Changes at Perryville Women’s Prison (Part 2 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.

“Are we off lockdown?” I asked, stepping outside of my cell door.
“I don’t know,” my neighbour replied, walking down the run.
At that moment an inmate ran around the corner yelling, “Free! We’re free!”
So I went downstairs to Molly’s room, and sat down on her bunk. “Let’s have coffee. It’s Friday. I can sleep in tomorrow.”
“OK,” she replied.
We were drinking and gossiping about recent events when I heard the beep of an officer’s radio. Not wanting to get caught cell visiting and receive a ticket, I looked out of the cell windows and saw an officer sitting in the smoking section and chatting with the girls. “No worries. He’s sat at the table trying to get some.”
“Let’s go outside.”

We headed out and decided to sit at the “big comfy couch” (an oversized cement table with oversized cement benches). We sat there, bullshitting, drinking our coffee. Everyone was out running around.I watched the officer take a chick off to a corner and talk to her. After they talked, the officer went to the control room and retrieved something. Then the chick came around the corner with some Tupperware. She made three trips for contraband dishes that were probably taken in the shakedown.

Hey who cares right? I really don’t. Yet, they want to talk about why the yard is out of control. The officers start more shit than the law allows. The whole yard saw that officer bend/break the rules for someone. The moment that officer does not bend/break the rules for someone else, that’s when the shit starts because the woman who doesn’t get her way will start snitching about what he has done for the other woman. Then that “other woman” will confront the snitch and the fighting will begin, resulting in blanket punishment for all of us, yet I didn’t get the Tupperware or snitch or fight, but I’m locked down. It’s madness, but that’s how life is for us.

Click here for Renee's previous blog


Shaun Attwood
First Time (by Guest Blogger Jose in San Diego)

It is with great pleasure that I introduce this guest blog by one of the longest running readers of Jon’s Jail Journal, Jose in San Diego.

I remember the first time I arrived in the San Diego County Jail. I finally made it out of the bullcrap kindergarten world of Juvenile Corrections and into the Junior College of the Justice System. I was arrested a few times before as a juvenile, but in September of 1996 was my first trip to adult county.

A few homeboys and I had been drinking all day when a buddy of ours named “Chance” came around with a half sheet of LSD. He immediately gave Villain and I a tab each and within the hour we started to feel the effects. Well as anyone who has done acid knows, smoking weed enhances the high, and we were smoking bowl after bowl and laughing until our insides were hurting.

It was only around 7:00 in the evening when we ran out of beer. As if reading each others minds, Villain and I immediately knew what we needed to do. BEER RUN. This was a regular practice of ours and it wasn’t unusual for us to drive around and hit convenience store after convenience store sometimes 6 to 7 stores in a row. The funny (or stupid, more fittingly) thing is we decided to hit the 7-11 DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET from my house.

There was a Texaco gas station located immediately to the right about 20 yards from my house. The gas station lost its liquor license and it went through numerous ownership changes and thus I lost my connection who would front (loan with interest) us beer and alcohol. The only places you can do beer runs where the policy prohibits owners from confrontations with thieves and robbers are convenience stores that are not franchised. We had never attempted a beer run from this location because of its close proximity to my home and the alley about 4 blocks south where we convened.

With all reasoning out of our heads and thirsting for more beer, Villain and I left the house bent on our objective. About a few steps to the liquor store I realized three things. One, I recognized the Arab who was working the shift and two, we were wearing house slippers. Hardly good for traction when fleeing a crime scene. Third, I thought, “Where are we going to go after we get the beer??” I spoke my thoughts to Villain who simply replied “Fuck it, we’ll just run!” The dilated pupils and huge grin made the plan seem foolproof, and on we went.

We walked right into the 7-11 and made an immediate left to the coolers that housed the liquor. The store was staffed by only 2 workers, the Arab and a younger Chicano. I always felt the need to go first as I wanted to always be the first one out of the store, leaving any other accomplice with the bigger chance of encounters with those who tried to stop us. Our usual demeanor was one of arrogance, as we would usually stroll into a store casually, grab all items we wanted including beer, and walk out simply without any care of repercussion or any attempts to stop us. We simply didn’t care because there were always too many of us and because any one who foolishly attempted to stop us usually found out the hard way that preventing the theft of two twelve packs worth a total of $15.00 is not enough to justify serious bodily injury or even death.

Our look as we always walked out to stunned patrons and staff was a look of “Is it worth your life to confront me?” It worked 100% of the time. Or in this case, it was just time that our luck, more so mine, ran out. As to avoid being detected as the “neighbor from across the street”, I ran out with full speed as soon as I grabbed the two twelve packs, one in each arm. I assumed Villain would follow suit, which he did.

As soon as I was out of the store the first car that was pulling into the 7-11 parking lot was a San Diego Police Dept. cop car. I reacted by immediately throwing the first twelve pack at the windshield with a weak underhand toss that landed on the hood, exploding on impact. The cops managed to jump out with weapons drawn demanding me to stop. Villain was running directly parallel to me but froze when the cops drew their weapons. I on the other hand continued to run past the open cop doors and tried a little evasive maneuvers to escape. I threw the other twelve pack behind me and made my way south on the next street. Thinking I could outrun the officer and hit the alley where I can jump the neighbors houses and make it home safely, I turned on the burners hoping to make my escape.

I had a good lead when suddenly a black and white cut me off. I squeezed by and I heard another officer yell to me “Stop right now or I am going to beat your ass when I catch you”.

I didn’t wait to find out the outcome on whether he made good on his promise. I immediately dropped to the ground and was placed under arrest. I remember the officers placing me in the back of the car and driving like mad men looking for my accomplice. I told them I had no idea where he was and because my license had my previous address located across town, so they gave up.

They drove me back to the 7-11 store where no one was willing to identify me which infuriated the officers. The Sergeant on the scene told the officers that the simplest way to deal with the matter was to charge me with minor (since I was 18 and not 21) in possession of alcohol. As we arrived at the San Diego Police Department to be booked and processed, I come to find out I was being charged with BURGLARY in the second degree, which carried up to a year in the County Jail.

The county jail pull is where all of the cops bring in criminals, and is sort of like a bustling grand central station, except no one is departing, every one is here on arrival. Many different Law Enforcement agencies from the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriffs Department, Harbor Police, San Diego State University Campus Police, and a variety of other agencies all bring in their prisoners to the main central jail booking. It is also a place of fraternizing for all of the agencies to pretty much grab a cup of coffee or water and leave you in the car with uncomfortable handcuffs until they deem ready to come get you and book you.

