Anti-Arpaio Protest Today - marchers aim to raise national awareness (by JJ Hensley of The Arizona Republic)

In the 11 months since Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon kicked off the informal campaign against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio with a speech at the Cesar Chavez luncheon, politicians and pundits from around the country have followed suit.
They've written letters calling for federal investigations, staged demonstrations at meetings of the county supervisors, picketed daily outside Arpaio's office in downtown Phoenix and held candlelight vigils.
And little has changed.
The profile of those calling for federal intervention has risen, from Gordon to the head of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers.
Still, workplace raids and immigration dragnets by the Sheriff's Office persist.
Today, organizers say nearly 1,000 demonstrators are scheduled to march through downtown Phoenix in another effort to call attention to Arpaio's immigration-enforcement tactics and the agreement with the federal government that allows sheriff's deputies to act as immigration officers.
"They're trying to use me as the whipping boy," Arpaio said.
"The underlying effort is to get the president to do something about illegal immigration," he added. "I have no objection (to the protest), but I'm not going to change my policies."
This protest does come with a dose of celebrity - former Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zach de la Rocha asked fans to join him in protesting Arpaio - but organizers agree with Arpaio that the march is designed to bring national attention to Maricopa County as much as it is to raise the awareness of residents.
"I think the people of Maricopa County have become numb to the outrageousness of Arpaio's actions," said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and one of the march's organizers.
"The rest of the country is here to shake Maricopa County by the shoulders and say, 'What has happened in your community is not right,' " Newman said.
Voters failed to heed those same cries in the fall.
In the months leading up to Arpaio's victory over former Buckeye Police Chief Dan Saban, that was the consistent message from Arpaio's critics.
Arpaio went on to receive just more than 55 percent of the votes to win his fifth consecutive term in office.
That's probably part of the reason this incarnation of an anti-Arpaio campaign has a national flavor, said Michael McQuarrie, a sociology professor at the University of California-Davis.
"The civil-rights movement was successful by really leveraging national-level politicians and national-level allies and outflanking the local folks," McQuarrie said.
The tactics, goals and outcomes of the civil-rights movement are frequently invoked in this campaign against Arpaio, who is sometimes depicted as a "modern-day Bull Connor," the Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner who famously fought civil-rights activists with attack dogs and fire hoses.
Arpaio points out that he is simply enforcing the law, and if people want him to stop, they should change the laws.
Changing the federal policy that allows local law-enforcement agencies to serve as immigration officers is one of the main objectives to this weekend's activity, Newman said.
President Barack Obama, who appointed former Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of Homeland Security, has signaled a shift in immigration policy that would rely less on work-site enforcement and focus instead on employers who hire illegal immigrants and overall immigration reform.
Napolitano also has signaled her intent to review all immigration programs, including the 287 (g) agreement.
Even if that federal authority were voided, a pair of state laws would allow Arpaio to continue the workplace raids: using the state's employer sanctions law to launch ID-theft investigations and work-site enforcement, and arresting illegal immigrants on suspicion of being co-conspirators in their own smuggling.
Given the support residents here have shown for Arpaio, along with politicians and ballot measures that are tough on illegal immigrants, holding Arizona up as a national example of immigration enforcement gone wrong is the best hope for change, organizers said.
McQuarrie said the prospect of today's march getting lost in the wave of anti-Arpaio activism makes it imperative for organizers to seize on something positive.
"When the civil-rights people were doing the protest thing, that was sort of new. Now, protests have become an important performance, but it's accepted as performance, and it doesn't come with the same sort of moral outrage as it used to," he said.
"But protest often works because it forces people to make a choice. It's impossible to ignore the disruption."

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Shaun P. Attwood
27 Feb 09

Question Time With Brandon the Occult Killer

Dubbed the Occult Killer by the media, Brandon is serving 6 to 12 years in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Brandon’s crime: he killed his best friend in a drunk-driving accident.

Chris H wrote:

Hola and greetings, I dunno man... "we had games of Sorry that ended in violence", "we threw our weight around"... Sounds like you were getting involved in some action that goes against your later comment of being done and not wanting to be a repeat offender. Why did you refuse the cell move order? Surely if you want to get parole you should be doing anything and everything you can to keep your nose clean. Is moving cells such a big deal?Brandon responded:

I guess I should know better than to think that sarcasm and subtle exaggeration can be conveyed by print alone. What my small crew and I did in county was more like “Jackass” pranks than beatings and stabbings indicative of incarcerated badasses. “Antiquing” guys beds with baby powder, overflowing toilets, and “upstate prep school for first timers,” which was basically Fight Club hosted in my cell. For jail (or damn near anywhere), it was harmless fun.

Now, I want you to do me a favor and reread that blog. This time, picture Dr. Evil’s monologue (note-which I probably don’t need to include, but it’s from the movie Austin Powers-Sue) about his childhood: “Summer in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When insolent, I was placed in a burlap sack and beaten with reeds, pretty standard…My father made outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. He accused chestnuts of being lazy…”—this is the tone I’m trying to set.

About the cell move, I was set up to take a fall. My cellie at the time was Magic Show, a guy I had met on I-block a few years ago. He was an alright dude, so I took him in when his old cellie was busted for running numbers and landed 45 in the Twist. That guy, Brian, is always messing with the cops and getting other inmates in trouble, generally breaking prisoner code and being an all-around bad money douchebag. I should have known he would come back and raise hell about getting Magic back as a cellie, and that’s what he did.

45 days later, I’m woken up by a call to the desk. The CO, one of Brian’s best buds, throws me some roundabout farce to the tune of “Brian’s bottom bunk status, would you mind giving up yours and moving out?”

