Shaun, I attended the talk you did back in September. I was moved when I learned your story and am pleased you came out the other side. It was clear the scars are still there. You did come across as contrite and accepting of the consequences of your actions. The issue of prisons as a means of punishment and reform (contrasting roles) interests me. There were more questions I wanted to ask you on the day, and if you don't mind I would like to raise these now. I will read your book later to learn more.
Given your business background and aptitude for numbers (like myself), had you persisted with stockbroking do you feel that you could have forged a successful career there?
Yes. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t foolishly got involved in drugs, I would have gone onto much bigger successes in the stock market. From age 14, I felt that trading the stock market was my calling in life. In 1999, my portfolio was worth over $1 million. Stock market performance varies with your psychology. When I melted down on drugs, so did my wealth.
Also has this career opportunity passed for you?
No firm will give me a job as a stockbroker due to my criminal record, but I can trade the stock market online with my own capital. Stock-broking is more of a sales job, whereas I actually much prefer the trading side, which involves lots of analysis and research. I watch the stock market every day and as I rebuild my life, I hope to be able to trade again when I have enough capital.
Are you embittered that the wealth you genuinely accumulated was also seized by the US government?
No. America was good to me and I pushed my luck way too far. Losing all of my assets was a consequence of the stupid choices I made. I actually credit the US government for saving my life. If I hadn’t been arrested, I suspect something bad would have happened. People who get deep into the drugs lifestyle have the highest mortality rates.
Throughout you were deluded that you could ever get caught. It was the interest of organised crime groups, which made you withdraw. But had you seen the warning signs it was the authorities who were on your tail (before knowing the full repercussions) would you have got out earlier?
Sammy the Bull Gravano’s dealers brought massive police heat to the rave scene. I did see that as a warning sign, and I eventually quit dealing Ecstasy at the behest of my girlfriend Claudia in 2001. Believing I’d got off scott free, I was naïve to the statute of limitations in Arizona which allows drug crimes to be prosecuted for up to 7 years after the crimes are committed. Things you do in the drug world can follow you for years, and my past finally caught up with me when the SWAT team smashed my door down in 2002.
I do not want to go into the harshness of conditions inside the US penal system. Where there is a rule of 'no snitching' and 'always fight back' how do the older lags (or physically less capable) survive?
There are old-timers in prison who are extremely formidable characters because they have earned the respect of the prisoners over the years by virtue of how long they have served and the nature of their crimes. These old-timers, such as my friend Two Tonys, can call on an army of younger prisoners to do their bidding. The physically less capable adapt in other ways. Some go to the extreme of stabbing to make an example so no one will mess with them. Others ally themselves with powerful prisoners.
Do you still feel stigmatized by the wider society
when they learn of your criminal record?
When I first came out of prison, it was a concern, but not anymore. I think most people put my criminal record in the context of what I’m doing now as a public speaker and author.
For me the talks and work you do in schools is an honourable way to give something back. When do you consider this particular slate will be wiped clean?
I don’t view it as a slate to wipe clean. I’m just doing the best I can to make some positive changes in the world in my own way. Helping people keeps me focussed on the needs of others instead of my own selfish wants and desires. It acts as an automatic braking system on my ego – which when unbridled led to many of the disastrous choices I made.
I hope that in the fullness of time you are able to develop a regular life. You deserve that. Please keep up the good work or warning young people not to take short-cuts and enter a life of crime.
My new memoir Prison Time is now available for pre-order on Amazon. It includes many of the regulars I’ve written about over the years at Jon’s Jail Journal such as Two Tonys, T-Bone and Frankie.
UK Amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Prison-Time-Shaun-Attwood/dp/1780576625/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1387397916&sr=8-4&keywords=shaun+attwood
USA Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Prison-Time-Shaun-Attwood/dp/1780576625/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1387397953&sr=8-6&keywords=shaun+attwood
Worldwide with free shipping: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Prison-Time-Shaun-Attwood/9781780576626?selectCurrency=GBP