30 Mar 09

Mentored (Part 3)

Thanks to the Koestler Trust, I am now being mentored by Sally Hinchcliffe, a published author with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London, taught by Julia Bell and Russell Celyn Jones.

After reading chapters 4 to 6 of the draft of my book, Green Bologna and Pink Boxers, Sally offered this advice:

Choreography and timing. Make it clear to the reader how much time is passing and where you are. Try to remember the layout of the jail is confusing to the uninitiated. For example, you wrote, “I parked my rolled-up mattress by the sliding door.” This needs more description. Where are you? You need to place your characters and yourself in physical situations.

Consider stepping back at some point and describing how the jail works. Such as the layout, terminology, even the fact that it’s for prisoners on remand. Now that your disorientation stage is out of the way, give the reader some clues.

There is a much better sense of yourself in these chapters, but be careful of editorialising. Tell us what you feel, but don’t tell us what to think. For example, you wrote, “‘OK,’ I said, worriedly trying to digest all of this advice that might save me from violence” That might save me from violence isn’t necessary because you need to allow the reader to know what to think.

Most of Chapter 4 is excellent. Nice pace. Well described. But I have a few quibbles with the prose. The end sort of dribbles off with the prisoner showing you the ants coming out of his wall where he sleeps. I’m not sure what that adds. I would be inclined to jump straight to the lockdown time. Ending a sort of “settling-in” episode on a downbeat, contemplative note.

Chapter 5 in comparison feels quite patchy. It has a stop-start rhythm. I would like to see it told as a more continuous story. For example, setting up the situation (crystal-meth glut), and then having the characters succumb to paranoia one by one, ending with the violence of the guards. As it stands, it ends with a bit of a whimper. The goon squad have come in, but after that it sounds like a Girls Scouts outing as you get your laundry changed out. Make the goon squad more ominous.

In general, think of each chapter as a short story to get the narrative flowing better. Then the thread and the narrative arc become clearer.

Each chapter has a clear theme, which is good. In general these three chapters feel solid and well realised, and would fit in well to the book however you slant it. Good stuff.

Sally recommended I read The War Against Cliché by Martin Amis. It’s a book of literary criticism, containing pieces on some of my favourite authors such as Tom Wolfe and Don DeLillo. Here’s Amis decorticating Hannibal by Thomas Harris:

Following the riot of paceless implausibilities that serves as the book’s climax, Hannibal and Clarice ecstatically elide. What is the more incredible, at this point: that Clarice should actually go off with the murdering bastard or that Hannibal would cross the street for such a charmless little rube? (It’s hard to think what woman would be capable of diverting Hannibal for more than five seconds. Mata Hari? Baroness Orczy? Catherine the Great?
‘Look at this crowd,’ Harris writes, ‘scruffy, squinty, angry, egg-bound, truly of the resinous heart.’ Vintage Harris: what does ‘of the resinous heart’ mean, truly, and what does ‘egg-bound’ ever think it means?

And for those of you following the progression of the opening page of Green Bologna and Pink Boxers, here’s the latest version I’ve asked Sally to breathe her fire on.

“Tempe Police Department! We have a warrant! Open the door!”
The stock quotes flickering on the computer screen lost all importance as I rushed to the peephole – it was blacked out. Boots thudded up the outdoor stairs to our Scottsdale apartment, setting my nerves further on edge.
Bang, bang, bang, bang!
Wearing only boxer shorts, I dashed to the bedroom. “Claudia, wake up! It’s the cops!”
“Tempe Police Department! Open the door!”
Claudia scrambled from the California king, her blond hair tousled. “What should we do?” she asked, anxiously fixing her pink pyjamas.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!
“Open the door!”
We searched each other’s faces.
“Let’s open it,” I said, not wanting to make matters worse. With Claudia clinging to my arm, I was hastening to let them in when – boom! – the door leaped off its hinges.
Big men in black fatigues and ballistic armour blitzed through the doorframe, aiming their steel at us. Afraid of being shot by some trigger-happy rookie, I froze, terror-struck. I could only gape as they converted my living room into a scene from a war movie.
“Tempe Police Department! Get on the fucking ground now!”
“Police! Police! On your bellies now!”
“Hands above your heads!”
“Don’t fucking move!”
As I dropped to the floor, they fell upon me. There was a beating in my chest as if I had more than one heart. Crushed by hands, elbows, knees and boots, I could barely breathe. Cold steel snapped around my wrists. I was hoisted like a puppet onto my feet. As they yanked Claudia up by the cuffs, she pinched her eyes shut; when she opened them, tears spilled out.

Click here to read Mentored Part 2.

Click here to read Mentored Part 4.

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Shaun P. Attwood
26 March 09

Bad Weather (by Two Tonys)

Two Tonys - A whacker of men and Mafia associate serving multiple life sentences for murders and violent crimes. Left bodies from Tucson to Alaska, but claims all his victims "had it coming." Recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and is in chemotherapy fighting to prolong his life.

When I came down to prison in 1980, my crime partner was Big Steve, an overgrown young kid 10 years my junior. He was putting in some work with me on the streets. Pretty heavy stuff. But when we both got busted and came to prison, the roles did a reverse. He’s now a big shot caller with the white-boy clique. He looks out for me. I’m low profile, and he knows we’ll both be back on the streets some day.

Now I meet this guy called Bad Weather out of Nevada. Nice Guy. Hustler. Smart. At times too smart for his own good, as we shall see.
I come out to rec on a cold winter morning, and as all the prisoners file out, I notice these three young guys trying to be nonchalant as they dig up an area I know some shanks are buried. As they unearth them, I stroll up to them, and ask them what’s up. Now they’re young. Maybe 19 to 20 years old. They’re eager to make names for themselves.
The white-boy clique is set up so the older members can send the youngsters on missions to evaluate how they perform. Which will factor into their acceptance in the pack.
So these kids, with nostrils flaring, are ready for blood. They want to show what great killers they are, that their hearts are committed to murder. Now not to sound vain, but they know who I am and that I deserve an answer
One of them says, “We’re taking out Bad Weather this morning.”
I ask, “Who says so?”
They say an older white named Roy Boy had called the hit so they could get their hands bloody.
I tell them to hold off and that I’ll get back to them.