He doesn’t issue a direct order, just kindly asks. I’m not giving up anything to the pile of shit, so I kindly respond “no thanks.” 15 mins later, I’m drinking coffee getting prepped for clothing exchange when I get called back to the desk. I’m then informed that the move I just agreed to is complete and I should pack. I was annoyed, now enraged, and begin to throw a fit. Why should I allow myself to be jerked by this asshole who doesn’t understand no? A phone call later, I’m being escorted to the box by a Lt. and 2 CO’s, one with a camcorder. All I can think of is the DOC policy “planned use of force will be video taped.”

More than anything, I was disappointed in Magic. I’d known him for a while, helped him into a cell, and he hung me out to dry. I don’t expect much, a simple objection like “he’s a good dude, don’t mess up his job” would have sufficed, something! What I should have done was eaten it and acquiesced to the move, then dropped a formal grievance on the CO. Afterwards, I would kindly ask him to expire in an auto accident on the drive home, i.e. ‘I hate you, die.’

It was a bad situation I mishandled, but it felt good to stand up to the cops and be in the right, regardless of being punished. Besides, it was only a class II infraction, which drops off after 6 months, not to mention my first offence. If my charge alone doesn’t hem up my parole, little else will.

Click here to read Brandon’s intro blog.

Click here to read more from Brandon at Prison Mom.

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Shaun P. Attwood
25 Feb 09

From Warrior (Letter 5)

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.



Hey bud, how are you? First, let me apologize for the delay. It’s been a crazy month. I was ill for a minute with a nasty cold, then had to move to a new building, went through three bunkies, now here I am again. Whewww….

So allow me to start from the holidays. Obviously I’d rather spend time elsewhere, but they weren’t too bad,
Christmas I woke up to a hot Arizona day. You wouldn’t even imagine it to be winter given that it was so warm. We always seem to be locked down come the holidays. The prison is always “short staffed” because so many officers call in sick. Unfortunately we had no rec, but were able to make phone calls. Everyone was on the phone on that day. Some guys had visits too. The dinner was a piece of turkey, stuffing, peach cobbler with whipped cream, vegetables and a roll. All in all it was a quiet day.

New Years was a different story. As I’ve mentioned emotions run high around the holidays. Well, for some reason on the day we were all scheduled to receive our commissary items, commissary staff wouldn’t make it down. New Year’s was on a Thursday and commissary people don’t work on Friday. So rumour had it that we all weren’t going to get commissary until the following week on Monday.
Now one thing other than mail that a man locked up looks forward to throughout the week is commissary. Given that the yard was dry with no drugs either just added to the reason for everyone to rally together.
So as dinner happened, everyone refused to lock down. You should have seen it, every officer was in our building with mace in hand. Captains, sergeants, and lieutenants all came to try and deescalate the situation, but no one was having it. We demanded to talk to the warden and only the warden. It was intense. I thought I was about to eat a face full of chemicals and end up in the hole.
He came down, and claimed he didn’t have the authority to override the commissary people because they are a contracted company. He did it anyway because he was about to have a riot occur over store. A security issue trumps everything. So we eventually received our store and Homeland Security went down a couple of colors.
We all ended the year wired on coffee and chocolate, and banged our cell doors like mad as the clock struck 12:00. What a way to end ’08!

The holidays had me swamped. A bunch of birthdays kept me bust sketching portraits of loved ones. I’ll sketch you a picture or portrait one of these days.

I took your advice and picked up a subscription to Writer’s Digest. I really enjoy it. I’m going to try and enter some stories in their competitions and see where it goes.

I wish you and your loved ones all the best. Hope the day and week has been good to you. Keep it positive always. Remember what Buddha said, “A man may conquer a thousand men, in a thousand different battles, yet he who conquers himself is the greatest victor.”

Much love,


Click here to read Warrior’s latest story.

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Shaun P. Attwood
22 Feb 09

The Explanation (by Two Tonys)

Two Tonys - A whacker of men and Mafia associate serving multiple life sentences for murders and violent crimes. Left bodies from Tucson to Alaska, but claims all his victims "had it coming." Recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and is in chemotherapy fighting to prolong his life.

My daughter who’s 100 miles north came with my son-in-law and my youngest grandson. The kid’s 3 and wild and says I’m a monster and wants to throw rocks at me. He’s a cutie, says what he wants and basically does what he wants.

My daughter’s coming back with her 12 year old. He doesn’t know why I’m in this shithole, but he suspects. So I’m feeling I’m going to have to take him for a few laps and try my best to explain without fuckin’ up his brain.

He’ll get several stories. I’m thinking it’s best if I weigh in. Leaving out all of the details. What do you think? I can’t just go out there and say, “Oh yeah, kid, your ol’ granddaddy snuffed a few motherfuckers along the way, but they all asked for it.”
I’ve got to figure this out or ponder it real good. Or should I just shut the fuck up?

Hey, what if when I get over to the other side and all those assholes I put down are waiting for me? Fuck ’em! I’ve got to have a few old pals over there. If not, fuck, ’em. I’ll just have to deal with them. What can they do, kill me?

Click here for one of Two Tonys’ Murder Stories

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Shaun P. Attwood

Finally, the Law Goes After Joe Arpaio -- the Most Abusive Sheriff In America (by Emptywheel at

The House Judiciary Committee made a critical and public step to rein in a terrible Arizona "lawman."

You have probably heard of the shamelessly self professed "Toughest Sheriff in America", Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For years he has been making a PR spectacle of himself, all the while running an unconstitutionally deplorable jail system, letting inmates die under tortuous conditions, and violating the civil rights and liberties of everybody in sight, especially minorities. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee made public a critical and public step to rein in the Most Abusive Sheriff In America.
From the HJC press release:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate allegations of misconduct by Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the rights of Hispanics in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Under the guise of immigration enforcement, his staff has conducted raids in residential neighborhoods in a manner condemned by the community as racial profiling. On February 4, 2009, Arpaio invited the media to view the transfer of immigrant detainees to a segregated area of his "tent city" jail, subjecting the detainees to public display and "ritual humiliation." Persistent actions such as these have resulted in numerous lawsuits; while Arpaio spends time and energy on publicity and his reality television show, "Smile… You're Under Arrest!", Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars in settlements involving dead or injured inmates.
"It is time for the federal government to step in and uphold the rule of law in this country, even in Maricopa County."

