12 Oct 07

Psychotherapy with Dr. T. (5)

“I’m comin’ out of my cage
An' I’m doin’ just fine”
- Killers "Mr. Brightside"

“To live, to err, to fail, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”
- James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“You look happy,” Dr. T. said.
“Yes,” I said, beaming with excitement.
“My release was finally processed last week. I should be leaving here next month. Do you have any advice for me when I get out?”
“Get some therapy set up.”
“We have the National Health Service in the UK, I’ll see if I can continue therapy with them."
“And look how revved up you are right now. Your enthusiasm is worrying me. You need to slow down, pull yourself back. Don’t allow yourself to ascend up into the clouds.”
“But I’m so close to getting out. I’m sincerely happy to be alive.”
“But when you get overwrought like this you’re apt to making stupid decisions. There’s enthusiasm, and there’s giddiness, and you’re almost giddy.”
“Feeling happy hypomanic is one of the best feelings in the world.”
“I have two dogs at home and one of them nearly got herself euthanised.”
“Why was that?”
“Because she was bounding around with over-excitement, jumping up on people and grabbing their arms with her forelegs. That’s how your excitement is coming across right now. Your emotional side has taken over. The rational side needs to be running the show. If the rational part is in control then you’ll stop and think before you make decisions. You’ll ask yourself: does this make sense? Does this lead to trouble? What is the downside?”
“As far as the bigger picture is concerned, I feel that my prison experience has enabled me to do that.”
“Then you should be able to stay out of trouble and not end up back in prison.”
“I’ve got a plan for when I get out. I’m determined to live the disciplined life it requires. When I came to the U.S. I worked long hours on the phone as a stockbroker, and now I intend to make a similar commitment to becoming a writer.”
“So what’s this plan you have?”
“To maintain a strict writing discipline. To write daily, and not to be swayed by the pleasures of my past. I recently read a Solzhenitsyn biography, and he wrote for so many hours a day, not allowing any interruptions. And the odds against him succeeding were overwhelming. If he could get out of the Gulag and accomplish so much by maintaining such a discipline, then I’m ready to take on the world.”
“Take on the world! There you go again. Why do you feel the need to take on the world?”
“That’s just the way I am.”
“But isn’t that what got you into trouble in the past?”
“I have this manic energy, and in the past I got into trouble because I used it in a negative way, that ended up with me being sent to jail. But if I use the energy in a positive way, I can do well and avoid trouble. That’s my goal. I was way too immature before. I feel that my experience has tempered me somewhat, although I recognise I am still immature in certain ways. I’ve tried to eliminate those immaturities that led me to prison, while maintaining a spontaneous spirit, in the sense of how Jung recommended we try to harness the energy of our inner child.”
“But when you’re too spontaneous, consequences suddenly arise that you hadn’t thought about.”
“That’s been the story of my life, and the hardest lesson for me to learn. When I say I’m ready to take on the world, I mean I’m excited to pursue the plan I’ve formulated to achieve my long-term goals. When I think how close I am to employing everything I’ve learned while in prison to the purpose of succeeding in the outside world, I’m thrilled.”
“Well don’t get so thrilled that you’re like my dog jumping up on a visitor with a look that says, ‘Let me chew on your arm, please.’” Dr. T. held up her hand, pressed her forefinger to her thumb, and said, “I’m telling you, she was this close to getting euthanised.” Her emphatic voice and widening eyes seemed to suggest that I too could end up euthanised if I didn’t temper my excitement.
“I’m not averse to chewing on someone's arm.”
Dr. T. laughed. “Well, I truly wish you luck out there.”
“And thank you for all of the sessions. I’m going to be all right on the outside.”
“As you’re pursuing these grand plans of yours don’t forget to pull yourself back from time to time and to ask yourself whether what you’re doing is going to lead to trouble.”
“I certainly will!”
“Good luck then.”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

10 October 07

The Future of Jon’s Jail Journal

Some of you have asked about my post-release plans for this blog.

I intend to keep posting the progress of the blog characters. Most of them – including Xena and Two Tonys – have agreed to provide written updates, and my friend Jack, a brilliant writer on Yard 4, has agreed to provide accounts of what’s going on on Yard 4, including tracking the blog characters. Some of the regulars (including Frankie, T-Bone, and Weird Al) are scheduled for release in 2008 or 2009, and I hope to follow their progress.