So I go to my crime partner, Big Steve. His big ass is over in this shack we had for drinking coffee. I ask him to step over with me, so we can talk.
I say, “Hey, these fucking nut cakes are getting set up to kill Bad Weather. I’d like to know what he’s done. Roy Boy called the shot.”
Well, upon that Steve’s nostrils flare because #1 no one is supposed to call a shot without several nods and #2 Steve hated Roy Boy as most did.
About that time, Bad Weather shows up.
Steve asks him to hang out in the shack for a few minutes, and then he asks a couple of guys to hang out with him.
Steve and me look for Roy Boy who’s not out yet. We see the three would-be killers and Steve tells them to put the shanks back in the soil and stand by.
Roy Boy walks out, and Steve and me go up to him.
Steve says, “Hey, Roy, you telling these youngsters to hit B.W.?”
Roy starts with some bullshit about a $50 debt for some smack. The bill is three months old and he’s tired of the stories and wants his money or his blood.
At this time I jump in with an “Excuse me” to Steve. I say to Roy Boy, “Look, B.W. ain’t perfect. There’s a lot of snake in him. We can all see that a mile away. If he got to you for $50 or $500, that’s on you. He’s a friend of mine and that makes him a friend of Steve’s, and he don’t get stabbed on the prison yard, specially by a pack who don’t even know what he’s about. So rethink your plan of action.”
Steve cuts in, and says this in his old low frog voice, “Hey, if you feel he has to die, then go kill him. He’s right over there by the shack. We’ll dig two of these shanks up, and you go at it one on one, but don’t even try to send a pack in on him.”
Roy backs up and says he doesn’t want to kill him, just scare him.
Steve says, “Oh, then go scare him.” And we turn and walk away, leaving Roy “Pootie Butt” Boy to reflect on his cowardice.

Now I saved that Bad Weather’s life, and I’m glad I did. We had a few fun years together. We were even cellies in SMU2 [a supermaximum prison] for a time. I never told him about that day. Why should I? It was over. Why put him on a paranoid trip or stir up more shit?
Now did Bad Weather go on to discover a cure for cancer or some great gift for humanity? No. But he was a damn good legal eagle [jailhouse lawyer] and smart as a whip. And I know he got a few guys’ cases overturned and they were freed. And perhaps, just perhaps, out of those freed guys, one of their grandchildren might discover a cure for cancer that would not have been possible without Two Tonys being on a prison yard one cold morning. Wild ain’t it, how my fucked-up mind works? Am I actually trying to claim my exploits as a rogue were for a cause?

Click here to read Two Tonys’ previous blog.

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Shaun P. Attwood
23 Mar 09

The Bite (by Lifer Renee)

Renee - She was only a teenager when she received a sixty-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. Fourteen years into her sentence, Renee is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

Just about every day in a women’s prison is filled with some kind of drama, tension, and/or violence.
A few days ago, while I was at work at 6:15 am, I overheard an officer’s radio: “I need an A Team response to Kitchen 27.” Static and heavy breathing. “I have two inmates fighting.”
Well there sets the tone for the day, I thought.
A few hours later, I was walking to the visitation area where we are allowed to take our breaks, and I noticed 24 Yard was locked down. Then an officer left the yard gate, escorting an inmate in handcuffs.
The woman around me immediately said.
“What’s going on?”
“Was someone fighting?”
“Can you see who it is?”
I said nothing because I knew nothing.
Then a second officer with a second inmate walked across the field.
God, that’s a long walk, I thought, remembering how I’d taken that walk many years ago.
Then a third officer appeared, escorting a third inmate.
This just got more interesting, I thought.
I finished out the rest of my day at work oblivious to the prison yard and the chaos running rampant. I walked onto the yard and things appeared normal. The mob scene in the smoking area. Women in orange standing on the runs, sitting on the stairs along Building 23. I went to the control box. “Can you take my room off of no access and open it?”
Why the guard stood there and looked at me like I’d spoken in Greek I do not know. “What did you say?”
Through my teeth, I said, “Open my door and take it off of no access!” I turned around and ran into my friend Cletis who can tell you just about anything that is happening or has happened on the yard.
“Friend, who was fighting?” I asked.
“That big black girl in the kitchen and some new girl. Did you hear what happened?”
“The black girl bit the new girl twice after beating her up, and told her, ‘Bitch, you don’t ever have to worry about getting any STD’s ’cause I’m HIV positive.’”
My jaw hit the ground. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do if someone intentionally infected me with HIV.
Cletis continued, “I asked some of the black girl’s friends if she’s really HIV positive or if she was just trying to scare the new girl. They all said it’s true. She is HIV positive.”

Click here to read Renee’s previous blog.

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Shaun P. Attwood
20 Mar 09

Question Time with Two Tonys

Two Tonys - A whacker of men and Mafia associate serving multiple life sentences for murders and violent crimes. Left bodies from Tucson to Alaska, but claims all his victims "had it coming." Recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and is in chemotherapy fighting to prolong his life.

George wrote:

I heard about you on the radio today, and read most of your blog entries. I must agree with the last comment, you definitely have an original angle being a murderer natural philosopher. The question is not whether you should continue to write, it is how deep can you write now that you are facing death? You're not the type to stop writing and I am looking forward to your next post.

Two Tonys responded:

How deep I can go with this is up in the air. It’s like that killer broad, Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham, first woman to be gassed in California’s death row. The hacks strapping her into the chair told her, “Don’t worry. You won’t feel a thing.” She replied, “How the fuck would you know?” Yeah, I can’t help but agree. I did help in cleaning up the earth’s gene pool. Yeah, scumbags, that’s what they were. I’m sure people say the same about me.

Gareth wrote:

Hey Two Tonys, I do wish you all the best in dealing with this bend in the river. You are clearly a man of strong character and ideals - whilst some would argue that, I believe you believed in everything you were doing in your past - we all choose our own world to live in and yours, whilst not aligned to mine, was your choice.