"Law enforcement is not a game or a reality show, it is a public trust," said Scott. "There is no excuse for callous indifference to the rights of the residents of Arizona, whether in their neighborhoods or as pretrial detainees."

The full official text of the letter to Napolitano and Holder is here.
It is high time that somebody on the national scene notice, and the Federal government take action on, the egregious and violative conduct of Joe Arpaio.
Joe Arpaio is a two bit carnival barker and huckster, not a dedicated law enforcement official. The opportunistic man came into office running against a fellow Republican and incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff, Tom Agnos, by bad mouthing Agnos and arguing that the entire Maricopa County Sheriff's Department needed to be cleaned up. In fact, Arpaio's winning campaign was predicated upon his willingness to mock the very department he was running to lead and promise to expose the dirty laundry of Agnos and the Sheriff's Department for its involvement in the infamous Buddhist Temple Murder case (link is a fascinating three part story), a seminal case in textbooks on coerced confessions (from the fact that four separate coerced false confessions were obtained to a single crime). Arpaio promised to restore honor to the department, and also swore he would serve only one term in office. Five terms and seventeen years later, Arpaio has failed miserably on both promises.

The upshot of the House Judiciary Committee's missive to Attorney General Holder and DHS Secretary Napolitano is that Arpaio's:

...repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants. There are several tools at the federal government's disposal to address these allegations, and we urge their prompt consideration and application.

In short, the HJC is demanding that a full panoply of federal civil and criminal laws and remedies be brought to bear by the arms of federal law enforcement. One of the grounds for the HJC demand is Arpaio's acts earlier this month, described in the letter as follows:

Most recently, on February 4, after making sure to alert the media, Arpaio reportedly paraded approximately 200 suspected illegal immigrants in shackles to a segregated area of his "tent city" county facility, where they will supposedly remain until they are adjudicated and have served any sentences they face for local violations. The New York Times described this conduct as "ritual humiliation." The men who Arpaio is displaying like trophies are reportedly in pretrial detention, not having been convicted of any crime.

If you want to understand the true extent of Sheriff Joe's war on brown people, the Phoenix New Times' expose "Guadalupe Made It Clear That Joe Arpaio’s Attacking Anyone With Brown Skin" is an absolute must read. Seriously, it is a long piece, but to call it chilling and important would be an understatement, and it is superb start to finish. Here is a taste:

With spirited protesters and helmeted deputies on horseback, the night of April 3 in Guadalupe was like some historical reenactment, albeit in miniature, of a late-'60s anti-war melee. You know, the kind chronicled by Norman Mailer in one of his seminal "non-fiction novels" of the era, such as Miami and the Siege of Chicago or The Armies of the Night.
Following up on his criticism of Arpaio during a César Chávez luncheon in March, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon addressed a letter to the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation of the sheriff. The letter was dated April 4, the second day of the MCSO's Guadalupe sweep, and the MCSO's actions in Guadalupe figured prominently in the missive.

Egregious to be sure, but hardly the only such acts by Arpaio, and certainly not the worst. Let's go through some of the others alluded to in the letter, although not described in detail.
Arpaio was little more than halfway through his first term in office when his policies and jail conditions first came under investigation for abuse by the US Department of Justice. Shortly after that, and still during his first term in office, young Scott Norberg died in Arpaio's jail as a result of said policies:

[Norberg] was in Arpaio's jail just 15 hours before he was handcuffed by guards, kicked, stomped on, and then strapped into a restraint chair. There, guards held a towel over his head, literally suffocating him. Medical records later revealed that he had been shot with a stun gun at least 14 times and beaten so badly that his larynx cracked.

That one cost the taxpayers of Maricopa County $8.25 million, but did not deter the Most Abusive Sheriff in America; instead, he seemed to get off on the notoriety. There were more unnatural deaths in Arpaio's jails, from a variety of causes, after Norberg. The belligerent Arpaio finally stopped the deplorable use of the restraint chair in 2006 after fighting demands by citizens and federal overseers on the issue for nearly a decade.
What caused Arpaio to finally give up his demonic obsession with the restraint chair that killed Scott Norberg? Ah, glad you asked:

On March 29, 2006, a $9 million court judgment was leveled against Arpaio and the county in the beating and restraint-chair death of inmate Charles Agster III.

Agster, 33 and mentally retarded, was arrested for trespassing on August 6, 2001. Detention officers at the Madison Street Jail pulled a hood over his head and slammed him into a medieval-looking restraint chair. The hood around Agster's throat smothered him to the point that he became brain dead. He was pronounced legally dead three days later on August 9, 2001.

Agster's death should have been prevented. Two years before he was killed, the county had paid $8.25 million to settle the Norberg suffocation suit.

There was at least one more death at the restraints of Arpaio's cherished chair, Clint Yarborough in 2005. It should be noted that neither Norberg, Agster, nor Yarbrough were ever tried or convicted for the charges they were arrested on; none of them lived to see their first court date and died innocent men under the law. Those are just the deaths associated with the medieval restraint chair, there have been numerous deaths from improper or complete lack of medical care, neglect and other perils.
One of the other examples of the decrepit conditions Arpaio presided over is that of Kathleen Carey:

Like most attorneys, Kathleen Carey leads a busy life. So she didn't take much time to examine what looked like a pimple on her arm. Twelve days later, Carey's arm had ballooned to nearly twice its normal size, and pus was oozing from a boil where the zit had been.

