T-Bone v Fierce (by T-Bone)

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 don’t believe I’ve ever told you about this big, and I mean big guy called Fierce who was bull-dogging a small kid in for 2½ years for stealing cars. Fierce had heard about me and when I hit the yard, he looked me up and down like he either wanted to eat me or take me to bed. I was scared because I didn’t know why he was checking me out like that. I started to look around for something to hit him with. The only thing was the mop, and it was a long way away.

He came at me slowly and my adrenaline shot to the roof and my legs were shaking. He offered to shake my hand, so we did, and as I tried to let go he said, “Mind your own business, nigger boy.”

I couldn’t believe it at first because there is some respect even though the black prison population in Arizona is small. He disrespected me because the devil had a hold of his heart and mind. He was and is evil. I thank God that he didn’t hit right then and there because my guard wasn’t up due to the handshake.

I stood there for a second.
He turned and looked at me.
I walked away, and turned to God. I can’t say that God spoke to me, but I can say that he answered my prayer.

Four days went by and Fierce had that kid bleeding from the mouth and anus. Just thinking about it I am still moved by the brutality of it all. None of the kids race would stand up for him. That’s when God touched me and moved me. I couldn’t do anything out in the open, so I waited, listening to the kid scream “No!” at night, and Fierce walking out in the morning like he had been with his woman.

This old man who went to church services told me that Fierce was coming after me because a few troublemakers were encouraging him to do so because they were afraid of him. They wanted to use me to get rid of him.

Fierce was lost in himself, meaning he didn’t care about anyone else. He only cared about getting high on heroin and the power he had over the people in prison including the guards allowing him to act out in certain ways.

Led by the good Lord, I stayed up one night at the door listening and watching. I heard his cell door opening slowly, so I put shampoo on the floor and stepped back.
Wham! The door flew open and I braced myself.
He slipped and his hands grabbed for the sink and the wall. I hit him in the solar plexus, and went to town on his sorry ass. His size and strength were something to behold. I put everything I had into every punch and kick. Fierce jumped up and ran out. My hand was a mess.

He went to his cell, got a weapon, and came running back yelling, “I’m gonna kill you, nigger!”
The cop in the tower told him to lock-down, and he did right away.
That morning he was gone, moved by the guards to another yard.

Fierce only had five weeks left to serve. The word now is that he lives in California, where he’s doing time for rape. The kid he raped in the Arizona Department of Corrections tried to kill himself when he got out and is still on medication.

Shaun Attwood
Going to Prison (by Chris)

Chris is a young person sentenced to a UK prison for death by careless driving. Chris crashed while under the influence of drugs. His passenger/best friend died.

The build up to my sentencing made me uneasy. I was on bail for one year one month. During that time, I didn’t have a clue who I was. I was addicted to smoking weed as I thought it would heal the pain of me losing my best friend, Tom, and the death I had caused. But really, cannabis was making feel and act badly. I pushed my family further away when I needed them most.

My court date crept up on me. I entered the court room full of anger knowing it was the last time I’d see my family, girlfriend and friends for a long time. I was sentenced to 33 months, having to spend a minimum of 16 months in prison. I was angry, upset, tearful and lost within.

I was taken downstairs into custody to be transferred to a prison. My deceased best friend, Tom, had a cousin at a particular prison called High Down. He wanted my blood, so I needed to avoid going to that prison at all cost.
“Please don’t send me to High Down,” I said to the guards getting ready to ship me out.
“Why not, petal?” asked a female guard sympathetically.
“There is someone there who is after me.”
“Do you want a cup of tea?” she asked.
“Yes, please.”
She assured me that no one would be after me at the prison I was going to.
The next thing I knew I was in a Serco van being transferred to my first prison – High Down.

The drive was an hour’s stretch. Outside was darkening. I shut my eyes from exhaustion.
We pulled up to the prison, and were let out of the van one by one to enter the reception and holding cells. There was a big group of black men in one corner aged between 16 and 29, all taking about how they’d been caught.

Anxiously, I waited to be strip-searched. My thoughts were quick. I was worried and confused. I didn’t know what was ahead of me. I wanted to get in a bed and fall asleep and feel like I was dead.
“Smith, step forward!” a guard shouted even though I was the last one in the holding cell.
I came out and slouched over his desk, really tired, ready to fall asleep.
“Stand up, boy! Where do you think you are?” he belted as if I were in a military school.
He booked me in quickly.
I had to undress in front of a guard and bend over.
I was given a hotplate of food, which was the last thing on my mind. I had no appetite, and could barely walk I was so exhausted. I carried my plate down a corridor.
A trustee called me over. “Oi, you, come into my office.”
I went into a room where mops and buckets were stored.
“Sit. Eat your dinner. No smoking.”
The man filled his paperwork with my details. I didn’t eat.

