Hard Time Reviews by Prisoners No. 5: Long Island

Long Island - Promising young cellmate I taught to trade the financial markets. Released on the 11th of December '05 and rearrested February ’08. Alleged to have committed forgery and hit an officer with a car. He’s writing from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Lower Buckeye jail.

I received Hard Time yesterday and have finished it this afternoon. I read straight through almost all night. Bravo, my friend, well done! It was fantastic and the ending was heart wrenchingly beautiful. Your depictions of Towers jail and the Madison Street jail are superb.

Ironically sad, nothing has changed. The people you described are still here, but the names are changed.

Your description of your relationship with your fiancĂ©e, Claudia, has left me shaken and your mother’s trauma and her statement at sentencing brought tears to my eyes.

Reading your words to myself, my mind was hearing your voice. It was as if you were in the cell reading the book aloud to me. You have once again inspired me to reach within myself and pull out the best parts.

One of the things that impressed me the most was that the book wasn’t just about the jails that we live in, but the jails that the people who love us live in while we’re incarcerated. Claudia’s pain was so vivid, and you parents’ was unbearable.

The photos of you in the book look great. Freedom is definitely agreeing with you. Your devotion to Wild Man speaks volumes of your character. The photo of you two together looks great.

I’m letting my attorney read it next, then his legal secretary.

Good show, old boy!

Click here for the previous review in this series.

Click here for Long Island's previous blog.

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

There couldn't be a better introduction to the US version of Hard Time than the one written by Anne Mini. I am extremely delighted and fortunate that Anne - whose advice and blog has helped shape my literary development over the years - has taken the time to make such a wonderful contribution. Today, she has announced her contribution and posted some kind words about Hard Time to her blog here. http://www.annemini.com/?p=13486
US Hard Time Cover Revised
Knuckle Check (by Lifer Renee)

Renee – Only a teenager, she received a 60-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.

I was waiting for an officer to do the head count. Shadows kept passing by my door, which was not normal. I went to the door, and peered out of my window. On the lower run were dark droplets that I knew were blood. Instead of hiding my contraband, I checked to see what the guards were doing. They were making women step out of their cells one at a time. They were doing knuckle checks – and more. They were examining forearms and faces, and making the women pull their shirts up to reveal their stomachs and lower backs.

By the time they reached my cell, shirts were no longer being pulled up, which was good because I was ready to protest. It is most uncomfortable to be stared at by guards who look as if they are counting every pore on your skin.

They arrived at my cell. “Let’s see your hands!”
I held my hands out, palms down.
They checked for marks that would indicate I’d been fighting. Seeing none, they moved on.
After they had checked my neighbors, I jumped upon the toilet and called my neighbor through the 4”x4” vent above the toilet that connects the cells.
“Neighbor, Hope.”
She jumped onto her toilet. “Hi, neighbour.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“No, nothing,” she said. “Just a knuckle check.”

Usually fights in here do not happen quietly. I don’t know why, but women have a tendency to yell, scream, and make quite the scene. My door had been open, yet I didn’t hear a thing. I also didn’t understand why the blood wasn’t cleaned up if they didn’t want to go unnoticed.

Click here for Renee’s previous blog

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

Shaun Attwood
My First In-Store Book Signing - Waterstone's Warrington

I just got back from Cheshire, and all was not grim up north. I did my first book signing in a book store on Friday at Waterstones in Warrington. Many people were buying the book as a Xmas present for young people as a cautionary tale about getting involved in drugs and crime. Much to the amazement of the staff, they quickly sold out of books, and my mum had to bring more to the store. They're recommending me to the other Waterstone's, and I already got booked by the Manchester Deansgate one (Saturday March 19th), which is the biggest in the northwest. Hard Time is still riding high on Amazon, in part thanks to a mention in this months FHM.

Click here for the news story about my signing: http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/8682460.Former_prisoner_tackles_book_signing/

Public Speaking Videos

In the two videos below, I'm at Regents College, London talking to a group of psychotherapists. It was part of a masterclass put on by Andrew T. Austin. Double click on the videos to get the full screen version.


Book Signing Friday Nov 19th

I'll be signing books at Waterstones in Warrington from 11am until 3pm. Anyone in the northwest who wants to attend is welcome. Here's the full address:

23-24, Golden Square Shopping Centre
Warrington WA1 1QE
0843 290 8675

7 Famous Inmates Who Completed a Degree from Prison

7 Famous Inmates Who Completed a Degree from Prison
An Evening Meal (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.