After $180,000 in medical bills, four doctors, and two hospitals, Carey learned that the supposed pimple was actually the flesh-eating "superbug" bacteria commonly known as MRSA staph infection. You may recognize MRSA from recent news reports, following a study concluding that more Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS.

MRSA commonly spreads through hospitals, but Carey hadn't been to a hospital or doctor for months before her infection. So where did she get the potentially fatal infection?

Carey says she knows exactly where she got it -- the Maricopa County Jail. She wasn't there as an inmate, but as an attorney visiting her client.
Carey is one of many Maricopa County residents who've never been booked into Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails but who are paying dearly for conditions inside his lockups.

Vermin, filth, medical care suggestive of POW camps, chronic mismanagement, the wanton destruction of records, and a steady parade of corpses in Maricopa County jails have cost taxpayers an astonishing -- and until now, undisclosed -- 41.4 million dollars.

Don't know if you caught that or not, but that is nearly $42 million dollars (and that was as of over a year ago, the figure is now higher) that Maricopa County has paid out due to the Most Abusive Sheriff in America's detention policies and procedures. Want to know how that compares to other big municipalities? Get a load of this:

There simply isn't another jail system in America with this history of taxpayer-financed litigation.

New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, for example, collectively housed more than 61,000 inmates per day last year. From 2004 through November of this year, these same county jails had a combined 43 prison-conditions lawsuits filed against them in federal courts.

In the very same three-year time frame, despite housing a mere 9,200 prisoners per day, Sheriff Arpaio was the target of a staggering 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts.

With a fraction of the inmate population, Arpaio has had 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.

But Sheriff Joe's reign of terror does not end with the immigrant bashing and inhuman detention policies and facilities. When the Most Abusive Sheriff in America disagrees with colleagues, even fellow police officers, he attacks them with not only rhetoric, but the heavy dark hand of his department:

The sheriff raided municipal buildings in Mesa in what appeared to be nothing more than a blatant political maneuver against Arpaio's perceived enemy, Mesa Police Chief George Gascón.
As a public safety effort, the pre-dawn October 16 incursion into Mesa City Hall and its library was laughable — it netted just three undocumented workers. A couple of former county Superior Court judges criticized Arpaio's action in the East Valley Tribune, with former chief judge of the court Colin Campbell calling the raid "bizarre" and "extraordinary."

Last, but far from least, Sheriff Joe has waged a jihad against the local investigative weekly newspaper in Phoenix/Maricopa County, the Phoenix New Times. Arpaio long felt the New Times coverage of him was too strident; not content to address his concerns in the media and public sphere, Arpaio arrested the publishers, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, on trumped up asinine charges (that were almost immediately dismissed without ever seeing the light of a courtroom). However, if you cherish the First Amendment and the freedom of the press, Larkin and Lacey's arrests by Arpaio were not even the worst part.

In a breathtaking abuse of the United States Constitution, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and their increasingly unhinged cat's paw, special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, used the grand jury to subpoena "all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present."

Every note, tape, and record from every story written about Sheriff Arpaio by every reporter over a period of years.

In addition to the omnibus subpoena, which referred to our writer Stephen Lemons directly, reporters John Dougherty and Paul Rubin were targeted with individual subpoenas.

More alarming still, Arpaio, Thomas, and Wilenchik subpoenaed detailed information on anyone who has looked at the New Times Web site since 2004.

Every individual who looked at any story, review, listing, classified, or retail ad over a period of years.

The article the passage immediately above was quoted from, "Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution", was written personally by the two publishers, Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, and is as chilling as was Arpaio's attempt to silence them. Again, it is a feature length article, but a serious must read.
This post could easily be three or four times the already tedious length and still not have room to touch on the bill of craven particulars against the Most Abusive Sheriff in America, Joe Arpaio. But it is a start, and renders an idea as to why Chairman Conyers, Representative Nadler and the others on the House Judiciary Committee have requested the civil and criminal powers of the United States Government be brought to bear on Joe Arpaio. He isn't the toughest, he's the most abusive. It is imperative that Attorney General Holder and DHS Secretary Napolitano heed the call and address the long overdue matter. Secretary Napolitano, of all people, ought to understand the menace to society as a whole, and the citizenry of Maricopa County in particular, that Arpaio poses. It is time for it to be stopped.

Email comments and questions to or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.
Shaun P. Attwood

20 Feb 09

Question Time With Brandon the Occult Killer

Dubbed the Occult Killer by the media, Brandon is serving 6 to 12 years in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Brandon’s crime: he killed his best friend in a drunk-driving accident.

Big Jason wrote: what kind stuff do they let you guys do there? any sports or music rooms or anything? internet access? you guys allowed nudie mags and tobacco? seems like each year they want to take more and more away from prisoners so that the only entertainment or relief will come in the form of other prisoners.

Brandon responded:

To Big Jason,

A lot has changed in the almost 3 years I’ve been in this prison. The music room, smut mags, and horseshoe pit are gone. Somerset has its own movie channel for those who subscribe to cable, but R-rated film was banned. I call it the “Somerset Piracy Initiative” because they illegally copy DVDs to VHS for the staff and show them to us on the side. Pretty sly, you hypocrites, you. Internet consists of family sending e-mail to the prison and us receiving a printout for a fee. We have tobacco product of all sorts, which Gov. Rendell is trying to stomp out under the guise of a health bill called the “Clean Indoor Air Act.” It bans smoking in all public, enclosed places. Personally, I think it’s the business proprietor’s choice to ban smoking. Just to spite that dumbass law, I’m going to smoke in my Dad’s dental lab when I get home. Ehhh, I might blow the place up, though. It’s a chance I’ll have to take, FOR FREEEEEEDOM! Lol

Anyway, guards don’t enforce it on the block, a much appreciated courtesy because the cell is my house and I’m going to smoke in it. I knew something was up when they stopped selling ashtrays in late 2007 without explanation. That dickhead move forced me to rebuild my shattered tray with nothing but patience and scotch tape.