I was finally led to house block 3, the induction wing. I was shown to my door with a boy called Mark, my first cellmate, a skinny lad age 18. It was his third time in prison and he didn’t seem disappointed. I was worried about getting beaten up in prison, but not by Mark. We put our stuff down, and smoked a rolled cigarette, commonly known as a “burn.”

After settling down, Marc got his toothbrush and razor from his wash bag. He was behaving suspiciously, so I kept an eye on him. My instinct was right. He was making a blade, a shank, by attaching the razor blade to the toothbrush. He hid it in his mattress. Not knowing who he was or what he was capable of, I slept with one eye open in case he decided to attack me.

The next morning, we were let out for induction. I felt sad and vulnerable in my new surroundings. Our block had three wings separated by bars. A prisoner called me over to the end of the wing. As I got closer, I recognized him. He had tattoos on his neck and looked like an evil man. It was my best mate’s cousin who wanted me dead.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Chris Smith.”
Giving me an evil look, he said to the other prisoners, “Stay away from him. He is no good.”
I felt intimidated, not knowing what he was planning to do.

Shaun Attwood

My First Book Club Talk

I recently did my first talk to a book club. I told them my prison story, followed by the ups and downs I went through to become a published author. The talk was supposed to last for less than two hours, but the questions kept it going for almost three. The audience of around twenty-five genuine interested people, including bookworms and aspiring writers of all ages, helped create a great atmosphere. I felt honoured to have received such a warm reception. Above and below are YouTube videos of the latter half of the event after I finished my prison story and got down to literary matters.

Shaun Attwood

2: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

3: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

4: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

5: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

6: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

7: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

8: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

9: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

10: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

11: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

12: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

13: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

14: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

15: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

16: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

17: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

18: Shaun Attwood Speaking to a Book Club

Father’s Day Weekend Book Signing Madness

It’s a drizzly, grey Monday afternoon in England, and I just woke up. Still recovering from several days of non-stop events, including two book signings, talks to schools, and my first talk at a book club. Mum is still asleep, convalescing, barley able to croak out a word. Our goal was to smash our previous book-signing record of 98 copies of Hard Time – sold at Wigan Waterstone’s a few days before Christmas. We were praying for Father’s Day shoppers to come to the Manchester mall in droves on Saturday.

“I’m signing my book today if you like true stories,” I said to the first shopper on Thursday at Waterstone’s in Liverpool.
Eyeballing the display of jail outfits, he barked, “I’m not giving any support to criminals!”
Mum and I shrugged him off.
Mum approached the next shopper. “We’ve got an author signing his book today. It’s a great Father’s Day gift.”
The lady’s face creased, her eyes filled with tears. “My father died last week.”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” Mum said.
“Oh, it’s alright.” The lady rushed away, head lowered, leaving Mum and I exchanging shocked expressions.
“Got an author signing his book today. It’s a great Father’s Day gift.” Mum handed a leaflet to a lady.
“The only thing I’d give my dad for Father’s Day is arsenic.” The woman marched away as if going home to murder her father.
Mum turned to me, her face resonating despair. “How can we tell anyone else it’s a good Father’s Day gift?”
“If it continues like this, we’d better go home in an hour or so,” I said. “Maybe it was a mistake to sign on a Thursday.”
Mum closed her eyes, hummed meditatively, and started waving her hands around as if drawing shapes in the air.
“What’re you bloody doing?” I asked, worried.
“The atmosphere is all wrong. I’m changing the energy.”
As if Mum had conjured them up, three young lads approached. Fans of Prison Break, they questioned me for ten minutes, attracting others to the display.
Although footfall was low, interest was relentless for the next few hours. No more negative reactions. We sold out, all 41 copies, and left early.
On the drive home, I said, “Do you really think we’ll set a new record on Saturday if footfall is low like today?”
“It’s Thursday. The Trafford Centre is always very busy on a Saturday.”
“Yes, we will make it happen!”

