Sweats and ID’s (Part 1 by Lifer Renee)

Renee – Only a teenager, she received a 60-year sentence. Now 15 years in, Renee is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

With my cut-off sweats and Walkman on, I decided to hit the track, to relieve a little stress. I went out of the gate at 6am, not bothering anyone.
An officer stopped me. “What’s going on with your sweats?”
“What do you mean?”
“I need these, now,” she said, condescendingly.
“Fine.” I went to my room to change. I took them to her, only she was gone. Whatever, I thought. Screw it! I’m not chasing her down. I threw the cut-offs in my cell, and hit the track.

Half-way around the track, something told me to go back to the yard, so I headed back. Officers were searching my room, seizing all kinds of things from me. They found some extra ID’s I had forgotten were there. I had them because when I worked maintenance, I was always losing my ID, ordering a new one, receiving it, and finding the one I originally lost.
It seemed the officers seized everything that was not bolted down. I walked away with a disciplinary ticket for the cut-off sweats, telling myself to suck it up. I stressed all weekend about the ticket.

Rising early on Monday, I went to see the disciplinary officer.
He said, “Sweats are not something issued from the State of Arizona. It is personal property. If personal clothing is altered, we are supposed to just seize it. If state-issued property is altered, we are supposed to seize it, and issue a ticket, so we can charge you for the damage. Get out of my office, and don’t let me see you again!”
“Thank you,” I said, relieved, and exited the building quickly – unaware that my trouble had only just begun.

Click here for Renee’s previous blog in which she comes out as a lesbian.

Post comments for Renee below or email them to writeinside@hotmail.com To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Some photos from today's signing in Preston. Mum and I sold 31 books, beating the store's previous record of 21.

Shaun Attwood
Blogging behind bars (by Jonathan Gilbert of The Courant newspaper in Preston) 

Shaun Attwood, who is in Preston signing copies of his book Hard Time this weekend, moved from Widnes to Arizona to make his fortune. He ended up doing time in the state’s infamous jail. Jonathan Gilbert reports

Shaun Attwood survived the USA’s worst
jail, but the horrific experiences he lived
through still give him nightmares today.
Attwood is from Widnes, Cheshire,
but he ended up in Arizona’s maximum
security Madison Street jail, run by
“America’s toughest sheriff” Joe Arpaio,
after a SWAT team raided his Phoenix
home in 2002.

The 42-year-old told The Courant: “I
have flashbacks night after night of the
cockroaches trying to get into my ears
and nightmares which mix the real world
with my time inside.”

Attwood moved to Phoenix after
graduating from Liverpool University to
work as a stockbroker, and quickly
amassed a small fortune trading.
But he was leading a double life. Atwood,
who had been a regular on the
Manchester rave scene in the 1990s, was
heading an organisation that threw raves
and dealt club drugs.

He was held for two years in appalling
conditions before being convicted
of money laundering and drugs
offences and sentenced to nine-and-ahalf
years in prison. He served nearly six.
Attwood grabbed the world’s attention
when he began writing one of the
first prison blogs chronicling Arpaio’s
disgusting treatment of inmates.
“One of the guards told me that no
one on the outside had any idea of the
conditions we were living in and that it
would cause outrage,” he said.
Attwood would give his scrawled
memoirs to his aunt Ann, who visited
him often, by hiding them in legal paperwork.
Guards would only search the
documents for contraband and he was
never caught.

Jon’s Jail Journal grew so popular it
was partly responsible for the closure of
Madison Street a few years ago.
“I started in Arpaio’s Towers jail and
then spent 12 months in Madison
Street,” Attwood says. “I thought it
couldn’t get worse than Towers. It did.
“The violence was constant. It was
raw survival. My heart was beating so
fast it kept me awake. I didn’t sleep for
the first few days.”
Arpaio is known as the “Angel of
Death” for the peculiarly high death rate
in his jails and because he promoted
guards found to have killed inmates.
Attwood says he has paid tens of millions
of dollars in damages to the families of
prisoners who have died.

In Attwood’s first blog post, from
February 2004, he says he had no running
water for three days and tells of
sleeping next to a toilet full of sewage.
He has also spoken about the plague
of cockroaches that infested his cell.
“They would line up in cracks in the
wall waiting for the lights to go off. Then
they’d crawl all over me.”
Attwood became so traumatised he
had a nervous breakdown.

He told The Courant: “Jail was a
dangerous, illegal environment where
gang members dictated who lived and
died. The food was unfit for humans and
sometimes had dead rats in it.
“We had constant skin infections. It
was 50°C and we would sweat day after
day. Your skin would have a soggy outer
layer and clumps would come off from
under your fingernails.”

Through a combination of making
the right connections and a strong personality,
Attwood managed to avoid the
dangers of becoming affiliated to a gang.
“I kept out of trouble. Wild Man,
one of my security men at the raves, was
also inside. He could fight and looked
after me.”

But it was the relationship that
Attwood struck up with Two Tonys, a
mafia boss who murdered rival gang
members and left a trail of bodies from
Arizona to Alaska, that had the greatest
“We grew close and I wrote his life
story. I would sneak into his cell. We
would talk about philosophy and that
would help us.
“He died recently and his daughter
emailed me to say that I had really made
a difference in his life.”

Attwood was released in 2007 and
deported back to the UK. He now lives
in Guildford, near London. Meeting
people he would never have encountered
otherwise and surviving such extreme
conditions have changed him forever.

“I was emotionally immature when I
went in, but being forced to learn from
prisoners was the best education in
human nature and psychology I could
have had.
“Though they were maniacs and
drug offenders, when I found out their
background – the broken homes and violence
– I understood how they got there
and it humanised them.”

Attwood read around 1,000 books
in prison and was inspired by the classic
works of Marcus Aurelius, Cervantes and
“They shaped my way of thinking.
My old belief systems fell away and I
learned to be free in my mind.”

Despite the trauma of jail and his
desire to expose sheriff Arpaio, Attwood
does not regret what happened to him.
“I don’t want to sound like a moaning
prisoner. I accept that I deserved to
be in there for the crimes I committed.
“I was mentally strengthened from
the suffering and I credit the system for
sending me in a new direction. I have a
thirst for life now. I wake up with a smile
on my face.
“The only thing I regret is the pain I
caused to my parents and family. My
mum had a nervous breakdown and my
sister needed counselling. But they’re
proud of me now.”

A reformed Attwood gives talks in
schools to discourage children from
drugs and crime and is delighted with
how well received they are.
He also continues with Jon’s Jail Journal
and has been writing the prequel to
Hard Time, which he hopes will be finished
by the end of the year.

But Attwood’s biggest challenge is to
bring about a change in Arizona. His
book comes out in the US at the beginning
of May and he hopes it will cause
such a stir that charges are brought
against sheriff Arpaio.
“I’ve been on a mission to expose
this since 2004,” he says. “But Arpaio is
an elected official in a right-wing state.
The big question is whether the book
will have an impact. I really hope it

Shaun Attwood will be signing
copies of his book Hard
Time: A Brit in America’s
Toughest Jail in Waterstone’s, Preston
on Fishergate this
Saturday from 11am –4pm.

Click here for more details of the upcoming book signings.
Prison Lunch (by 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. His crime: he killed his best friend in a drunk-driving accident. When police investigators discovered Gothic paraphernalia in his bedroom, they claimed Brandon had committed a sacrificial murder for the benefit of Satan.

It is just after 11am on a Friday in early December. My unit, Foxtrot-Alpha, is in the middle of mainline movement in chow hall #3. That is, we’re eating lunch. I stare over my plastic tray of cheese steak hoagie and out the barred windows at falling snow, blown horizontal by vigorous wind. Gazing down at the steaming side-pocket of vegetable soup, I’m suddenly very thankful for a hot meal.

Seated with me at the four person table are two friends, Bill and Mike, and an unknown from I-Block (intake), his new ID number and crisp, shining state-issued brown uniform give him away.

The usual small talk and ball-busting abounds while we assemble and otherwise prep the food to our liking. Mike and I are busting Bill for moving cells yet again, telling him we’re running a pool on how long this one lasts. I chuckle and dip my spoon tentatively into some scary-looking cheese whiz, just touching it to my tongue for a taste. For years now, they done away with real cheese and replaced it with a rancid, garlic-loaded, powdered alternative. This stuff looked different.

“Holy Shit,” I gasp.
“What?” asks Bill. “That bad?”
“It tastes like pepperjack,” I sputter. “It’s delicious!”
Mike lifts his head, “Hmm?”
Bill snorts, “Get the fuck out of here!”
“Fine, then don’t eat it,” I say, greedily dunking my hoagie in its warm gooeyness.

In seconds our faces are smeared with whiz while we chomp away, sighing and groaning with delight.

Bill: “This is so good, it’s worth doubling up for!”
Me: “This is so good, it makes me want to break the law all over again!”
Mike: “This cheese is so good, it must be poisoned.”

We all stop dead, steal glances at one another and burst out laughing.

“Think about it,” Mike continues, “That week of the tomato recall, we had fresh tomatoes for the first time in years. And the egg scare? Eggs for breakfast every other day.”

We roared. “He’s right,” I squeaked, my voice strained with laughter, “We had spinach almost every dinner after the E. coli outbreak! As we speak, truck loads of tainted stadium cheese is on its way to every prison in PA!
We’re all gonna die!”

Bill: “Geez, I wish we had some tainted t-bone steaks and poisoned Budweiser.”
Mike: “Fuck, I’m telling the powers that be that blondes, brunettes and redheads are not fit for human consumption.”

We continued to giggle and list the “unfit” things we so desperately wanted that moment until the meal was done and it was time to return to the block and wait for midday count.

Click here for Brandon's previous blog.

Click here for Brandon's review of Hard Time.
What Do You Think of the New Hard Time US Cover Design?

                                                                                          Shaun Attwood

Rec Room Fight (by Guest Blogger Big Jason)

Big Jason was incarcerated as a youth in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Durango jail and the Arizona Department of Corrections Adobe Mountain juvenile facility for assault, attempted burglary, and violation of probation.

Lance was a giant “corn-fed” white guy that didn't fit in anywhere, at least not anywhere in the correctional system. He stood about 6 feet 5, and kind of resembled the cartoon character Big Baby Huey, bulbous and round, uncoordinated and childlike. No matter how hard he tried, he never seemed to get along. Not for lack of honest intent, he was just annoying in general and in a prison setting with kids pining to be the next Spartacus, it was bound to cause problems

Watching television in the recreation room meant having to sit on cockroach-infested couches that stunk from years of inmates’ dirty feet and smelly asses. Some of us had gathered around for a boring day of the same old humdrum, which usually meant watching something that we had seen over and over and in this case the film ”La Bamba”. Between my incarceration in Durango and Adobe Mountain, I must have seen that movie nine times, allowing myself to learn to do the characters. Bob played by Esai Morales was my favorite impersonation.

Bored with the TV, Albert, a Hispanic gang member from East Side LCM, found a way to break the monotony. He chucked the broom he was holding at Lance's gigantic head. Boink! The broom hit with accuracy, thudded off the back of his head, and dropped to the floor in front of my feet. The couches were set up in four rows in front of the TV, and when Lance turned around to see who had done something, I became his target of retribution. He scowled, showing an extra set of incisors that would jade even the most deviant tooth fetishists. Albert and his friends were laughing as they always did when picking on Lance, and this aggravated him even more. With a angry rush, he jumped up, moved to the side of the couches, and unleashed a verbal tirade. Kids from various ethnic and economic backgrounds scattered about, some just getting out of harms way, others to instigate and jeer. This alerted the officer, who called for rec time to end.

As I moved into the hall area, Lance came up and shoved me as if to prove he was no punk. I was no little guy at six foot, 200 lbs. His push moved me a good foot. I told him to chill, and that I hadn't done anything to him, but he remained in a rage that turned his forehead a reddish hue. He stepped to me again, this time getting punched in the process. My first jab hit his head. I went to follow up with a second, but missed as he was stumbling back from the first blow. Feeling like an idiot for missing with the second punch, I wasted no time posturing and went to work with some pugilistic skills that would help to solidify my reputation as “Not to be fucked with.” Lance started swinging wildly with looping punches that missed. Bam-bam! I hit him two more times with a force that sent him reeling over to avoid more damage. The final punch came in an uppercut that he couldn't hide from no matter how far his tall frame leaned forward. The impact sent his head right back up to reveal a split from his lip to nose that required stitches. All of this happened in about five seconds, and was over almost as soon as it had started. I backed away amidst cheering and taunting from inmates who were hyped over the blood sport. My blood pressure high and adrenaline flowing from what had just happened, I regained some composure and relaxed as much as I could. The lone officer, flustered, yelled at us to break it up and get locked down. We complied and followed the fluorescent lit corridors to our cells.

I was now facing extra charges that could end up with me being held accountable after I became an adult, depending on how long they waited to file the charges. I've seen some guys turn 18 and leave Adobe Mountain in handcuffs only to get into a sheriffs car for their trip to county jail and life as adult felons. I hoped like hell this wouldn't be my future. After a review of what happened and a 24 hour lock-down, I received no charges, but a loss of privileges, and a cell to myself as they felt I was becoming more dangerous to other inmates – stemming from other situations where my cell-mates ended up on the receiving end. But they are other stories…

Click here for the previous guest blog by Big Jason
Insanity (by Shane)

Shane - Denied psychiatric medication by ValueOptions, Shane turned to illegal drugs financed by burglaries. For stealing a few hundred dollars worth of goods, he was sentenced by Judge Ron Reinstein to eleven years. Shane is the author of the blog Persevering Prison Pages.

The sound of the heavy steel barred cell door slamming shut echoed throughout the antiquated cellblock – a sound tucked away permanently in my mind.
“One time! Charlie run!” a prisoner shouted this warning as a guard began a security walk into the inmates’ living area.
Approaching the last cell on the run, the guard noticed the cell front had been covered with a bed sheet to conceal its occupant. Rapping on the front with his Maglite, the guard said, “Take down that sheet!”
There was no answer.
“Rack number C7!” The guard told the other in the control cage.
“Racking Charlie-7!” the control-room guard warned, just before unlocking and hand- cranking the door open.

Yanking down the sheet, the guard was startled by what he discovered in the cell: a naked convict. Jimmy was a mammoth of a man, one of the biggest convicts on the yard. He had never caused the staff any trouble, and had always been silent and introverted. He was towering before the guard, his naked skin glistening with a bright golden-yellow coat of hair grease. His blank stare sent a shiver through the guard.
Reaching for his pepper spray, the guard didn’t take his eyes off Jimmy’s bare body. He pulled his spray, aimed, and sprayed Jimmy in the face. “Shut C7!”

Before the door was secure, Jimmy managed to rush past the guard, knocking him out of the way. Eyes burning, mucus running from his mouth and nose, Jimmy grabbed out in confusion and pain, ripping the guard’s shirt, flinging him to the ground. Crying out in pain, pacing back and forth over the guard, Jimmy rubbed his eyes, and mumbled incoherently.
“Help me!” the guard yelled to his co-worker.
His shout spooked Jimmy, who stomped down on the guard, breaking his clavicle. Minutes later, the cellblock was saturated with guards who overpowered Jimmy.

Prisons are full of the mentally ill. Overcrowding has left many of them among the general prison population. They can be found on every prison yard across the state. It’s only when one acts uncontrollably that any attention is given. Often times, too late.
The problem isn’t those responsible at the unit or complex level. Some C.O.’s, sergeants, lieutenants, go out of their way to help the mentally ill – to no avail. The problem lies with the administration, the Arizona Department of Corrections policymakers, Governor Brewer and Arizona lawmakers. Budget cuts to ADOC have been minimal compared to other state agencies; however, cuts have been directed at already fragile and broken areas such as medical care and security.

Click here for Shane’s own blog

Some of Shane's prison stories:
What Comes Around
Convict Justice
Fighting For No Good Reason

Our friends inside appreciate your comments

Post comments for Shane below or email them to writeinside@hotmail.com To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity

Shaun Attwood
Do Prisoners Have The Right To Vote?

                                                                Sky News Feb 10 2011
Latest Hard Time Review and Book Signing

The review of Hard Time by Christopher Zoukis is one of the strongest so far. Here's the link: http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/dec_10.htm

The next Waterstones book signing is this Saturday February 12th, 2011 - Waterstone's, 83-84 County Mall, Crawley, West Sussex, RH10 1FD (0129 353 3471) from 11am until 4pm.
Sky TV Live Thursday Feb 10th

I was just asked to appear live on Sky TV tomorrow at about 1pm to argue the case as to why UK prisoners should be allowed to vote. It will be with Adam Boulton and another guest TBC.

I believe that the more responsibility granted to prisoners, the greater the chances that they will go on to be good citizens after they are released. Exlusion does not help rehabilitation. On that basis, the right to vote seems to be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? It you can help me with any further arguments for tomorrow I'd appreciate it.

Here's the link:  http://blogs.news.sky.com/boultonandco/Post:b47d4289-b10c-41c5-84d3-9d9ea3700c73
Coming Out (by Lifer Renee)

Renee – Only a teenager, she received a 60-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. Fourteen years into her sentence, Renee is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

My roommate’s girlfriend went home on Monday. Since then, she has been all over the map emotionally. This has made me remember some things.

I have had a few relationships with women prisoners. I remember being in love with Rachel. We spent almost every day for almost 7 years together. She made me feel safe, loved, we laughed and argued for 7 years. When I was with her, I honestly did not feel like I was in prison. Then it was time for her to be released. My heart was crushed. I felt as if I had lost one of my appendages. I knew in my gut that life would go on for her, and I would still be standing here.

Though it all ended on good terms, all I ever asked of her was if she ever knew she could no longer stand by me, to just have the respect for me as a friend to write and let me know.
“Don’t leave me hanging,” I told her.
“I promise,” she said.

One day at mail call I received a letter from her. I read the last words she would ever write: “I love you. I will always love you. I want to stay in contact, but I don’t think that I can.”
I was crushed and I still am. Her walking out of my life completely almost made me lose myself.

Now I listen to my roommate who is serving a 40-year sentence. I see the longing in her eyes to have a life with her girlfriend. I try not to be negative. I just sit and listen and pray she does not feel the same pain as me.

I have gotten better. It has been almost 6 years since she left, but the pain some days feels just as fresh as 6 years ago. Seeing my roommate like this has made it surface all over again.

I guess now that I’ve come out of the closet, I’ll close for now.

Post comments for Renee below or email them to writeinside@hotmail.com To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun Attwood
At Tring School

This has got to be the best picture so far that a newspaper has took at one of my school talks.

Shaun Attwood
From Warrior (Letter 10)

Warrior - Serving 14 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.

A prisoner named Richie died and the guards didn’t find his body for two days, despite headcounts and security walks. Due to budget cuts, less sick prisoners are being seen. In a complex of 5000 prisoners, there is only one doctor who cherry picks who he wants to see. Richie had prostate cancer, medical staff decided they didn’t want to see him, so he took an overdose to end his life. I’m helping a man now who medical won’t see. He has polyps in his colon and is peeing and crapping out blood. We have reported this to the ACLU and other human-rights organisations, but they don’t even respond to us. It seems that they only get involved when there are news headlines to be made, and only immigration issues are in vogue anyway.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has not only put your book, Hard Time, onto their contraband list, but they have put it at the very top! I’ll try to get you a copy for gloating rights. It means you’ve made it, brotha, ha ha ha…

Click here for Warrior’s previous blog

Click here for Letter 9