Sports and other contests are the few things left mostly untouched. The horseshoe pit was replaced with “quoits”, a highfalutin and extraordinarily wimpy rubber ring toss game. Go ahead and say it, the proper response to having such limp-wristedness inflicted upon you is “that’s gay.” Appropriately enough, it attracts swarms of booty bandits. At first, I didn’t care for the horseshoes. Enjoyment of it, for me, requires the formula: July 4th + alcohol + time spent waiting for fireworks. The outcome is horseshoes > fun. ‘Greater than, or equal to fun,’ that’s a strong statement, but true. Give it a try, use the formula. Naturally, when ‘Shoe’ competition came up, I refused for lack of the formula’s magic ingredient (coulda made hooch, there wasn’t time). Then I thought, “Don’t often get the chance to throw big chunks of steel around in jail, maybe I should.” It was good stuff, chucking metal U’s and bouncing them off the inner perimeter fence was also greater than or equal to fun. Glad I did it. Where was I?

There’s also basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and I think, softball. That might be on the way out, because one inmate tooled off on another with the aluminum bat. Other contests include weight lifting, art, chess, karaoke, and the so-called “Run-a thon.”

What’s the “Run-a-thon”, you ask? Well, prepare your mind-palate to indulge the delicious confectionary brain treats, for I shall bake sweet, picturesque detail!...Too much?

Once a year, a cabal of elite inmates known as “S.O.A.R.” incurs by hostile takeover the entire east yard (if you’re wondering what ‘S.O.A.R.’ stands for, so am I. Besides, you have no right to ask, because I AM ZE AUTHOR, YOU AH ZE READER! I OUT-RANK YOU!. Tables are set out for a great bounty of victuals and wassail in the form of Krispy Kremes, fruit, and Kool-Aid, whatever the contents of the grocery truck that wrecked on the highway are. The handball court becomes a photo station with its monolithic concrete wall as a backdrop. The weight pit, an entertainment center with the Activity Dept.’s XM-Radio and massively loud, thumping stage speaker set-up can be felt blocks away.

The entire event lasts morning, noon, and night, and once you leave you may not return. With the constant migraine-inducing, bass-drowned rap music and general frowning upon of sitting at a marathon, staying long enough to get your money’s worth of grub proves to be as much an endurance test as actually running.

The 1st Prize is something like $20 and/or a free pass to a S.O.A.R. banquet. The sure winner was an aptly nicknamed associate of ours on C-block, “Mad Runner” Julian. Too sure, apparently, because SOAR and Activity Dept. goons barred his participation at every turn. I don’t know if he ever made it in. Unfortunate, but that’s favoritism for you.

P.S. Maricopa, AZ, huh? As in “Tent City”? I’ve seen it on TV, doesn’t get much rougher, though I understand there are few violent outbreaks. Honestly, I can’t disagree with the ways many prisons are run. We’re in jail, we should be used to the idea of “punishment.” I don’t care how ‘sweet’ a prison is, I hate it, and the second I fold my hands behind my head in relaxation and say “I can deal with this, “ I may as well stop breathing. You know? Being “ok” with failure is not a life I care to live. When society chooses to deal with its own, then we may not need jails or have the place to complain about them anymore. Like most things, they are fundamentally flawed, but necessary. Besides, they can always go back to the 19th century “Penitentiary” with “penitence” being the key word. They lock you in a dungeon until they feel you’ve adequately begged God for forgiveness. Generally more effective in reducing sanity than recidivism, ha!

Click here to read Brandon’s previous blog.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments and questions for Brandon to or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood
18 Feb 09

Another Funny Story (by Xena)

Xena - A transsexual giant and Wiccan priest. The charismatic leader of Cult Of Xena (COX). Tattoos include a wasp on Xena’s penis and ant trails running up Xena’s legs. Recently cut off a testicle and almost bled to death.

Staff disease is common here. Someone I know went to the hospital. He had a sore on his pelvic region he kept picking. One day he awoke and noticed his scrotum had grown in size about four times, and there was pus dribbling from his penis. On his bed was a pus stain the size of an awkward-shaped dinner plate. When he showed it to me, I was completely beside myself with disgust.
He asked if he should go to the hospital.
I said, “Hell yeah, you should go! In fact you should have gone a long time ago.”
“Look at this,” he said. When he squeezed his scrotum pus dribbled from his penis.
Thanks to my own constitution, I did not retch chunks.

Later that day, he left to see the doctor and then about ten days later his mattress and property were rolled up. I didn’t know what had happened to him until I heard from an officer that he had to have his penis and testes removed. The infection had also consumed his bladder, prostate, and lots of muscle and fatty tissue.

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Shaun P. Attwood
From Two Tonys (Letter 9)

Two Tonys - A whacker of men and Mafia associate serving multiple life sentences for murders and violent crimes. Left bodies from Tucson to Alaska, but claims all his victims "had it coming." Recently diagnosed with liver cancer, and is in chemotherapy fighting to prolong his life.


Hey Shaun & The Blog Readers,

With all sincerity, I want to thank all of the bloggers who took the time to not only think of Two Tonys, but to sit down and throw an encouraging blog comment at him. It helped. That’s no bullshit. I never expected that. Wow! Do I have that coming?

OK. Took some time off but I had to do some pondering. Here are a few things that I’ve been pondering. I’m on some serious meds. They’re highly toxic. Real cell killers. Bad. I’m told they’ll kill a good cell if it interferes or tries to get in the way of a bad cell’s mission. So I get sick, do some puke, and bingo, I’m a new man.

