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
26 Nov 07

From Xena (Letter 1)

Dear Mr and Mrs Attwood

Hi, This is Xena. I hope this letter gets to you before Shaun does. I am sending a picture so he can remember me. I hope you like the pose. I want, and pray that your son accomplishes all that he sets out to do. He has a great mind. I am sure he inherited it from you two. He is such a good friend to me. I am going to miss him greatly. I already do!

Before I met him, I had not thought of, or believed in a larger spectrum of life than the one I was living. Prison has a way of robbing a person of self-identity. My identity although more lustrous than most others, was bland until I met your son. He has a knack with people like me, in surfacing qualities we knew not we had. Of this, I am so very grateful!

Keep a tight leash on him for a while. Prison time changes a person from normal thinking. He does need to readjust.

My love goes out to you.


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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
11 Sep 07

On Shanks (Part 1)

The person I interviewed for this blog asked to remain anonymous, and asked that I post it after my release, as he feared the information he provided could be deemed “a threat to the security of the institution.”

“What is a shank?” I asked.
“Any kind of blade or stabbing instrument. Used for slicing or stabbing. You make them differently depending on the purpose.”
“Speaking of purposes: is using a shank the most common method of killing someone in prison?”
“Yes, for killing staff and prisoners.”
“If the purpose is killing someone, what kind of shank is generally used?”
“You base it on what they call an Arkansas toothpick.”
“Which is?”
“An old-style bowie knife (named after Jim Bowie). It’s a long thin double-edged blade, usually six to nine inches long, and it has a handle on it so the whole thing is about twelve to eighteen inches long.”
“How do prisoners obtain shanks?”
“They find the metal”
“From where?”
“From pieces of tables or chairs or anywhere there is metal. Years ago they would use dental floss and Ajax and a little water and they would cut sections from their metal bunks. You get the Ajax wet, make a paste out of it, apply it to the metal, and hold the dental floss and go back and forth with it on the Ajax, and it goes through the metal like a saw. It’s a slow process but it’s not like you’ve got anything other than time on your hands.”
“What other ways to make shanks are there?”
“I’ve seen them made out of TP [toilet paper] and glue, or newspaper and glue, or notepaper and glue.”
“So someone could kill me in here using a paper shank?”
“They’re purely for stabbing.”
“It’s weird to think that someone could kill me with a piece of paper.”
“They have metal tips. If somebody is coming at you with a shank specifically for stabbing with, you know they are serious.”
“Out to kill you?”
“That would be their only purpose”
“How exactly is a paper shank made?”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

14 Nov 07

Documentary & Interviews

Your comments and outpouring of affection continue to overwhelm me. Thanks everyone!
There’s been no quiet time for me so far (not that I deserve any) as yesterday filming began for a documentary about my adjustment from prison back to UK society and today I was lucky enough to do two radio interviews for the BBC. Here’s a link to one of the interviews:

iPM with Eddie Mair

The interview is being aired on Radio 4.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
13 Dec 07

I'm free!

This is Jon/Shaun.
I can't thank you enough for all of your comments and support over the years. My prison journey is finally at an end! I'm at my sister's flat in Fulham, London. Tomorrow, I'm heading for my parents' house in Cheshire. Tonight I'm being treated to Indian food with my family, and I hope to get a good night's sleep after several harrowing days spent in transportation by ICE (no food, sleep, showers, etc).
Soon I intend to post the blogs On Shanks, and Two Tonys On Jesus Christ.
Much love. Talk to you soon.
STOP PRESS 12 Dec 07

Jon was transferred from Phoenix to a holding centre in LA this morning, waiting for flight to UK.

Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
18 Nov 07

Release (8) letters to parents

Spent the morning rereading the Resettlement Handbook issued by Prisoners Abroad. On page 5 is a quote:

"One thing where Prisoners Abroad may have fallen down, they should make it clearer to people before their release and warn them it’s not going to be easy. Especially for people who’ve been away for so long. England is a foreign country to me."
I’ve often wondered whether England will seem like a foreign country because I’ve been away for over 16 years. When I see things and people in my hometown that are familiar, what kinds of memories and associations will be triggered? In my mind, I sometimes try and age the faces of people I haven’t seen for years, and then doubt my accuracy and visualise the faces much older and younger than my estimates. These faces include those of friends, teachers, school bullies (how would an ex school bully come across after you have been living with and befriended by assorted murderers?), and girls I had crushes on in my schooldays. I don’t imagine the faces of family members as aged so much as I’ve seen most of them on photos, and you’ve both aged well in spite of all the worries I’ve put on you.

I also wonder how my hometown has developed, whether the old shops and pubs still exist or have fallen foul to globalisation. We didn’t even have a McDonalds when I left. I remember you driving us seven miles for strawberry milkshakes, but I think you told me you now have two McDonalds and a KFC.

Back in the PA Handbook, Chapter 8 is titled "Welcome Home?" It touches on your pet worry, Mum: adjusting.

"You may have been away for so long that you feel totally disorientated and out of touch with life in the UK."
Yes, that is true, but at heart I am an adventurer. I see the unfamiliar acting as a stimulus. Look how excited I was coming to America virtually penniless. Challenges trigger my industriousness. In terms of the game of Snakes & Ladders, I was near the end of the board, complacency and wildness set in, and I slipped down a massive snake that’s taken me back almost to the square on which the game starts. And now I get to play the game all over again but with the knowledge and maturity I’ve acquired.

Chapter 8 includes "Change of roles."

"Parents of children who are now grown-up may have found that they have resumed a responsibility for their son or daughter’s welfare that they have not had for many years." Remember how I mocked Cliff in Cheers for being so old and living with his mother? See the karma I created. I know a bonding time is in order and it’ll be fun living with you for a while, but I hope to find the means to not be a burden to you and to get my own place at some point, perhaps in the latter half of the first year or in the second depending on how things turn out.

The handbook continues with a list of things that can help:

"...taking it slowly, allowing time to get reacquainted, not expecting it to be the same as before, some privacy and peace, honesty and openness."
They all make sense. If, like Sartre claimed, hell is other people (or at least other people you wouldn't choose to be around), then going from being constantly surrounded by people, including some loud people, to the peacefulness of your garage will be like going from Hades to the Elysian Fields. Oh, to wake up whenever I want to! But will Mum require I make my bed as tidily as ADC regulations require during morning cell inspections? Cells must be in compliance (including beds made) by 7:30am.

"Some returning prisoners have found being in a small room difficult; others find opening and shutting doors strange; many find it hard to get used to everyday life with its bills and worries. Most experience feelings of vulnerability, isolation and feeling like a stranger." Regarding the latter sentence: I’ve always felt like an alien and I’ve learned to live with such thoughts. I like isolation, that’s why, unlike most prisoners, I’m perfectly relaxed during lockdowns or periods of solitary confinement. The prisoners joke that I’m the only one on the yard rooting for lockdowns. Regarding the former sentence: I won’t know how I really feel about getting used to such things until I’m confronted by them. I imagine it will be strange but also exhilarating.

Only two more days.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

17 Nov 07

Release (7) letters to parents

A, who has been in prison since the 70s stopped by. His seventy-year old mum came from Florida to visit him today. The staff denied her entrance citing her low-cut blouse. His quick-thinking mum shuffled to the bathroom, removed her blouse and threw it into a trashcan. She buttoned up her jacket so nothing could be seen cleavagewise that may have excited the prisoners, and she was allowed in.

In the tradition of prisoners stopping by, chatting a while, and then requesting an item of my personal property that I’ll no longer need, A. asked for my belt. How could I refuse when he couched the request in terms of him needing a better belt than the decrepit one he was wearing for the special visit scheduled with Mum this Tuesday.

I read
Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck today and laughed hard. I like how tuned in he was to the music of the ordinary. Almost as good as Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson which I urge you to read. I’m slacking on The Goodfather Returns as it isn't as gripping as The Godfather.