At times I have been immediately taken, while others waiting an hour or more. Heat isn’t an issue because San Diego is usually 72 degrees year round and the booking is underground. After being taken out you are fingerprinted, photo taken and wrist banded (usually blue for mainline meaning you are staying a while and purple bands meaning you will be released “soon”). Then you are placed in a holding cell. At this point you are still in your civilian clothes and mixed in with everyone from DUI arrestees to rapists and murderers. The cell merry-go-round continues until you are placed upstairs into a permanent cell.
As soon as you arrive, you are given a brown bag containing a bologna sandwich, a cookie, and juice, along with mustard and mayonnaise packets. Now, to be quite honest, the lunch is good. Nothing like the green bologna as described by Jon. Some people hate it, but I never had an issue with the food. The cells are kept cold, but not to the freezing point as described by other inmates in Arizona. After a while of talking to other inmates and seeing a few homies and checking fools, they place you in ANOTHER holding cell. They keep getting smaller and smaller as inmates are removed and the last group you are with is the one that goes upstairs with you to the permanent cells.

My group had a core of 7 of us. A few for gang violations, one for Grand Theft Auto, and one for rape. He was a young boy about 19 that came from a very well to do affluent area of San Diego. He informed us that he was in for a rape charge. It was the run of the mill story heard a thousand times before. College frat party, him and a drunk girl had intercourse, he passes out, and is awaken by the police and the victim pointing him out. It was his first time in jail. When we heard his story we simply told him to do one thing as soon as you are placed into a cell: he needed to inform the guard that you want to be placed into protective custody. Even though he was not CONVICTED of the crime, we told him that his inexperience in the justice system along with rapists not being a hot commodity in jail would be the best course of action. If any shot-callers interpreted his crime as a for sure thing, it could target him for assault. I never forget the look in his face. He immediately got on the phone and called his family and begged for them to bail him out. Within 2 hours the kid was gone. We knew the trial and ordeal ahead of him was not going to be fun.

Finally, after a couple more hours (usually when falling asleep), the corrections officers usually come to take you upstairs. You are led outside of the holding tank and told to stand against the wall, nose to it. There are three different colored lines that are on the floor that dictate where you are going to be heading. There is red, blue and yellow. Honestly I never knew the difference but they all lead to somewhere. We were told to stand on the blue line, and you always had to walk with your hands inside of your waistband.

We were taken upstairs and given our showers and placed into our cells. I was given a cell with a homeboy from the South Bay named Big Chino. He was a cool dude facing a light little day or two due to a warrant for a DUI charge he never went to court for. We chatted and finally called it a night. The funny thing is I came down off of my acid high immediately after hitting the cell. I wasn’t even tripping hard.

In the morning at 4:00 you are woken up and breakfast is served. One of the best meals. A bag with those little cereal plastic bowls with the cereal in it (Rice Krispies) with 2 juices, a hard boiled egg, bread, and a cup of hot coffee. Then you go back to your cell. You are brought down about 2 hours later to watch TV, read, talk. This is the same routine except on Sundays when you can go to a little Church mass. We used to be able to play basketball in the roof of the building which is the recreation yard until an ex-cop was stabbed in the neck while getting a haircut.

Finally on my arraignment I was taken to court. You stand in this little glass box with other inmates until you see the judge. The DA told me before I saw the judge that since it was my first arrest as an adult that they would drop the burglary charge to misdemeanor possession of alcohol, if I plead guilty, paid a $50.00 court fine, and went to AA meetings and remained on probation for 3 years. I agreed, which if you recall was the first initial charge the Sergeant wanted to place on me anyway! I was taken in front of the judge, repeated yes your honor to everything he stated, and was taken back to be released.

Now if you have been to jail, it seems to take almost twice as long to get released than to be processed. I remember being taken to another holding cell, then one more, then to the final one where you are given the clothes you came in with and told to take off the county issued jump suit and throw everything into a big trash can. I remember my homeboys always sneaking out an SD JAIL jump shirt or even the pants under the clothes they wore out until I saw the BIG HUGE SIGN that reads IT IS A FELONY TO TAKE ANY JAIL ISSUED CLOTHING OUTSIDE WITH YOU. I thought “great, all I need on my way out is for them to search the bin and find the shirt missing and take me right back inside”. I decided against it.

Finally after waiting 2 hours in the last holding cell and reading every piece of graffiti, My name was called to the little box and I was buzzed into the final door. There is a glass with a clerk who gives you your personal property such as wallet, cell phone, money, watch, etc.and then finally takes scissors and cuts off your tag. Then you are buzzed through one final door. After that you head down about three sets of stairs and finally outside into freedom.

The other thing is you never know what time it is until you hit the door. I came out during the downtown lunch hour with hundreds of people milling around while I looked like shit. I called a girlfriend up who worked for a downtown printing press and she came and got me and took me home.

For my first trip to County I achieved my goal and made it to the first stop before my eventual incarceration in prison. I wore that trip like a badge of honor and went to the homies who welcomed me and congratulated me for finally getting there. “It ain’t shit huh homie!” I remember the homeboy Bird telling me. “Nah dog. Easy-ass time. Boring as fuck though”. I came to find out the Villain had gotten away scott free as he ran and went to the backdoor into my house while the police focused their efforts on me. I remember trying to return to the 7-11 and was told by the clerks who actually had known it was me, that I was not ever welcomed back. Till this day, nearly 14 years later, I never stepped foot inside that 7-11.

As this is Jose in San Diego’s first guest blog at Jon’s Jail Journal, your comments would be greatly appreciated.

Post comments and questions 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 P. Attwood
Medical Holding Cell (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.

As I stepped into the medical holding cell, an old gaunt man of 50 with a bulging cheek full of gauze hacked up blood all over the concrete floor. “Ehcuu-mehh,” he mumbled as gravity stretched a sliver of blood-mixed spit from his lower lip onto the floor. He struggled to bend down and clean up the mess with a thin piece of toilet paper, but only fanned it out in wider and wider circles. His name was Bill.

God I hate Medical, a voice inside me echoed.

There were four of us waiting in a 10 x 15 foot holding cell, inside the Complex Medical Unit. Decrepit blue paint was peeling like scabs off the cinder-block walls. Graffiti scarred the back of the steel sliding door. We were there to see the dentist.

Mike, a bald-headed guy about forty, whose tattoos covered not only his body but where his hair used to be, cackled away at Bill’s momentary misfortune. “Ha ha ha! You a nasty mofo! Geez!” Mike said. As his laughter erupted once more, the only presence of teeth in Mike’s mouth were his two upper canines. He reminded me of an old vampire. Years of crystal-meth use were apparent. “That’ll learn ya!” he said, and cackled away.