Two Tonys responded:

Thanks for the good wishes and the undeserved character ideals I seem to possess. I modestly agree with you on my character. I’ll put it up with anybody’s on a level playing field, all things considered. I made a lot of wrong decisions, some resulting in death for others. But as I always said, even before Chicago, they had it coming. We were all players in the game. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. The adrenaline flowed, excitement galore. My ideals were not up to standing a lot of times as I look back on my life. But as I look back, I do say people enjoyed my company. Many were apprehensive. Some just wanted to hang around for a few days, months or years. But it was my life. I was a junkie for fun and excitement. I guess I still am. But I don’t see too much of that stuff in my future.

Leigh wrote:

I wish you the best Two Tonys! Cancer is a tough battle but then I would say you're no stranger to tough. I hope you'll show them all and pull through.

Two Tonys responded:

Yeah, I think I’m as tough as the next guy. I’m no stranger to tough. This cancer is going to be tougher and will win. What choice do I have other than to develop a fuck-it-c’mon attitude? I hope I can hold on to it when the shit hits the fan. I like to think modern medicine will give me a hand. But it’s true, I’m scared Leigh.

Long Island wrote:

This is terrible news about Two Tonys. It saddens my heart greatly.

Two Tonys responded:

Don’t let this thing I got make your heart sad. I sort of deserve a little ass kicking.

Thanks for all of your wishes and thoughts. Keep in touch.


Two Tonys

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Shaun P. Attwood
17 Mar 09

The Dangers Involved with a Gay Cellmate (Part 3 by Warrior)

Warrior - Serving fourteen years for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Half Hispanic and Scottish-Irish with family still in Mexico. Brought up by a family steeped in drug commerce. He writes some of the best prison-fight stories on the Internet.

Then the drama began. “So you celled up with Sasha I see,” Chuco said.“Daniel you mean?” I replied.“Oh, my bad, Daniel,” he said sarcastically. “You know that’s a violation, right?”
“Violation? No. Tell me how?”
“Raza isn’t to cell with fags.”
“Check it out, homeboy. Are you plugged in?” [Connected to the gangs?]
“Nah, dog. I just hold it down for the run since the big homie [Mexican Mafia member] left. He left me in charge.”
“Check it out then. If you ain’t got a shield on your body [gang membership tattoo], you’re no one to call me and my actions into question. I have authority to pass, go and collect 200 [Warrior is in good standing with the gang] on my way north to S.M.U.. As fast as possible. If you have a problem, just let me know now. As far as my cellie, I don’t see any paperwork that says he’s in violation. Nor are their any Brothers here making any calls regarding him.”
Chuco gave me a dirty look. I’d made an enemy. I didn’t care though. Why I decided to stick up with the kid is beyond me. As you get older and wiser through experience, you have a more in-depth understanding and realize everyone deserves the right to live and be. Plus Chuco’a arrogance and ego just rubbed me the wrong way. Despite it all, we both knew I was in the right.
“I hear you, homeboy,” Chuco said. “I may not have authority over you, but I do as far as the run is concerned. When the opportunity is there, your cellie is gone.”
“Do what you must,” I replied.
I received the silent treatment the rest of rec. The tension was apparent.

Back in my cell, I ran down the incident at rec to Daniel. Unfortunately, I told him I was in no position to get involved with his issues. I told him he needed to make a decision as to what to do. Once again, I witnessed the fear in his eyes as he said he knew what he had to do.

A few days past, and I went to lockup visit. I came back and Daniel was gone. He decided to go into protective custody. He left a note saying thanks for not hurting him and explaining the whole dynamic. He promised to get his life together. I don’t know whether he did or not.
Later that day, I received a note from Chuco. More of an apology for coming across abrasive with a thank you for “running off the fag.” He said he didn’t care where my cellie went as long as he was gone.

Sometimes survival, moral values and community ideas will clash. In prison this happens more often that not. Depending on where you decide to lean on any given circumstance, there are always potential consequences.
For me, I try to lead and follow by character. I ask myself, How much character do I hold for myself and how much do I allow my environment to have? In the back of your mind you can’t help but wonder, Will I make it out of here one day? When you reach the end of the ride, only then do you know for sure that you were able to deal with it all.

Click here to read Part 2.

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Shaun P. Attwood
DOJ Finally Investigates Arpaio for Civil Rights Violations (by Dan Pochoda, Legal Director, ACLU of Arizona)

Yesterday (11 March 09), the Department of Justice sent a letter to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The letter began:

"This is to inform you that the United States Department of Justice is commencing an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office…" After years of skepticism about the "upside down" civil rights division in the past administration, it was a uniquely welcome moment.

The importance of this announcement cannot be underestimated for folks in Arizona, nor the level of disappointment that a failure to effectively follow through would engender. Arpaio, along with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and their allies in the Arizona legislature, have had free reign during the past five years to implement a reactionary agenda based on images of brown hordes ending the "American" way of life. In his obsessive quest for "illegals," Arpaio has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars literally terrorizing communities of color that consist overwhelmingly of hard-working persons — most U.S.citizens. As stated by one county supervisor, "if you have brown skin there is not anything you can do to not be stopped."

The past year we've seen the beginning of an effective resistance movement focusing on Arpaio and on abuses by other local law enforcement agencies throughout the country that are empowered to enforce federal immigration law. Activists, religious groups and a few public officials have taken stands in opposition to Arpaio's racist practices — an unpopular and at times risky position. Unfortunately, then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, now Homeland Security Chief, was not amongst these persons, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains deafeningly silent in the face of Arpaio's continuing human rights violations.

Yesterday's letter from the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ incorporates language from the complaint in the ongoing racial profiling litigation against Arpaio brought by the ACLU of Arizona, the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project and Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund with lead firm Steptoe & Johnson. The letter demonstrates that effective organizing and advocacy can result in local and national attention and criticism.

Arpaio's actions and the use of local law enforcement to unfairly target Latinos has become an overarching question of pragmatism versus principle. The response of the DOJ and ultimately ICE — and Congress — will reveal which path the new administration takes.

swine flu Tags: Arizona, Rescued, ACLU, Joe Arpaio, Sheriff Joe, immigration policy, Department of Justice, investigation (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions sswine flu

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Shaun P. Attwood
13 Mar 09

Question Time with Two Tonys

Two Tonys - A whacker of men and Mafia associate serving multiple life sentences for murders and violent crimes. Left bodies from Tucson to Alaska, but claims all his victims "had it coming." Recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and is in chemotherapy fighting to prolong his life.

Cat Eyes wrote:

For Two to T. I don't know what to say except isn't death a mandatory part of life? I've never been confronted to my own death only life so far and can't imagine what you are feeling, perhaps you might see it as an exit...you are after all getting out of prison just not the way you would have hoped. As we say in French when someone is going on a trip... Bon voyage. Make it a good one. I enjoyed discovering your character in Shaun's written words. These I suspect will be the most difficult yet fulfilling last months of your life because you are high on emotion. Be well. Love Cat Eyes

Two Tonys responded:

Cat Eyes,

I agree death is a part of life, and perhaps if I were sitting in a nice house watching grandchildren play, or in a mansion waiting for my young trophy wife to come down the stairs, so we can get in the Lamborghini to go to dinner, sure I’d worry about death, and who she will be loving after my death. But this old life I’m in is nothing like that.
To be real honest with you, the dying is not scary, it’s the suffering and pain of dying that worries me. I guess I’m a coward along those lines. Those whose lives I had to take went fast, adrenaline was flowing. They died in seconds. Now how long is a second? If you’re walking along the beach at sunset with Heidi Klum a second is over fast. But if your balls are on a hot grill, a second is a lifetime. We’ll find out as this thing in me progresses.

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Shaun P. Attwood
11 Mar 09

Guest Writer: Lifer David – The Justice League of America

David is serving life in prison in Texas.

In the county jail, we lived with a pack of youngsters we referred to as the Justice League of America. Young, heavily tattooed, absonant and ignorant. When the nurse came in the afternoon to pass out medication through the Plexiglas-windowed door to the pod, they’d strip down to their boxers, or worse, don sheets and blankets like 13th century capes to shield all but the nurse from their immorality, and fly, fly away to the door. Once there, they stood for twenty minutes or so, side by side, with their capes draped from raised and hooked elbows, and masturbated in front of her. The various reactions ranged from rage to encouragement, but the hunching movements of their draped backs was always the same, until the police stormed the scene, and the Justice League, very unsuperherolike, scampered back into the dark recesses from where they came. This unimaginable sequence of events was an almost daily ritual.

One day, an individual came to our pod with only hours to serve for traffic tickets. He arrived at 2:30pm, and was scheduled to eat dinner and be processed out by midnight. During this time, the Justice League was out and about, and when this individual, with the dull eyes of a mannequin, saw them masturbating, he followed their line of fire to the nurse passing out meds. I saw the gears in his head grinding against an immense force of immobility as he processed the opportunity at hand. Then he had his eureka moment, dropped his mattress on the floor, looked at the Justice League, pulled his pants down, looked at the nurse, then he raised his hand from his bare hip and…
I ran. I ran roaring with wild-eyed laughter to the partitioned set of bunks where I was housed, and told my roommates, who were perennial horseplayers, what was taking place in our pod. Oh how we laughed. This was long before I realized the evil of the situation.

Inmates who masturbate openly in front of females, but only do it sometimes, secretly and selectively, are referred to as in “the game,” as in the “jack game.” But those like the Justice League, and their animalian cousin, who do it regularly and openly, are referred to as “jack monsters.” On the surface, that’s a light-hearted term of endearment that brings to mind that cuddly blue beast, the Cookie Monster, and his boyish, innocent love for chocolate chip cookies.
But when you consider the female staff concerned, it is a form of rape. Not of touch, but of sight. The members of the Justice League were true monsters indeed.

Click here to read more from David at his blog Prison Proxy.

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Shaun P. Attwood
08 Mar 09

The Dangers Involved with a Gay Cellmate (Part 2 by Warrior)

Warrior - Serving fourteen years for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Half Hispanic and Scottish-Irish with family still in Mexico. Brought up by a family steeped in drug commerce. He writes some of the best prison-fight stories on the Internet.

As my cellmate was being cuffed, I paid close attention to his hands, attempting to gauge his size. In here, where cellmates sometimes kill their new cellmates, you have to notice such things, in case the compatibility to live with one another is not there. I noticed small hands, more feminine than a man’s. I also noticed lengthy fingernails, which meant my new cellmate was a homosexual. Then it dawned what the sergeant had meant by asking if I’d cell with anyone.
With my new cellmate cuffed up and my leg shackles off, the escorting officer directed the control tower to release the lock on the cell door. Before I entered, I felt the stares escaping all of the surrounding cells.
The face I saw was of a boy no more than 18. Short with feminine features. Thinly built almost to the degree of a woman in frame. He had to be part Native American. He was light-complected and grew no facial hair, which played into his ladylike appearance.
“Shit,” I said, knowing what drama celling with this individual would bring. I instantly saw fear in the kid’s eyes and posture. A sign that he’d been through a lot.
The officers shut the door, and we were both uncuffed. The bottom bunk was empty, so I knew it was mine. I wondered if the kid preferred the top bunk for safety reasons – harder access to try and hurt or rape him along with eliminating the scenario of being punked for the upper bunk.
“What’s up. I’m Warrior.” I put my hand out to shake, and he followed suit and tried to meet my handshake. Limpwristed. It was more of a hand curtsy.
“I’m Sasha,” he said in a lisp.
Irritated, I asked, “What’s your real name?”
“You don’t mind if I call you Daniel, do ya?”
“Nah, it’s cool.”
“Well, if you don’t mind, it’s been an exhausting day, I’m gonna crash out for a little bit.” I was tired from waiting in holding pens out in the hot sun all day. Normally, I wouldn’t sleep around a new cellie until I was able to feel him out further. Given Daniel’s disposition, I didn’t have much to worry about. I couldn’t imagine how much shit he’d been through because of his sexuality. Homosexuality is frowned upon in the Arizona prison system, yet prevalent.

I woke to dinner. Daniel retrieved the trays from the trap. We both started to eat. With an air of fear, Daniel asked if I wanted some food from his tray. I declined.
I define individuals on who they are and how they behave, not in terms of social background, sexual orientation or religion.
To ease his fear, I explained I didn’t expect or want anything form him. I just wanted him to be a respectful cellie, and I’d be the same. I saw a weight lifted off him, and his eyes welled up a bit. I thought he was going to cry, but he held back.
What he told me, I wasn’t ready for. At that moment I guess I was the closest thing to civility he’d run into for a while. He said how every cellie he’d had ended up wanting something sexual from him since he’s been in the hole. He’d been bouncing from yard to yard because homosexuals are not allowed on the yards anymore. When he wasn’t getting beat up, he was trying to avoid servicing someone sexually, even though he usually ended up having to do so. The kid was in the hole for assault on his lover. He’d got to the point where he offered his food up, hoping his cellmates would eat and be too full to want to mess with him.
I’ve always been quick at understanding someone’s nature and sincerity or lack of. The kid’s eyes told me he’d been through a lot. I had compassion for him, knowing he’d been through more that I could. If I were him, I would have killed the people that harmed me. I was surprised he hadn’t killed himself yet. I recognised he had a good heart, so I decided to school him in prison, politics, survival 101. I stayed up most of the night explaining why the system frowns on homosexuals, and why many prisoners behave like animals around homosexuals.
He asked if I believed he could do the rest of his time in peace. I told him only if he was in protective custody, which was his safest course of action.

The next day was rec. It consisted of being placed inside small fenced-off dog kennels. There were ten kennels side by side, opposite another row of 10.
It was morning still, and I asked Daniel if he was heading out for rec. He said no. I knew he feared the other inmates.
Rec was an hour, so I told him I’d be back in an hour. Again I saw the fear in his eyes, so I asked, “What are you worried about?”
“Those guys are gonna try to get you to beat me up.”
“Look, I don’t know what your issues are, but as far as I’m concerned you’re cool. It’s different in the hole as far as yard laws are concerned. I can play this game like the rest of these fools. Relax, you have nothing to worry about. I’m no two-faced fucker either. I told you I expect nothing but a respectful cellie. That’s what you’ve shown me, so you have the same coming in return.” I then went to rec.

I was the last one brought out of the twenty cells. Cells 2 and 1 didn’t go. Some guys were working out, others talking. Each kennel had a different race, some blacks, some whites, some Mexicans, some chiefs.
I was the only body in my kennel since my cellie stayed in. I took my shirt off to display my ink. To let the rest know I wasn’t knew to the system. I started my workout.
A short stocky Mexican with a goatee and lacquered back hair was the first to make conversation.
“Q-vo, homeboy. What’s your name?”
“Q-vo. Warrior.”
“Orale. I’m Chuco. This is my cellie Sniper.”
“Orale, homes,” Sniper said, and nodded his head. He was young, thin, with a bald head. One arm sleeved in ink, so he was in the mix of prison politics to some degree.

Introductions in prison are verbal chess. They are attempts at establishing position and seniority, finding out who rolls with who and who’s connected to the gangs, and if so how far up the ladder they are.
So I played the game with these two. I could tell Sniper was a wannabe, and followed Chuco’s lead. I could tell Chuco wasn’t sure about me, just as I wasn’t sure about him. So we were at a stalemate, though on the surface it all came across as a courteous conversation.
Then the drama began. “So you celled up with Sasha I see,” Chuco said.
“Daniel you mean?” I replied.
“Oh, my bad, Daniel,” he said sarcastically. “You know that’s a violation, right?”

Click here to read Part 3.

Click here to read Part 1.

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Email comments and questions for Warrior to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood
Sign Acorn’s Anti-Arpaio Petition: Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Criminal Behaviour Must End (by Womanist Musings)

Please take the time to sign the ACORN petition.

Joe Arpaio is the sheriff of Maricopa County. He has used the rhetoric of tough on crime to terrorize inmates and communities of colour. The perversion of the criminal justice system to employ power to maintain white privilege and thus demonize bodies that have been traditionally marginalized are reflected in his policies.

Under his stewardship many have met their deaths. In the tent cities that he created to deal with prison over crowding, the temperatures can reach as high as 150 degrees in the summer. To emasculate inmates he forces them to wear pink clothing. He also feeds them bologna sandwiches twice a day that turn green in the extreme temperatures. Though he claims to represent the law, he has refused to allow women transport to hospitals to have abortions.

Arpaio has become a law unto himself. Using fear he justifies his inhuman treatment of inmates.

His behaviour of public shaming, and outright criminality has far from saved the state financially. His practice of feeding prisoners just twice a day with spoiled food, his reinstatement of the chain gang and his cruel treatment of inmates—including those awaiting trial who have not been convicted of any crime—have cost Maricopa County more than $46 million in lawsuit settlements. In July 2008, the ACLU of Arizona filed a class action suit accusing the Maricopa County Sheriff of illegally profiling Latin@. On Feb. 11, the Federal District Court for Arizona ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

Much of the work to fight his racist, classist and abusive behaviour has been fought by local activists. On February 28, thousands participated in a rally to bring an end to the cruel reign of Arpaio and the end to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which permits Arpaio to enforce federal immigration law.

Janet Napolitano, now DHS chief, was governor of Arizona when the criminalizing of an entire population began: the militarization of the border and the steady movement of Border Patrol presence northward, the implementation of Operation Streamline—a federal program that detains approximately 70 undocumented workers per hour, then turns them over to privately run prisons to serve their sentences—and the so-called Employer Sanctions law, which is really aimed at workers.

The time has come to stand against this kind of assault against humanity. ACORN is calling on House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers to investigate Sheriff Arpaio both at state and federal levels. Arpaio is nothing more than a terrorist who has been granted legal power to assault people and his rule must come to an end. We cannot claim to live in a justice society as long as tyranny is representative of the law. Please take the time to sign the ACORN petition. No matter what crime a person has committed, they are still a human being and tough on crime should never be associated with crimes against humanity.