I feel real good about the blog and all of the encouragement. I like you folks. I don’t want no sympathy. Like I told a friend who comes by every day to give me that poor-old-Two-Tonys crap: “What can I do? What do you need?” I mean every day! Finally I told him, “Fuck all the bullshit! Talk shit to me! Try to pick a fight, but don’t talk shit about my liver. I love my liver, and holes or no holes, don’t fuck with it!” Now he’s come undone. I’ve got some serious gold in my teeth. Now he’s asking for my gold upon my demise. Fuck it! It’s to the victor go the spoils. First there before the hearse driver gets what he can pry out. But I better be dead. Joke.

I’m sending you my Dr.’s report. They tell me this type of cancer is more common in Europe, Asia and Africa. I can’t tell, but check it out and give me your thoughts.

Principal Diagnosis: Hepatocellular carcinoma

A CT scan revealed a moderate degree of hepatomegaly. A diffusely infiltrating mass was seen replacing the entire left lobe of the liver in both the medial and lateral segments. Patchy areas of hypervascular nodular enlargement were also seen through the right lobe of the liver, measuring from 3mm up to 12mm. An enhancing tumor thrombus extending into the left portal vein and into the right main portal vein were also noted. The radiological diagnosis was that of a diffuse infiltrative and multicentric hepatocellular carcinoma with portal invasion.

The patient entered the hospital for beginning treatment with sorafenib (Nexavar). At the time of discharge he is on 400 mg p.o. twice a day. Metropol will be added to his regimen of captopril and verapamil. It is important that he not miss any doses of sorafenib, as we would lose some ground in treatment.

Can anyone get me some info on this chemo drug they got me on called Nexavar? It’s toxic as hell. This is not to cure me. It’s just to try to stretch it out and get me a few more months. Dr. said he gives me 90 days without it. Maybe 9 months to a year with it. So let’s go for it! But I’ve got a feeling when it comes, it’s going to come hard and fast.

When I said this thing I got ain’t no thing, I lied. My machismo popped up. That was my tough guy talking. It is a thing. Those folks that wrote about me and it, I wish I could take them all out for a cold beer, ham sandwich and a game of pool. But the best I can do is say thanks. The nurses tell me the time will come when I’ll have to make a choice between quality of life and quantity of life, referring to this chemo poison and my choice to continue. Well, a lot of folks just upped my quality of life. Thanks! When I read your comments, they almost brought a tear to my old red eyes, but I thought it off and it was hard. I tell myself tough guys don’t cry, even when they’re by themselves. But we all know that’s bullshit. We all cry. But you must never cry about the hand you are dealt in the game of life, because like Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, “That’s life.”

The last I checked we were all dying, so enough of the sad shit. It’s back to Jon’s Jail Journal. Back to adventures, and exploits. Let’s go for shits, and giggles, and satire. You want me to keep writing, so let’s go for it! Stay tuned.

Click here to read Two Tonys’ previous letter.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

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Shaun P. Attwood
Sheriff Joe Arpaio Sued Over Two More Inmate Deaths

By Sarah Fenske in News (Phoenix New Times)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces two more lawsuits over inmates who died in his care. Both suits were filed last month by Phoenix attorney Joel Robbins. And at least one of them, we suspect, is going to be expensive for Maricopa County taxpayers, who've already shelled out a staggering $43 million to cover lawsuit settlements and expenses to families of jail abuse victims during Arpaio's tenure.

The suit in question was filed by the family of Robert Cotton (pictured to the right), the inmate who was infamously beaten to death in a 19-minute attack captured on jail surveillance video. The horrific attack, first reported by KPHO Channel 5, can be seen in this video posted on the New Times Web site last year.

As Robbins' suit alleges, four inmates walked into a cell where Cotton was housed. Inmate Pete Vanwinkle (the guy on the left in our photo) then allegedly pummeled, kicked, and choked Cotton, "in plain view of the jail's surveillance camera."

The lawsuit goes on, "The attack continues for fifteen minutes in the cell, at which time Vanwinkle dragged [Cotton's] body into the hallway, again in full view of the jail's surveillance camera, where the attack continued for another five minutes ..."

The attack, Robbins concludes, "would have been observable and preventable but for the Defendant's failure to monitor the camera."

Robbins' summation sounds pretty accurate to us -- although we should note, at the time the snuff film became national news, the county's detention chief actually told the Arizona Republic that the MCSO is confident the death "could not have been prevented." They also claimed the officer on duty in the control tower did his job "exactly as trained."

Really, sometimes you wonder how they can keep a straight face. Or, for that matter, just what kind of training they bother to do over there!

The second lawsuit involves a case that's attracted far less publicity, but here are the facts as Robbins presents them. James Cole, 27, had been treated for mental illness at the Arizona Department of Corrections, but while under Arpaio's care in the county jail. he was released into the general population just about one month after being booked in December 2007 -- despite making it clear he had "suicidal and homicidal ideations," per the lawsuit.

One week after Cole was placed into the general population in January 2008, the suit alleges, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies actually gave the poor guy a disposable razor. You can imagine what happened next: slashed wrists, dead inmate.

Stories like Cole's are all too common in Arpaio's jails, but we suspect the sheriff may have more exposure than usual in this one. That's because the jails lost their accreditation last year -- the National Commission on Correctional Health Care ruled that they don't meet U.S. standards. We can all but guarantee that'll be a major issue in the Cole case.

Robbins declined comment, deferring to the court filings. And, though we contacted the sheriff's flack, Lisa Allen, we didn't get a call by press time.