There are hundreds of blogs not yet posted for various reasons: my parents felt them too risqué, or they may have caused problems for someone if they had been posted when written. I’ve also written many stories, including Two Tony’s life story, and short stories incorporating the blog characters.

Some of you are wondering how I’ll fare post release. Will I achieve new successes? Will I do drugs again and go to the devil? Will anything come of my relationship with Royo Girl? How will I cope in England after being away for sixteen years? Especially living in my parents’ garage!

I intend to blog my progress, and to seek out new characters – especially the colourful and the downtrodden. I’m sure Aunt Lily will be blogged. Reading D.H. Lawrence recently brought to mind ways I can portray my hometown of Widnes, Cheshire.

I want to continue to use the blog to help prisoners and to expose injustice. I shall continue to answer your questions and to write about anything you care to suggest. I’ve tried to answer many of your queries at My Space, so I may continue to do that or I may merge that function back into the blog.

With only a short time left to go can you imagine how excited I am? I can’t wait to meet some of you in person or over the Internet. What a journey you’ve helped me get through! And how much has been accomplished due to your support! Thanks for your kindness! Yes! And for helping me demonstrate that prisoners are indeed members of the human race.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
05 Oct 07

My Sister’s Wedding

Today it was great to hear my parents describe my sister, Karen’s wedding. Karen married Andrew, a press photographer, who almost didn’t make it after a close call with the Taliban in Helmand, Afghanistan, while on assignment just a couple of weeks before the wedding. The wedding took place at St. Bede’s Church where I once served as an altar boy, and where I planned to marry Claudia, my ex fiancée.

On the day of the wedding I was happy for my sister but I also felt sad as I imagined the ceremony and the celebrations occurring without my participation. I was reminded of how I’ve let my family down – my absence being a consequence of my behaviour. Karen seems to be going from strength to strength - and her successes are perhaps reducing the stress of my incarceration on my parents.

At least I’m almost free. It just remains for me to get out and to emulate Karen’s successes.

Karen and Andrew are now on a honeymoon including a safari in Kenya, and stays at Tanzania and Zanzibar

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

02 Oct 07

The Royo Romance (17)

Click here for Part 16.

To Royo Girl:

Of course I agree with you that we should continue as we are. As much as I fantasize about you being my ideal marriage partner I realise there are plenty of factors working against us ever having a successful long-term relationship including your obsessive-compulsive tidiness. I am a mess-maker at heart, but somehow I seem to know where everything is. I can’t live with someone who gets tense whenever some little thing gets out of place. My ex-wife Amy solved the problem by hiring maids, but I don’t think I’ll be able to afford a cleaning service out of unemployment benefit. You say I don’t listen well and you are right – but that’s because I get swept away when you are present, and that’s a credit to the effect you have on me. So don’t expect me to start listening well anytime soon.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

30 Sept 07

From Suicide Prevention Aide to Tailor of Prison Panties

“What’s big and white and drips from the sky?” Xena asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“My kingdom come.”
“Oh boy,” I said. “What’s new with you?”
“I got put on thirty days LOP [Loss Of Privileges] and lost my suicide prevention aide job for callin’ a sergeant a bitch.”
“Do you miss your suicide prevention aide job?” I asked.
“No. I had to look inside people’s windows, which I really hated.”
“Do you have a job now?”
“My new job is makin' panties.”
“Good for you. Do you have orders?”
“A few.”
“Including Slope no doubt?”
“I think the redneck would put the panties on his head, fall asleep at night, and get in trouble when the graveyard-shift cop puts his flashlight to the window. But what’ll really fuck Slope up is when they find the bra around his ankles. He’ll say it’s a rubber band to keep his feet from kickin’ 'cause rednecks are always runnin’ from somethin’ in the middle of the night.”
“A reader asked me to ask you whether her and her prison boyfriend will stay in their relationship. She’s stressed and worried.”
“If she becomes Cult of Xena she’ll never have to worry about that again. You know why? In COX we don’t have relationships – we are relationships!”
“Any messages for COX members?”
“Be spontaneous, girls and boys. Especially you girls with the thing between the package. And you boys: as long as you got big breasts, you show 'em off. Stay fabulous and drink lots of water – 'cause it keeps you ample."

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
27 Sept 07

Yoga Classes?