The kitchen is on this string of heinousness, so I’ve been hanging back and eating 7-11 cuisine. Tonight was sausage simulate with cheese-flavored snack product on Keefe cracker-flavored flatbreads, expertly sliced with my ID card. Whatever that processed garbage is made out of, it’s pretty good. On top of that I have some freeze-dried milk and Imperial Ice Cream Credits. A few nights ago I had some raspberry cheesecake ice cream. Slammin’. I swear, we eat whatever beefs it on the highway. Say if a poultry truck overturns that day, chicken dinner for a week. Same thing when the crows start to disappear. Very odd…

Click here for Brandon's previous blog.

Click here for Brandon's review of Hard Time.
Question Time

Quincy from the University of Hawaii asked the following questions:

In a Dec 2004 post you wrote “my feelings about injustice grew stronger in 2004. This blog is a platform I will continue to use to highlight injustice. To end injustice we all need to speak out.” Was this your primary motivator during the first days of your blog? Or was it less consciously politically motivated at its inception? Or was it always the goal, to expose the inhuman conditions? How did the blog’s purpose evolve over time?

From inception, the goal was to expose the conditions and human rights violations. Over time, I adopted the goal of trying to humanise prisoners in the eyes of the public. To do so, I focussed on inmates I befriended like Two Tonys, T-Bone, Frankie... The blog is still going so prisoners voices can be heard on the internet.

Regarding the logistics you had to go through to get your material online while in prison, the sending mail to help on the outside to facilitate its posting, did the fact that you were writing entries your parents would see shape the content you wrote? The material seems so candid, was it hard to open this incarcerated world up to your family? Were there some things you would have liked to tell the world, but couldn’t? Was there any degree of self-censoring at times?

These are great questions, and I probably should have addressed some of them in the book. When I was first arrested, I didn't want my parents suffering the knowledge of the full extent of the conditions and the violence. By the time I started the blog, almost 2 years after my arrest, I'd been through so much, they knew most of what was going on. There was no censorship. That would have defeated the purpose of disclosing what was really going on in there.

Describe, if you can elaborate, what it felt like when your blog started attracting an audience. What was it like to have strangers feel such a connection through your writing? What went through your mind when the Guardian first picked up your story? Did the public exposure change the nature of your writing? Or did it encourage you to keep doing what came natural?

It was amazing that all of these kind people from around the world that I'd never met suddenly started offering their support by way of comments, letters and sending books. As things progressed, it was like they were there with me in spirit, and I didn't feel so lonely. The biggest paragraph in the acknowledgements in my book is a list of blog reader’s names. When The Guardian ran excerpts from the blog, I was surprised and delighted. I couldn't believe that my written efforts had got into the media. That happened when I'd been moved from Arpaio's jail into the prison system, and my writing was beginning to focus more on the inmates. I did go through some strange writing phases after that as I experimented with various styles.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is your active inclusion of fellow prisoners, seeming to reflect the close confines of prison life, the communal features, sometimes posting material other inmates wrote (I’m thinking of A Christmas Eve Poem from an Anonymous Inmate). How did it happen that you opened the blog up to collaboration? Was it to give a more holistic perspective to the reader?

This was in part due to the goal I adopted of humanising prisoners in the eyes of the public. I also wanted to show how the prison experience varied for each individual, so I chose a diverse group of prisoners to write about, resulting in blogs such as A Two Tonys Day, A Xena Day

Lastly, even though I haven’t gotten to your most recent posts yet, can you describe the transition you experienced after release, with regard to the blog’s continued existence? From writing your own experience to helping facilitate the dissemination other voices, of those still incarcerated? Did it give you a new perspective on this project? New aims? Where do you see the blog going?

After I was released, I contacted incarcerated women in order to get their viewpoints online and to share their experiences. Sadly, there are few female prison bloggers, and that's something I'd like to see more of. The present goals at Jon's Jail Journal are: to expose the conditions, to provide a platform for prisoners voices to be heard (and in the interests of variety that's why I opened the blog up to guest bloggers), and to document my post-release progress. I'm also hoping that the blog will enable some of our top writers like Warrior, Shane, and Polish Avenger to go on to be successful writers beyond blogging.

Click here for the previous Question Time

Two UK magazines are presently running my story: FHM (December edition) and The Word (November edition)  
Hard Time Hardback Cover for US Edition

I'm curious as to what you think of this cover? The hardback just went on presale here in America.
Iron Man’s Freedom (Part 3)

Iron Man - A martial-arts expert and personal trainer whose crimes include smashing someone’s door down to collect a debt.

