My Friend Darren (by Guest Blogger Andrew Donegan)

Andrew is involved in judging prisoner fiction for the Koestler Trust by providing critique and feedback for their work. His blog is Donnie’s Dustbin.

Darren was a recovering addict. When his best friend came around to his flat with some heroin, Darren reluctantly agreed to shoot him up with a small amount. Darren’s reasoning was that if he didn’t, then his friend would go elsewhere and ask someone less trustworthy to do it. His friend also sneaked Darren’s 60ml of methadone from the kitchen too, then overdosed and died. Darren was done
for technical supply. The newspaper headline read: MAN KILLS FRIEND WITH LETHAL INJECTION.

Darren had 2.8 years in Walton jail, Liverpool, to dwell on what had happened. To this very day he gets tearful about the subject and has admitted that he will never move on from the sadness he feels whenever he thinks of his best friend’s family reading that headline. It was an unfortunate accident. His grief and guilt tempted him to suicide, but in his despair he reached out to the bible and found enough sense in it to warrant his salvation.

Four days after he was released, Darren’s mother died. He had also recently discovered that his birth was the result of his mother being raped. He hit the drugs with a vengeance. He was ripped off with the sale of his mother’s house, his childhood home, receiving just £15,000. This he spent in a few short months, racking up a £200 a day habit. 10 white (crack cocaine), and 10 brown (heroin). He
injected into the groin after suffering an abscess the size of a golf ball in his arm. He has the scars to prove it, and at his weakest had to sit down to shave.

As of now, after rehab, Darren is a clean, loyal and trustworthy friend, who has time for anyone. I've seen him assist drunks and tramps in the street on numerous occasions when I've been too embarrassed to stop and help out. Everyone has only kind words to say about him. He maintains a genuine faith and works out regularly, although he does freely enjoy a beer. He is also hilariously funny and never fails to cheer me up. He makes me choke with laughter when he gets tipsy and starts complaining about what's on the telly!

Having this version of events out in the open means a lot to him.

Andrews previous blogs for Jon's Jail Journal:
Review of Hard Time
Big Issue Article
The Scary Fun of Prison 3
The Scary Fun of Prison 2 
The Scary Fun of Prison 1  

Shaun Attwood 
Scandals Plague Controversial Arizona Sheriff (NPR News)

The self-professed toughest sheriff in America is facing a growing number of problems. The latest blow came this week when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced the arrest of three fellow employees. They are accused of helping a Mexican drug cartel smuggle people and narcotics.

From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Paul Atkinson reports.

PAUL ATKINSON: The one thing you need to know about Joe Arpaio is that he craves publicity. He's regularly on local TV news, cable talk shows, even international media. But the 78-year-old lawman now finds himself dealing with the kind of publicity no elected official wants.

This week, Arpaio held a press conference to announce two of his detention officers and a deputy were arrested for allegedly helping a Mexican drug cartel.

Sheriff JOE ARPAIO (Maricopa County, Arizona): That a deputy sheriff would provide information and associate with these drug and human traffickers is despicable.

ATKINSON: Arpaio says the deputy drove smuggled immigrants to California and even had two suspected illegal immigrants at his home. Arpaio also says one of the two female detention officers is romantically involved with the leader of the smuggling ring and is eight months pregnant with his child.

In light of these revelations, Sheriff Arpaio vows to clean up shop.

Sheriff ARPAIO: So if there's any problems in this office, I'm going to take action. I don't care who they are - top to bottom.

ATKINSON: But the list of problems is getting longer. A local police department claims sheriff's detectives failed to fully investigate 400 sex crimes. Arpaio's chief deputy quit last month rather than be fired after an investigation found abuses of power and inappropriate activities. A financial audit discovered the sheriff misspent $100 million to fund immigration sweeps and investigations into people who questioned his policies.

Arpaio was elected sheriff of Maricopa County in 1992 after a 30-year career in the Drug Enforcement Administration. He runs Arizona's largest jail system, where he first gained attention for banning girlie magazines, serving inmates baloney sandwiches and forcing them to wear pink underwear.

Mr. PAUL CHARLTON: He knew how to play the media.

ATKINSON: Paul Charlton is a former U.S. attorney for Arizona.

Mr. CHARLTON: He knew what policies that he could implement would draw media attention, not only in the state, not only in the country, but internationally. But he was at the same time, an individual - when I was in the U.S. Attorney's Office - who understood what it meant to be a good law enforcement officer.

ATKINSON: Charlton says that changed in late 2006 after a new conservative county prosecutor was elected and Arpaio's focus shifted to illegal immigration.