I motioned over to Mike, shook his hand, and sat down. We were on the same tier on the same yard.

You learn quickly that exercise in prison isn’t solely for passing time, or a safety requirement to deter predators. It’s a preventative measure to stay healthy to avoid the Medical Unit.

A broken rib or arm: “Give ’im a band-aid or some ibuprofens.”

Cancer: “Give ’im some ibuprofens.”

A stab: “Clean it and give ’im some ibuprofens.”

That’s prison medical for you, cheap and easy. It’s no surprise that inmates become quite adept in home surgery and other medical procedures.

Click here for letter 7 from Warrior

Click here for Warrior’s previous story

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Post comments and questions for Warrior 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 P. Attwood
Question Time with Lifer Helen

Helen’s boyfriend murdered her son. Not only did she lose her son, but she was sentenced to 20 years for the murder. 9 years into her sentence, she’s writing from a state prison in Georgia.

Leigh: Are you seeing triple bunking (three to a cell previously housing two) like the guys are?

Helen: No, I’m not seeing the triple bunking because yet again I was moved to C-unit. I live now in a room with 15 other women, so there are 16 of us.

Leigh: I'm curious about the programs the state brags about. Are you at a facility that has the horse/ animal rehab thing? Or the choir that just released a cd? Do many people actually get to participate in those things or how does that work?

Helen: We are offered very little here as far as programs. They have a pig farm here, but it’s hard to get on it.

Leigh: Has the smoking ban gone into effect yet where you are?

Helen: The smoking ban doesn’t go into effect until December 2010.

Jose in San Diego: Are you eligible for parole? Are you in the middle of appeals or have you filed?

Helen: As far as parole, I come up for review in 2011 and my TPM is 2015. But I feel like I’ll get out before then. I’m currently going through Project of Innocence.

Jose in San Diego: What is your level of classification?

Helen: I’m medium security, and have been the whole time I’ve been locked up.

Well, I really thank everyone for the support, and hope to hear from you soon.

Helen

Click here for Helen's first blog

Post comments and questions for Helen 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 P. Attwood
Escape Attempt at Perryville Women’s Prison? (by Lifer Renee)

Renee – As a teenager, Renee received a 60-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. 16 years into her sentence, she’s writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

Yesterday, the entire prison went on lockdown status.
“Why are we on lockdown?” someone asked.
“Who knows,” I replied.
The answer came over a guard’s radio: “Search team report to command center…What the hell’s going on?…Maintenance lost a wrench….”

Our work day seemed unaffected. We finally received a break. We were sitting in the visitation area when the captain and lieutenant came over and asked for Donna and Jackie. Donna was outside, Jackie inside.
Donna walked up to the lieutenant and asked, “What’s going on?”
“Turn around and place your hands behind your back!” the lieutenant said.
He was cuffing her up when she again asked, “What’s going on?”
The captain went inside the call center and came out with Jackie in cuffs also.
No one had a clue as to what was going on. We were all whispering back and forth, shocked because Donna and Jackie never really got into trouble or drama.

About an hour later, I was standing in line for the restroom, and I saw Donna walk back in, but not Jackie. There were huge tears in her eyes.
“What’s going on? Are you alright?” I asked.
“They’re taking Jackie to CDU [Central Detention Unit] and they’re talking about escape charges.”
“For what?”
“She had a screwdriver in the cell.”
“She left maintenance two weeks ago for this job, why did she have a screwdriver?”
“All she wanted to do was fix the outlet.”
I didn’t know what to say. “It will all work out,” I said, but I didn’t believe that statement.
Huge tears rolled down her face. “They said she’s going to the hole.”
“It’s possible.” I couldn’t comfort her in any way because I knew they were going to bury her girlfriend.
“She took the rap for all of it. They said she’s going to the hole, but I was salvageable.”
I still didn’t know what to say. I’m going on 16 years in here, and I’ve seen people busted with all kinds of things, never a screwdriver.

Later that evening, they released the pod for dinner.
I went down to the lower run to see Molly. “Girl, what the hell?”
“I don’t know,” Molly said.
An officer walked by to secure the chase closet doors.
I asked her, “Did they really find a screwdriver?”
“Oh, they found more than that,” she said, turning around to face us. “She had a screwdriver, razor blades, black shoe polish, J-B Weld, sandpaper, wires, screws, and an outlet.”
Again, I was in disbelief. Molly and me looked at each other, eyes wide.
Then the officer said, “Hey, we were searching for a wrench, and found a screwdriver. Go figure.” She laughed and walked away.
At that moment, a second officer started screaming, “Lockdown now!”

With people getting robbed, taxed, the endless fights, and now the screwdriver, who knows what’ll happen next at Perryville.

Click here for Renee’s previous blog



Shaun Attwood  
The Passage of Time (by Guest Blogger Ben Gunn)

A relatively new prison blogger has exploded onto the scene. His name is Ben Gunn. I’ve recently found myself staying up late to read his blog, which is intelligently written and thought provoking.

His bio: Ben Gunn is a widely recognised face on prison landings, having wandered through the system for 30 years. Pleading guilty to the murder of a friend at the age of 14, he has consistently fought for the recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings. As a result, he has served decades longer than expected.

There are many, many expected, predicted or imagined effects that flow from being in prison for many years and I maintain that most of these are cobblers. This isn't to claim that all is well.

One effect that has caught me by surprise is how I perceive the passage of time. I don't. Not through any deliberate process you understand; I have literally lost all sense of time.

What I perceive to have been the passage of a few days or weeks is often several months. This is brought home to me by irate letters from people who think I'm ignoring them!

This is quite disturbing and I am making deliberate efforts to mitigate the problem. I keep a diary of incoming and outgoing mail, for instance. But then I tell myself "I will write it up later", only to find several days then pass.

Which makes me wonder about our general perception of time. We notice time moving because of events that approach, arrive and then vanish behind us. But prison life has such a bland uniform quality to each day, with significant events being rare. Every couple of years I have a parole hearing, so I notice that. But on a daily, even weekly, basis there is little to differentiate one day from the next.

Perhaps my inability to note the passage of time is not the worst effect of this Groundhog Day. It took a far worse toll on my mate Jimmy. Jimmy spent every waking moment on the scrounge. He would leave his cell at morning unlock, empty cup in hand, and return when he had found coffee, milk and sugar. This set the tone for the day. Jimmy also liked his drugs, and he wasn't fussy which ones. If it gave him an altered mental state, he was up for it.