Seeing a group of guards gather outside of my cell I feared I had been targeted for a cell search.
“Jon, we have a question for you.”
“OK,” I said, wondering what trouble I was in.
“If we can get a yoga class going for the Yard 1 prisoners would you be willing to teach it?”
“Absolutely, I’ve already been teaching yoga to some of the guys, and more guys are asking to join.”
“We’re gonna put in a proposal for a yoga class and there’d be a turn out for you to teach it in a room off Yard 1.”
“Great! The rec room we’re using now has no air conditioning.”
“And you’re not supposed to be using that room anyway.”
“Well, some guards say it’s OK, and some guards boot us out.”
“Also, we know you’re going home soon, so who do you think would be good to take over when you’re gone?”
Iron Man. I’ve been teaching him for months, but you’d have to ask him yourselves.”
“Well, we’re gonna put this proposal in 'cause we feel yoga will do the guys some good.”
“It’s a positive thing. I’d love to teach it. I just hope the idea gets approved.”
“Alright, thanks, Jon.”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
25 Sept 07


One of my neighbours, Lurch, a giant with learning difficulties, is serving time because he accidentally shot and paralysed his young friend. Thanks mostly to a public defender who worked against him and a prosecutor who charged him with all kinds of offences, he was sentenced to twenty years. In prison, members of the Aryan Brotherhood wielding socks filled with padlocks almost killed him.

Lurch allowed me to read his court documents and letters. Saddest was the letter from his mother to the judge. Also, I noticed some sentencing errors in his paperwork. He’s eligible for release several years before the prison calculation, so we’re going to see the counsellor to try and bring his release date forward. I'm also going to write a short story about Lurch.

Can you imagine how many more Lurches and Slingblades there are stuck in the prison system for want of help, their stories never heard?

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

23 Sept 07

I’m A Teacher

I’m a teacher now. In August I chanced upon one of the most coveted jobs on the yard. It entails helping prisoners study for their GED exams. As there is no air-conditioned room to hold a class in, I do house calls. I spent the morning helping Too Tall change percents to fractions and divide fractions by fractions. Teaching him gave me a feeling of well-being. The opportunity to influence some prisoners’ lives in my own small way is appreciated.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
21 Sept 2007

The Double Murderer – Final instalment

Magpie continued to talk big to people on the yard about how he was going to "smash" me, but he never came to my cell or “called me out.” I was told not to go to his cell because of the cameras and because it would make me look like the aggressor. Sick of Magpie boasting but doing nothing about it, some heavyweights on the yard told him: “Handle your business or go and squash it.”

“England, we need to talk,” Magpie said, entering my cell.
“What’s up?” I said.
“Look, man, I didn’t mean anything running my mouth the other day. I’m like that with everyone.”
I just looked at him.
“Look, England, I like you. That’s why I clowned you. I know it made you mad, so I apologise.” Magpie held out his hand.
Wary of a sucker punch, I approached him sideways, and shook his hand. “Alright, I accept your apology,” I said. “But you’ve got to realise, because you shanked two prisoners to death, when you’re clowning or threatening someone like me, people wonder what you’re gonna do next. You’ve got a reputation.”
“But that was years ago. I came in the system a youngster, a short-timer. Back then killin’ them dudes was something I had to do. Now I’m almost gettin’ out. I don’t wanna cop no more time.”
“I know you’ve been down a long time. Are you gonna make it out there, man?”
“How am I gonna make it? I’m a junkie. Someone from parole came to see me and they told me I’m institutionalised. I’ve got money - my father owned a business. But I’m a junkie, man. What am I gonna do?” His look suggested he was hoping I would say something helpful.
Suddenly, my ill will toward him died, and I tried to imagine how three decades of prison had affected him. How sad it was that he felt he was getting released only to come right back. “You’ve just gotta try to stay off the shit, Magpie.”
“I’ve been doing heroin my whole life.”
“It’s gonna be hard, but try to find other things to do. Travel the country. Go all the places you’ve always wanted to see.”
“If I come to England will you show me around? I’m serious. I’ve got the money.”
“If you get round to it, you can find me online.”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood
19 Sept 07

Literary Classics

Thank you to the individuals and prison-book programs who have sent books recently, including:

The Divine Comedy by Dante
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Iliad of Homer
Stories of Anton by Chekhov
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

Reading the classics, it is interesting to note how earlier authors influenced later authors. For example, how Homer influenced Dante and James Joyce. How Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov influenced Franz Kafka. And less subtly, how William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald influenced Mario Puzo, Tom Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates and Annie Proulx.

I’ve discovered an excellent resource for prisoner education: The Great Courses – lectures on tapes offered by the Teaching Company (www.TEACH12.com).