Mr. CHARLTON: I think Joe Arpaio lost his perspective. He lost his way and began to become more concerned with pursuing his political enemies than he did with doing what's right, than with doing justice.

ATKINSON: Even a member of Arpaio's administration concedes the sheriff may have lost his focus. At a press conference this week, Chief Deputy Jack MacIntyre told reporters the sheriff might have enjoyed spending too much time with the media and not enough overseeing his agency.

CHIEF DEPUTY JACK MacINTYRE (Maricopa County, Arizona): And there are a lot of human frailties and a lot of reasons for it. Certainly, I don't think Joe Arpaio has ever claimed to be perfect.

ATKINSON: Arpaio has admitted as much and says he'll bring in outside consultants to help. But it may be too late. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is investigating Arpaio's office for its treatment of inmates and alleged racial profiling during immigration sweeps. And the FBI and local U.S. Attorney's Office is looking into whether Arpaio abused his power by targeting elected officials and judges who publically disagreed with his policies.
Upcoming Event in Stoke Newington: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight Author of Hood Rat

> Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight
> Stoke Newington Literary Festival
> True-Crime Event
> Saturday 4th June 2pm
> White Hart Pub
> Stoke Newington High Street
> London N16 8EL
> Full price: £4.00

Free tickets for students of Stoke Newington High School. The event is almost sold out.

Just finished reading Gavin's book about UK street gangs, and could not put it down. The poster was kindly designed by Andy, author of the blog Donnie's Dustbin.To enlargen the poster, click on it.

Shaun Attwood
The Death of Marcia Powell 2 (by Lifer Renee) 

Renee previously wrote how Marcia died after being locked in an outdoor cage and denied water by the guards. Some guards were disciplined.

Posted by anonymous:

Fact: Marcia Powell died because she was too stupid to drink from the 10-gallon jug of cold ice water at the back of her 'rec enclosure'.
And the reason there was no cover on her 'rec enclosure'? Because Marcia herself had torn it down on a previous occassion. 

Renee responded:

Fact: Before Marcia died, there were no shade structures on the cage. They were removed because they were sun-damaged, dry-rotted and half ripped off in a storm. Prior to Marcia’s death, the cages had four sides of chain-link fence with chain-link attached to the top. There was a chain-link door with a small opening much like a trap in the door 4” x 12” maybe, so handcuffs can be placed on or removed. So unless Marcia could crawl through a 4” x 12” opening and climb on top of the chain-link roof there was no way she could tear it off.

Fact: Before Marcia died, there was only one water jug kept by the officers control room where they got the water from.

Click here for Renee's previous blog

Shaun Attwood  
A Braining (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 to eleven years. Shane is the author of the blog Persevering Prison Pages.

Standing in the doorway to my cell, I was about to shut my door when an inmate masked with long sleeves and an orange shirt covering his face entered through the cellblock’s open back door. The masked man was carrying a large river rock. Without hesitation or a single glance at me the man casually walked down the hallway, passed me, and into the day room.

From my doorway, I watched him move behind Bob (conman Robert Owens), raise the rock high above his head and bring it crashing down with a sickening hollow thunk.

Bob fell forward and the man followed, throwing the rock at Bob’s head. It bounced solidly off the back of his head. The man kicked Bob in the head and face repeatedly.

The man calmly turned and casually walked back down the hallway, still not a single glance at me as he passed by and went out of the back door.

Seconds later, a corrections officer entered the same door that the masked man had exited.
Other convicts moved Bob into his cell before the guard entered the day room, but weren’t able to clean up the copious amount of blood covering the wall next to where Bob sat or the pool of blood where he bled unconscious on the floor.
The guard passed by, oblivious, or perhaps uncaring of what had happened.

An hour later, Bob was taken from the cellblock to the Emergency Room.

Rumour has it that Bob, a well-known and highly-publicized conman had gained access to other convicts visitation files at his job in administration, despite his crimes, past prison history, and multiple warnings by the prison population.
Strangely, it was the unit’s female deputy warden who had kept him employed in his position. It is a wonder how she is still the DW considering that one of her CO’s narrowly escaped death or serious injury by the masked man. The guard would have been at serious risk if he had entered the cellblock a few seconds earlier. The masked man was never found.

Shaun Attwood   
IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been remanded in custody at New York's notorious Rikers Island jail on charges of sexual assault.