Yesterday I celebrated my first birthday out in eight years. It was a good day. I worked for a couple of hours and then spent time with my Mom, my youngest son Nathan, his girl and their two sons. We went out to eat for dinner, and I had steak, shrimp, and all the trimmings. Even treated myself to some chocolate cake, fudge, and carrot cake. Small portions of the dessert items as I am not accustomed to eating much sugar.

I spent the day reflecting over the past 8 years and over the things l have accomplished in the last year, and particularly in the last 8 months. Also evaluating the current situations, circumstances and relationships that I am exploring.

My workout program is paying off. I've gained 18 pounds of muscle mass since I came home. Still hitting the gym 3 to 4 nights a week.

Seizing the day and enjoying the present moment.

In truth, things couldn't be going much better.

Love and Respect,

As Always,

Iron Man

Click here for Iron Man’s Freedom Part 2

Click her for the fight story, Iron Man v Snake Eyes

Our prison friends appreciate your comments

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

Shaun Attwood
Another Day in a Women’s Prison (Part 2 by Lifer Renee)

Renee – When only a teenager, she received a 60-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.

My day started at 4am. I got up from a restless sleep. Depending on who works the yard on the graveyard shift will determine if you get to sleep the night through. Tired, grouchy, not wanting to go to work, off to work I went. I took a ChapStick, cup, glasses, Sweet ’N Low, and creamer.

Me and Sara walked to the 21 area. Jokingly, we said, “Is it Friday yet?”
When we got there, it was like every other day. Our boss was late. We waited.
Sergeant Hart walked out of the yard office, and screamed, “I don’t wanna hear no lip. If I hear it, I will write you up, and you will lose your job. Get into the pit, and line up.”
Everyone looked slightly confused. We had hardly conversed amongst ourselves, let alone to any of the officers. We lined up.
“Now empty your pockets! Everything on the ground!”
We emptied our pockets. I put my personal items on the ground in front of me. Great, I thought to myself. Our boss already thinks we’re a bunch of troublemakers, and is completely submissive when it comes to the Department of Corrections and sticking up for us.
The sergeant was walking in front of us, looking at our items. The expression on his face was as if we had each put down a kilo of heroin. We looked at him as if he had lost his damn mind.
“Sarg, come over here and make sure they do not pick anything up.”
Another sergeant came over. Sergeant Hart went into the yard office.

Our boss finally showed up. We protested, our voices overriding one another.
“Not today!” he boomed. “I do not care! You are not allowed to have anything today, but a water bottle and Maxi-Pads. Take it back to the yard.”
We walked back to the yard, everyone whispering.

At the yard, everyone was staring at us as if we were aliens. My friends were in the smoking section.
I told them, “Just so you know, if you have anything in your room, you might want to take care of it, and don’t try to take anything to work with you. I think they may be shaking down the yard.” I dropped my stuff off in my cell, and returned to work.

Sure enough sometime later there was a call initiating a lockdown for quarterly searches. When I returned to my cell from work, all of my belongings had been dumped on the floor in a big mess. I had to start picking things up at the doorway.

We were locked down for the evening at 8.15pm. A guard went from door to door doing a formal headcount at 8.30pm to ensure that everyone was in their proper place.
The shift change from swing to graveyard happened at around 10pm. Around 11pm, when I was well into dreamland, I was abruptly woken up by the banging of keys on the door, so that the officer could see my face. Then again at 1am. I don’t know why they need to wake me up for a face-to-ID check twice every night. My cell was locked at 8.15pm and no one was let out. Sleep deprivation wasn’t part of my sentencing.

Click here for Renee’s previous blog in which she answered some of your questions

Click here for Another Day part 1

Download my jail book, Hard Time, for FREE

Shaun Attwood
Hometown Launch Party for Hard Time

Thank you everyone who attended both the hometown launch party and the London launch! The events went extremely well - a credit to the great people that showed up and gave support. The hometown launch attracted over 100 people and was broadcast on local radio. 

Pics below (in the previous blog post):
1 Tommy Noone (radio presenter)
2 Mum
3 Amy (my former secretary) from Phoenix, Arizona
4 Tommy Noone
5 The policeman from my hometown who locked me in a cell at age 10 when he caught a group of us trespassing on the grounds of a chemical manufacturing company. We were all crying when our parents picked us up at Widnes police station
6 Dad's best friend and his wife
7 Doing my talk
8 Cousin reading from Hard Time
9 Cousin reading from Hard Time
10 Talking about jail tattoos
11 Signing a book for the raffle winner
Hometown Launch Party for Hard Time