Email comments and questions to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood
09 Mar 09

The Little Chow Pup (by Shane)

Shane - After being denied psychiatric medication by ValueOptions, Shane turned to illegal drugs financed by burglaries. For stealing a few hundred dollars worth of goods, he was sentenced by Judge Ron Reinstein to eleven years. The medication in prison caused him to suffer a period of spontaneous ejaculations.
Shane is the author of the blog
Persevering Prison Pages.

“Stop feeding that mutt!” the guard yelled at the dozen convicts sitting in the dirt, where a small furry puppy had cautiously accepted some cold-cut sandwich scraps and hurried out of reach long enough to hungrily swallow the food and creep back for more on his belly in a submissive, frightened manner.
“Fuck you,” one convict responded.
The guard dismissed the comment and walked away.

The small black, gray and brown puff of fur was a chow pup that had just appeared one day in the rock quarry the Arizona Department of Corrections used as a disciplinary sanction for unruly convicts. Since the quarry was only used by ADOC and nowhere near any populated city, town or residences, we all assumed a guard or prison staff had dumped the poor guy off out there.

The guards paid him little mind at first. Only the stomp of a boot, shout, or toss of a rock to chase the pup away when he was too close. After observing the hardcore convicts feeding the little guy to the point where when he was really brave we could pet his head briefly, the guards seemed to become callous and even cruel.

“Back to work! Lunch break is over!” a guard yelled from a group of six others sitting in lawn chairs next to a large ice chest, eating their lunch.
As we picked up our sledgehammers, wedges, and pry bars and went back to work, the pup moved to where the guards were, hungry I’m sure.
Working hard at breaking up large pieces of flagstone and stacking them into piles to be loaded into a dump truck at the end of the day, we paid no attention to the guards, while hearing their hysterical laughter. Looking up from my work, feeling the sweat droplets cooling in the breeze as they made their way down my bare chest and tattooed arms, I was shocked and instantly angry at what I saw. The guards had crumpled up a small ball of aluminum foil, smothered it in mayonnaise and tossed it to the puppy, which quickly snatched it up and began choking on it as they laughed.
Another convict noticed the cruelty, and raised his voice, “What the fuck are you doin’?” He began walking towards the guards.
The pup coughed up the foil and ran off into the nearby bushes, as the group of guards stood up to confront the approaching prisoner.
Seeing the guards stand, the rest of the convict crew dropped their tasks and fell in behind the other guy in a mob and began their own approach. Panicked now, the only two guards armed shotguns with bean-bag rounds, picked up their weapons, and said “Come on, guys, it was just a joke. It doesn’t have to get serious,” backing away from the still approaching mob.
“Check this out, cop: that’s a helpless dog. He’s hungry. He ain’t hurtin’ nobody. Let him be!” the first convict told the guards, emphasizing his last words and pointing a finger in the face of the nearest guard.
“You hurt that dog and you all get fucked off!” another convict yelled form the crowd.
We all went back to work, and the guards sat in an uneasy silence the rest of the day.

The puppy was never treated badly after that day. In fact, Ms. G. (the same Ms. G. from a previous guest blog here) went to the quarry after her shift a few weeks later and relocated the little fur ball to her parents’ ranch home.

Like my own disgust for people who abuse women, children or animals, the convicts on that work crew weren’t tolerant of guards abusing a helpless puppy, and would certainly have resorted to drastic measures to stop it.
Sometimes I wonder where they find some of these guards who act like this or worse.

If you were on the prison work crew that day, would you have stood up for the puppy?

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Shaun P. Attwood
02 Mar 09

From Two Tonys (Letter 10)

Two Tonys - A whacker of men and Mafia associate serving multiple life sentences for murders and violent crimes. Left bodies from Tucson to Alaska, but claims all his victims "had it coming." Recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and is in chemotherapy fighting to prolong his life.


Greetings My Pal From The Misty Isles,

The Land of Pendragon, Churchill, Sir Drake, The Great Monte Savior of the Free World, and Amy the Great. I’m talking Winehouse here. Not the Liverpool Winehouses, but the London Winehouses. Am I correct? I like Amy, and if I could get to London, I’d like to hang out with her. I’d straighten her out. Not in a mean way. But help her in a nice way.

It’s 6:30AM over here. I’ve been up since 3AM doing the things we do. Clean my area. Straighten up. Do part of my store list.
I’ve got to go to pill call around 8AM, and have them give me my chemo and pain pills. They look under my tongue. Degrading? Yes, but it’s all part of my journey. Humbleness and degradation has a big part.
Now that doesn’t mean I just pull the plug. You know, I go to pill call twice a day, and there are around 40-50 guys that all get turned out at the same time, and stand in a long line while each guy gets his pills and goes through the same ritual. “Tongue up! Show the sides of your cheeks!”
Now I’ve got a buddy here who goes with me to get his issue also. He’s cool. He’s one of those Italian Stallions out of Phoenix. We try our best to enjoy our trip. We laugh at some of these phoney motherfuckers, who, on the walk up there start grunting, groaning, baby-stepping along. And if they catch someone checking them out, it’s even worse. They really turn it on. Oh poor me. Poor me. I’m sick. I’m sick. Pity me. Now that kind of shit gives me strength to climb my mountain. And I enjoy that. Look, if we’re climbing a mountain and we’re all hooked on a line, we don’t want 3 or 4 weakasses who cry, snivel and gripe all the way.

Look, I’ve received a lot of our blog buddies comments telling me to fight the fight. I feel that everyone is sincere and very considerate. So this is what I’m up to. My goal is not really to find a cure for this bullshit. I guess I just want to show my old ass off and try my best to go out. Not complaining or sniveling. But as the man I think I am. We discussed pain and suffering before. Yeah! I copped to being scared of it. Bit after researching it, pondering on it real hard, I come to the finding that it’s there, but we have to fight to endure it. Where is it? It’s in the mind. Pain is just lying there waiting to stick its head up and root in self-pity, weakness, unknowing.
The worst of cancer is the actual physical pain itself. It is the motherfucker who separates the strong from the weak. Was Hemingway weak when he crawled down in that basement in Ketchum, Idaho, and ate the end of that 12 gauge? I think he just pondered what lay ahead and the rough tough guy he was, he said, “Fuck it!”
I get a lot of mail from family and friends talking to me of the quality of life importance, and that a time will come when quantity of life will take a back seat to quality. I’m pondering the truth to that. I sure as fuck ain’t got no quality in this shithole. It don’t exist in this camp (the worst I’ve seen). So fuck it.

