Life as an Orangeman

Memories of Arpaio's gulag imbedded for life
By LINDA BENTLEY Sonoran News reporter

TUCSON Az: In Dec 2004 when Derick and Barbara Attwood flew in from England over the Christmas and New Year holidays to visit their son at the Lewis Prison Complex near Buckeye, they left with a cloud of depression difficult to shake. Their son, Shaun Attwood, who has since been transferred to the Arizona Department of Corrections medium security Santa Rita Unit in Tucson, is serving nine and a half years for money laundering, the use of electronic equipment, and attempting to possess dangerous drugs, stemming from his involvement in the Phoenix Rave scene. Although he admits making some errors in judgment, Attwood is hardly the Mafioso. A stockbroker by trade and well read in ancient history, economics, Greek classics and political philosophy, the 37-year-old Attwood is also a yoga-practicing vegetarian who admires the works of philosophers Aurelius, Nietzsche and Plato. He speaks Spanish and is learning Mandarin Chinese.

After spending 26 months as a pre-trial detainee in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s gulags, Attwood said conditions in the jail could make a person plead guilty to just about anything to get away. He was transferred to the state prison system in July 2004. So, again in Dec 05, Attwood’s parents travelled to Tucson to see their son, who looked extremely healthy, cheerful and living in remarkably clean surroundings, much unlike Arpaio’s roach and rodent infested jails. The Attwoods invited Mothers Against Arpaio (MAA) co-founder Pearl Wilson and this reporter to share their last precious day of visitation on Dec. 31 2005 with them and their son.
MAA connected with the Attwood family while Attwood was still at Madison Street Jail. His family began retyping his handwritten and humorous letters telling of the deplorable conditions in Arpaio’s jails and posted them on the Internet. Using a golf pencil and paper that often became soggy with sweat, Attwood dutifully documented life in Arpaio’s jails, which was posted on the Internet as Jon’s Jail Journal, fearing retribution from Arpaio if they used his real name. With a wry sense of humor and a flare for writing, Attwood’s journal entries evolved from trying to laugh off the atrocities in Arpaio’s hoosegows to documenting his new life as an Orangeman, so dubbed for the color of their state-issued prison duds. Attwood considered himself lucky to have left Arpaio’s jail after having only suffered bleeding bedsores, fungal skin infections and pink eye.

His Feb 4, 2004, journal entry painted the visual du jour:We have had no running water for three days now. The toilets in our cells are full of faeces and urine. On the second day of the water outage, I knew that we were in trouble, as the mound in our steel throne peaked above sea level. Inmates often display remarkable ingenuity during difficult occasions, and the current crisis resulted in a number of my brethren defecating in the small plastic bags that the mouldy breakfast bread is served in. The whole tower reeks like a giant porta-loo.

Three weeks later, Attwood wrote about being called to the medical unit for a general wellness check-up as the weekly outing. One of his neighbors was diagnosed as having scabies, and it was determined their chow servers had infectious tuberculosis the entire duration of his stay. Another inmate complained about having gone two days without his seizure medication.

Looking on the bright side, Attwood wrote, At least our water is flowing again. Inmates are still trading stories about defecating in plastic bags and urinating in old pop bottles. On March 25, 2004, after being transferred to new quarters, Attwood wrote, I am allowed out of my cell for one hour each day to make a phone call and to take a shower. During my first hour out in the new pod, I was serenaded by the inmates, who performed a husky version of ‘A Yellow Submarine’. I was touched by their vocal efforts and their demonstration of high spirits, in a part of the jail that qualifies as an area of high-grade suffering. My new cohabitants are enduring the twin evils of a broken down swamp cooler and a cockroach infestation.

They are proving to be the crème de la crème of ‘good sufferers’. A neighboring asthmatic inmate happily described how he inhaled a cockroach right into his lung that had crept into his nebulizer. He was subsequently awarded sufferer of the week’ without any real competition. Using toothpaste to plug up cracks and holes in his cell, Attwood said it kept the cockroaches out while it also made his cell smell ‘minty fresh’. On May 6, 2004, Attwood wrote about some of the various ways inmates addressed their sexual frustration, citing that the most common method of relief takes place in the shower. Unfortunately, he wrote, the rain room that I share with 29 other men does not drain very well. This has resulted in a puddle of semen and pubic hair, which swirls around my ankles as I wash myself. While showering, I wear pink socks to prevent the mixture from sticking to my feet. I scrupulously rinse them off when I’ve finished.

Since leaving Arpaio’s jail, the tone of Attwood’s journal entries have become noticeably more upbeat and comical, focusing on his interactions with his fellow Orangemen and staff, with nicknames such as, Long Island, Two Tonys, Repo, Xena and Odd Job.

Attwood quipped in his Oct. 13, 2005, journal entry; sadly, being an illegal alien stockbroker from England seems to have precluded my admission to any of the 25,000 active gangs identified by the Justice Department. Despite my protests about unequal prison gang opportunities and demands for affirmative action for incarcerated Brits in America in relation to prison gang work (known as ‘doing dirt) I remain ostracized and unranked in the political hierarchy. I’m thinking about filing a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court demanding court ordered gang membership.

Email comments to or post them below


Anonymous said...

good piece of work Linda, keep it up,
Arpaio must go sooner rather than later

Anonymous said...

hadn't read all the blog, didn't realise how grim it was. i started from the beginning, quite a read

Anonymous said...

It's great to see your hanging in there.
When do you get out of that hell hole ?