Bob Marley (Part 4 by Guest Blogger Mark Nelson)

This is a continuation of Mark’s story about his time in prison in Venezuela.

After hospital I went to various prisons and police stations in Caracas until Thomas was released. At that point I had to go back to San Antonio – even though the other gang members were still there.

On the day I returned, there was a big reception for me – people were amazed that I was still alive. Thankfully, there was a new boss, and he told me that if anyone gave me trouble, I should tell him.

Even so, I found it difficult especially at night – I always slept with one eye open. I wanted to transfer home, but it was a long process, and took longer than I wanted. I was involved in a lot of fights. At one point I made a phone call to my family, told them I loved them, and asked them to take care of my daughter and my son, because I didn’t think I was going to come out of there alive.

There was a riot during that time. It came about because of visiting restrictions and access to food. People were throwing stones. It was mayhem. The soldiers came in and started shooting. We all had to get down. They separated the foreigners from the locals, and made us strip naked. We had to lie naked in the yard for two hours, in the burning sun. They beat some of the prisoners. They warned us: “If anyone gets up or raises an arm, we will shoot you, no questions.”

In 2007, I was visited by two caseworkers from Prisoners Abroad. It was a quieter time in the prison. There had been a lot of war during 2005, and a lot of gang members had died, so the authorities had moved some of the gang leaders. I couldn’t talk much to the caseworkers. It was still too dangerous. I knew about Prisoners Abroad because they had been sending me money, and I used to read the newsletters they sent me.

The experience I had changed my outlook on life, and my outlook on people. I had never seen anything like that before. I’ve seen so many young people die. It was like hell. When you woke in the morning there was no guarantee that you would survive the day. Lots of times I would be woken by someone pointing a gun in my face and shouting at me. My stomach still hurts from where I was shot. I get a lot of cramps. I also have trouble with my breathing. I’m seeing a doctor now, but I don’t think he can do much because of the way they did the surgery in Venezuela. It wasn’t professional. But I was lucky. I had been seen by the governor’s private doctor, as they didn’t want a foreigner to die there. I think I would have died if I had been left in the prison hospital – it was so unhygienic, there were cockroaches and worms everywhere.
This experience will never leave me until the day I die. It certainly made me more self-aware, and aware of other people. It’s all young people that were doing these gang things – they were early twenties, with the bosses in the mid-thirties.

After four years, I finally left prison in Venezuela in December 2007, and transferred back to HMP Wandsworth in England. I was released in August 2008. I was home. I could relax. I didn’t have gunshots around my head, there wasn’t fighting and blood everywhere. There was so much brutality in San Antonio. I was just glad that I was out of danger. I’m so happy that I’ve got my liberty back. I can breathe much better and try to sort my life out. Even though I’ve lost everything – my girlfriend, my family. I've seen my children once since I’ve been back, although we’ve talked on the phone occasionally. I don’t have any money, and I’m not really stable yet. I need to sort myself out. My children are okay with their mum. My daughter’s just finished university. She showed me her graduation photo, which made me happy. I feel embarrassed and upset, because she went through a life where I wasn’t there for her. Her Daddy wasn’t there for her like her Mum was, so I feel bad. But I’m back now, and trying to get on good terms with her. But she’s upset with me, and had a go at me and told me how I wasn’t there for her, and had left her mother to do all the work. She told me I shouldn’t have got into trouble, and it was my fault that I had gone to prison. But she also said that I’m back now, she loves me, but she’ still upset with me. I just told her that I need to take it one day at a time, and improve things bit by bit. I still need to get my real self back after my experience in San Antonio.

I’m now trying to get myself some practical skills. I’m also keen to give people good advice, so they don’t end up going through what I did. People don’t realise what the consequences will be, but they won’t be nice. I want to let people know about the experience I went through, to open their eyes.

Click here for Part 3

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Shaun Attwood

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