Iron Man’s Freedom

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.

Email just received from Iron Man:

Dear Shaun,

Hello, my Brother. It is good to be breathing the Free Air once again.

I have been out for eight days now, and I feel fantastic. Some people have a hard time readjusting to Freedom after a long stretch, but I take to Freedom like an Eagle takes to the sky.

Things are progressing nicely. To borrow the words of a great man, “I believe in making success happen. I have a plan. I will work every day to implement my plan. I will not be deterred nor distracted.”

I am borrowing a friend’s e-mail address for the time being, so you can reply at the above. If I knew how to create my own e-mail account, I would, but I don’t know which company is the best one or how to set up the account.

Well Brother, I have a busy day today, so I will close for now.

By the way, have you heard from Cat Eyes? I don’t yet have her e-mail address, or I would send her a greeting. She is a cool chic. Thanks for connecting me with her. Her letters were as refreshing and rejuvenating to me as pure spring water on a hot summer day.

I have yet to even see Weird Al, so I haven’t got to look at the yoga book you sent me, or read the letter that came with it. Thank you for sending it, I will go get it as soon as I can.

Until Later, My Friend.

As Always,

Iron Man

Click here to read Iron Man’s previous letter.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments for Iron Man 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
Matt’s Story (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.

This story is a continuation of Warrior’s previous blog that you can read by clicking here.

As Mike and I were caught up in chatter, the holding cell door echoed a piercing crack! There was a time when that noise used to startle me. The escorting officer had radioed for it to be unlocked. The steel door shrieked against being opened, then suddenly finding its tracks, it opened smoothly as though it remembered what it was meant for. Then in walked Matt.

I immediately recognized Matt before he noticed me. Though I hadn’t seen him in years, he was still pale, gaunt, with blond curly hair that hadn’t been cut and was close to an Afro. Matt was 52, but his years of drug use and rotten teeth made him look 72. His square shoulders and over-sized glasses were reminiscent of the 80’s.
“Gilbert?” Matt squinted, unsure if it was me or not.
“Matt! Damn it’s a small world,” I said with a welcoming smile.
“It is you, Gilbert!” he said with an enthusiastic roll of the head. He flailed his arms as if he couldn’t believe it was me. We shook hands.

I was happy to see Matt too, although the nature of our rapport couldn’t really be labelled as friendship. I used to sell drugs to him in our old neighborhood. In prison though, a familiar face alleviates the misery of the circumstances. It’s also perhaps comforting to know someone familiar is experiencing the same misery.

Matt was one of those people I met that I could never forget. He knew me as Gilbert, one of the many aliases I’d adopted over the years. You do that a lot in the drug game. Matt had a wife, kids and a home. He was what drug users like to call a functioning addict. Although he had a $100-a-day habit, his bills were paid, kids taken care of, and wife seemingly happy. Despite this, at that time I viewed Matt as I would any other addict: no sympathy, no remorse, a sucker feeding his addiction in order to fuel mine for easy money.

There came a day when I viewed Matt in a different light. His wife, Sherry, had phoned me to meet up with her on his behalf. Matt’s sickness was getting the better of him, and I had his medicine. Sherry was a short heavy-set woman with oily blond hair, both due in part to years of work in the fast-food industry. Her aquiline nose suggested a little French in her ancestry. She wore the pants in the family. I don’t know what compelled me to ask her about Matt. Perhaps I was puzzled by how a strong opinionated woman such as her could juggle work, kids and family duties in addition to being the wife of an addict, and for some odd reason support Matt’s habit instead of rallying him to quit.

I pulled up around the back of Sherry’s workplace. She was out back smoking her usual Salem cigarette. We made our exchange while chatting.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?”
“No, go right ahead, hun.” She always had a way of throwing in hun at the end of sentences. It sounded more maternal on the back of her age, kids, and having a hard life.
“I know it’s none of my business, and if you don’t feel comfortable answering, I’m cool with that, but why do you enable Matt’s habit? You guys are not the type of people I’m used to dealing with. You’re not bottom feeders.”
Sherry inhaled the last part of her cigarette while composing her reply. She then flicked the cigarette butt with that cool unexpected speed and nonchalance that influences people into smoking. “You know, Gilbert, if he didn’t get it from you, he’d get it elsewhere,” she said, casting her head down as if shamed by the reality. She then raised her head in complete honor, and replied, “I love that man, and I don’t think you know the story about us.”

She began to tell me their story. They’d been together twenty plus years, and were high-school sweethearts. They grew distant after high school. Sherry began college and Matt found himself mixed up with the wrong crowd. Despite this, they still kept in touch. Matt followed a friend to Arizona, to escape and start new. Sherry ended up pregnant, and dropped out of college. She began to live with the child’s father. Through all this they kept in touch, and it was obvious the love was still there. The father of Sherry’s child was abusive to her, and Matt tried to persuade her to leave him, come to Arizona with the baby and start over, even possibly finish school. Then suddenly Sherry called Matt crying, hysterical, wanting him to come get her.

Sherry told me how she found her husband raping their three-year-old daughter. She was raped so bad she had to be hospitalised for months. Matt was on the first flight back to Baltimore, where they were originally from. Sherry’s husband was arrested, but released on bail. Matt got Sherry an apartment, stayed by her through the criminal and divorce proceedings, in addition to the lengthy reconstructive surgeries her daughter had to endure.

Sentencing finally came for Sherry’s ex. He received only probation. Now Matt being the man that he was back then meant that the sentence wasn’t justice in his eyes. I seriously doubt anyone could view that sentence as just. So Matt went to the local hardware store, and purchased a framing hammer. He showed up at Sherry’s ex’s house and beat his head in. The ex didn’t die, but would be severely handicapped forever. Matt was arrested, and sentenced to 10 years. He was out in 6. Sherry stood by him the whole time, but unfortunately he became hooked on drugs while in prison.

My jaw hung open in awe as I listened to the story of her and Matt. The man I viewed previously, as another despicable addict, I could no longer view the same way. Nor could I sell to this man any longer either. I’d come to respect him given what I’d learned. That was the last time I saw Matt and Sherry, until I ran into Matt in the prison medical-holding cell.

Do you think Matt was justified in bashing the rapist's head in with a framing hammer?

Warrior’s blog, Rapist on the Yard, touches on the same issue of vigilante justice/violence against sex offenders, and sparked a lot of comments.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Post comments and questions for Warrior 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
Interview For Not Shut Up Magazine

I was interviewed by Hugh Stoddart of Not Shut Up magazine, which features writing from people in secure settings.

Click here to read the interview
Talk at HMP Holloway

I just did my first talk at a prison. I was invited to HMP Holloway, a women’s prison, by the library manager after she heard me talk at an Arts Alliance conference in London. Ben from the Koestler Trust talked for an hour before me, about how Koestler helps prisoners pursue various arts. I told the women my story, and credited the Koestler Trust for launching me as an author by way of their mentor scheme and the professional help provided by my mentor, Sally Hinchcliffe.

The room I spoke in was so packed that some women had to be turned away. Hearing about the conditions in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail system really shocked them. Excerpts from my book and blog about the cockroaches, gang violence, going on the toilet in front of strangers, and food provoked many disturbed looks, groans, and further questions. An officer later said that the women went back to their cells relieved that their conditions weren’t as bad as what they’d just heard about.

At the end, I said one of the most useful things I learned while in prison was to be able to replace negative addictions with positive ones. I’m still a risk-taking personality type who likes to get his adrenalin pumping, but these days, instead of wild partying for thrills, I do stuff like go to the gym for BodyCombat and karate, which put me on a natural high. It’s just a matter of directing your energy away from drugs and into things that won’t get you in trouble.

There was an aspiring writer in the audience who is about to be released from prison. I chatted with her at the end. She’s in the process of applying to be on Koestler’s mentor scheme, and it’s my hope that she’ll soon be sharing some of her stories with us here at Jon’s Jail Journal.

The library manager sent me an email after the talk:

Shaun - what can I say? There has been a real buzz about the talk this morning and everyone found you totally engaging. Thank you so much for making the effort to come and share your story with us. It was actually worse than I imagined! I think it was incredibly powerful what you said at the end about how you really feel that there's still that part of you that wants to take risks and this could so easily take you in the wrong direction. But that’s its possible to channel your energies into more positive ways. Huge thanks again - it was a great morning.

Click here for my previous mentor session.

Post comments 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
Madejski Students Hear Real Jail Tales (by Laura Herbert at Get Reading)

A former stockbroker who served time in one of America’s toughest jails spoke to John Madejski Academy students about his life.

Shaun Attwood was arrested in 2002 for money laundering and drug offences after emigrating to Arizona where he threw raves and became heavily involved in drugs.

While serving 26 months on remand he started one of the first prison blogs, Jon’s Jail Journal.

Last Wednesday he visited students at the Whitley school to talk to them about drugs and crime.

Of the visit, Mr Attwood, 41, said: “The students were slow to ask questions, but once they got going there was no stopping them, and a group of boys stayed behind to ask me extra questions.

“It feels good to have this opportunity to influence the lives of young people, and to get such reactions and feedback from the audience.”

During his 26 months on remand, Mr Attwood was imprisoned at Maricopa County jail in Phoenix, Arizona, run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

His journal detailed the conditions of the jail that sparked outrage among human rights campaigners.

In 2004 he was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years for money laundering and drug offences and served almost six years.

The Hartland Road school’s lead teacher in anthropology Katie Royle added: “The presentation was truthful, honest and really well received by our students.

“Shaun was able to talk openly and in detail about the effect drugs had on his life and his experiences as a consequence.

“Our students really engaged with his honest and frank approach, and when offered the opportunity to question him we couldn’t stop them.

“Students were so affected by Shaun’s talk they even stayed behind to talk to him more and many have gone on to read his blog and email him.

“Shaun’s approachable nature has meant students really listened and took in his message.

“We will definitely be having him back very soon.”

Click here for the article.

Click here for Dawn of a New Adventure Part 7

Click here for info about my talk to schools

Post comments 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
Shopping in Prison (by the Occult Killer)

Dubbed the Occult Killer by the media, Brandon is serving 6 to 12 years in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. His crime: he killed his best friend in a drunk-driving accident. When police investigators discovered Gothic paraphernalia in his bedroom, they naturally concluded Brandon had committed a sacrificial murder for the benefit of Satan.

I’m bored, so I decided to write. I stocked up on commissary items like stationary and hygiene products. The only thing I need to figure out is contact solution. It somehow has to be bought through the infirmary. I bet that’s gonna get complicated. Perhaps if they dropped Neccos and Zagnut bars from the commissary list, they might have room for the solution. I’d love to have a typewriter, also, but: 1. Where would I put it and 2. There’s 1,000,000 weapons you could make out of its parts. All the rules and guidelines of this place, although strict, make sense except for two. At 11pm there is a standing head count. That would seem to make sense, BUT there is a standing head count when we are locked down at 10pm…yeah. The other thing that confuses me: CARNIES! (Austin Powers joke=very lame). No, actually the book thing confuses me (books can only come mailed from a bookseller). I guess they expect people sending hollowed-out Bibles with mini-chisel hammers inside. That would explain why they banned excessively large Marilyn Monroe posters. I’ll have to write TNT and tell them to stop playing The Shawshank Redemption, it is freaking out Sammy Hyder (the warden). Maybe I’ll threaten to dig through the wall with a plastic spoon, not like we actually get them anyway. Dad can explain that one, but in case he forgot: when you’re on psyche watch all you can eat with is a spoon. Now that I’m off it, one of the hardest things to come by is (you guessed it) A FRICKIN’ SPOON! I took the liberty of getting myself some coffee and cocoa. The only reason to get that stuff is to “wheel and deal” it. Everyone loves it. You could make “LCCF Espresso”: 3 coffees, 1 cocoa, 1 sugar. Wait! Something else that confuses me: sugar. You get 4-5 packets at breakfast every day. That’s 28-35 packets a week. Seems fine, except…they sell sugar on the commissary list. What’s worse is they actually keep track of the type of sugar they SELL and the type they GIVE OUT. At 4 cents a packet, why trouble themselves.

Click here to read the Occult Killer’s previous blog.

Click here to read more from the Occult Killer at Prison Mom by Sue O.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Post comments and questions for the Occult Killer 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
Changes at Perryville Women’s Prison (Part 3 by Lifer Renee)

Renee – As a teenager, Renee received a 60-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. 15 years into her sentence, she’s writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

An officer pulled up in a truck with the mail bin. He got out and went to the control room. He was stood there with the mail bin waiting to be let into the control room.
“Just drop it by the door,” the yard officer yelled. The mail is supposed to be a secure item.
The officer with the mail looked at the other in disbelief, and did just that: dropped the mail bin in front of the control-room door, not secured and with everyone running around on the yard.
The yard officer eventually got up, got the bin, and went into the control room with it. A few minutes late,r he walked out with the bin, set it on a bench, and proceeded to have the inmates help him sort the mail by pods [living quarters]. It was a mob scene with all the inmates swarming around him. Some complained he shouldn’t be doing the mail like that.
“Hey, if you bitch about how I’m doing it, I’ll just reroute it all!”
Ms. Smittey, who’s been here for almost 40 years, leant over to me. “He’s not supposed to be doing that.”
“I know.”
We all wanted our mail, so we couldn’t say too much because we wouldn’t have received it. Then he would have instigated the inmates “to handle” whoever was complaining.
I retrieved my mail and left the mob. I looked around the yard, and the lazy guard hadn’t even turned the sun lights on. It was dark with the exception of the track lights and the cell lights that were on.

Click here for Renee's previous blog

Shaun Attwood
From Polish Avenger (Letter 2)

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

Ever have that childhood nightmare of having the toilet right up at the front of the classroom? Well, that’s what we’ve got in the prison they recently moved us to. The bathroom is six meters wide, and the only thing next to the thunderpot is a tiny wall half a meter wide – the feet and knees definitely stick out! And so we all had to adapt quickly or get severely backed up. Myself, I find it rather amusing, and just settle in with a book or a cup of joe. Might as well provide some entertainment, right? Hmm…

So I obviously survived the big move. Other than the toilet, it’s not a bad place here, really. Naturally, not everyone is as pleased about it. Particularly those who got laid off, like Jack! But, by and large, the plusses outweigh the minuses. I rather like it, myself. Better dorms, much better food, decent exercise equipment – even medicine balls and ab wheels! And I have a rather tremendous job over at the construction class making 40 cents an hour. So, as ever, I’m pleased. Plus I’ve got a little spot reserved for yoga, so what could go wrong? Hmmm…hold that thought!

Click here for Polish Avenger’s first letter.

Click here for Polish Avenger’s previous blog.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Post comments and questions for Polish Avenger 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
Avoidable Tensions (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. Shane is the author of the blog Persevering Prison Pages.

Walking through the gate, I looked around the crowded recreation yard for a place to sit. The eight picnic tables located at each corner of the yard were full. Chicanos were sat at and loitering around the two southern tables. Whites did the same to the west, and blacks to the east. At the two tables to the north, a smaller group of convicts of mixed races idly chatted while playing spades. All appeared normal on the high-medium-custody yard.

Keeping an eye on the large crowd of Chicanos, I walked over to the northern most table. I’d heard rumors that the Chicanos had beef with the blacks. A black had arrived on the yard who’d jacked Wedo, a low-level Mafioso, for four grams of heroin. The brothers wouldn’t give him up to the Chicanos, so tensions were high between the two races.

“I think there’s a meeting tonight between all of the heads of the races,” John told me as I stood next to the half-breed youngster who, like me, hadn’t clicked-up with the gangs. The shot-callers of each race on the yard would sit down and discuss their problem tonight. Probably suggested and arranged by prison staff, as they’re usually privy to such tensions and want peace and quiet.

Hours later, the heads of the Chicanos, blacks, Native Americans, and whites all met and discussed their mutual interests, and the problem. It got heated and the black leader walked out of the meeting. “Nobody touches him, or it’s on,” were his parting words.

The next morning in the chow line, I watched the guards amassing just outside the dining room. They knew something was going to happen. Instead of locking the yard down, they stupidly tried to stop the inevitable with a show of force. It failed.

After an hour of feeding uneventfully, a group of guards was escorting a mass of convicts from chow back to the housing unit. Suddenly and completely unexpectedly, the mob of prisoners exploded in violence. Chicanos instantly began punching and kicking any black nearby. Blacks fought back the best they could, but being outnumbered six to one, they were falling and fleeing within minutes.

The melee was over in ten minutes. Long before the guards could intervene. Six blacks were hospitalised, one with multiple stab wounds and head trauma. Two Chicanos refused medical care for razor cuts to their arms. One white boy was hospitalised after accidentally getting in the way of a stray punch that shattered his jaw. The black who’d caused this had rolled-up and left the yard in the middle of the night. Nobody knew this till afterwards. The guards knew, but said nothing.

Click here for Shane's previous story.

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
Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 7)

I did 3 talks to schools last year, which led me to believe that the talks would take a long time to build. Now all of a sudden, I’m doing 2 to 3 a week. Teachers are telling other teachers about my talk, and I’m getting inundated with calls and emails. I even had an enquiry from as far away as China. Audience reactions have ranged from girls crying over the jail conditions to boys mobbing me at the end with questions. The teachers are generally inviting me back on the spot. It’s great to see the young people showing so much interest in my story, and how it’s affecting them.

Here's an email I got from a student after a talk: "Thank you so much for coming in to speak to us all today. I found it really interesting. It was a moving, yet extremely powerful story and has made me think twice about my future and staying as far away as possible from all drugs." Matt Northwood (February 2010)

Local newspapers have been reporting on my talks, and one even made a video of me with some of the pupils. Click here to see the video.

I talked to my largest audience this morning, 400 students at Weydon School in Farnham. I stayed behind for an extra 15 minutes answering questions.

Last Friday, I saw a brilliant play in London called Slaves, about prisoners and guards. Written by Rex Obano, an ex-prison employee, the dialogue and accuracy of detail were spot on. The expressions on the actors were so accurate, I actually got flashbacks to prison. It was an extremely high standard of work, and by far the best play I’ve seen since getting released.
If you wish to see Slaves, click here for more info.

Thanks for all of the book-title suggestions! They're under review by my publisher.

Click here for Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 6)

Post comments 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
Book Title Needed

My publisher and parents feel the title of my jail memoir, Green Baloney and Pink Boxers, is too difficult to understand. So now the book needs a new title. My suggestion is Surviving Sheriff Joe's Jail. If you have a better title, something so brilliant that me and my publisher and parents won't be able to resist it, please post it in the comments section below. If it's used, you'll be getting a free signed copy.

Here's the blurb to help you put your book-title thinking caps on:

This book is an account of the 26 months Shaun Attwood spent in the jail system run by the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona. It begins with a SWAT team knocking Shaun’s door down, and his arrest for heading an organisation that threw raves and distributed club drugs. Initially, Shaun goes into shock as he’s submerged into a nightmarish world of gang violence, insect-infested cells and food unfit for animals. But with the love and support of his family and fiancĂ©e, Claudia, he slowly adapts. Other prisoners Shaun meets on his journey tell their stories. His large and fearless friend since childhood, Wild Man, pops up all over the place with his unique brand of chaos. Shaun’s situation devastates his loved ones, and his mother has a nervous breakdown. The prosecutor and Detective Reid are out to get Shaun a life sentence, and the legal developments cause many emotional ups and downs. Over time, Shaun tries to avoid getting smashed by forming various alliances, including with the Italian Mafia and the independent tough guy, Joe. Shaun increasingly uses jail time for learning and introspection. He takes up yoga, and ponders the big questions in philosophy. The letters he writes home, which make his family both laugh and cry, tell such a graphic tale that his parents encourage him to write more in order to document his incarceration. Towards the end of his stay and with the help of his family, he starts the blog, Jon’s Jail Journal, to expose the conditions and human rights violations. The book ends with his family flying over from England for a sentencing hearing that has everyone on the verge of mental collapse.

Post comments 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
Interview by Jon Ronson

I was recently interviewed by Jon Ronson, the writer, documentary maker, and author of The Men Who Stare at Goats. Jon is such a good interviewer, I didn't know notice when the general chitchat between us stopped and the interview began. The questions I expected, he never asked, resulting in an interview that covered new and unusual ground. Oddly enough, Jon went to the same club as me, The Thunderdome, when raving began in Manchester.

Click here to listen to the show on BBC Radio 4.