My brother, the Brit in a US jail (by Karen Attwood)
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My family’s ordeal began in May 2002, with a phone call from my Aunt Ann, who lived in Arizona, usa. She called to tell my mother that my older brother, shaun, had been arrested. Shaun and I come from an ordinary, loving home in Cheshire. But at the age of 21, Shaun was eager to spread his wings and he followed other members of the family by emigrating to the states. For many years he enjoyed a successful career as a stockbroker and our parents had been proud of his achievements. But he had been living a double life.

He had been involved in organizing drugs sales at the raves he ran around Phoenix. His criminal activity finally caught up with him and led to a swat team knocking down his door in a dawn raid. After his arrest Shaun spent two years on remand in some of the toughest jails in America. This was a horrendous time for my family stuck on the other side of the Atlantic. At first my parents didn’t tell any of their friends as, despite the fact they had brought Shaun up well, my mother was consumed with guilt and they both felt deeply ashamed. My parents used up their life savings to get Shaun a lawyer and we flew several times a year to visit him in jail. We are used to hearing stories of life 

Inside prisons but rarely do we hear what it is like for the families. Yet family members and loved ones serve the sentence alongside the prisoner and the impact of an arrest is devastating for everyone. After a local Phoenix newspaper ran a sensational article painting shaun as a vampire-like gangster, my mother had a nervous breakdown. My father started to have panic attacks. I was full of conflicting emotions. I was angry with my brother for being so stupid and selfish but I also loved him and wanted him to be safe. I had nightmares of terrible things happening to him while inside. Eventually we told all our friends and neighbours and everyone was incredibly supportive, many writing letters to the judge about Shaun’s previous good character. In 2004, two dozen friends and family members gathered in an Arizonan court room where Shaun was to be sentenced after pleading guilty to drugs offences. Both of my parents, my two aunts and I, all spoke in mitigation, pleading with the judge to be lenient. This was the most stressful day of all of our lives. Shaun was sentenced to almost 10 years but he came out after five and three quarter years. My parents and I were there once more to welcome him back to the uk where he has - slowly but surely - rebuilt his life. 

Karen Attwood is a freelance journalist and has written a book about her experience, details of which can be found on the english shaun Facebook page. Shaun’s book Hard Time is also out now.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Read your ebook and loved it. You're a great family supporting each other through what must have been an awful ordeal.

Good Luck for 2012

Kath

Abel said...

This is an excellent book with a very strong message for any family - it could happen to you...

Karen said...

Thanks Kath! Glad you enjoyed it.
Karen

Marcia said...

Hey Karen, well done honey, as a long time reader of the blog this book of yours was a real eye opener!

Zen said...

Life sets challenges we are ready for, and perfectly placed to take up ( should we choose ).

Shaun's arrest placed him in challenging circumstances where he was "the right man in the right place at the right time" because the evil of the American prison system is far greater than many of the crimes that place people behind bars. Prisons are a profitable industry, for which prisoners are but a commodity.

Jonsjailjournal was a vital lifeline for Shaun, set up for him by his supportive family - an asset many prisoners simply do not have.

Each family member has been on their own challenging journey, discovering more about who they are, what values they hold, and where they wish to take it.

Self-evidently, Shaun has matured into a thinking man who has the power to inspire others, for the very lifeline his family extended to him with their love, he extended to others within prison, enriching the lives of many.

Prisons are a hard place, where society chooses to concentrate as much of society's negative energy in one place, packed tight like a steam kettle, with minimum positive energy input by the system, and simply let people sink or swim.

Put simply, prisons reflect the negative values of society, that society has not got the courage to address, and by refusing to address the issues raised, guarantees that hate, anger, greed, and pain continues, generation after generation.

Precisely because society's paradigm is so narrow, with fear uppermost, and love restricted, many people wish to experience a higher paradigm.

In primitive fear-based society's such as the UK and US, "feeling good" and experiencing empathy, has to be bought as a product within a carefully orchestrated range, and fuel the monstrous economy that drains all around it.

People are forced to work harder and longer for less, while those who manipulate the system are blatantly corrupt.

The system is happy to sell alcohol - which kills millions - and maims and harms many others too - but make a drug like ectasy illegal.