A kind reader recently sent (from the Teaching Company) Masterworks of Early 20th – Century Literature taught by Professor David Thornburn of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This course has transformed my understanding and appreciation of Modernist fiction, and introduced me to some authors I hadn’t read much of including Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Rudyard Kipling, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, and Isaac Babel. It’s enabled me to enjoy books I previously found awkward, including those by D.H. Lawrence and William Faulker. The Teaching Company provides a way to get top university lectures into prisons.

Some of you have asked whether it’s still OK to send books so near to my release. As I read the books immediately and donate them to the library, I’m going to keep the wish list running until the end of October, so people are welcome to send books until then. Over the last three years, thanks to your help, the prison library has received hundreds of books, books that shall continue to educate and entertain prisoners long after I’m gone.


Displacing Ivan Ilyich, Count Fedor Ivanych Turbin (from the story “Two Hussars”) is now my favourite Tolstoy character. The Count’s swashbuckling made me laugh hard. Anna Karenina pales in comparison.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

From the summer of 2006.

An Irreversible Path to World War?

“Einstein,” I said to Two Tonys, “in a letter to Freud, indicated that war comes about when politicians aided by munitions makers and other war profiteers brainwash the masses via schools, the media, and the church. Freud agreed, and replied to Einstein that the ruling class use the illusion of nationalism to harness the destructive instinct of the masses.”
“Our destructive instinct is natural,” Two Tonys said. “According to my buddy Schopenhauer: man is the only animal which causes pain to others without any further purpose than just to cause it. The working class are sendin’ their sons and daughters to get maimed and ruined in the Middle East so rich motherfuckers like the owners of Boeing, Raytheon, Remington, and General Electric can get even richer.”
“It’s a dangerous game to play in this age of nukes,” I said. “The last world war came about from a big power, Nazi Germany, gobbling up its weaker neighbours. I don’t see much difference between the Nazis conquering Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Bush clique invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Hitler created national security justifications for his aggrandizement. Bush used 9/11 as a pretext although the attackers were mostly Saudi Arabians linked to his financial backers, the bin Laden family, who he allowed to hurriedly leave the US after the attacks.”
“Politicians are trained to say whatever it takes. They’ll get up in Congress, and advocate bombin’ and shellin’, and the destruction of another race, when nothing’ is further from the truth.”
“I’m reading,” I said, “annual reports of defence manufacturers – Cobham, Umeco, Chemring, Meggitt, Ultra Electronics – and the common theme is that business is booming because of our peace-keeping missions. The peace our politicians talk about equals more bombs. And it’s not only the defence companies, look at Exxon Mobil’s recent $10 billion quarterly profit, one of the highest quarterly results for any publicly traded US company ever, and Royal Dutch Shell’s $7 billion. It’s clear who Iraq’s oil was seized for - and it wasn’t for the good of the public who are getting gouged.”
“Don’t forget Halliburton,” Two Tonys said. “That’s Cheney’s baby, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubya works there when he gets out of the White House.”
“The difference between the Nazis and the Bushites is that the Nazis, especially Goebbels, did a successful propaganda job on the public, and during their first four years they were actually an economic success, whereas here we’re teetering on the brink of economic disaster, and the government is conducting a war against the will of a good section of the public. Lafayette said that when the government violates people’s rights like this, insurrection becomes the most indispensable of duties. I’m not advocating the government be overthrown. I’m bringing that up to get your opinion.”
“The unwashed of America have been dumbed down,” Two Tonys said. “The average citizen has two cars, a TV in each room, a PC with Internet access, his daughter tap dances, his son plays soccer, he goes to church on Sunday, his workin’ life is invested in a pension. The average American has too much to lose. He ain’t gonna grab a pitchfork, run down the street, charge the castle, and guillotine the king his dukes and earls. He’s got a Saturday afternoon barbeque to go to, where he’ll drink Bud Light and talk about the game.”
“If the public is being manipulated into world war,” I said, “ - the world war that Churchill predicted would be over the world’s resources – is there nothing we can do about it? Are most of us as oblivious of the coming death on home soil as the Germans were when the Nazis began expanding? The passivity of the average American is astounding. Even Thomas Jefferson wrote that a little rebellion is as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
“The closest thing here in the US was the Vietnam crisis,” Two Tonys said. "The country was on the verge of rebellion. That younger generation now have the things I just described. They got haircuts, got jobs, and rebellion now means smokin’ some weed every now and then. They are gonna do somethin’ though: they’re gonna elect Hilary Clinton.”
“But will that change anything?” I said. “Both parties answer to the same corporations and lobbyists. It’s an illusion. Left and right in the two-party system are shades of the same thing.”
“They need to dress members of Congress like racing car drivers, showin’ who’s sponsorin’ them,” Two Tonys said. “Imagine Condi Rice negotiatin’ for peace in the Middle East, emblazoned with logos of Boeing, Hughes, Citicorp, and Bank of America. The public’s gonna hafta wake up. The CEOs of these companies are rippin’ and tearin’ heads off, and shittin’ on people’s jugular veins.”
“If the German people had stopped the Nazi leaders maybe millions of people wouldn’t have died. My hope is that the current US aggression – as acknowledged by Milton Friedman in the Wall Street Journal – is reined in by legitimate means before the rest of us have to live with the consequences.”