This headline has generated a lot of media interest over the last few days. Crime and Punishment are back in the news again. A man in a Very Important Position has had the indignity of being placed among some of the most dangerous inmates in the US correctional system. The story raises very serious questions and once more the spotlight has been shone very brightly into the dark place known as the penal system in the United States. Obviously, the interest in Rikers Island would be nil if Mr Strauss-Kahn had not checked in, after all people are admitted onto the island complex every day, (average daily population 14,000).

Here in the UK, like many other countries, we have a fascination with jails and prison. Many documentaries are made in prisons, and dramas about prison and prisoners are shown regularly. Is this voyeurism or concern? Probably a bit of both. Over the last week, Law & Order has featured constantly in the headlines. Super-injunctions for footballers, Ken Clarke's offensive muddle on rape. Radio and TV are clambering over each other to feature prison stories. How hard is Rikers? What will it be like for this man inside? Are US facilities really that tough?

Wormwood Scrubs was the venue for this week's edition of Question Time on BBC TV, prisoners were allowed to be in the audience, (surrounded by prison officers), and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was on the panel apologising once more.

This weekend the two-part documentary, Louis Theroux: Miami Mega-Jail, is being shown again on BBC Two on Sunday 22 and 29 May at 9pm.

One person who knows more than most about life in the US correctional system is Shaun Attwood. As has been well-documented in this blog, Shaun has experienced all that the US jail and prison system could throw at him. The surprising thing is that he has emerged sane and safe. He has a lot to offer in the way of advice for anybody connected with prisons and jails, you could say he was a specialist on the subject. His expertise and knowledge are already being put to good use in schools and colleges around the UK, and he is a tireless campaigner for penal reform. What suggestions would Shaun have for Mr Strauss-Kahn to help him survive his stay on Rikers Island?

Blog admin.

1: Shaun Attwood Q&A at Oriel High School April 2011

2: Shaun Attwood Q&A at Oriel High School April 2011

3: Shaun Attwood Q&A at Oriel High School April 2011

4: Shaun Attwood Q&A at Oriel High School April 2011

Bearded Lady of Guildford Video 2

Discussing jail conditions with Brenda the Bearded Lady. Brenda concludes that prisoners should live in palaces.  

Shaun Attwood
Message 1 From T-Bone - T-Bone Appreciation Society

T-Bone - Radiating power and strength, this deeply-spiritual massively-built African-American towers over most inmates. He is a prison gladiator with more stab wounds than Julius Caesar. A good man to have on your side.

I want to show my respects to TBAS. It is an honor to me from you young people who have heard Shaun talk about me at your schools.

Whoever are the leaders at your schools, you must lead by saying NO! to the people who sell and do drugs. Each and every one of you are Beautiful, Special, Blessed, and Strong. You young people are the future. It is up to you to make this world a better place.

I wish Strength and Honor to all who believe in helping those who we are called to help, and those who cannot help themselves.

It is so  easy to do wrong! But when we have a mind to do right, it’s time for excuses or trying to do something like reason with ourselves to do other than what is right. That self-reasoning leads to confusion and disaster. So everything comes down to a matter of choice to do right or wrong.

There is a guy who walks around here knowing that he has power over people and uses it, putting it simply, wrong!

We all make mistakes and we’re told not to lay in them, in other words, if you make a mistake, get up and clean yourself off!

Never look at the color of a person’s skin, look at what is in their heart by the way they speak and in their actions.

Remember to help those who need help. Remember who you are. You’re the ones who can make a difference. That’s why you started TBAS, and you are reading this.

I love you all!

Each-one Teach-one

Steel Embrace – Strength and Honor

Click here for T-Bone's previous letter - T-Bone rearrested.

Links to the Kindle ebook: T-Bone about my time in prison with T-Bone.
Click here for the UK version. 
Click here for the US version. 
Or download to your PC or any other device from
All proceeds going to help T-Bone in prison- he wants to buy a radio and shoes.

Shaun Attwood   
Far From Home (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.

Arriving at the unit that would be my future home, I realized this wasn't like the intake unit I had just left. This place had a more sinister aura as reaffirmed by the hardened faces sizing me up. I was in a group of five guys going Unit II. Other fresh meat ended up spread out amongst other units and cottages. Placement into one of these was dependent on your age, crime and threat level. My crimes meant a medium threat level status and gen pop (general population) designation.

The on-duty officer had us line up to assign our cells, giving the crowd that had gathered a better look at the new arrivals. My nerves were on edge. This was my first time doing state time .Some of these guys had been doing this for years. We were in their home, and it wouldn't take long for them to show it.