                                                                      With Dad in Manchester

On Saturday, we arrived early at the Trafford Centre, assisted by our friend Natalie (to whom I owe a big thank you) who put on a jail outfit. I was happy with the staff for getting a large table ready for us near the front and printing out tonnes of flyers. We quickly set the display up, put posters on the shop windows and started pitching the book.
“We sold fifteen in the first hour,” I said to Mum. “But we need to increase that to get over a hundred.”
The new manager introduced himself.
I asked him, “Do you mind if we set up a satellite display of books where people queue? It’s worked well for us in the past because they pick the book up while they’re waiting to pay.”
He gave the go ahead, and it started working right away.
The shoppers increased every hour. The three of us couldn’t keep up with everyone coming in. Our average kept rising 16 an hour, 17, 19…

I shook hands with the two other authors signing that day in the same store: Penny Avis and Joanna Berry. Friendly, classy and professional, their book Never Mind the Botox: Alex just went on sale. For aficionados of chick lit, it is riding high on Amazon so far and has had great reviews.

A few people stopped by to say that they had read Hard Time, and enjoyed it. As usual, they demanded that I get the next book out soon.
A young woman approached, “My mum’s read your book, and she keeps telling everyone about you!”
“Thanks for stopping by to tell me that,” I said, smiling.
“Can I get a photo for her?”
“Yeah. Sure.”
After the photo, I said, “Why don’t you get her on the phone, and I’ll say hello?”
She did. We had a chat until the next wave of shoppers surrounded the table.

Even without the help of the mechanical cockroach – I forgot to bring it – we broke the record ahead of schedule. I announced it was time to pack up, took a box to the car, and returned.
“I sold three more copies while you were gone!” Mum said, excitedly. “We’re at one-hundred and three now!”
“Great. We can all go home now.”
Natalie and I packed up the last of the display, and started to leave. But Mum dashed off, her eyes wide, frenzied as if possessed. She ran around slapping flyers on everyone in sight, commanding the attention of dozens of people. “Author signing his book today! We’re leaving now! You need to buy it now if you want a good Father’s Day gift! If you like the Shawshank Redemption, you’ll love this!”
So many people flocked to the bare table, I had to unpack my pen, cockroach stamps and business cards to resume signing. Infected by Mum’s enthusiasm, half of them didn’t even know what they were buying and I had to keep explaining my story.
Twenty minutes later, Natalie and I urged Mum to leave.
Mum shrugged us off, and yelled, “We’re leaving now! We’ve only got so many copies left! You’ll have to make up your mind quick!”
The subsequent surge of shoppers rocketed the total up to 122 copies, smashing the record set in Wigan. The manager congratulated us, and said he’d never seen anything like it.

The book-selling frenzy took its toll on Mum. Attempting to buy Dad a bottle of wine on the way home, she almost collapsed in the shop. She stumbled out, fell onto her seat, and tried to stabilise herself with breathing techniques. I gave her some water, and went into the shop to complete the purchase.

Our effort did not go unrecognised by my publisher either. Just received this:

Hi Shaun,

Just dropping you a quick line to thank you for all your hard work with book signings. We've just found out that you sold 122 copies of Hard Time at Waterstone's Trafford Centre, which was our most successful pre-Father's Day signing. Every one here at Mainstream are extremely impressed with how all your events have been going, and we'd like to give you a very big thank you.

Click here for the previous signing blog.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I am being interviewed on the Meria Heller Show from 7 to 8pm in England. 11am US Pacific time.

Shaun Attwood 
Liverpool and Manchester Waterstone's Book Signings

I'm signing in Liverpool city centre this Thursday, and the Trafford Centre, Manchester on Saturday. Click here for the full information.
Fan Trouble (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.

Sunday was pyjama day. Just as it sounds – we got to stay in our pyjamas and watch reruns on the TV. I wasn’t paying much attention to the yard activities.

The 4 o’clock headcount came and went. The temperature was hitting 115 degrees. Who cares if I am in a sweat box. As long as I am breathing, life is great according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

My cell door still hadn’t opened by 5.10pm. All I wanted was to get some cold water from the water cooler. That is if there was any in there.

I walked to the door to see if anyone was outside. I saw my friend, Kane, in cuffs, getting escorted off the yard. There were at least six officers, plus sergeants and lieutenants bringing handfuls of zip-tie handcuffs and large cans of pepper spray. The officers blocked both entry ways to the kitchen. A kitchen fan was thrown out, and another officer walked out.