I am interested in readers' comments on this subject. Before anyone brands me a leftist, I would like to point out that I have little faith in politicians of any party. My conclusion is based on my studies of economics and history. The Israel-Lebanon conflict seems to be part of the escalation. Is it any wonder that Iran wants into the mushroom-cloud business when a superpower is gobbling up its neighbours? What happens when China, Russia or India stop in to protect their resource interests around the Caspian? Isn’t Blair’s idea of sending a stabilisation force to Lebanon just a euphemism for the kind of Western expansion in the Middle East that’s stirring up the Moslem's, solidifying the Moslem Brotherhood, and leading us closer to resuming the ages-old war between the Christian and Moslem civilizations? When explosions start happening in American malls, will anyone stand up and blame the foreign policy of aggression implemented by our politicians?

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

12 Sept 07

The Royo Romance (17)

In a letter from Royo Girl:

I find your affection for me endearing and it is mutual to a certain point. My affection for you, however, is more rooted in a deep friendship than a future relationship. I know you know this, but I don’t think that you listen very well. We will just have to continue as we are. I should feel guilty for that and I do, but not enough to have not said it.

I am sorry that I didn’t come this past Sunday. I will be at the next visit that is a weekend day. Until then, bye Jon.

Much love

Royo Girl

PS sprayed with Victoria’s Secret Perfume


Jon is releasing his personal property from prison, including his name and address books, to send home. He has asked that anyone who writes to him please provide a legible name and address on all letters, so he is able to continue to respond to your mail.
9 Sept 07

The Double Murderer (Part 4)

Iron Man rushed into my cell, and said, “Jon, listen up: that motherfucker Magpie was just over on A run saying how he’s gonna kick your ass over that shit in the kitchen – the beef you had with him.”
“He’s always running his mouth,” I said.
“This shit is serious. This guy’s already stuck two people in the joint and they’re both dead.”
“What should I do about it?”
“This is what you gotta know about Magpie and what you gotta do: he’s got a steel rod in his left leg, his legs fucked up.”
“From what?”
“He got shot by the guards a while back. As soon as he walks in your cell you gotta feint with a left jab and then do a front snap kick to his left thigh as hard as you can.”
“Wait a minute. I’m about to get out. I don’t want to get in a fight and lose my release.”
“Fuck all that! Would you rather get out in a pine box? Whatthafucks wrong with you, man? Your life’s in danger and you’re worried about not getting in a fight.”
“I see what you’re saying. Don’t get me wrong: if he does come to my cell and attacks me, I will be forced to defend myself. You don’t think he’ll come at me with a shank do you?”
“Listen, you’re not understanding what I’m saying. All this about him coming in your house and you being forced to defend yourself, get that shit out of your mind, OK? Are you hearing me? If he comes in your cell, you attack him the minute he walks through that door. He may be carrying a shank. It’s not like he’s coming over for high tea, England.”
“If I’m unarmed, how do I fight against an armed man?”
“Like I already told you - ”
“Kick him in the thigh?”
“If someone comes at you with a shank, you get a hold of their arm and break their fucking wrist. Let me show you. Stand up and come at me like you’ve got a knife.”
I went at him and he grabbed my arm, twisted it and almost snapped it.
“See,” he said, “how I gained control of the situation?”
“But like I said: go for the left leg, he’s got a steel rod in there. If he can’t stand, he can’t fight.”
“I’ve got a feeling this might escalate and mess up my release.”
“If this guy comes to your cell with murder in his heart then whatever happens, happens. You’ve gotta let the chips fall where they may.”
“I guess this is just part of being in prison.”
“Yeah. It’s survival man.”

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood