Smiling John (Part 2 by Smiling John)

“Smiling John” Eastlack escaped from prison and was featured on America’s Most Wanted. He was sentenced to death for the murders he describes. When it was discovered that he has fetal alcohol syndrome, his sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole.

Part 1 left off with Smiling John pursued by the police.

I abandoned my jeep to the west, and crossed half mile of desert. I came out at Indian Ridge, leaving a monster fire in my wake.

Following the canals north again, I came up to a house with a FOR SALE sign. I wanted to get inside and off the street to use the phone ASAP.

I was not sure if the police had a description of me from Fort Lowell Park that morning or from the country club thirty minutes ago, but I could not take a chance.

My simple class 6 felony with an 18-month maximum sentence for escape had now turned into arson, burglary and possession of a dangerous weapon, increasing my maximum sentence to 25 years to life.

My mindset was in survival mode. By 8:30am on Friday 09-01-89, all I cared about was staying one step ahead and getting to Fort Huachuca by 2:00pm to pick up some passports for Monica and myself.

My friend, Ben, at Fort Huachuca was a Warrant Officer Class Two in the U.S. Army, doing some work with the 11th Signal Brigade in Sierra Vista.
He owed me from a 1972 Ford LTD in Texas in 1986. On leave we went to Dallas to see my wife Sherrie. Along the way, Ben killed a shoe salesman and stuffed him in the trunk of his 1972 Ford LTD then loaned me the car to take Sherrie out, never telling me there was a body in the trunk!
Well, Ben, the secret’s out, but his luck ran out in Operation Just Cause in December 1989 with the U.S. invasion of Panama. The army gave him a silver star for defending a bridge.

Seeing it was empty, I broke into the house with the FOR SALE sign. Looking around, I picked up about $3,500 cash from a safe, a Ruger Blackhawk single-action revolver and about $2,000 in jewelry. A watch, ring, and two necklaces.

Next I called Monica at Ventana Canyon and told her I'd got in a jam. To pick up the jeep, drop it off at her sisters, and meet me in San Carlos.

Catching my breath and turning on the TV at about 10:00am, I could see the special reports on the news about the chase. Escaped convict, armed and dangerous, burning down East Tucson.
They also used my mug shot from 1987. They darkened my features and bushed out my hair to make me look black and scare the mostly white upper classes of N.E. Tucson.
No wonder no one recognized me because I had a crew cut, was light skinned after spending 3 months in the hole in Central Unit under investigation for arson. And I was still dressed like a 16-year old surfer preppy frat boy, not a 25-year-old ex-army, ex-prisoner on escape.

I called Paul at Fort Bliss in El Paso to confirm, and Ben at Fort Huachuca, and told him I would be late. I still had to get a car or a cab.

When all of my phone calls were made, I felt like I could yet get out of the mess.

I pocketed the cash, put on the jewels and slid the .45 Ruger Blackhawk in the tote bag. The 9mm was still in my waistband.

With the search still in full swing according to the news, I needed just a bit more chaos to get to Tucson Country Club’s golf pro shop about a half mile west of my location. So I soaked the house in gas booze, put tin in the microwave, and a phone book in the oven at 450° then took off towards Tucson Country Club.

I was 5 minutes out the door when the house exploded, hitting some gas line, and within 7 minutes, cops, ambulances, helicopters and News Hawk 4 were all over the place so once again I had to get off the street.

I actually went to the nearest house, knocked on the door, and asked to use the phone to call a cab, saying I’d rolled my jeep in the wash.

She invited me into the house and led me into the kitchen to use the wall phone and handed me a phone book to call yellow cab to pick me up.

Within seconds I had the cab guy on the phone who would take me to Sierra Vista for $50, a set price – cool – now he wanted to know where to pick me up.

I turned around to ask the lady for the house address, and she was not there. I was alone!

I told the cab guy to, “Hang the fuck on. I don’t know where the hell I am!” Not very smart. I set the phone down on the counter top and started walking down the hallway saying, “Excuse me.”
I followed a noise to a closed sliding door, and pulled it open – smack!
A black blur flashed down towards the right side of my face. I threw my right forearm up and got slashed by a fireplace poker.

Holding the poker with two hands like an axe was a man! I grabbed the poker with my left hand and pulled my .9mm out with my right hand. I poked him into the hallway.

At the same time the lady tried to push past me into the hallway. Pushing her back into the room – a small TV room with 2 chairs, a bookcase, TV and fireplace – I hit her with the fireplace poker and she fell back into one of the chairs.
All I cared about was getting control of the situation. I had no idea why I was attacked or how many people were in the house.

The old man who attacked me with the fireplace poker was just standing there and threatening me to get out of their house before he called the police.
Yes, really! At this point a kind of out of body experience came over me and I decided right then and there I was going to have to kill them.

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Shaun P. Attwood

This is the story of a friend of Xena’s who was featured on America’s Most Wanted. “Smiling John” Eastlack was sentenced to death for the murders he describes. But it was later discovered that he has fetal alcohol syndrome, and his sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole. Alcohol damage in the womb warped Smiling John’s thinking processes. He was the first person to avoid the death penalty on the grounds of fetal alcohol syndrome, and his case has been cited in various psychology books. John describes the murders in a detached way that reflects the distortions in his mind. I’m going to run this story in back-to-back parts.

August 29, 1989
Wilmot Prison
Tucson, Arizona

The prison guard just walked past me and completed count. He left the dorm and went to the yard office to turn in his count sheet. I’d have 2½ hours before the prison would know I was missing and escaped.

I’d completed 2 years on a 9½-year sentence for Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices. Basically using a fake ID to withdraw from bank accounts.

Going out the back of the dorm, I crossed the prison yard to the east gate and perimeter fence. Waiting for the complex patrol trucks to pass, I sprinted the 90 feet to the fence, climbed up and jumped over and down.

Kneeling down near fence, I searched the parking lot and surrounding area to make sure I was not seen.

I ran 200 feet and dove into some bushes near the exit to the prison-complex parking lot. Still clear, I crossed the road, jumped over another barbed wire fence and then ran east into the Arizona desert.

After jogging about 3 miles, I slowed down to listen and watch for pursuit from dogs, helicopters, jeeps, horses or officers on foot.

West of me, flying south and north was a helicopter searching the area between the prison and the city of Tucson five miles to the north. I could also hear the chase teams. Dogs, horses and trackers off in the same area.

Picking up the pace, I continued east parallel to the I-10 until I came to Houghton Road.

I knew Houghton ran due north up into Sabino Canyon. My father used to own a condo in the early 1980's, so I was familiar with this area of Tucson.

I crossed the I-10 Freeway back into Tucson and followed Houghton Road north along the wash/river using the west bank as cover.

Around midnight I reached Pantano Park and used the phone to call my fiancée, Monica. She used to be a prison guard at Mohave Unit in Douglas in 1988. We became involved, got caught and then became engaged in March 1989. Since she left the Arizona Department of Corrections, Monica became a successful stripper at Bourbon Street Circus, and developed a $2,000 a week cocaine habit as well.

When I called Monica at midnight, she soon picked me up in a Suzuki Samurai Jeep, with $1,500 cash, a Browning Hi-Power 9mm and some clothes.
We then drove to Ventana Canyon Resort and checked in for 3 days under aliases as a couple from California on a honeymoon.

The next 48 hours I spent engaged in bliss. No worries.

On Friday morning 09-01-89 at approximately 6:00am, I kissed Monica goodbye and told her I had to go make plans to get an ID and get out of the country.

I drove to Fort Lowell Park, parked the jeep along the bank of a river, got out wearing Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, Vans deck shoes, and I had my 9mm in my back waist and a University of Arizona frat hat and Ray-Bans. I looked like some frat preppy out for a stroll.

I called three friends to set some plans up. One at Fort Huachuca, one at Fort Bliss, and one who owned a construction company in Tucson.
In order, I was getting cash, an ID and weapons.

I set a timetable for all 3: 8:00am, 2:00pm, and 8:00pm for Fort Bliss because it was in El Paso, Texas on my way out of the U.S.A.

My first meeting was set up at Pantano Country Club Town House Recreation Center. I chose the location as it's on the top of a hill. It had a clubhouse, tennis courts a basketball court, swimming pool and BBQ pits.
I arrived at about 7:30am. I parked the jeep in the wash behind Tucson Country Club, and then jogged up along the wash, under the bridge and then up behind the clubhouse.

At 8:00am, I saw a helicopter coming low from the west and then a line of police cars entering the country club down below me along half a mile of winding roads with speed bumps.

Danny had got spooked and set me up instead of paying me half of the $27,000 he owed me from 1987.

I had about five minutes before they reached my location, so I grabbed magazines, newspapers and lighter fluid from the BBQ pits, and set them all ablaze as a diversion to cover my exit into the east desert. I abandoned my jeep to the west, and crossed half a mile of desert. I came out at Indian Ridge leaving a monster fire in my wake.

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Shaun P. Attwood

Central Unit (Part 7 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.

Central Unit began with Warrior discovering a race war is raging, and the guards are staging human cock fights. Part 6 left off with Warrior’s cell opening, and him stepping out expecting to be attacked.

With my stomach knotted, my eyes narrowed as I glared at the cells, trying to discern another open cell or one that was about to open. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I saw a cell open. I was more concerned with who would be coming out, rather than me going in. What seemed like minutes was probably just a few seconds. No one came. I didn’t hear another cell open. An officer’s radio garble snapped me back to reality.

Once again the sound of steel against steel made me recognize my cell was racking closed. I dashed into the closing two-foot gap.
Tigre’s voice boomed, “Watch your back!”
My peripheral vision caught movement headed my way. My instincts kicked in, lunging me further into the cell, to where I hoped I’d put enough distance between the incoming body and me. I did a 180 in preparation for a hit or a tackle. What I caught instead was an arm slicing down and out from in-between the remaining 6-inch gap. Then my door shut. I’d failed to realize the sound of my cell closing had overlapped the sound of another opening.

At my door was a dark man, his smouldering eyes giving off spasms of irritation all across his face as if to say, “You’re fuckin’ lucky!” He looked to be about my age at the time: 26. He was holding a toothbrush fastened with two razor blades on the end – a prison scalpel.
“You fuckin’ chicken shit,” I said, my eyes blazing.
“Chinga tu madre!” He hawked spit right in my face.
My eyes winced shut in disgust, and then I felt explosive rage. I turned my head and gave my cell a once-over for something within reach to throw. My cup was convulsing with boiling water due to the stinger still left plugged in. I threw the cup at his face, but he turned his head. Some of the water got the left side of his neck, and he bolted back to wherever his cell was, shrieking in pain.

At my sink, I washed the spit off. I heard keys clanking against my bars, a guard trying to get my attention. He was stood in front of my cell, wearing a khaki jacket and matching hat.
“What’s up?” I asked, wondering if he’d seen what had took place.
“Your tray.”
“What?” I asked, my attention still stuck on what had happened.
“Your tray. It’s pick-up time. I need your tray.”
“Oh yeah. Here you go.” I handed him my breakfast tray. Whether he was aware or not, he didn’t let on. Even if he did know, I was sure he didn’t care. He just wanted the tray. He took it and left.

Tigre appeared, mirror in hand, his face lit with bitter triumph as if he’d expected a better show. “That was a close one.”
“Yeah it was,” I said. “Good lookin’ out. Thanks for the heads-up.”
“I saw the fool creep around the corner as you were stepping in. He had a blade.”
“That woulda left a mark,” I said.
“Fuckin’ A, it woulda.”
“I got something for his ass next time. Believe that.”
“Hey, that’s the vida in this pinta homeboy.”
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re right. It is.”

Click here for Central Unit Part 6.

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Email comments and questions for Warrior to 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
Jul 23 09 8:15pm

Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 4)

I’m sat in a fast-food lounge at London’s Euston Railway Station. I’m facing a row of vendors staffed with fresh-faced minimum wagers: Burger King, Harry Ramsden’s, Delice de France Pattisserie Boulangerie… There are no empty tables. Most of the occupants – an international crowd – are chatting amongst themselves or into cell phones. The rest are staring up at small departures and arrivals screens hanging from the ceiling. I am inhaling the smells of French fries, tomato ketchup, coffee and milk shakes, but I am not hungry because I had a mountain of rice and veggie curry before I set off over an hour ago.
“At Platform 2 the 20:33 service to Wolverhampton is now boarding.” A female BBC-quality voice keeps making such announcements.

Outside of the lounge is the main waiting area, about the size of a warehouse with over a thousand people stood facing a row of massive timetable screens, and an almost-movie-theatre-sized screen playing Sky News complete with an electronic ticker tape.
Over hamburgers and fries, the conversation between the two businessmen on the table next to me is heating up. They are gesticulating with their hands, flailing their pinstripes, hurling Cockney twang as if on the verge of fisticuffs. Their table is the only one the homeless young lad selling The Big Issue is skipping.

Today is the last day of the English school year. I have only done one talk on drugs and prison so far. And I only got that due to a cancellation. The lack of work is due to my talk only being advertised so close to the end of the school year. The feedback on the one talk I did was good, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve already got two bookings for the next term. Let’s hope my calendar fills up before September comes around.

My agent and I are in the final stages of fine-tuning my jail memoir. He intends to begin shopping it to publishers in September. So after years of perseverance – including emotional ups and downs ranging from delusions of grandeur to utter disbelief that I’d ever make it – it looks as if I’m finally near the finishing line.
The English version is going to be titled Green Baloney and Pink Boxers: Surviving America’s Toughest Jail, and the American version, Green Bologna and Pink Boxers: Surviving Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jail.
When I get a publishing deal, the publisher’s editor will probably want to tweak the manuscript a final time before it hits the bookstores.
As the jail memoir only covers my 26 months in Arpaio’s pokey, my agent has suggested I write about the periods before my arrest and after my sentencing hearing as separate volumes.

Flap-flap-flap… The wings of a pigeon just rustled by my right ear. In here! This place has a roof, so it must have snuck in through one of the doors. It’s homing in on some fries abandoned by a Chinese family.
“At Platform 7 the 21:07 service to Liverpool is now boarding.” That’s my train to Runcorn, so I must get going. I’m en route to my parents’ house for a month, to be joined by Kathi from Germany who’s flying in next Tuesday.

I’ll endeavour to locate the Max-Zucchini series while I’m there. I suspect it’s been hidden from me in the attic as my parents don’t approve of the content. I’ll post the next instalment of Central Unit soon, and I must say how impressed I am with Warrior’s writing development – we have a star in the making right there. I’m also going to try something new by way of posting the story of Smiling John in back to back instalments. Smiling John is Xena’s friend who was on America’s Most Wanted and Arizona’s death row.

Click here for Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 3)

Post comments or questions below or email them to To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood
T-Bone Attacked

I just received a letter that includes some details about the attack on T-Bone.

T-Bone is no longer at Buckeye prison. Some drama happened. Two guys tried to test him. They attacked him. He defended himself, and they were both seriously hurt. One is in hospital, needing reconstructive surgery on his face. I was shocked as he’s so laid back, but it wasn’t his fault. Because of the injuries, the staff are scared of him. They’ve rehoused him at the supermaximum-security prison in Florence.

Click here to read T-Bone’s previous letter.

If you wish to send a message to T-Bone post it below or email To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood
Central Unit (Part 6 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.

Central Unit began with Warrior discovering a race war is raging, and the guards are staging human cock fights. Part 5 left off with Warrior getting a new neighbour, Big Tigre.