We went to our assigned cells and my cellie was a black guy named Clarence from BHB (Bounty Hunter Bloods Gang). He had just violated parole, and was in an orange jumpsuit and sporting a red painted pinky finger nail [his gang color]. The cell was dank and humid. The steel bed frame was aged with years of graffiti and primal carvings embedded through out countless layers of paint. A lone stainless steel toilet and sink kept us company.

Day came and went. The small windows let in an orange glow from the sodium lights used to illuminate the grounds at night.

I remember hearing the first whimper and thinking, No this cant be happening. Our cells shared air vents and you could see into the cell next to yours by looking into it. As I got closer and peered in, I caught a glimpse of another new guy being shoved around. I didn't want anyone to notice that I was watching, but the new guy saw me and came to the vent.

He was crying and asked me to get staff for help. As messed up as it was, I couldn't because of the strict no snitching code. Clarence had gotten up to see what was going on also. By the time he arrived, the new guy was being punched repeatedly and pressured to give his attacker oral sex. He refused and ended up being pummeled some more until he collapsed.

My new cellie and I looked at each other in disgust and shook our heads. Part of me wanted to defend this kid, but I couldn't. I retreated to my bunk and tried to process the days events, and what was probably going to happen to the kid one cell over. I knew it wasn't going to be good. The next day proved my suspicion when the kid didn't come out for chow or rec time. The staff took notice and sent the kid to the hospital while his predator cellie was transferred to a gang cottage for the more violent and dangerous offenders.

I wasn’t mentally prepared for what I had witnessed. The feelings of anger I had burned inside me. A cold dark reality had set in: This is my home. These are the people I have to live with.

Anne Mini Announces US Release of Hard Time

Here's the link:

Anne kindly took time out of her busy schedule to write the introduction to the US version of Hard Time, and has mentored me over the years. Her blog, Author! Author! is one of the widest read literary blogs in the world, and has the most thorough advice for aspiring authors I have ever seen on the Internet or elsewhere. To anyone who asks me for advice on writing, I always respond, "Read Anne Mini's blog, Author! Author!"

Shaun Attwood
Guildford Waterstone’s Book Signing

A big thank you to all of the great people who attended the signing, the Waterstone’s staff for putting up with my nonsense, and, of course, special thanks to the three people who assisted, Mum, Charlotte, Josephine and little Simon. We sold 73 copies, establishing a new record at that branch for a non-celebrity author selling a single book.

The day started early, getting up at 6am to pick Mum up at the Mandolay Hotel.

She was unimpressed with the free upgrade to an executive suite: "If that was the executive suite, I can't imagine where they put us poor people."

I whisked her off, half asleep, to the Guildford BBC studios on the University of Surrey campus for a radio interview with Joe Talbot. Mum was the star of the interview. To listen: click here for part 1: click here for part 2.

We arrived at Waterstone’s at 10am to set up. The book sales came thick and fast. I didn’t even get the opportunity to eat a banana until about 3pm, but I did allow Mum a full lunch break, and two trips to the loo, whereas I just clenched my bladder muscle all day long to avoid any loss of sales.

A surge in the people around our display table occurred when a posse of my fellow BodyCombat class extremists showed up, including our charismatic instructor, Tony, whose Wednesday night class at the Guildford Spectrum is so popular he actually has a bouncer on the door – I highly recommend it. Here’s a video of me telling jail and Wild Man stories to some of my BodyCombat friends:

I was really moved by the aunt who drove her niece, Leah, who had seen my talk at Harlington Community School all the way down the M25 from Middlesex as a surprise to the signing. Her face lit up when she walked in.

I had a great chat with these two readers of Jon’s Jail Journal who came from London to the signing.

Although my friend, Brenda, the Bearded Lady of Guildford didn’t show up. I talked to her beforehand and she agreed to this little video as a way of saying thanks to my friend Kathi out of Germany for some earings:

 With Josephine and Charlotte.

 With BodyCombat fanatic, Micky.

BodyCombat crew.

"Shaun, when is the prequel to Hard Time coming out?"
"With all of the talks to schools, I've been unable to make much progress."
                 "Well, you need to get it down because I'm waiting for something good to read!"
"I hope to get it done by the end of this year, but then it'll take up to six more months to get it published."
"You're going to make us wait another year!"
"I need to just stay in more and write and get it all polished up, and eat more chocolate because that really gets my writing flowing. I'll burn the calories right off at Tony's BodyCombat!"              

