Apologies for the delay in blogging. We have record snow in England. I got stranded away from home while on the road doing talks to schools. Delays on my local freeway, the M25, were up to 20 hours, and hundreds of lorries had jack-knifed. I ended up staying at my sister's house. Now the freeways are deserted. It was surreal driving home, dodging cars abandoned on the roads, constantly having to make way for squealing emergency vehicles. Viewed against the white earth and sky, the bright-blue ambulance lights looked like poltergeists trying to materialise from another world. I'm scheduled to leave today to do more Waterstone's book signings, Wigan on Saturday, Warrington on Sunday, so I'll probably be getting stranded again here soon. Here's the latest questions and answers:
I am a student who experienced your speech at Richard Hale School. I found it very interesting, and have now learnt what jail really is like, which will hopefully help to keep me away from drugs and jail. I came away with a few questions I would like to have asked, but wasn't confident enough to ask them in front of the whole of year 10 and 11.
Where you addicted to drugs when you went to prison?
In response to this question, please read part of a discussion I had with the brilliant prison psychotherapist, Dr. O:
“Drugs enabled me to socialise. I figured I could do them to have fun when I felt like it – most weekends – and I told myself I wasn’t addicted because I could stop, and seemed to function normally before I chose to do them again. Was I in denial?”
“Yes. You were addicted otherwise you wouldn’t be here,” said Dr. O.
“I thought addiction was like a heroin addict who’s got to get his fix every day or else he feels ill.”
“Addiction is when doing drugs interferes with your ability to function. You have a limited – a narrow view. Acknowledging your addiction exists is difficult for you. You must look at it in terms of how you would introduce yourself at an AA meeting: ‘I’m Jon. I’m a drug addict. I’ve been clean and sober for so many years.'”
Click here to read the entire conversation with Dr.O. (part 7)
Why did you get moved to a maximum security jail?
I went to court in the hope of getting my $750,000 bail reduced, so that I could get out of the jail. The judge ended up doubling my bail to $1.5 million (cash only). When your bond goes over a million, you are automatically reclassified to maximum security.
What happened to your fiancée when you were sentenced to prison?
Claudia showed up at the sentencing, but she had already broke up with me. A year earlier, the prosecutor had charged her for a crime she had not committed in order to stop her from visiting me. It was too hard to keep going with no visits.
Are you a millionaire now by doing talks and writing your blog?
No. What was left of my money was seized by the police. I’ve started my own business doing talks to schools, but to get my business off the ground I had to go into debt. The blog is for the benefit of prisoners. It doesn’t make any money. I could put ads on it to make money, but that would detract from what the blog is trying to achieve.
Do you still have friends from prison that were there with you?
Yes. They write to me and I post their stories to Jon’s Jail Journal. This year I’ve decided to use the money I was going to spend on Xmas cards to instead send much-needed books to my friends inside.
What were the emotions when you were sentenced to prison, and what you felt about your family at that point.
I could write pages answering this question. It’s actually all covered in the last chapter of my book, which is one of the longest chapters in there. You can find your answer in the copy that I donated to your school.
What did it feel like being a millionaire?
I had more money than commonsense. I immediately moved into a big mountainside house in a private community, with my own swimming pool and Jacuzzi. I was spending it like crazy on throwing parties, and stuff like limo rides, and trips to Las Vegas where I spent thousands buying Diesel clothes in Caesar’s Palace. I lost most of it when the stock market crashed, so I wasn’t living large for long.
Click here for the previous Question Time