I noticed a large arm, twice as big as Cowboy’s, holding a mirror and getting a view of my cell and me. I pretended not to notice. Hearing the rapping of the mirror, I turned and walked towards the bars.
“Q-vo, ese. Yo soy [I am] Big Tigre.” My new neighbor then put his hand out for me to shake. He certainly was a big man. His hands were more like bear paws in comparison to mine. But they were also oddly soft. Not what you’d expect of a man his size. He probably led a life of leisure on the outside.

We exchanged small talk, engaging in verbal chess as we attempted to feel each another out. He told me where he was from and how much time he had left: 3 years. I exchanged the same info. We touched upon a couple of names we both knew from other yards, along with who was here with us at Central Unit. Prison is one of those subcultures where everyone knows everyone, or that six degrees of separation ties you to someone somehow.
He had to organize his cell, so we closed the conversation.

Two weeks went by. We exchanged the usual prison banter, and accustomed ourselves to each other’s personalities. I maintained my workout routine and distance from Tigre. When we’d talk, Tigre had this ritual he’d do after each sentence when the topic was a serious one: a nervous compulsion of chewing the inside corners of his lips, as though he were in constant suspense. Little by little, I started figuring him out.

Within this time, several cells housing opposite races opened up. Due to the ongoing war, if a cell housed a Mexican national, a fight occurred. The question on my mind was, When will it be my turn?

Mexican nationals had their own version of nicknames, usually based on what region of Mexico they were from. If they were from Durango, they’d go by that. If Tampico, they’d be referred to as Tampico.

There was one Mexican national in particular I kept an eye on. His name was Chicali. He was popular among his race. I noticed him always unravelling or ravelling up his fishing line to receive or send out kites. By his size, it was evident genetics had smiled upon him. He must have weighed 225 to 250 pounds, bull-like with muscle just slabbed onto the bone. The tight cords of muscle in his neck told me he was consistent in his workouts. He wasn’t tall, about my height, 5’10”. His hair was black and feathered back, parted in the middle, like a style from the 1970’s. Probably in his mid 40’s. I kept him in focus because if my cell were to open at the same time as his, he was one individual I was uneasy about facing.

I woke to the sound of the steel doors of the chow carts being opened and slammed shut as two guards began passing out breakfast trays. It was about 5am, one hour left until shift change.
A short balding guard wearing the traditional safety glasses set my tray on the food trap of the cell door, then continued on his way. Breakfast was two pieces of bread, two hardboiled eggs, a scoop of potatoes, and a small carton of milk the size of what a school cafeteria would serve. The bread was dry and hard, the potatoes greasy, and the milk warm. Only fit to eat were the eggs, which I ate with small packets of salt and pepper.
I got up, put my shoes on, and began to wash up. I started to make my morning cup of hot water for coffee.

I wasn’t exactly sure what time it was when my cell racked open. All I became aware of in that instant was that I was more alert than what ten cups of coffee could have done for me. The separate pieces of steel that constituted my cell door quavered against each other, resonating a familiar clanking and grinding. As the iron bars opened, the concrete floor trembled from steel against steel. I felt my door open, in place of hearing it.

The unwritten law dictated I step outside. It was a good law in my eyes, as I’d rather clash in an open area than take my chances against an added adversary of a knife-edged desk or bunk. I stepped out and noticed that all of the prisoners were at their cell bars staring at me. Some had barely woken up, I could tell by their matted hair and red eyes, yet they were as alert as I was. Instinct adopted a cell opening as the warning signal to each man.

With my stomach knotted, my eyes narrowed as I glared at the cells, trying to discern another open cell or one that was about to open.

Click here for Central Unit Part 5.

Just received news that T-Bone was attacked by two prisoners. Will post the details in the next blog.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments and questions for Warrior to 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
Question Time with 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. Shane is the author of the blog Persevering Prison Pages.

Shane responds to the questions raised in the comments on his $115,000 court victory over the Arizona Department of Corrections.

In response to the anonymous disgruntled taxpayer who opposes my financial settlement:

I am well aware that trust and redemption will not come easy, and I will need to earn it. However, some in society will never allow me to earn it, for one reason or another, be it due to warped ideologies (tough on crime, ie. Lock ’em up and throw away the key) or some form of psychosis caused by being victimized. It’s those people I will unfortunately have to disregard as requiring to earn from. It’d be futile to continue to try, as well as counter-productive.

For anyone to suggest that I deserved or caused the injuries I suffered while in ADOC’s custody and care is simply warped thinking, hateful and incorrect. Furthermore, the “legally correct” term of what I was required to prove was “deliberate and/or callous disregard” for my “serious medical needs.” A far higher standard of proof than mere negligence or malpractice. I basically had to prove the each and every defendant 1) knew I had hepatitis C, 2) knew it was causing pain, 3) knew it was going to worsen, 4) knew it would cause me permanent physical injury if not treated, 5) knew it put my life in jeopardy and 6) still denied/delayed me the necessary medical care. I proved all of this, thus after years of costly litigation, they settled.

I find it shameful and a perfect reflection of some people in society’s double standard when it comes to the law.

Some people are all for locking up every person who breaks the law, for long sentences, at taxpayers’ expense. Yet many of those same people think it’s just fine to break the law against a prisoner when you’re an employee of the Corrections Dept. or Police Dept. without any reparation or repercussions. To those people, I say that you are the minority in these changing times and it’s time to evolve or silence yourself to save face.

Finally…I do not “rail” against the establishment. “Railing” implies that I use theatrical language. I simply state the facts as they occurred, my opinions, etc. If it was baseless rantings I’d have been silenced long ago by the Establishment. I’ve kept my blog for nearly FIVE YEARS!

I’ve tried, and succeeded, to better myself while in prison. I was paid $115,000, as reparation, by ADOC. If this is a problem for you, contact your legislator, Gov. Brewer, Director Ryan, or A.G. Goddard and complain to them. We all know how concerned they are about your (taxpayers) economic complaints. (That’s sarcasm for those of you who missed it! LOL)

P.S. Ironman, Red & a few others send their love & respect to Weird Al. Hello, Al!

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments for Shane to 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
From T-Bone (Letter 10)

T-Bone - Radiating power and strength, this deeply-spiritual massively-built African American towers over most inmates. He is a prison gladiator with more stab wounds than Julius Caesar. A good man to have on your side.


Hello My Friend,

How are things over there? I hope this letter finds you in good spirits with a positive attitude and surrounded by love. Sounds like you had fun in Deutschland, with the lovely lady you went to see. Man, I can’t wait to get out and enjoy the natural things in life a man is supposed to enjoy.

Things here are the same. I am into helping people who are on edge because of their time and what not. I mentioned to you that I had a situation a few years back with another guy who did a lot of dope, but the guy blamed me, and I had to pay it off. The same type of people are here now, but I’m not looking after any of them. This place is really a joke, and the administration doesn’t do anything to help people with problems.

So tell me, what do you do for fun in England? It seems like such a small place. That pic you sent me of Hadrian’s Wall was cool. It looks like it might be an out of the way place. You know how it is in America, a man can get lost if he wants to. The things to do are endless. When I’m out of here, I’m going to do my best to get there and visit and learn. It’s such a place of history! After being here, how does it feel to be there? You have such a limited amount of climates. But then again, you could just drive through the tunnel and go to France and the Med for some real heat. Or Spain.

I really do miss our conversations. I miss your smile, and I can’t wait to talk to you even if it’s on the phone. We can really get things together then.

Say hello to your folks and stay strong, my brother! Peace and happiness, Shaun!

Each one
Teach one
Strength and Honor



ps) You stay strong, Shaun, and don’t ever give up, man. Positive thoughts, positive actions. Love ya, man.

Click here to read T-Bone’s previous letter.

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Shaun P. Attwood
On Prison Ink Both Good and Bad but Mostly Bad (Part 2 by Polish Avenger)

Polish Avenger – A software engineering undergraduate sentenced to 25 years because his friend was shot dead during a burglary. In Arizona, if a burglar gets killed, the accomplices get 25 year sentences.

I do like gaol tattoos, and had planned on getting at least one or two. While in the Joe Arpaio Hilton we experimented with the low-tech method. No Walkman motors were available to make the usual powered gun, so we went Polynesian style. Sharpened up a staple, mounted it on a pencil, and started digging.

But that method doesn’t produce very good results. Sure it gets in there, but clean lines are nearly impossible. Still, it’s enough for a couple of starter tattoos.

Being scared of carcinogenic soot, I ground up some pencil graphite for ink. For my first tattoo, I decided to face my fear of the pain head on. Some places hurt a lot more than others: elbows, ankles, and the sides atop the rib cage are about the worst. I cut right to the chase, pulled out my penis and carved a smiley face into it.
Yes, seriously.
It actually didn’t hurt all that bad, just bled a lot. Like we talked about in Part 1, it has blurred and faded over the years, but Mr. Smiley still grins back at me every trip to the loo!

The second tattoo is one I regretted. Trying to impress an ex girlfriend, I drilled her name onto my ankle. Don’t ever do that. It just comes back to haunt you. Especially with a staple tack. It looked horrible. Of course she was unimpressed, and I was stuck with it for several years.

A normal person would have just got another tattoo over it, a “cover up,” which is a common thing. However the Polish Avenger can not be accused of being normal. No, I had to got he extra mile and erase it.

Erase, you say, how is that possible? Well, I don’t recommend this except as a last resort. When they really have to come off, there are ways. Our collective archive of prison lore turned up these methods:

1) Run an empty tattoo gun over it. Leaves a scar of the outline.
2) Tattoo lemon juice into it. Supposedly bleaches it out. I couldn’t find any.
3) Cut it off. Yikes!
4) Burn it off. Eek!
5) Sand it off.

Believe it or not #5 works pretty well. In the next instalment we’ll cover all of the gruesome details.

Click here for Part 1.

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Shaun P. Attwood
From Iron Man (Letter 5)

Iron Man - A martial-arts expert and personal trainer whose crimes include smashing someone’s door down: "I didn’t hurt anyone. I just wanted my fuckin’ money." His workouts are brutal. "I’ll have you in the best shape of your life by the time you get out," he told me.

Jun 16, 2009


Hello, brother. Thank you for your recent letter. It is always great to hear from you. Things are going fine for me, spending my time exercising, studying and making the most of every single moment.

It really does my heart good to hear that you’re practicing martial arts and that you are dedicated to your physical fitness training. Have you decided which weapon you will master first? My first weapon was the nunchaku, and like your first true love, the first weapon that you master will always hold a special place in your heart.

I am so looking forward to mastering the way of the sword. The Samurai sword is such a beautiful weapon, so perfectly designed. Did I ever tell you that I own an authentic Samurai sword? My grandfather brought one home from World War II that he took in battle from a Japanese soldier. He passed the sword to my father, and then my father passed it to me. It is my most prized possession.

It is 8:30am and I just got through with a 2 hour workout. I remember with fondness the evening workout we used to do on the big field. The burpee-run combo workout at sundown after doing an hour and a half of strength training in the 110°F heat. Great times. I miss you, brother.

My workout partner for the past year went home. He was in great shape. I walked him to the gate, and he said, “Check your watch today at 3:30. I’ll be on the golf course.” I know that he’ll fare well. He never let this place affect his mind nor his spirit.

Congratulations on getting the new literary agent. I know that your big break is coming. All you must do is stay the course.

Yes, brother, I can definitely almost taste the free air again. Just a few months to go…

A wise Samurai used to keep these words carved into a plaque on his wall: “Always on the battlefield.” Make success happen, my friend, and always remember to rejoice in the present moment, and live life in every breath.

Love and Respect,

Iron Man

Click here to read Iron Man’s previous letter.

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Shaun P. Attwood
Mentored (Part 6)

Thanks to the Koestler Trust, I am now being mentored by Sally Hinchcliffe, a published author with an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of London.
Here’s an article recently posted to Koestler’s website, that gives my mentor’s perspective on my writing development.

Mentoring Session One

“Mentoring is a strange balancing act: somewhere between befriending and tutoring, and one I'm still getting to grips with in my sessions with Shaun. I find it an interesting coincidence that we are the same age and we left university in the same year, but the paths of our lives since then have been radically different.

“Our first session was at Liverpool's Walker Arts Gallery Cafe, whose staff have an incredibly relaxed attitude to people occupying a table for two hours with nothing but a cooling cup of coffee. At times I am painfully aware that we are discussing the mechanics of 'keystering' drugs into prison while two immaculately dressed and blue-rinsed old ladies share a pot of tea and cakes across the room. Fortunately the acoustic in the cafe is echo-y and I hope our words don't carry too far beyond our table. Shaun initially sent me a mountain of stuff to read and I made detailed notes on the first three chapters. So much about developing as a writer is about having a sympathetic reader who can see what you're trying to achieve and tell you what works and what doesn't in that context. I'm trying to walk a narrow line – I don't want Shaun to lose his own voice and become a ventriloquist of mine, but then again, I can see how his writing needs to be sharpened and de-cluttered, so that his voice and his story comes through. I have marked up the text as I would a fellow MA student, holding him to the same high standards.

“We also discuss aims and objectives, filling in the planning sheet that Koestler have provided. Shaun is a man with a mission, and in a hurry. He wants to be approaching publishers within three months. I do a lot of expectations management about the pauper's life a writer leads. I'm hoping some of it sinks in. I walk out of the session feeling a little shattered, not helped by an epic four-hour, three-train journey home.”

“My first session with Sally went extremely well. Now that I have a professional pointing out the errors in my writing and coaching me on getting published, I feel I am about to make some serious progress. After reading the draft of my autobiography, Sally offered a variety of advice... She asked me to summarise the book in one sentence. I replied, “It’s the story of my rise, fall and redemption.” She asked me to write a brief synopsis, and recommended I read these two memoirs, Lucky by Alice Sebold and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and these two prison memoirs, Forget You Had a Daughter by Sandra Gregory and A Life Inside by Erwin James. When I told Sally about my high hopes of getting published as soon as I got out of prison, she said that if I was seeking immediate results, I need to find another occupation. Getting published takes years and my book must be presented in the right way because I only have one shot with each publisher, and in its present format my story would be rejected.”

Mentoring Session Two

“Reading through Shaun's first blog, I find I have been cast as the dragon lady. His blog readers are appalled, but Shaun seems happy and more importantly the next tranche of work he sends me is radically improved, with all my comments taken on board. I realise the power of my position – the lightest word from me might send Shaun off down a wrong track; a worrying responsibility. We talk about the structure of the book and I find myself torn between making concrete suggestions and getting Shaun to make up his own mind. In the end we consider a couple of approaches for Shaun to try. I sometimes have to bite back my natural tendency to have and voice an opinion – this is not my book, when all is said and done. The mentoring relationship is strictly time limited, and at the end of this year he'll have to continue on his own, and fostering a dependence on me will not be helpful.”

“The second session started with Sally helping me restructure the draft of a short synopsis of my book. The short synopsis is just for my own use, and states the basic structure of my memoir. She also wants me to consider writing a long synopsis, breaking down each chapter to give the full arc of the story. The long synopsis will be a marketing tool. It needs to state why somebody would want to read my memoir, and what my book says about a larger world.

“For homework, Sally set me the task of critical reading. She wants me to look at some books, to find some good prose and some poor prose, and to explain what works and what doesn’t. I am also to study how authors transition back in time. We both agreed John Updike is a master of such transitions. She hopes this exercise will help me critique myself more.”


Mentoring Session Three

“Shaun talks in his blog about 'homework' making me sound more school-marmish than I hope I really am. But I am trying to give him the skills of self-critique, starting with critiquing others. It's easy to become dependent on the opinions of others and lose the ability to see one's own faults. Each tranche of writing Shaun sends is better than the last, and my own critiques have had to become more nuanced. Sometimes he's overshot – I asked him to put more of himself into the writing, now at times I suggest he puts in less.

“We talk about general techniques and I am impressed by how much Shaun has anticipated my own tentative suggestions and going beyond them. The research he has put in is amazing, relying not just on his memories but on letters, and going back to the characters involved and even recording their speech to make sure he's got the dialogue right.”

“In the third session Sally offered this advice:

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...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... 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 ClichĂ© 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.”

“Every time I fill in my monitoring sheets after a session I have to count back to see how many we've done because I can't believe how far we've both come in a few short meetings. Half way through the project and Shaun is already producing writing that is both assured and at times powerfully moving. I'm fortunate in having someone keen to work hard and utterly dedicated – taking the few hints and tips I've made and running with them. I know I've been fortunate in my mentee (although I still don't believe that's a word) but the past six months have shown how effective this relationship can be.

“I said at the start that our lives had run along radically different courses but if they have diverged in the past, they are now converging. Increasingly we meet these days as writer and writer – sharing tips at our last session on avoiding the aches and pains of a laptop-bound sedentary life – rather than as mentor and mentee.”

Click here to read Mentored Part 5

Link to the original article.

I also received this email from the school I did my first talk about prison and drugs to:

You may remember coming to speak at Bishop's Stortford College earlier this year.
Our pupils rated your talk as the best one they had recieved all year !
I would very much like to invite you to give the same talk again next year.

Email comments to 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
Central Unit (Part 5 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.

Central Unit began with Warrior discovering a race war is raging, and the guards are staging human cock fights. Part 4 left off with Warrior receiving some messages.

There were two kites [letters] folded to the size of a stamp. One had “READ FIRST” written on it. It was a basic introduction from Shadow, telling me who he was and stating his position. It was forceful, but courteous. He was doing life, which told me he was probably heading in the direction of becoming a fully-fledged gang member, and that’s where his loyalty would lie. He was making a future for himself, that’s how I saw it.

The next kite was from Tiger, who preferred the Spanish pronunciation Tigre. He told me he was holding it down [the local leader] for the carnales [Mexican Mafia], and that he reports to them. He also stated that all orders and moves come from and are approved by him. He’d run my information, and everything had come back clean, meaning I was on no hit list, I was no child molester or rapist, I owed no money. He ran down the latest about the war taking place. What I had to be careful for, and the times throughout the day when the drama usually occurs. I could tell that Tigre was a probate [a prisoner putting in work to become a full gang member] by the mannerisms in his letter. There was an impulsivity from him to puff his chest out and bark orders.

Lately, because of the war, the gangs had dismissed the quality of character in their prospects and were more focussed on the quantity of numbers. Due to the reduced recruiting standards, there were a lot of shitheads ready to bark orders, yet they could never order the coward out of themselves. All of the real killers I’ve known never threw their business or themselves out there in initial introductions.

The letter told me that Tigre was an egomaniac, intoxicated by power, and lacking leadership experience. That I had to be careful with him, as he was the type to abuse his authority, and put you in the crossfire to save himself or to score points, and look good by making you a casualty. A typical prison politician.

His handwriting also stood out to me. Every T was crossed perfectly, and every loop in his script was exactly the same angle, width and length. In some areas, I could see where he’d been a little off on a T or a loop, and he’d erased the letter to be sure they were all equal in size. This, in conjunction with what I’d already picked up on, told me he had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and cared extremely about what others thought of him. It was good info for me to have, just he case he became my enemy.

Cowboy rapped on the wall with his mirror. I glanced up at his tattooed arm extending out, mirror in hand, and I could see his serpent-eyed smile on the mirror. He waved for me to come over.
“I see yer boys got atcha,” Cowboy said.
“Yeah, Shadow and Tigre,” I said, looking for a cringe or facial expression their names might cause.
But Cowboy was a pro. His face didn’t give me anything. Not knowing how close he was to them, I figured I’d best tread lightly and indirectly. Since I’m half white, I played up the Anglo slang and accent just enough to affect Cowboy subconsciously, without it being noticeable. I needed him in a comfort zone to reveal information.
“They seem like they’re pretty cool dudes. Is Shadow half white by the way? Is he from Tucson?”
“Nah, he outta Phoenix. I don’t think he half wood [white]. I’m pretty sure he full ese [Mexican]. Why ya ask?”
“Oh, he looks like a Shadow I did time with back in the days. He was a half-breed like me though.”
“Ya half wood?” Cowboy said excitedly, head tilted.
“Yeah, Scottish-Irish on my pop’s side,” I said, equally excited. It’s rare that whites accept someone who isn’t fully white. But I’ve noticed over the years that they liked that I wasn’t pure Mexican. I’m guessing it was due to the I’m-purer-than-you mindset, but it never failed to help me with the whites when I needed it.
“Nah, you shitting me?”
“Seriously. Here, look at my ID.”
He took my ID, and read my last name. “Ya ain’t kiddin’, are ya?” He nodded in approval.
“Hell, I listen to rock too, bro. Don’t let this dark hair fool ya.”
We spent the next hour bullshitting over how Hitler would have won the war if he wasn’t an egomaniac trying to micro-manage everything, how every Metallica album after the black one was garbage, how Carl von Clausewitz’s book On War was one of the best books ever written on the subject.
When he was most comfortable, I asked, “So tell me, man, between you and me, what are Shadow and Tigre about?”
He was no dummy, and at that moment I figured he would catch on that I’d made conversation to pump him for information. Whether he realised or not, he didn’t let on. He went ahead and told me all I needed to know.

Shadow and Tigre were both probates. Tigre was higher up the ladder. Shadow had more sense, was humble and doing life. Tigre had five years left. Both were in their early 30’s. Tigre had the keys [head position] to the building I was in. He lacked humility, and everything I’d guessed so far was on point.

Just then an officer came in wheeling the customary steel feeding cart, overflowing with lunches in brown paper bags. Before he started feeding, he came over in between our cells. He glanced at his clipboard, and then the cell number above Cowboy’s cell. From behind dark aviator sunglasses he said, “Roll your shit up. You’re moving.” Then walked away.
“Where am I going?” Cowboy protested.
“I don’t know,” the officer replied.
“Well, Warrior, it’s been nice meetin’ ya. Ya take care, and be on yer toes.”
“You going to a yard?”
“Nah, probably another building. Administration does that around here. They moves us all around to break up the line of communication, especially with this war. It keeps the incident factor down if everyone’s too busy re-establishing positions and lines of communication.”
“Right. I see.”
“Jus’ be on yer toes. Ya never know who yer neighbor will be.”
“Take care,” I said. We shook hands and I left him to pack.

I figured it was a good time to start my workout. First, I grabbed my Sony radio and put in a new set of AA batteries. I put on my headphones and tuned into 98, a really good alternative rock station. I needed something fast to listen to for the workout. I put my shoes on, took off my shirt. At 5’10” and 175 ponds, I was confident about my size. I’ve always been cut in build. I did my stretches for 15 minutes. Legs, hamstrings, back, arms, chest, neck, the usual. I then tied an orange line twisted from an old state-issued T-shirt from one end of my cell to the other. A low-tech dummy line per se. I spent the next 30 minutes shadowboxing.

In the middle of my cardio, I saw Cowboy leave. We acknowledged each other with the raising of our brows in unison.

I finished my cardio, then started with pushups. 15 sets of 30’s, 5 with hands almost together, 5 regular, 5 wide, all within 15 minutes, 25 second rests in between each set. Then upside down pushups against the wall, 5 sets of 15 in 5 minutes. Next curls and back arms, super sets, one after the other. 5 sets of 12 curls and 5 sets of back arms in 10 minutes. Squats, 5 sets of 50. Lunges, 5 sets of 50 on each leg in 15 minutes. I ended with crunches and sit-ups, 500 in 15 minutes.
I try to knock it out in an hour, sometimes I keep at it for 2 hours, depending upon my frustration level.

As I finished, I noticed a 6’2” Mexican in handcuffs being escorted into Cowboy’s old cell. He had a shaved head, and a wide forehead that made his eyebrows seem disproportioned. His frowning mouth was apparent behind his overgrown walrus mustache. His eyes were deep-set and scanning me and my cell as he passed by. He had to weigh at least 280 pounds, a cross between fat and muscle.
I glared back, not showing I was affected. He took his property off the moving cart, then his cell was racked shut. His cuffs were removed through the trap in the door, and the two officers left.
I began to wash up. I looked at my mirror hanging above my sink. I noticed a large arm, twice as big as Cowboy’s, holding a mirror and getting a view of my cell and me. I pretended not to notice. Hearing the rapping of the mirror, I turned and walked towards the bars.
“Q-vo, ese. Yo soy [I am] Big Tigre.” He then put his hand out for me to shake.

Click here to read:
Central Unit Part 1
Central Unit Part 2
Central Unit Part 3
Central Unit Part 4

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments and questions for Warrior to 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
Guest Writer: Rocky – Tough Break

Rocky has a year left to serve at Safford, Arizona. He was sentenced for two separate cases: burglary and aggravated assault.

I was in Yavapai County jail in 2005, waiting for sentencing. There was a guy there just arrested for D.U.I. hit and run. One of the victims was a young boy, 10 years old, paralysed from the neck down from the accident.

The guy was looking at 25 to life as a sentence. He was on the second tier in my pod. I sat and watched him tie sheets together, and wondered what the hell he was up to. Just then, he walked out of his cell and tied one end of the sheet around his neck, and the other to the top rail of the upper tier.

The guy did a swan dive off the top tier. The length of the sheet was right to hang himself, but he didn’t take into consideration the 2 ½ foot high picnic table below. He hit the table with his knees. The sheet tied around his neck so hard it sounded like a shotgun blast.

The irony of the whole thing is the impact broke his spine. Now he is a quadriplegic. Is that justice or what?

As this is Rocky’s first blog for Jon’s Jail Journal, your comments and questions would be greatly appreciated.

If you know a prisoner who would make a good guest writer for Jon's Jail Journal, please email me at the address below.

Email comments and questions to 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