 With Jessica, the dynamic events coordinator.
 With Helen (from my karate class), and Mary (from BodyCombat)

I kept Mum and Charlotte working for almost two hours after the signing had officially ended. They passed out from sheer exhaustion. Even coffee didn't revitalise them. I demanded the manager, Kevin, do an on-the-spot firing of Matthew, the employee who provided them the coffee as they refused to sell any more books after sitting down - and there was still 15 minutes to go before the store closed! This kind of wanton laziness will not be tolerated at future signings. Coffee earlier in the day is permitted as there is a correclation between Mum's consumption and book sales.
With the manager, Kevin, trying to coax into giving me the keys to the store, so that I could keep it open beyond the closing time in order to sell more books.
Shaun Attwood
Guildford Waterstone's Book Signing Saturday May 7th and BBC Radio Surrey Interview

From 10.30am until 4pm Mum and I will be at Waterstone's 71-73 High Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3DY (01483 536 366). Click here for a map.

On Saturday morning at 7.40am (England GMT), BBC Radio Surrey is interview Mum and me. Click here to listen live on Saturday.

Shaun Attwood
Sammy the Bull Gravano Hard Time Excerpt in Cosa Nostra News 

As part of the release of the US Hard Time hardback in America, a Mafia news website has run an excerpt from Hard Time about one of my run-ins with Sammy the Bull's crew. Click here to read it.

Shaun Attwood
My Sister's Kindle Ebook: English Shaun

Many people have asked about the impact of my imprisonment on my family. A detailed insider-account can now be found in my sister, Karen Attwood's, newly published ebook, English Shaun. Here's a guest post by my sister about the ebook:

When a prisoner is incarcerated, family and loved ones also serve the sentence.
English Shaun tells the story of what happened to my family after my brother was arrested and imprisoned on the other side of the world.
We don’t normally hear about the impact of imprisonment on the family members and loved ones left behind trying to pick up the pieces.
It is true that many prisoners come from difficult backgrounds without any kind of support network and this is often a large factor into why they ended up inside.
This isn’t the case with my family. Shaun is five years older than me and throughout our childhood, and even now long into adulthood, our parents couldn’t have been more supportive.
After Shaun’s arrest and imprisonment, our mother had a nervous breakdown and was tormented with feelings of guilt and shame. My father cashed in his life savings to pay the lawyer’s fees and their plans to begin a hiking business were cancelled.
I made the long trip across the Atlantic to visit Shaun on three separate occasions during his incarceration and I also spoke in mitigation at his sentencing hearing. This was probably the most difficult and uncomfortable experience of my life.
There was never any question that we would support Shaun and try to get him out of the hell he found himself in.
But our feelings were ambivalent. I was, of course, furious with my brother for causing such pain to our parents.
The whole ordeal was made worse because we didn’t really have a clear idea of what Shaun had been up to in Arizona. The following extract from English Shaun describes our feelings after we read an account of Shaun’s ‘crimes’ in the Phoenix New Times:

We had no idea anymore of just how guilty or innocent Shaun was. It seemed ludicrous to think he was the Mister Big character police had been convinced of at the start of their investigations but how big he was remained a mystery. One thing was certain. The Phoenix New Times made everything terrifyingly real. We had passed the previous weeks in a stupor, hoping we were going to wake up from a nightmare but the sight of Shaun and Wild Man’s mug shots in this paper brought everything home. We thought of the future with impending doom.

With Shaun, we endured two years of uncertainty - terrified he would end up beaten or raped, and believing he could be sentenced to 50 years in prison - while he was held on remand in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails.

This is our story.

Click here to see the ebook at Amazon US. Here for Amazon UK.

My next book signing is at Waterstone's Guildford this Saturday from 11am till 4pm. Mum will be there. Click here for further info.
True Crime Book Review - I am Accused of Murder!

So far the Hard Time reviews out of America have been positive as you can see by clicking here. But I'm unsure what to make of todays review by Kim Cantrell for True Crime Book Reviews. As you can see if you clicked over and read it, Kim begrudgingly recommends the book at the end of the review, after attacking me from multiple angles beforehand. Here's an excerpt: " I was subjected to almost 300 pages of whining from a man who admits his that he trafficked in millions of dollars of drugs, sold them at raves, and employed numerous persons as security – at least one who murdered on his behalf..."

Kim: I firmly believe in free speech, and thanks for recommending Hard Time, but how can you justify this murder nonsense? Are you, by any chance, working for Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

Readers: What do you make of Kim's review?

Shaun Attwood  
Mum Speaks to Young Offenders

My Mum spoke after I had spoken at this talk in our hometown