We could stay up all night and debate is there a heaven or hell. We just got to wait and see. It would be great if I could have a road-to-Damascus epiphany like Saul of Tarsus did. But I haven’t. I guess at times I try to hedge my bets. But that’s normal. Don’t you think?

Good luck with your adventure in the Big Smoke. I am really happy for you, and I do believe in you. You’re very unique, and have a clearheadedness to go with that when you use it. Your boss, Tony, sounds OK, and as long as he’s good to you, he’s alright with me. Everybody you speak to won’t understand you, so fuck ’em. But you’ve got a real chance to help some youngsters have a life, so get out there and do it. You’re going to be great. I believe that.
Hey bro, watch that nightlife. It will come up and bite you right on your red ass. But you know that don’t you? I believe you when you tell me you’ve got a plan and you intend to work it. But to quote: The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Put yourself on a short leash. I know you will. Big cities eat people up, but you get in there and do what you’ve gotta do. Chris in Phoenix had a good comment on your manic side kicking in and trying to fuck up your plan. Be on guard.

I’d like to thank you sincerely on your choice of books. The Great Thoughts is a 9 ½ on the Richter. And I’m just getting into Shantaram, and The Shack.

Hey permit me one more shout out to all our friends who emailed nice thoughts and prayers to me. It’s really pepped me up. So thanks friends! Like I tell my pals out on the yard who wanted to mollycoddle me (but I put a stop to that shit), I’ll deal with this bastard as best as I can. No baby-stepping, hunched-over lifestyle for me. This is my fight. I appreciate the written words from our pals, and I feel like we’re all in our own way pals. I will keep you all posted on my condition, and it will be my adventure. I don’t plan on doing a Hemingway. Your comments help me, and I appreciate them.

Two Tonys

My Response To Two Tonys

1 March 09

My friend,

Thanks for the letter. I really enjoyed how you roped the mountain metaphor into the pill-call story. It sounds like your spirits are up and you’re making the most of your situation. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. As you can see from the comments, we’re all rooting for you.

You asked if it’s normal to hedge your bets regarding a belief in God. Your question broaches the subject of Pascal’s Wager. Pascal claimed it makes more sense to believe because you will then be rewarded in the afterlife, and even if God doesn’t exist, you have lost nothing either way. The likes of Richard Dawkins have slammed this, but I don’t see the harm in believing in anything that contributes to you having a more positive mental state. As you’ve said many times, our happiness is governed by our thoughts, and we have the freedom to think whatever we want.

As for my job, my boss has been in South Africa for two weeks visiting some rehabs he works with. So I’ve still not started yet, but I’m rearing to go.

I have a girlfriend now. Kathi from Halle, Germany. About 6 months ago I noticed her on Irvine Welsh’s MySpace friends. (Irvine is the Scotsman who wrote Trainspotting.) We emailed back and forth, and before I moved to London, I told her my parents were in Abu Dhabi, and she jumped on a plane to Manchester from Leipzig, and spent the weekend. She is a social worker (rescues abused children), and a part-time runway model. She has frizzy German-barbarian copper-coloured hair bordering on an Afro, and showed up in old-school Converse sneakers. She is cultured, intelligent, has a kind heart, and big green eyes. And on top of all that she has special knowledge of cheese, which she demonstrated at our local pub, The Coterie, by rattling off the names of the many cheeses on display, names the waitress was having problems with. Considering we’d never met and she speaks limited English – she brought an electronic translator – we hit it off from second one and there was no awkwardness at all. She’s flying out and staying for the last two weeks in March. She said if I don’t make it in London, I should move to Berlin.

Click here for pics of Kathi’s stay in England, including new pics of Hammy.

My mentor, Sally Hinchcliffe, is really helping my writing come along. The book about the time I spent at Joe Arpaio’s jail is 85,000 words now. With her help, I’m confident it will be in a presentable shape soon, and I’ll be able to open the right doors. It’s been a long time coming, and I hope you get to see some of my success.
I’ve really got no choice other than to work myself out of my present situation. The government’s still paying my rent and giving me money for groceries. It’s weird having so little after having so much before prison, but it’s also motivating me to work harder, to accomplish more. Anyway, I aim to do you proud.

Only one bad thing’s happened recently. I keep waking up with blood in my mouth. I went to an emergency dental appointment, and she said I need to see a specialist to get the deposits removed from under my gums. She said gum disease is usually caused by smoking or genetic factors, but I think I’ve brushed my teeth too much over the years and worn my gums down. The problem is no dentist will see me because I’m still classed as unemployed. England used to have free healthcare for everyone, but now its been privatised. So I’m trying to get on a waiting list for an NHS dentist. I just hope I don’t loose any teeth in the meantime.

So what else have I been up to? My friend Seb from Poland encouraged me to go to karate with him. Done two classes so far. In the last one, some Russian red belt tossed me around, twisted my arm to within millimetres of its snapping point, and pinned me to the mat. This guy was the biggest man there, and had a scar across his face that would frighten most teenagers. It was great. I’m going back for more.
I’ve made a female friend in Guildford. Her name is Brenda. She’s an old bearded lady like you used to see at circuses. The last of a dying breed. She has a confident personality and seems really at one with the beard. I’ll send you some pics when I get a printer sorted out. Click here for pics of the Bearded Lady of Guildford.
But mostly, I stay indoors, writing, living a monklike existence. Doing mundane stuff like deseeding bird’s eye chilli peppers so I can pack some extra punch to a frozen veggie pizza, or tossing a non-biological laundry tablet over the top of my stinky clothes to the back of the washing-machine drum. And thanks to prison I now see the beauty of the ordinary.

Much love from me and Amy Winehouse!

Shaun (your horse)

Ps) which quotes in The Great Thoughts do you find most inspirational during this phase of your life?

Click here to read Two Tonys’ previous letter.

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Shaun P. Attwood

The Bearded Lady of Guildford

I recently befriended the Bearded Lady of Guildford. Her name is Brenda. I thought the pictures of her on the Internet were hoaxes, but they are not. She is a genuine old bearded lady like you used to see at circuses. The last of a dying breed. I found her sitting on a bench in Guildford town centre across the street from Debenhams. She has a confident personality and seems really at one with the beard. She smiled and said, “Have I?” when I told her about her growing Internet following and 2000 MySpace friends. She disclosed she neither has a computer, nor goes on the Internet. I’ve only met her two times, but she has agreed to chat again, so I’ll add more about her to this blog entry as I get to know her better.
11 Apr 09
I've chatted with Brenda two more times now, including introducing her to my girlfriend, Kathi. She generally sits in the food court on the upper floor of the Friary Centre in Guildford, tucked away on a back table in the area next to the smoothie stall. Go there late morning to early afternoon if you'd like to meet her.
Originally from the Midlands, Brenda lives in Guildford at a friend's house. She claims to be a lone wolf, having no friends and she likes it that way. She enjoys reading romance books and watching movies such as The Adams Family.
My circus friends asked me to find out if Brenda would like to go on stage. I didn't think so, and I feared insulting her when I asked her. She said she would not like to go on stage, and she was not interested in making money. Brenda appears to be comfortable with who she is. My impression is she just likes sitting in the town centre, meditating on the world going by. She is approachable, and easy to talk to. I urge the people taking pictures and videos of her on the sly to make an effort to say hello and to get to know more about her as a person.
1 May 09
I sat with Brenda, and asked her what she had been up to of late. She said reading comic books. I asked which ones, and she said The Dandy and The Beano. A Chinese circus had recently been to Guildford, so I asked her if she'd seen it. She said no, and that she wouldn't like to. I asked her if she'd made any friends recently. She said she has no friends whatsoever, and she never has. She added that when people seek her out and talk to her, it makes her mind go blank, and she can barely remember such occasions. On the subject of foreign travel, she said, "Why travel? It's the same everywhere." She has never been north of the Midlands or south of Guildford. I pointed out that people travel to enjoy cultural differences, and she said, "People are all the same." Her eyes glittered when she said this as if she were imparting some deep philosphical wisdom. Compared to the Bearded Lady of Guildford, maybe we are all of the same.
8 Oct 09
After weeks of roaming the streets of Guildford in search of the bearded one, I found her on one of the benches by Sainsbury's: a local hotspot for winos. Brenda was sporting sparkling topaz earring studs, a whopping silver nose ring, and a bright-red coat that coordinated perfectly with her lipstick.
On the subject of why she ended up in Guildford, Brenda said she moved to London in her younger days, but London was too crowded, so she settled here.
Contradicting her earlier claim of never having left England, she confessed to visiting Austria when she was 28, but has no idea why she went there.
I quizzed Brenda about her food and drink preferences. Roast beef is her favourite meal, and she is partial to shepherd's pie. She prefers traditional English meals, nothing exotic or spicy like curry. Alcoholwise, she likes Foster's Lager and nothing hardcore like spirits. She doesn't cook herself anything special for Christmas. "It's over in a day," she said. She has no family members or friends to share Christmas with, and claims she doesn't mind. Does she like chocolate? Yes. Her eyes lit up when I told her my girlfriend would bring her some from Germany.
Brenda said she enjoys Harry Potter books and movies, and anything with Audrey Hepburn in it.
5 May 10
I was just at McDonald's in the Friary Centre with Brenda. For twenty minutes, she stared at the menu on the wall, while eager-to-be-served customers swarmed around us. Every two minutes, the staff asked her if she knew what she wanted, and she replied, "I haven't made my mind up yet." She just stood there like a statue in the thick of the chaos. It was as if the pictures of Big Macs and Happy Meals had put her in a trance.
"Do you eat here often?" I asked her.
"Where else do you eat?"
Brenda chastised me for only ordering a smoothie, and not getting some food down me, and she laughed when I told her I only eat fruit and nuts all day. Brenda tends to contradict herself, and this time was no exception: when asked about her food preferences, she said she likes mild curry.
28 Sep 10
Brenda was sat at Guildford train station. The commuters streaming by were slowing down to take a look at her; their eyes widening as if having difficulty catergorising what they were seeing.
"Going to London?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"Getting the train somewhere?"
"No." She smiled as if the question were absurd.
I clocked on: Brenda was going nowhere in a place people were coming from all over to go somewhere.
"I've brought a copy of my book," I said, extracting Hard Time from my briefcase.
Brenda studied the cockroaches on the cover.
"Do you want to read it?" I asked.
"I haven't decided yet."
I took the book back, and dashed for my train.

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Shaun Attwood
Thousands March Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio In Phoenix (from The Arizona Republic)

Thousands of opponents of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's illegal-immigration policies held their "March to Stop the Hate" in downtown Phoenix on Saturday..
As of 1:30 p.m., the speeches were still being made at the march's destination, the federal building. According to initial reports, the march was peaceful, with no major incidents as of early Saturday afternoon.
Crowd estimates from organizers and law enforcement were not immediately available, but at least one estimate put it at about 3,000.

Along the march route, between 100 and 200 Arpaio supporters gathered at the Wells Fargo Tower. Many carried "We Support Sheriff Joe" signs, among others.
The event was being led by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network and El Puente Arizona, and feature Zach de la Rocha, former lead singer of Rage Against the Machine. De la Rocha arrived at about 10:30 a.m., just before the march began at Steele Indian School Park.
Organizers marched south on Central Avenue past the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building. The route also passed Wells Fargo Tower - where Arpaio has his headquarters - and ended at the federal building on Washington Street.

Astrid Galvan and Jeffrey Javier contributed to this report.
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Shaun P. Attwood