Unfortunately, Jimmy was perpetually broke. This could have severe consequences. In an impoverished society, people expect debts to be paid, or a heavy price is extracted. And yet it was nothing for Jimmy to wake up knowing he had to pay £40 by tea time, and not have the faintest idea where he was going to find it.

My involvement with Jimmy's insane lifestyle almost culminated in murder. As we were walking from the wing to the exercise compound, approaching a gate with two screws counting us in, Jimmy suddenly produced a bed-leg, a two foot long metal pipe. He passed it to me and the only option I had was to slip it inside my overcoat before the screws saw us.

When I suggested this was not really a good idea, he explained that there were a few people on the yard he owed money to. He saw his only option as using the bed-leg to bash the brains out of one of them, thus gaining a transfer and financial breathing-space.

Not fancying a second life sentence, I refused to give him back his bed-leg until we were back on the wing. Jimmy survived the exercise period.

I just had to ask him, "Why do you live such a desperate, dangerous life?" Jimmy explained that he found life in prison so soul-destroyingly uniform and dull that his perpetual struggle to buy drugs and pay his debts was the only way he could feel alive.

So maybe my loss of all time perspective is not too bad, as the side effects of imprisonment go?

Click here to read Ben’s Prison Blog. Ben welcomes comments from the readers of Jon’s Jail Journal, both here and at his blog.

Click here for Polish Avenger’s blog on prison mooches.

Post comments for Ben 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 P. Attwood
Wild Man Answers to the Aryan Brotherhood for the Missing Hooch

Wild Man - My large and fearless raving partner from my hometown. He looked out for me after we were arrested, and is one of the main characters in my jail memoir. His first day at Buckeye prison, he knocked out the head of the whites in his dorm, so the Aryan Brotherhood put him in charge, and authorised him to brew hooch.

“So how did the Aryan Brotherhood approach you about the missing hooch you owed them?” I asked Wild Man.

“The head of the whites from the next dorm came over. He said the head of the yard wasn’t gonna be happy.
I told him, ‘Some bottles got knocked over in the ruckus.’
He said, ‘You caused the ruckus!’
‘How did I cause it?’ I asked.
‘’Cause you made the hooch’
‘They told me to make the hooch!’
So I was called out to rec to answer to the head of the yard, and all his white brothers. I gave him the three bottles left, and said, ‘Some shit went down. I’ll get you back. Two got knocked over in the ruckus.’
He wasn’t too bothered about the hooch. He was bothered about what went on with the other races. I told him there was no riot, just a couple of personal disagreements. That Casper and Adam weren’t getting along, so they had a squabble, and the beef is now squashed.
‘Could it have been avoided?’ he asked.
'No.’
‘Do you think if everyone weren’t drunk, it could have been avoided?’
‘What do you think?’ I said.
‘No need to be cocky. I was just asking.’
Now Boon, the head of the whites in the building next to me started laughing.
The main head looks at Boon as if to say, Shut the hell up. Then he tells me, ‘You need to control your dorm a little better.’
I told him, ‘I didn’t want the job in the first place. If I was on a higher yard, I wouldn’t even be a head ’cause I’m not American.’ I basically threw the problem back on his toes. If word got to another yard that he’d made a foreigner the head of a dorm, the order would come down from the Aryan Brotherhood to have him smashed.
‘My bad,’ he said. ‘You’re doing an alright job. Just control your youngsters a little better.’
I said, ‘That’s rich coming from the head of the yard when you’ve got five-hundred youngsters to control, and you can’t even control half of them.’
He paused for a second, and then actually laughed. Boon’s on the floor in hysterics. The other heads saw the funny side of it. It eased the tension, and everything was good.”

“But it could have gone the other way,” I said. “That’s what’s interesting about you. You never back down even when you’re surrounded by prison-gang members who easily outnumber you.”

“They could have thought I was disrespecting the head of the yard and dog-piled me.”

“Didn’t you worry about that possibility when you opened your mouth?”

“I’m 50-50. I’m not bothered. My ace in the hole was Boon. He was the head of a building, and had my back, so his whole building would have backed me up. The head could have took it as a personal issue and fought me one-on-one. But no one really liked this head. He was a druggie. He never looked after the youngsters. He’d get them high, and sweat them to have their families put money on their books to pay off the drug debts. He was a dirt bag. On the streets, he was no one. He was such a loser, he’d done so much time, he was covered in prison ink.”

“So why was he the head of the yard?”

“For stabbing someone, and ’cause he’d done over twenty years in prison.”

“You knew you could fight him one-on-one didn’t you?”

“He worked out his upper body so much it was like he had two different bodies. He was big up top, but had sparrow legs. When you knock someone, it’s the legs that have gotta hold you up. He needed to do some squats.”

“How many more stories like this you got?”

“We haven’t even got past my first month in prison yet.”

Click here for Wild Man's Hooch Causes Chaos.

Post comments for Wild 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 P. Attwood
From Warrior (Letter 7)

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.

Shaun,

The holidays here were memorable in a negative way. Three stabbings and three vicious fights in the month of December. One prisoner lost an ear. A few had to be medevaced (helicoptered) to the hospital. And that doesn’t include the riots that went down.

I try to be optimistic:

“Half of the yard is rioting.”
“Oh, well, at least it’s not the whole yard.”

“A prisoner lost an ear.”
“At least it wasn’t an eye, and he still has a spare ear.”

“A prisoner had to be medevaced.”
“At least he was free among the birds in the chopper for a while.”

But to be honest, all of the stress and violence is wearing me down. After 10 years, it gets harder to hold onto your sanity and civility.

At least the pressure caused me to explode in a productive way. I’ve filed a federal appeal and another state one. I stumbled upon some new evidence that could help me get a reduced sentence.

Well, bro, it’s 2010. Here’s to a future full of good due to class, character and hard work. Let’s redefine ourselves and the definition of success not by politicians, celebrities and sports stars but by those making a difference in our lives and the world at large like Mom and Dad, prison volunteers, teachers, mentors like your Sally Hinchcliffe, those that invest their time, not air time. Most of all, lets be good to one another.

Tell the readers to keep me in their prayers. I have them in mine.

Much Love Bro,

Warrior

P.S. Let’s all turn on the light bulb of our minds, to brighten up this freakin’ world. One small act has the potential to impact thousands, millions, and more.

Click here for letter 6 from Warrior

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Post comments and questions for Warrior 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 P. Attwood
Mentored (Part 8)

Thanks to the Koestler Trust, I am being mentored by Sally Hinchcliffe, a published author with an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of London.

Now that my jail memoir is finished and has found a publisher, I’ve moved onto writing the volume of my life story that encompasses everything up to my arrest. I submitted the first sixty pages to Sally, and she provided the following constructive feedback.

Think on two levels:

Level 1: The big picture. Story. Themes. Arc. Characters.

Level 2: Detail. Writing. Sentences. Clich├ęs. Pacing. Language. “In the moment.” Editorialising.

– The first draft often has lots of faults at the detail level. This is not necessarily a problem as you can sort those out later. Don’t let your inner editor stop/slow you down.

– The aim of a first draft should be to get the big picture sketched out (but it doesn’t always work that way).

– Balance between plotting stuff out and just writing. You need to find what works for you.

– Ask yourself what is this book about (in a nutshell)? Who is it aimed at? When you’ve answered these questions, you can then decide which incidents and characters serve to tell that story.

– What are the themes? How can you best arrange the themes to hook the readers and satisfy them?

You also need to consider who’s going to read your drafts after this mentor program ends. Here are some ideas:

– Deploying blog readers.

– Joining a writing group.

– Your agent can act as an editor, but probably won’t want first drafts.

– Other readers won’t necessarily act as editors, but can give you feedback/ reactions.

– Ask: – for their initial reactions

            – for any questions the draft has raised

            – them specific questions: “Does X work?” “Should I start with Y?” in order that they think about the  work in concrete ways.

My questions are:

– Who will be reading this book and why?

– How much of your own youth, childhood do you want to put in, and how much of Wild Man’s?

– What is the story arc? If you think of it as a cautionary tale, there are places where you make choices and things could have gone differently. You need to make these points clear (subtly!).

The first thing Sally wrote on the draft was “Why start here?” I opened with a childhood anecdote about Wild Man and me as a year ago Sally said I needed to explain my history with Wild Man more, but I’ve decided that Sally is nudging me in a different direction: the book needs to start with an anecdote more relevant to the theme of the book. The Wild Man anecdote should come later. The theme of the book is my rise and fall. But my rise and fall in what? Well, raving and the stock market were two of the main focuses of my pre-arrest life. A lady I told my story to recently expressed it in this nutshell: “Your story is the Manchester rave scene meets Wall Street.” In light of Sally’s advice, the best place to start the book seems to be my first rave and Ecstasy experience. That was a night that reshaped my destiny. So I’m going to end this blog entry with that anecdote. Bear in mind it’s only a rough draft and I’ll no doubt be rewriting it as many times as I rewrote the opening of the jail memoir – I stopped counting, but it was easily over a hundred times. Your feedback and suggestions on any improvements are most welcome, and please be as nasty as you like.

When I first saw ravers on the news – wearing loud colours, dancing in ways I’d never seen before to music that sounded like it was coming from outer space – I couldn't wait to get to a rave to find out what all the fuss was about. My excitement grew when Gary, a fellow economics student at Liverpool University, invited me to a club called The Thunderdome in Manchester – dubbed “Madchester” by the media because raving had exploded across England from there.

We arrived at The Thunderdome too early. The bare room, square and dark with a stage at the front, didn’t impress me. There were only a few people dancing to acid house. Gary, who resembled Tintin, haggled with the dealers. I’d agreed to try club drugs, but I’d never met a dealer before and their presence – all shiny sports suits, gold jewellery and shifty faces – worried me. I admired Gary for having the nerve to do something I couldn’t: walk up to a stranger who might have a weapon or be an undercover cop and buy drugs. When Gary pulled some money out, I thought he might get stabbed and robbed or end up buying rat poison. I was relieved when he rejoined me with a big grin, and showed me two Ecstasy pills, and two grams of speed meticulously wrapped in little rectangles of paper.

“You put your gram of Billy Whizz in yer Lucozade,” he said, tipping the contents of one of the wraps into a bottle, “and swallow the White Dove with a big swig.”

Committing to do drugs was one thing, actually doing them another. My heart was going fast, my hands trembling. But the desire to have fun was winning out over the terror of ending up in an ambulance and my parents finding out.

“Come on, get on with it,” Gary said, having already taken his Ecstasy.

Suspecting Gary had detected my fear was all the motivation I needed to dump the speed into my drink, and pop the pill into my mouth. Gagging on the chemical taste, I thought, Oh my God, what’s gonna happen to me now? “How long before I feel it?” I asked Gary.

“Within the hour.”

I spent the next thirty minutes or so convinced I was about to join the unlucky minority who die after taking drugs their first time. I kept having to check my pulse to reassure myself.

Gary’s face was the first to change. A look blossomed on it, like he’d just had an orgasm. He couldn’t stop smiling or stand still, and was exuding the kind of bliss you see on those old paintings of angels. He begged me to dance with him, but I hadn’t really enjoyed dancing since the days of punk rock, so I refused. Watching him bounce off as if he owned the place, I felt like I’d let him down. Frustrated at the drugs for not affecting me, I finished my drink. I was walking toward the bar when one of my knees buckled and then the other. I had to stop walking, but strangely, I wasn’t afraid. I tried to walk, but wobbled, and had to sit down. This interruption to a lifetime of walking normally didn’t faze me. I remained anchored to the floor with people walking all around.

Someone kicked me by accident. “Sorry, mate.”

I looked up at the smiling youth, and broke into a smile that refused to go away. Then something distracted my mind. It was the sensation of my T-shirt against my skin. I touched my neck. It no longer felt like my neck. I touched it again to make sure and sure enough felt the same sensation, as if my fingertips were feathers tickling my skin. Or were they melting into my skin ever so gently? Whatever was going on felt so good I just had to massage myself. Even breathing was a whole new experience. Each inhale went beyond expanding my chest. It sent ripples of pleasure throughout my body, even making my eyes tingle somehow. That my body was no longer behaving like it should created feelings of confusion and pleasure, but with the pleasure so much stronger. Not only was my body feeling exceptional, so was my mind. The forces at work were such I could only think happy thoughts. It was as if my smile had taken control of my brain, making me think things to keep my smile going. I remembered I was going to the bar, but that didn’t matter any more, nor did all of the things I’d been stressing about in my life such as losing my girlfriend, the engine problems with my car, and the calculus heavy five-thousand-word balance-of-payments essay due on Monday morning. Keen to make use of a good mood that was still elevating, I tried communicating with strangers by the medium of smiling. They smiled back just as emphatically, which was all the proof I needed that we were reading each other’s minds, conversing in a realm inaccessible to the uninitiated. As the club filled, time lost all relevance. Ravers were everywhere, saturating the room with body heat and enough colours to put the hippies of the sixties to shame. Watching them feed off each other’s hugs and grins, I wanted to get up and join them. My high kept climbing, overwhelming my brain one second and the next making me sway with pleasure and my eyes shoot up. I was so hot, I wanted to take my top off. My brain pondered this in slow motion until the urge faded away. The thud-thud-thud from the speakers and strange beeping noises were all making sense now. They were telling me to get off my arse and dance. The part of me that knew I couldn’t dance and feared I’d make a fool of myself had gone. I was bobbing my head, tapping my fingers against my thighs and rocking to and fro on the floor when Gary found me. Our big eyes locked in recognition of our like moods and we intensified our smiles.

“Come on,” he said, and I knew what he meant.

I followed him into the thick of bodies, until he stopped and danced. I jumped from side to side, trying to find my groove, and then settled into the same rocking motion as everyone else. We were a wave, a human wave with ripples, subject to the laws of physics governing fluids; only our laws were coming from giant black speakers blasting music that felt as if it were beating exactly at the rate of my heart. I was actually dancing, loving dancing, surprising myself with how natural it felt, experimenting with moves I copied from those around me, that is until everyone stopped dancing. Had someone turned the music off? No. There was still a trancey sound. Arms shot into the air. Whistles blew. A machine hissed out smoke. A black woman sang with a beauty bordering on the spiritual, tingling me all over, and I mean right down to the genitals. Then a few piano notes were struck, and we swayed, our fingers reaching into the beams of the sun laser. An air horn sounded, and for a moment I braced for a lorry to plough through the club. Such an absurd notion made me laugh. The soulful woman’s voice faded as DJ Jay Wearden mixed in a Guru Josh track: 1990’s... Time for the Guru… A haunting saxophone solo sent my eyes rolling up, and my eyelids fluttering. In the square room that had bored me earlier I was now one with God.

Is this the kind of opening story that would keep you turning the pages?

Click here for Mentored Part 7

Post comments 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 P. Attwood
Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Deputies Torture a Retired Paramedic (by Guest Blogger Don Rallison)

This is an account of my arrest on 12/27/2009, at 12:24 pm, where I was stopped, detained, cuffed, abused, roughed up, threatened, and denied medication in the middle of a medical emergency. This was all for quading on the wrong road and failure to produce a drivers license or ID in the Lake Pleasant Maricopa County Park.

I was proceeding north on the Lake Pleasant bypass road off SR 74 Peoria, AZ in my 2009 Polaris Razor S side by side quad, when two sheriff vehicles drove head on at me from the north and signaled to pull over. My friend Alison was my passenger.

I was immediately yelled at, intimidated, threatened, told I was trespassing and asked if I wanted to be arrested by Sheriff W.H. (Bill) Coleman. I was apologetic for my stupidity for being on the wrong road, cooperative and jovial.

Coleman stayed in the truck and was immediately overly angry, aggressive and demeaning, demanding many things in a very serious, bulling manner. I got out right away, meeting his request for personal and vehicle identification. I went to the rear of my quad to my storage box, looking for my wallet and quad insurance. In the process of finding my insurance, I pulled out my asthma nebulizer, medication for that, and my puffers in a Ziploc bag, and put them out in the open in case I needed the medication during the altercation. I advised the officers I had a serious pulmonary medical condition that might require medication at any time if the asthma flared up and my pulmonary system closed down. I also advised them that because I had been poisoned with H2S (hydrogen sulphide), that my throat dried out quickly and closed up if I did not have water all the time and access to my throat lozenges or my Ice Breakers candies to keep my throat lubricated.

Deputy Osborn was in my face ranting and raving he was a paramedic and knew all about everything. He made me pull off my glasses to see if I was impaired from medication, ranting that some steroids cause impairment. When I put my glasses back on, he demanded I remove them again. I mentioned I had very sensitive eyes to sunlight and needed to wear them, and eventually was allowed to put them on after he badgered me over and over about how I could be “stoned” on my asthma medication.

In the process of finding the insurance, I was being badgered and bullied by Coleman, who threatened to arrest me, saying things like, “Oh, you really want to be arrested don’t you? You are going to jail,” over and over. I took the insurance to Coleman’s truck and handed it to him. My attitude was pleasant and cooperative and jovial, desiring to meet all of Coleman’s demands. In the process of looking for my information, I realized I only had my Visa credit card, as I hadn’t put my wallet in the quad. I explained this to Coleman and apologized, showing him the insurance certificate and my credit card.

He immediately accused me of possibly possessing a stolen Visa card, and that this was no assistance to him in identifying me. Over and over he kept threatening to arrest me, and asking me If wanted to be arrested. He gave me a pad and pen, and demanded I write my name, DOB and Social Security number. I complied. Coleman became increasingly angry, boisterous and abusive about my name, Don, and accused me of trying to lie and deceive him. He insisted that my name must be Donald or Donny and was not Don. I assured him it was my legal name. He increasingly became irritated, and abusive, escalated his aggressive manner and threats of imprisonment.

Absolutely nothing I could tell him or say to him upon his requests were good enough as witnessed by Alison before they separated us, and took her where she could not see the abuse the officers were doing and was going to do further once she was out of my sight. Coleman and Osborn wanted me to “kiss their asses,” belittling me constantly with aggressive words, movements towards me and threats. It was obvious to me Coleman’s intention was to escalate a simple “driving down a restricted road” to an aggressive arrest and detainment. That was his goal the whole time of his inappropriate questioning and detainment.

He then became even angrier after I wrote the information for him. He demanded I write it again clearer for him. I immediately complied and gave him my legal mailing address in Cottonwood. He was irritated he could not find me on his computer system. I told him I had a British Columbia driver’s license, and recently within the last month registered a vehicle in Cottonwood, AZ and he should be able to find me on the DMV database. He could not find my vehicle or my information. I told Coleman I was camped over at Lake Pleasant RV Park, and my wallet must have been left in the RV. I offered to get it for him if he required.

Sheriff S. E. Osborn was standing close to me at the back of my quad during the interrogation. Coleman and Osborn became increasingly aggressive, demeaning, and overly excessive in their questioning and my treatment. My throat started drying excessively and I requested to get my Ice Breakers so my throat would not close up. When I made a move to get my candies for my throat, Osborn chose to put the handcuffs on me. He tightened them up way too tight, cutting off my circulation in both wrists, causing me pain and started roughing me up, and pushing me into my quad with my chest against my quad. I could see concerns of my asthma flaring up with the increasing police abuse and rough physical treatment. I explained that if I had an asthma attack that I would need my medication and I would need the nebulizer treatment to recover from the asthma attack. I explain to both officers that my lungs were poisoned with H2S gas, and that I needed water and throat lozenges all the time to keep my throat from drying up and closing up due to the nature of the poisoning. Osborn was cooperative a couple of times in assisting giving me water from my drink bottle that was filled with Propel. A few minutes later when I became irritated, I could not get enough water and needed my lozenges for my throat that was drying up and the bronchial airway was closing up. He denied me any water at all. I told them I was a retired paramedic.