We'll let you know if we hear back, but we're betting Arpaio's guys don't want to talk much about either of these. A brutal 20-minute attack under the watch of jailhouse cameras, a suicidal inmate given a razor -- it's gonna be pretty hard to characterize either of these lawsuits as "frivolous." Not, of course, that we'd put it past them.

Tags: jailhouse deaths, joel robbins, maricopa county jails, mcso, robert cole, robert cotton, sheriff joe

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Shaun P. Attwood
13 Feb 09

London (Part 1)

It was hard to let go of Mum on the driveway because she was crying. Crying because she was worried about me going it alone. I told her not to worry, that I would accomplish things in London to make her proud. She was still crying as I set off in a medium-sized rental van loaded with cardboard boxes scrounged from a local grocery store containing the belongings that she had helped me pack. She folds clothes meticulously, does my mum.

Only getting lost twice, it took me five hours through cold snowed-under countryside to get to the warm welcome meal prepared by my landlord and roommate, Mike Hotwheelz. A spinach-and-potato curry that broke my forehead out in a sweat.

Guildford is a pleasant town. Lots of students and artsy types. I'm in the front bedroom of a narrow terraced house. My room is spacious, the wooden floorboards creak, and the window I have established my computer next to overlooks the constant flow of students hastening by on a small brick road.

I joined Guildford library. I borrowed a book: Hollywood by Charles Bukowski – an alcoholic who wrote for decades, sometimes roughing it like a bum, before becoming successful. The movie, Barfly, based on his life, raised his profile.

My new boss is in South Africa visiting rehabs he works with, so I haven't started my job speaking to youths yet.

I'm going through the shock of suddenly having responsibilities like grocery shopping and cooking. Items from the local Sainsbury’s are keeping me alive. Bananas. Yoghurt. Tins of beans. Vegetable stone-baked pizzas. Pita bread, feta and jalapeño houmous. Onions, garlic, and mature cheddar that I toast on soya and linseed bread.

The curry at the local Chinese chippy tastes good, but the service is peculiar:
“I’d like chips, curry and rice, please,” I said to the young lad at the counter.
Overseeing the fryer, the old man with his back to me snarled, “No rice! This not Chinese restaurant! This fish ’n’ chips!”
“Where I come from near Liverpool, all the Chinese chippies sell rice,” I said politely.
“You see rice on my board?”
I looked glumly at the menu board. In a display of solidarity, the young lad looked with me.
The old man continued to communicate with me through the back of his head: “No rice on board! What wrong with you?” He then shook the fryer basket with appreciable hostility.
“I’ll just have curry on chips then, please. Left open.”
The lad handed me an open bag of chips with a sealed carton of curry on top. Holding a little wooden fork, I stared at the carton as I walked home.

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Shaun P. Attwood
Message from Jon

My journey south has not been without difficulty. I do not have internet access yet due to minor technical problems. Normal blogging will be resumed as soon as. In the meantime, check out Mum's blog about me leaving below, and at the end of that post is the link for her entire blog about my release last year.
Jon’s mum writes a blog about him leaving home to live in the South of England

He’s Leaving Home

I stare at the empty room, the bed stripped bare. Dirty sheets and the fleecy protector I brought to insulate him from the cold, all lying on the floor.

He’s gone.

Watching him reverse the white removal van up the drive, grinning, beginning a new adventure, I was proud, remembering the physically wrecked and psychologically damaged Jon I met at the airport just over a year ago on his release from prison. Starved and deluded after days in transit.

Over the months he’s metamorphed, come out of his cell, learned to socialise again. Made me proud.

But hugging him goodbye I was overwhelmed with sadness. I cried. Tears no longer containable. Not just for myself but for all mothers who’ve suffered separation. Felt a part of themselves torn away. Reverberating in my head were the horrors the years of incarceration had brought. I held him tight. I felt afraid. Fearful for the future.
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to you again,” I said kissing his cheek.
“It won’t. I’ll be fine. All that’s over with,” he said. “I’m on the brink of a successful life. Be glad for me.”

The tears changed to relief. Relief that he’s got to a point where he can take off on his own and start his life over. Happy even, seeing the optimism in his eyes.

But the sadly beautiful Beatles song She’s Leaving Home sings in my brain.

I pick up the sheets. Place them in the washing machine. Turn the dial to the hottest wash, and watch as the circling motion of the drum removes all traces of the past.
07 Feb 09

Question Time

I am grateful to Sandy in Scottsdale for the following questions.

We all make mistakes, that is life, if you feel you need some sort of redemption fair play to you. You have done your penance as far as I am concerned! I think from the things I have read about you and seen in an interview, you realized you had done something wrong and knew you had to pay the consequences. Your crusade if you will, is more because of the conditions you experienced correct?

The blog came about because of the conditions at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Madison Street jail. Returning from a court appearance, I asked a guard how Arpaio got away with flagrantly violating federal law by maintaining such subhuman conditions. He responded, “The world has no idea what really goes on in here.” I decided that was about to change.
The blog now is more about providing a platform for our friends inside to get their voices and stories heard. I promised them I would keep it going, so they can enjoy the positive feedback like I did. It is about providing inside perspectives, so people worldwide, especially the families and friends of prisoners, can see what prison is really about. It is about continuing to expose the wrongdoings of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, so that pressure to change the illegal conditions is maintained on his regime – and they are slowly being improved. It is also about documenting my progress in society.

If I had to go do jail and was faced with a life sentenced like you were originally facing, and then even 9 years, I would been beyond suicidal, beyond being able to cope. You seemed so calm and centered. Were you in shock? Do you feel like you had a general understanding of the prison population/culture due to your dealings with drug dealers, etc?

Yes, I was in shock. The shock was plastered all over my face for months after my arrest, according to the prisoners. But the initial shock slowly faded away, and I adapted, like most people do. There were also constant ups and downs with my legal battle that manifested more shock. Like the time I learned from the New Times I was facing a life sentence. Or when the prosecutor insinuated that if I dared take my case to trial and lost, the judge would surely stack my charges and give me a 200-year sentence. Such developments do lead to suicidal thoughts, but like Nietzsche pointed out: The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets successfully through many a bad night. You certainly get over these shocks, and your survival instinct sees you through.
Knowing criminals before my arrest gave me no understanding of prison. Prison culture is so far removed from the norms of society, you have to experience it for your mind to fathom it. I was unprepared for the daily mayhem orchestrated by the racist gangs and needle junkies who run Arpaio’s jails. But just like the shock wears off, you get desensitised to the constant violence. My mentor, Sally Hinchcliffe, recently read the draft of my jail chapters, and remarked what a different person I had become a year into my journey. I went from shocked and frightened for my life, to possessing a casual expectation of the gangs smashing people.

Now, I have not read all your journals, but you felt that life at Arpaio’s jails was too inhuman. Some aspire to the theory that you are not there to be pampered, you committed a crime therefore you should not be pampered. Where is the line in the sand?

My decisions to commit crimes put me in pink boxer shorts. I take full responsibility, and I deserved to be punished, definitely not pampered. But as surely as a jail should not be a holiday camp, it also should not be a torture chamber. Arpaio’s jail system is the latter. I experienced jail conditions that were far below the guidelines established in federal law governing the housing of unsentenced inmates. It’s these extremely dangerous conditions and the concomitant deaths and injuries that have led to Arpaio becoming the most sued sheriff in America. Arpaio’s policies have been a disaster for the taxpayers in two ways. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has paid out $50 million in lawsuits and there are lawsuits worth $50 million more pending. The crime rate in Phoenix is 50% higher than the national average according to FBI statistics. Arpaio treats people like animals and they return to society like animals and commit more crimes. To give you more comprehensive information on how dangerous Arpaio’s jail system is, here’s the link to some documentary footage, which includes an excellent interview with attorney Michael Manning who expresses far more eloquently than me what Arpaio is really about: publicity at the expense of safety.

One last question, how may people do you believe, if given the opportunity could be rehabilitated and want to contribute to society in a positive way and what portion are a lost cause?

There are many prisoners who could be rehabilitated, but only token resources are allocated to prisoner education. In Utah, a program was introduced offering higher degrees to prisoners, and none of the prisoners who earned higher degrees reoffended. The program was pulled due to budget cuts. The way the prison system in America is being run is an exceptional waste of human talent. America’s prisons create enemies of society, which of course keeps the prison-industrial complex in business.

Click here to read my previous Question Time.

Overthrow Arpaio!

I am moving to London on Monday, snow permitting. Whether or not I succeed in London, I shall be posting my progress to Jon's Jail Journal. Also, I have letters in from Xena and Two Tonys, which will be posted soon.

Email comments and questions to or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood

Greetings from the Abyss by Jack (Part 4)

Before leaving Tucson prison, I asked Jack, a 49-year-old lifer whose encouragement led to my foray into short-story writing, if he would be willing to write for Jon’s Jail Journal.


Dear Shaun,

Hello my friend, how are you today? Well, I hope I seem to be OK for the moment, so I thought I would take this opportunity to write you. There have been a few changes since we last spoke. The phase program has finally begun. I am now in phase3, yeah! The only real benefit for me is the increase in hobby craft. I do receive more phone calls, visits and increased store limits, but none of that has any real bearing on me.

I spoke with Slingblade the other day, and asked if he had a message for you. He said to tell you that he would probably not be writing you back. He then walked off as if I wasn’t there.

Slope made parole. He is being paroled to another number, but at least there is hope of his being released now. He is still recovering from his misadventures with the dentist. That guy really did a number on Slope’s skull.

Guys are being released on a fairly steady basis, and unfortunately 2 out of 3 are returning just as quickly. It’s downright disheartening.

We are expecting a large influx of people from SMU either today or tomorrow. In typical DOC fashion, the left hand isn’t talking with the right. The overall population here dropped sufficiently low enough that the administration decided to work on a few long overdue maintenance issues. The count movement officer moved people around until he was able to empty one complete pod. The maintenance guys went in and fixed the problems, and slapped a fresh coat of paint on everything. When they were finished, the guys in the other half of the building were moved into the renovated side. After this side was completed, a pod from the next building would be moved and the process repeated until the unit was completed. The plan went great until Central Office noticed all those open beds and decided to fill them. The long and short of this tale is that all repairs have stopped, and we are stuck dealing with the broken toilets, sinks, heating and mold. Not to forget the mice population, which is enormous. They make great pets if you like rodent urine and feces all over the place. And lets don’t forget the fleas and whatever pestilence they happen to be spreading at the moment. Hanta virus and bubonic plague spring to mind.

My paintings are coming along. I haven’t found a niche to sequester myself yet, so I am dabbling in various forms and ideas. It’s great not to have any formal training because then I don’t recognize the grievous errors I’m committing. The painting that I sent you is my attempt to convey my writing muse to you. As I’ve mentioned before, she is a bit more demanding than most. I realize it’s not something one would display in a prominent spot, but I believe if you were to put in the back of a closet it would work as a cat for chasing away the rodents. The idea for this came from a Dungeons & Dragons magazine that my neighbor was looking at. I noticed something similar, so this one sprang forth from that seed. I’m doing something along the D & D theme for my youngest daughter’s birthday. I guess after I finish that one I will scurry back to my comfort zone and grind out a few landscape and portraits to stay current. Anyway, I hope you get at least a chuckle out of your “new muse” before assigning it to the nether regions.

Best wishes,


Click here for Jack's previous blog.

Our friends inside appreciate your comments.

Email comments and questions for Jack to or post them below. To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun P. Attwood