And yet, what is ectasy?

In brief, it is a chemical capable of producing on demand within a human being the sheer joy of One-ness that is the birthright of all, and which has been systematically attacked and almost destroyed by governments and churches for hundreds of years.

What passes for "normal", is in fact a sick society so used to it's pain, few dare challenge the status quo.

All human beings, however much they try to conceal it, yearn for the unity of togetherness that simply "IS", because we are spiritual beings coded that way.

All human beings face the same challenge, which is to overcome fear, and become more loving.

As The State is so incredibly unloving ( and grows ever more dark and oppressive year by year ), it is hardly surprising that many people search for answers.

Rather than simply see such people as criminals, a wise society would ask itself why it is that these people are dissatisfied with the existing paradigm, and then see where it can improve itself.

As we do not have a wise society, oppression is rampant, and people feel hemmed in by an endless list of regulation and control.

Ectasy was derived from MDMA, and when MDMA was first used by avant garde mental health professionals, they were unaminous about it's benefits.

In a primitive fear-based system, where people live 99 percent by fear, being able to take a drug, and to experience pure love for a few hours ( with no fear whatsoever ), and to be able to disuss one's situation at a much higher level of perception, is a liberating and self-empowering tool of great value.

I know from experience.

Zen said...

When MDMA was seized upon by those wishing to dance, it was chemically altered to make it more profitable for mass production, and produced a lesser result, which was, nonetheless, the greatest experience of joy and togetherness that most people had experienced.

As ectasy was so inexpensive, and as alcohol was seen to be unnecessary, alcohol sales plummetted.

For this reason, the alcohol industry set up task forces to demonise ectasy, and make it illegal.

Far more people die from allergy to aspirin or innoculations, than the tiny number of deaths where ectasy has been taken ( and of this tiny number, it is debateable if ectasy is, in fact, the sole cause ).

In spite of this, the system - terrified that people are dancing and hugging, and expressing love, made ectasy as illegal as dealing in heroin.

People convicted had their lives ruined, and were thrown in jail with murderers, extortionists, and male rapists - to "protect" society - while hundreds of thousands are dying from alcohol sales that are perfectly legal.

The insanity is clear.

By making ectasy illegal, an organised criminal underground is inevitable.

As something so powerfully liberating ( even when tainted with crime's adulterations of purity ) cannot be stopped, The War on Drugs has to be seen for what it really is - a huge industry of oppression that can never do anything but harm.

The sad thing is, no-one ever tells people the truth, yet the truth is simple.

Pure MDMA is perfectly safe, and ennobles the human spirit, by enabling one to rise above the squalid reality that is our current system.

Once you have accessed a higher dimension of reality, you can return to that dimension at any time, simply by using one's mind - but few know about higher dimensions.

Why?

Because The System does not want you to know.

It wants you controllable, and profitable.

As the system makes more and more things illegal, people look harder for alternatives, using all sorts of unlikely chemicals to get "high", and causing themselves definite harm.

People who take ectasy are not addicts, and will not break into your home for a "fix".

They may hug you, and dance, and smile, and express things they would otherwise fear to say.

In an imperfect world, ectasy represents an aspect of freedom, while the system represents oppression.

This is why the system hates ectasy.

And why Shaun paid the price.

The economy of the United States is fundamentally based on making war munitions, and requires non-stop war if the US is not to disintegrate financially.

The people who profit from war - from death and maiming - are legal, and given honour by society.

Shaun was designated a criminal.

Shaun has a positive effect upon others - that is his stature.

I salute his development, and watch with interest to see where it goes.

I also salute his family, who at great personal cost, made his journey possible.

Karen said...

Thanks for all your comments and Zen I couldn't agree more!

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zen said...

Glad you like it, Karen!

I was a little worried I had gone OTT, but I write direct from my heart, based on what I know, and I pull punches for no-one.

Shaun was very lucky to have such a supportive family, and has become an inspiration. I believe that is what life is all about.

Best wishes to you, Zen

Jon said...

Thanks so much, Zen, for taking the time to write something so profound.

L&R

Shaun

Zen said...

Nameste, :-)