As their aggression increased, they took Alison out of sight. Their aggression increased the second she was gone. I was trying to tell her where to find my wallet and to bring my driver’s license and to also call a lawyer immediately, and that I wanted to press civil charges against the officer for gross excessive force. I was cooperative with all information they wanted, but I was still roughed up and jerked around with the cuffs to purposely injure my shoulders, arms and wrists. I was told I could not talk to her and to stop yelling to her, that I was being “aggressive” by trying to talk to her. I started to severely cramp and have spasms in my abdomen, pulmonary system and back-kidney area. I was bending over in pain due to their excessive force and rough treatment. I requested they put the cuffs on in front so I could deal with the medical issues and the severe cramping, and so I could bend over to assist in the cramp dissipating. There were hurting me, pushing me around and roughing me up increasingly and would not loosen the cuffs. Osborn said he had one finger width in between my wrists and the cuffs. I advised him that was not the case, as my hands were going numb from lack of circulation and had incredible pain from the cuffs being purposely put on too tight just to cause me more pain and suffering.

I became increasingly upset and panicked by all the verbal abuse, swearing, threats and physical abuse and pain being caused by the officer to intentionally make me break. I told them I did not have a problem with filing civil abuse and excessive arrest behavior charges against them because of their unprofessional action. They then denied me access to my water. My throat was drying out severely from all the communications with them, and I requested I be given one of my Ice Breakers again to help my throat. They said they did not know what they were and that they could be drugs and refused to give me water or my lozenges. At that time I yelled at Alison again to document their actions when she got back to the trailer, to call a lawyer and have him file charges against the officers.

I was not going to be intimidated and roughed up by these unprofessional bully tactics without taking action against them and they did not like the fact I said that to Alison. I was thrown to the ground, pushed over, cramping and crying for help to have the cuffs loosened. He refused to loosen the cuffs, laughing at me and smiling at Coleman, saying they could do anything they wanted and that I had no rights at all with them.

Their aggression increased as they mocked and swore at me. I was in the sun for about 40 minutes, not allowed water or my medication. If Osborn was a licensed paramedic as he said he was, it was evident I was having an asthma attack. My airways started closing up. I was coughing severely, could not breath and begged them for the medication.

I asked them to put my hat on and take my coat off. Osborn called me a “dumb shit” for not bringing a hat to the desert. This angered me as I had my hat on when I was stopped but took it off and they refused to put it on. I asked to let me take off my coat as I was becoming overheated, having breathing problems and coughing. Instead they threw me to the ground as I was cramping up and trying to find a position to relieve the pulmonary and abdominal cramps. They refused to let me use my nebulizer medical equipment or my asthma puffer. Instead they called the Peoria Fire Department. At that time, I started to swear at them. I was so angry they would not give me my medication, which was just a few feet away and out in the open. I had reached my limit of pain, become panicky, scared and thought I might die without my medication. My verbal language increased as I feared dying on the road when the medication was feet away. Never in my life have I ever seen an officer of the law act like this, a man who gloated he was a paramedic, while breaking every police and paramedic oath for assisting a choking man having an asthma attack.

Coleman advised the paramedics I just did not want to go to jail and was not having an asthma attack. Osborn just mocked me in front of the firefighters/paramedics, and claimed that I was trying to keep out of jail by faking an attack. One paramedic did give me one drink from my water bottle while the officers filled their heads with negative comments about me. The paramedics started siding with the officers, and would no longer let me take fluids while in the heat there for 40 minutes.

The medic took my blood pressure and O2 saturation level only, advising me my O2 level was 98% and that I did not need my asthma medication. He did not check my breathing, chest or back with a stethoscope to hear the restrictive breathing in the bronchial tubes and pulmonary system and advised me he did not think I was an asthmatic. He said he did not think I was having an asthma attack, even though my breathing became increasingly restricted in front of them. I was gagging, coughing, and pulmonary fluid was coming up and phlegm. I was spitting out the fluids from my lungs as it became increasingly difficult to breath. I apologized and warned all around me I had to spit.

Another fire truck showed up and I think there were 8 Peoria firefighters/paramedics. I was cramping severely, asking for help, asking for them to give me a breathing treatment to open up my bronchial system, which was obviously closing up and causing me extreme breathing difficulties. As I was asking for my medication all the while on the ground, the 4-5 sheriffs laughed at me, mocking me, telling one another, “Look he is still alive and talking. He just got out 15 swear words, so he must not be having an asthma attack.” I started panicking, could not breath, begged them and cussed at them for standing around when I needed simple help and medication that was available. Osborn during the whole time kept yelling at me and telling the firefighters I just did not want to go to jail, and was advising the medics I was not having an asthma attack. He sat me up and was kneeing me in the back from behind, making it look like he was letting me lean against his knees and continually yanked on my arms to cause pain with the cuffs.

They refused to loosen the cuffs regardless of my plea or put them on in front so I could better deal with the pulmonary cramp and cramps all over now. I became increasingly panic ridden, coughing and gagging, apologizing that I had to spit, trying to breathe without my medication. It was truly amazing that I did not expire and stop breathing. I had no other choice but to try to control the attack without medication, regardless of the physical and verbal abuse the officers exerted on me.

Coleman came over to assist Osborn, to stand up with him on one side and Osborn on the other side. In the process of doing that, Coleman pulled on my arms excessively yanking me up, while Osborn yelled at me to stay down. It was a coordinated effort between the two officers to purposely injure me further, intimidate me and play with my psyche. One saying he wanted me to stand up, laughing, and the other driving me down to ground, making the cuffs cut into my wrist, contrary to their instructions. They were the most rude, aggressive, antagonistic officers I have seen in my life as a paramedic. They were openly laughing with each other and enjoying roughing me up as much as they could without making any physical visible marks on my body.

I asked numerous times to be allowed to lean up against my quad in the shade, and I was denied that. I was denied a hat for my bald head, denied water and my medication. All adding to my increasing irritation and panic. I swore at them, cussed at them and told them what terrible abusive assholes they were, not caring how they treated me.

At no time did I ever threaten any physical harm to them, other than I was going to charge them for excessive force during a simple stop for quading on the wrong road. I never once made on aggressive movement to them or tried to raise my hands against them. Their force was grossly excessive from the onset. Their verbal abuse and intimidation was nothing I have ever had to deal with in my life, let alone coming from supposed professional police officers. There was absolutely no need for the cuffs or for the cuffs being tightened purposely to injure me and cause me pain. No need for any of their rough treatment, the kneeing me in the back and jerking me around to tear my shoulder muscles, arms and wrists to purposely cause injury to someone who was cooperating with their questioning.

There was one officer who talked to my friend, apologizing for Coleman’s actions and abuse. He was openly embarrassed about Coleman’s manners and way, telling her he shows up on every scene “loaded for bear.” The officer who was going to transport me told me that Coleman told him I spit on him, and asked if he needed to put a mask on me for transport. I advised him I was having an asthma attack and told all of them I had to get fluid and phlegm out of my lungs, apologized and then spat on the ground, never at any officer or fire fighter. If Coleman was telling the truth to the other officer and it was not another antagonistic comment to escalate the arrest, then I implore Coleman to supply the clothes I spit on as evidence or the cloth or Kleenex they supposedly used to clean it up on them. It was just a constant continuation of lies, abuse, and poisoning everyone around me that I was such a terrible person that required and justified excessive force to subdue me and for everyone around me to see I was uncooperative and combative, which was a total lie.

I advised the officer of the truth, and he did not put the mask on me. He was the most professional police officer on the site. I believe he drove my friend to the RV where my driver’s license was retrieved. He treated Alison with respect and at no time engaged in the abuse or excessive force that was enacted by all the other officers and firefighters.

I was transported to a holding cell at the Lake Pleasant Sheriff’s office. There was no toilet paper. When I asked Osborn for some he told me to use my coat to “wipe my own fucking ass,” and laughed at me. He told me I had no rights in jail.

After some time, I was called to step back from the door. I got a drink of water, which Osborn and Coleman tried to rush from me as they did not want me to take a drink before the long ride to town. I knew it was my only chance for water as they refused to give any to me earlier. I was yelled at to stop drinking and to step outside and turn around. I did not know Coleman’s name at the time, as I needed to see his nametag to memorize it and identify him for my complaint. I was jerked around hard and told to look forward. He yelled at me to drop my coat, pulled out his Taser and threatened to tase me because I just did not comply fast enough for him. He roughed me up some more in front of the other officers, cuffed me too tight and too hard. I asked if they could cuff me in the front to deal with the cramps, and was told it was against their policy.

The transportation officer had all the windows closed and the A/C vents in the prisoner section closed. I requested many times to have my cuffs changed to the front as I was in extreme pain and cramping. By the time I got to the city I was in such pain I was crying, cramped up so bad I could hardly move or function.

I have temporarily lost feeling in parts of both hands, which are now numb and swollen, and have other medical problems from the rough treatment from Coleman and Osborn.

Don's life was so affected by this incident, he's now on a crusade to expose the Arpaio regime, and has set up the website Exposing Joe Arpaio & Police Thuggery

Click here to read about the special Xmas punishment Sheriff Joe Arpaio devised for his prisoners

Click here for tips on surviving Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail

Post comments or questions for Don 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 P. Attwood
Bird Song and Razor Wire (by Polish Avenger)

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 get 25-year sentences.

One of the most insistent reminders of being in prison is the ubiquitous razor wire. The stuff is everywhere, multiple strings of maliciously designed metal hell. It really is a sinister invention. Not only is it the sharpest thing I’ve ever encountered, but according to prison legend, it’s coated with a powerful anticoagulant. So if you get sliced while trying to escape, you won’t clot – you’ll just continue to leak and leave a nice trail for the guards to follow.

So you can imagine my surprise at an observation a few days back. Our unit here happens to be in a particularly diverse and well-populated riparian corridor (i.e. lots of birds). I am in the slim minority here who appreciates them. I love watching them, especially the swallows. Superb little diving acrobats they are! Pure fun to watch. But the most singular trait of these cheeky little buggers is that they fearlessly land atop those death-sharp fangs of wire, perch nonchalantly, and sing. Full-chested arpeggios of swallowsong. Scant millimetres away from fatal hemorrhage and all they do is serenade.

That, my friends, is exactly how I feel. My inner self is right up there alongside my feathered comrades, bursting out a triumphant song of joy that no oppressor can put down. Not by religion or dogma, but by the choice to have a good day. We don’t have to riot, or fight, or seethe with impotent rage against the system. When we decide to have a good day no matter what they throw at us, we win! We spite the unjust, snub the negative, laughingly tweak the nose of the diabolical inventors of razor wire, and proclaim that despite a quarter-century prison sentence, despite atrocity and human rights violations, and a broad spectrum of raw inhumanity, things are actually still OK. Yes, even in here. And yes, even out there.

What kind of day do you choose to have?

“…there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

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 writeinside@hotmail.com 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 1 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.

After Marcia Powell died because of the guards, so much has happened. I went a round or two with depression. Her death was a slap in the face of what the reality of my life is. All of us who reside in this prison felt it. It was hard to deal with, but life goes on.

Her death has changed the dynamics of life here drastically. There are now larger “rec enclosures” no longer to be referred to as cages. In the guards’ inner circles, they are referred to as “play pens.” There are mister systems and shade structures.

There is a new administration: DW [Deputy Warden], ADW [Assistant Deputy Warden], and captain. The DW is out of control. If you have an opinion, something to say and it goes against what he says, you’ll find yourself moved to the hole in the blink of an eye. This has happened to several women. They also move you into the kitchen with 56 other women if you ask for a room change because you do not get along with your roommate, and this is escalating the fighting.

26 yard (closed custody) has lost an increasing amount of rec time. The women who are trying to be responsible and have a job miss out on rec when they are at work. They are not even allowed to take showers anymore when they get back from work. The response from the officers is “Take your shower on your rec time.” But they can’t just leave their job to take a shower. So either the ladies chance a ticket by getting a shower anyway, not bathe, or wash up in the sink (referred to as a “ho bath”) [known as a “bird bath” in the men’s’ prison].

Well two days ago, 100 inmates had had enough. They refused to lock down. Simply, they were tired of not getting their rec. 100 disciplinary tickets were written.

Administration said there were fights, people were taxing people, robbing, breaking/rigging their cell doors and God knows what else. So they locked 26 yard down for 48 hours. They moved all of the “problem inmates” to D pod, next to the control room so they could all be supervised. They received a nice green bologna sandwich for breakfast.

Click here for Renee's previous blog about the guards pepper-spraying a dead female prisoner.


Shaun Attwood