The meal I will miss most from here is the stuffed bell pepper. It’s stuffed with rice, cheese, celery and other ingredients I can’t remember. I just had four portions given to me by prisoners, who aren’t eating much in the chow hall because today is a food-visit day. Maybe you could find a recipe on the Internet, Mum.

Only three more days.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
16 Nov 07

Release (6) letters to parents

10:45 (Lockdown for count)

Prisoners and guards are asking me why I’m still here, aware that Immigration should have picked me up today. I have to explain that they’re coming on 20th. Only four more days.

Most days I read and write in-between, eating, showering, teaching yoga and working out. This morning I spent two hours taking notes as Fat Boy dictated the rest of the short story "A Homey Who Finds Jesus." Fat Boy was involved in the kidnapping and murder (shot point blank with a shotgun before being set on fire) of another youngster.

Being able to write uninterrupted in your garage is one of things I’m most excited about – not to mention the roast potatoes and chocolate orange you’ll feed me to boost my brainpower.

Prisoners are saying I’m the luckiest man here because the whole yard is going to be moved to dorms in two weeks’ time. I’m just getting out in time. Prisoners are mad at the prospect of being warehoused. The deputy warden has warned, “that any vandalism will not be tolerated.” The heads of each race and their lackeys are spreading the word that anyone who makes noise in the dorms between 9pm and 9am will be smashed and rolled up. It’s uncanny that I’m getting released just before the coming disruption. There’s a rumour that the hardcore at Yard 4 are going to go off and refuse to move. Apparently some of the dorm cubicles have double bunks. Ouch!
Iron Man said the last time he was in a dorm he would get up and see the spectacle of Slingblade giggling to himself and masturbating on his bunk at 5am.

The fondest goodbye I received thus far today came from Zack (one of my
yoga students): “Piss off back to Wales you bloody Welsh prick.”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
15 Nov 07

Release (5) letters to parents

I spent the eve of the day I was supposed to be getting out talking to friends at Yard 4. During field rec I went down there and paced back and forth outside of Yard 4’s perimeter fence. While we talked, guards yelled, "Keep moving along the track Yard 1.” Yard 1 is not supposed to talk to Yard 4 (as a drug-transaction-prevention measure).

For most of the time I talked to Jack whose mentorship resulted in my first short story "Pee Tested" being submitted to Writer’s Digest and winning the Honorable Mention that raised my confidence and eventually led to this year’s spurt of short story writing. Meeting Jack has been a privilege and an honour, and I intend to help him in any way I can. We hope to co-write a serial-killer novel. I’ve barely blogged anything about him, but behind the scenes he’s been a massive influence on my development as a person and a writer. It’ tragic that such a brilliant mind is stuck in here. I wish I could help him get out, but he has four natural life sentences. I feel a pang, a strange hurt leaving him behind.

I said goodbye to Shane too. How rough he had it in his formative years, and how well he’s turned out. I hope he sticks with blogging. He has a following now, and it’s great that he’s experiencing the feedback and fun of blogging that I’ve experienced. He’ll be out in a few years.

Slingblade trundled across Yard 4, and I yelled, but he didn’t respond. I wanted to say goodbye, and to assure him I’d try to get some organisation or other interested in helping him get out. He should have been released two or three years ago.

Slope came to the fence, happy after reading the latest comments on his Slope and Xena blogs, “I think your readers are starting to like me a little bit. Maybe 'cause I’m a little rough around the edges.”
“And then some!” I said, “or as we say in England: you’re as rough as a bear’s arse.” I had to re-pronounce bear’s arse three times before he understood what I’d said. He replied with a string of hillbilly obscenities that I could barely understand. He’s got a big heart, and I hope he does well if he gets out on parole.

Although Two Tonys wasn’t there, some huge Chicano came to the fence and said, “Hey, do you write to Two Tonys?”
“Yes. I will be. Why?”
“Tell him Chicano Bullet sends his love.”

And no Xena to say goodbye to. Word is Xena flashed the wasp at the suicide prevention aide working the hole, traumatising said aide.

There’s no field rec until Tuesday now, so there won’t be another chance to say goodbye to anyone else on Yard 4.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
14 Nov 07

Release (4) letters to parents

Four More Days

It’s just after lunch. No sooner had I hid a cheese sandwich smuggled back from the chow hall in my a/c vent and a banana (traded to me by a Jewish-diet-receiving Chicano gangster for some sugar and jelly) in my food-smuggling jacket, than Officer A, who’s been on the rampage all week searching cells and doling out disciplinary tickets, stopped at my door.
“Did you get your release sorted out?” she asked.
“Yeah. It’s set for Tuesday not Friday though. I’ve got to do an extra four days.”
“That’s four more days to enjoy our delicious food, to think what put you in prison so you don’t come back, and to enjoy the company of your friends here.”
Kat, in line for CO3 H’s office, turned around and said, “Oo yeah! Jon,” and wiggled his body.
Looking at Kat, Officer A said, “There you go, Jon.”
“Indeed,” I said.
“At least you’re not in a prison in England, I imagine they’re worse.”
“Some of them are like dungeons built centuries ago. They cut prisoners heads off and put them on sticks outside the prisons.”
“They don’t still do that do they?”
“No,” I said, and laughed. “But they did back in the old days.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Four more days is no biggie,” I said.
“That’s four more days of his life he’s never gonna get back,” a prisoner yelled.
“At least it’s not four more years,” the guard said.
“I think I’ll survive,” I said.
When the guard left, Kat entered my cell and said, “With
Xena in the hole, I’ll be stopping by tonight to discuss this parting kiss with you.”
Before I could object, Kat spun on his heels and glided away down the run.

Just before the swing shift arrived, the prisoners made an attempt to get rid of Officer A (her offences now include going into cells when the occupants are absent and reading personal mail). Apparently, she went walking the runs while leaving the control-room door open – a major security violation, as from the control room all of the cells and gates can be opened. The open door was swiftly brought to the attention of CO3 H, who signed a kite written by the prisoners describing the incident, intended to be read by the Captain. However, full of themselves for being about to get one up on Officer A, the prisoners went and bragged about it to her partner, Officer M. Before the kite had reached the Captain, the plot unfolded, and Officer A fessed up to the Captain and perhaps secured her position and reign of tyranny here. Officer A will probably start retaliating tomorrow with more cell searches, tickets, and confiscation of property.
“She’ll be goin’ on a killin’ mission tomorrow,” sighed my neighbour, Black Nine.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
14 Nov 07

Release (3) letters to parents

I do appreciate all of your blog slog, and that you've tempered some of my excesses and perversions with your editing skills. My mind is such that my prose is prone to going beyond left field, not as much as it used to, but still it manages to go there somehow and I don't even notice it at the time. You've given so much of your time, typing it up, editing and dealing with my emails, what will you do when I'm in charge? I understand your qualms about handing it over. It's safe with me. Honest! Ha! Ha!

Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
13 Nov 07

Release (2) letters to parents

Today has been a day of conflicting emotions. Thanks for putting in the calls necessary to get the wheels of bureaucracy turning. I am insanely happy that my release was finally confirmed this afternoon, and I have been scheduled to be picked up by Immigration this Friday. This morning C03 H. told me, “Your release is confirmed,” at which point my heart leaped, and he then added, “but you’re not actually down as being scheduled for release,” at which point my heart sank again. Getting released isn’t easy.

The prisoners who knew I wasn’t scheduled for release (because word came back from the prisoner clerks privy to these things) have been placing bets on whether or not my release would go through and what day they expected me to get out or whether I’d be stuck here until my next release date. Some still doubt I’ll get out on Friday. Others have been shaking my hand offering congratulations and asking for my mailing address in England. A few people who have barely ever talked to me before, have come to my cell, struck up a conversation, and then at the end of it have asked me something like, “By the way, have you decided who you are going to give your sunglasses to when you leave?”
Departing prisoners shower their friends and neighbours with gifts in the form of personal property before they leave. Everything from my orange sportswear down to my pencil sharpener must go. People started asking me months ago. The first was
Too Tall after my tumbler and lid, an item that has served me well for smuggling meals out of the chow hall (when I’ve had to postpone eating due to my work-outs with Iron Man). Then came Red after my chess set, and numerous people after my dictionaries.
Part of me, although my soul is full of joy, still doesn’t believe I am about to leave this prison. That part of me will not be satisfied until the guards in the control room tell me to roll up. Upon hearing those winged words and having that last bit of doubt dismissed, I’m sure my excitement will ratchet up several levels above how I’m feeling right now.

I’m going to miss my friends on Yard 1.
Weird Al’s sarcasm. Working out with Iron Man – a truly strong man who’s added some new dimensions to my life. I’ll miss Xena, who is in the hole and out of reach of the parting kiss some of the blog readers were hoping for. Kat came by yesterday and while shaving my back suggested we go one further than what had been proposed with Xena. Don’t worry, I didn’t, as Xena likes to say, "pitch a trouser tent." Almost six years in now and I’ve not (like Frankie predicted I would at the five year mark) gone with any cheetos.

Weird Al just came in and said CO3 H wants to see me.
“I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first?” CO3 H said.
“The bad,” I said, my heart sinking again.
“You are not getting out on the 16th.”
“What?” Panic setting in now.
“The good news is that you’re getting out on the 20th. Immigration needed seven days notice, the 16th only allowed for four.”
“Well, at least I am getting out. I guess I can hang out for another four days.”

Do you see how things change by the minute around here? It’s madness. Anyway, it’ll give me a little longer with my friends here, and the 20th will arrive in no time at all. It’ll also give me a chance to finish the book I just started: Mario Puzo’s
The Godfather Returns.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
8 Nov 07

Release (1) letters to parents

It's hard not being able to phone you just when I need to keep you up to date with my release. Luckily I can phone Barry or Sue-O to email you messages. I've applied to get the 520 phone number back on the list, but I'm hoping to be out of Santa Rita before they process my request, in which case I'll be calling you on the 520 number from Immigration.

I saw the counselor yesterday and the day before, and he said that my release has not been processed at this unit yet according to his computer screen. Apparently, Time Comp does its thing, then sends the release package here, and these people have to process it. Other prisoners are telling me to have someone call down here, so it gets done. I’m going to e-mail you the info via Sue-O.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

07 Nov 07

Dear Mum & Dad

In a letter from Jon:

T-Bone’s parting advice moved me greatly, especially when he emphasised how I need to talk to you two when I get home and to get to know more about you as human beings. I agree with him wholeheartedly. Some talks are in order. He also pointed out that Mum’s stress over me adjusting to freedom is grounded in love. I know this, but I don’t want you, Mum, to wear yourself out with worry. I’ve caused you enough heartbreak, and couldn’t be more ashamed of the hurt I’ve caused you. I want to do whatever I can to lessen your burden.

I'm concerned about Mum’s dreams of me with drugged-up eyes. The partying I did produced a disaster for all of us. It did not produce the endless fun I’d imagined. It produced imprisonment and a chain reaction of emotional damage to the people who love me the most. There’s no way I can allow the set of circumstances that led to that disaster to ever happen again. I did drugs because I felt inadequate. I was unhappy with my sober self and drugs brought out an alter ego that attracted people like crazy. This persona took over because I lacked the strength of character to be myself. That’s not the case anymore. My character has strengthened, and I’ve become who I am. I no longer feel the need to impress people by acting like a loon. I am happy with who I’ve become. And this transformation is probably the biggest benefit I’ve received from incarceration, and the reason I no longer feel that I need to take drugs to compensate for something I lack in a natural state.

It’s my hope that your feelings of worry will be assuaged if you try focussing not on my past, but on the person I have become, the real me, the me that’s entering the world confident he will not repeat the past disaster, or let anything prevent him from pursuing a positive, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

With love, Jon

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood