Hard Time Reviews by Prisoners No. 3: Brandon

Brandon Obaza, a Somerset, PA, USA SCI inmate. So far we’ve had one favourable review in this series, and one unfavourable.

Shaun’s story is an incredible and astonishing, yet somehow typical account of the American jail experience. Whether you’ve spent half your life in prison or have never been there before, this is a frightening, sad, and hilarious must read. Those reading it on the inside will enjoy empathizing with and relating to the “every day” excitements of the joint (to be ridiculously vague), while you outsiders will be simultaneously surprised, horrified, entertained, and informed (perhaps even ‘warned’). Trust me, you will be taken for a ride.

“Hard Time” follows the incarceration and criminal past of its author, Shaun Attwood, a British stockbroker success story in America whose interest, then total immersion, in the rave scene and Ecstasy lands him in Maricopa county, Arizona. Facing charges of crime syndication and drug trafficking, he spends 26 harrowing months in the county system amidst some of the most violent offenders and interesting characters in the country.

The book is full of graphic detail starting with Shaun’s arrest and the psychological marathon that is the process known as “intake.” Packed holding cells, days without sleep, endless waiting and uncertainty, the infamous “no privacy” communal toilet (not to mention “no seat”, dammit, now dirty is that thing?), the list goes on.

After all that, you only have to look forward to an indeterminate amount of time behind bars pending charges and court appearances and disappointments without number, while trying to avoid being killed by departmental neglect and predatory inmates. Not to mention, if all this madness is occurring at the county level and you’re looking at state time, how bad will it get? Sounds like a really f’ed-up math problem. Try not to think of it, or the gnarly institutional grade food.

Shaun articulates quite well the inner struggle of prison, when you’re alone and all you have for company are your thoughts. I see men sitting alone in the yard, their faces pained, eyes distant and dim, almost lifeless. You can see their self-loathing and regret, the hate and sadness they have for themselves. Even those who aren’t sorry for what they’ve done will be eventually. It’s only a matter of years.

We all have reservations about our system of justice, whether it works or not, what its purpose really is. If you are truly a good person and use your time in prison to temper and improve upon yourself as Shaun did, then maybe it does work. If it instils purpose in you, gives you new appreciation and lust for life, maybe those precious years haven’t been lost. I hope so deeply and desperately that my and our years have not been lost.

Hey, you! Still reading this? Thanks for stickin’ with it. Now, as a convict and state inmate myself, I DEMAND you read this book. I mean it. I’m not asking you to “share our pain” or feel sorry for me, I’m simply telling you READ THIS, because if you ever entertain similar activity, this will happen to you. You will go to jail, you will ruin your life, your will regret it. Don’t DO HARD TIME, read HARD TIME. (That cheesy line is free of charge, you are welcome).

Note: Firstly, I would like to thank Shaun and his family for his blog, Jon’s Jail Journal, which my mother Sue and I have enjoyed for several years now.

Hard Time at Amazon UK. Hard Time at the Book Depository.

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