Hours went by and I only saw Kane cuffed up. The fan that was taken out was put back in.

Me and my roommate came up with endless possibilities. Finally, we decided that our lockdown status had something to do with the heat.

At 6.30pm, I said, “Are they ever gonna feed us dinner?” The last time we ate was at 7am.
“I hope so soon. I’m starving,” my roommate replied.
“Me too.” I laid down and started channel surfing, waiting for the door to open for dinner.
Around 8pm, my roommate said, “Maybe we’ll get lucky, and they’ll bring us dinner on Styrofoam trays.”
“Yeah, right! We’ll be lucky to eat before nine.” I attempted to cool myself off with my “handy-dandy sprayer” – a hairspray bottle cleaned out and filled with water.

They opened our doors for chow at 8.30pm. I found out that a fan mounted on the chow-hall wall had fallen off and almost hit a woman stood behind it. The women told an officer what had happened. The officer decided the inmates had tore the fan off the wall, and didn’t call a maintenance worker to see if the fan was repairable. The girls in the kitchen asked to be moved to a larger area, to a makeshift dorm. The answer was no.

So twenty-five kitchen inmates went and sat outside in the shade because outside felt cooler than inside. This happened during headcount, causing a serious problem for the guards. The inmates were told to lockdown and they refused. That’s why staff with zip-tie handcuffs and pepper spray had mobbed the yard.
The sergeant told the girls, “Either you side with me, or her,” pointing at Kane.
The girls tried to hold their ground, but their ranks were broken. Kane, the most vocal, was cuffed up and taken to the Complex Detention Unit (CDU) for inciting a riot.
The officers told the women, “You can lockdown or be sprayed and taken to CDU.”
They locked-down.

Now Kane sits in CDU on a ticket that could bury her in the hole – all because she stood up not just for herself but for everyone in the kitchen, including pregnant women and women who have seizures.

Shaun Attwood
Watford Waterstone’s Book Signing

The first to arrive were three students from the Bushey Academy.
“We recognised your picture in the window. You did a talk at our school. It was the best talk we had all year. When are you coming back?”
“Hopefully next academic year,” I said.
“We still have your cockroach card.”
This true-crime addict said, "I just love Sandra Gregory's book, Forget You Had a Daughter."
"She works for the same place as me," I said, "The McLellan Practice, doing talks to schools." Sandra was a school teacher who tried to smuggle heroin out of Thailand. She was sentenced to death, but the sentence was reduced by the King of Thailand. Here's the link to her excellent book.

Two security guards rushed into the store as if about to arrest me.
“We’ve seen you out in the mall with your cockroach! We’ve let it go for four hours, but now we have video evidence, we filmed you, and you must not continue!”
“Why?” I asked.
“You’re not allowed to promote outside the store.”
“OK. Sorry. I didn’t know.”
“We’re just here selling the book,” said my assistant, Gabriella. “Why don’t you buy a copy?”
“I don’t read!”
“Why not?” Gabriella asked. “Just read the first page. Humour me.”
Gabriella melted their moodiness. They agreed to a photo session, and one pledged to buy the book on his payday.

Thanks to the help of Gabriella and some of the most accommodating staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with, the event almost sold out: 45 of 51 copies. Events manager Catherine kept us armed with flyers, and even made some additional posters to advertise the book signing in the windows.

Some readers have questioned me along the lines of: “Shaun, breaking the book sales record at every store is not what art is about. What is wrong with you and your competitive nature?”
My response: There are all sorts wrong with me, including my competitive nature. I am governed by the laws of testosterone. A whiff of competition heats my blood up. Indeed, upon arriving at Watford, I announced to the staff, “No body goes home until all copies of Hard Time are sold!” A staff member responded, “You’re scaring me.”
But isn’t making fun of my foibles through writing a form of art? And not to be taken all that seriously

Shaun Attwood  
Watford Waterstone's Book Signing Saturday June 11th and BBC Radio Interview

From 10.30am until 4pm, I will be at Waterstone's 174-176 The Harlequin Centre, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 2WS (01923 218 197) Click here for a map.

On Saturday morning at 7.20am (England GMT), I will be on BBC Three Counties Radio Click here to listen live on Saturday.

Next week's book signings are in Liverpool on Thursday and Manchester on Saturday. Click here for more info.

Shaun Attwood

10: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

9: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

8: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

7: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

6: Shaun Attwood at Stoke Newington Literary Festival (Cockroaches at Sh...

5: Shaun Attwood at Stoke Newington Literary Festival (Chow at Sheriff J...

4: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight at Stoke Newington Literary Festival (...

3: Shaun Attwood at Stoke Newington Literary Festival (Violence at Sheri...

2: Shaun Attwood at Stoke Newington Literary Festival (Violence at Sheri...

1: Shaun Attwood and Gavin Knight at Stoke Newington Literary Festival (...

Prison Food (by Chris)

Chris is a young person sentenced to a UK prison for death by careless driving. Chris crashed while under the influence of drugs. His passenger/best friend died.

The food in here is just rank! It’s no good if you’re trying to stay healthy. Stews look like vomit. Curries are bowls of coloured water with disturbing meat, and chips are like rubber. I mean proper rubber – they are not edible.

Click here for Chris’s previous blog
Where are you reading Hard Time?

Just received this by email from Dave reading Hard Time in Sardinia.

Shaun Attwood

Stoke Newington Literary Festival

It was an honour to be invited back to perform at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Saturday. I was paired with Gavin Knight, author of Hood Rat, an eloquent speaker and all-around good-vibe guy.

Here’s what a reviewer wrote about the session with Gavin:

Shortly after it was time to see journalist Gavin Knight and ex-convict Shaun Attwood talk about their experiences of the criminal underworld in a brilliantly intimate little room upstairs in the White Hart pub. Knight discussed his research into some of Britain’s most notorious gangs, which is collected in his book Hood Rat. Attwood told of his experiences in one of America’s toughest prisons, which was kind of like an aural, more graphic equivalent of Louis Theroux’s latest documentary for the BBC. This was an event made up of exhilarating anecdotes, and some of the stuff that Attwood came out with was thrilling and sickening in equal measure, such as the horrific beatings he was witness to first hand. The pairing of Knight and Attwood was the perfect example of what a literary festival should do: give members of the public a direct and fascinating insight into areas of life they would never normally be privy to. Fantastic.

Video clips will be available later this week.

Other than performing, I enjoyed the events, especially Alexei Sayle, whose hilarious anecdotes about being raised by Jewish, atheist, communist radical parents in Liverpool generated lots of laughter. He infused his readings with theatrical voice inflection and funny faces, all the time coming off as natural, spontaneous and sincere.

Perhaps the biggest name there was Steven Berkoff, the famous super villain in so many movies. General Orlov in James Bond's Octopussy. Lt. Col Podovsky in Rambo 2. Approaching Berkoff in the lobby just before his performance, seeing that distinct face, especially his eyes, the eyes belonging to so many evil characters, filled me with terror. Why did he have to hunt Rambo down so ruthlessly during my formative years? Hollywood has conditioned me to be frightened of him. And I am not alone. Others have experienced this. Including the lady who booked Berkoff. I believe it is called the Berkoff effect. So many people showed up to see Berkoff unveil a bust of Edgar Allen Poe that traffic came to a standstill on the high street. A magical moment.

On Sunday night, I had a chat with Howard Marks, the pot dealer whose book, Mr. Nice, I enjoyed in prison. He served time in America. His life was made into a movie last year.
Introducing Chris – A Young Person in a UK Prison

At my talks to schools, the students often ask how the US jail experience compares with the UK. In response to that, Chris, a young person serving in a UK prison, has agreed to blog his experiences.

Excerpts from his first letter:

My crime was death by careless driving under the influence of drink and drugs. My best friend died by my side in the passenger seat of my car. It’s by far my worst life experience.

I was involved in the raving industry, attending Ministry of Sound and illegal raves at private locations throughout London. I often took pills and more occasionally pure MDMA at parties.

BUT – Having come to jail has made me think twice. I have a beautiful and loving family and girlfriend who are by my side. I now know I don’t need drugs or the need to go raving although it is tempting. I know my priorities now. I want to build a strong future, for myself, my family and my girlfriend.

I started my sentence at a remand jail for adults. My first few days were heartbreaking. It truly was terrifying. I felt angry, lonely, unsatisfied, the list goes on with so many negative words…

I was sentenced to 38 months, having only to serve half. It is very stressful at the moment. I really miss my family, my girlfriend, and friends. With my girlfriend, I prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. I love her with all of my heart, and couldn’t imagine life without her. That is what is making me feel so down at the moment.

Prison is a living hell. I will tell you much more in my next blog.

Click here for the UK female prison experience by Andrea