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I started Jon’s Jail Journal back in February 2004 to expose the conditions in the jail with the highest death rate in America run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Dead rats in the food, cockroaches crawling in our ears at night, and guards as well as gang members murdering the prisoners. Smuggled out of the jail, my writing turned the international media spotlight on the conditions. Click here and scroll down to the bottom to read my 2004 entries. 
Video of Aryan Brother prison gang member murdering an inmate in Sheriff Joe's jail:

After I was sent from the jail to prison, I started writing more about the characters, ranging from Mafia hit men like Two Tonys to men who think they’re women, such as Xena, a six-and-a-half foot transsexual who almost bled to death attempting to cut “her” man parts off. Click here for a full list of the prisoners at Jon's Jail Journal and links to their extreme stories. 

Since my release, a book has been published about my time in the jail, Hard Time, and I tell my story to student audiences in the hope they don’t make the same mistakes I did. Almost daily, I get feedback from students, teachers and parents of students.  

I continue to campaign against Sheriff Joe and hopefully he will lose this year’s election. Click here for my tips on surviving his jail.

Throughout my incarceration, I was blessed to have the support of my wonderful family. Here's a video of my mum doing a rare talk at a school:

Shaun Attwood

Medical Issues (Part 13 by Lifer Renee)

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

A month and a half pass still no EMG medical appointment. Finally, I signed for an offsite medical appointment. Again with the shackles, belly chains and handcuffs, I was paraded in front of the public in the waiting room. 

Whoever said an EMG test doesn’t hurt was lying. The needles and shocks of electricity wiped me out by the time it was over. Again the doctor couldn’t give me the results. Again I had to wait the DOC.

Two weeks passed and I waited. Finally, I signed to see the doctor once more in his cramped office.  All he told me was he’s sending me for a surgery consultation to discuss my options.  He asked if the gabapentin he prescribed was working for me.
“What can I do?” I asked. “What is wrong with me?”
“All I can do with you at this point is to help manage your pain, and send you to the surgeon to discuss your options.” 

I was waiting, yet again, for another medical appointment that I hope will give me some answers. At all costs I don’t want surgery as I am scared to death of 1) it being my neck and spine 2) the post care provided by prison. Needless to say, I have become a bit lazy. The medication makes me sleepy all the time but I don’t hurt as much. I’m not even working out, nor doing yoga as I’m really scared I might hurt myself more. Next week I plan on changing my work hours and starting a new routine as I’m in a bit of a rut. This week will be a long week at work as we had a 4 day weekend, which means a 4 day work week, which turns into 10 hour days. I’m not looking forward to it, but in a way I am as it takes me out of prison mentally, and with someone with as many things going on as me that is a blessing.

I have hired an attorney to review case, Kimerer and Derrick in Phoenix. They have been reviewing my case for 10 months now. No word yet if I have a chance of getting released but who knows. I met my personal goal to save the dollars to find and retain a lawyer and pray for a miracle.  I’ve put in a lot of work for a second chance, but like everything else these days, I wait.

Shaun Attwood
Fifty Shades of Grey Insanity at My Manchester Waterstones Book Signing

At the Trafford Centre yesterday, I told our team that we were there not to break sales records, but to have fun - as my philosophy this year is not to not expect too much, and to be happy with the way things are. I'm lucky because I have a passion for being a writer and a speaker. With the pressure off, we still sold 120 copies of Hard Time. We also met some great people as you can see in the pics - can you spot the mechanical cockroach in one of them?

Earlier in the day, we were actually beating sales of Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, but it didn't last long. Never have I seen mass hysteria for a book in Waterstones. It reminded me of videos of female fan frenzy towards The Beatles in the sixties. Waterstones was inundated with women zigzagging around, eyes darting in search of the book, homing in and forming clusters around the stand, sparking up conversations:
"Here it is!" a woman screamed, pointing at piles of Fifty Shades.
"Every single book store in Manchester has sold out except for Waterstone's!" a woman yelled, triumphantly snatching a copy.
"Everyone's got it. I've got to have it!"
Every other person I looked at was clutching a copy. Capitalising on the madness, Mum approached men dragged in by women, thrust Hard Time in their faces, and said, "Here's one for men, and it's a better read."
Hoping to glean insight on book promotion, we asked women why they were buying Fifty Shades. Answers included:
"I don't even know what it's about, but I've just got to have it."
"This is the one everyone's talking about!"
"My friend's pressuring me into reading it."
"But what's the attraction?" Mum asked.
"It's girly porn," a woman replied.
We watched in awe as an assistant trailed back and forth with stacks of books replenishing the shelves. He said his branch was selling hundreds of copies a day, and this was happening all over the country at approximately 2000 Waterstones. He added, "The writing is absolute crap, but we're not complaining because of the record sales."
Fifty Shades is number 1 on Amazon UK and USA, and the runners up are other books from the trilogy.     

The team: Emily, Lydia and Iain

Cockroach hand-stamp

This woman is an old school raver from clubs I partied at such as The State in Liverpool, and The Konspiracy in Manchester 

Click here for the previous signing blog.

Shaun Attwood

T-Bone Teaches a Crackhead Selling Stolen Goods a Lesson

I was just on the phone to T-Bone recording a message for students when a crackhead approached T-Bone and tried to sell him a stolen phone and credit card. T-Bone took control of the situation and taught the crackhead a lesson. Here’s the audio of T-Bone in action:
Shaun Attwood

Persevering Prison Pages

Persevering Prison Pages is a blog run by my friend Shane (Shannon Clark), a prisoner in the Arizona Department of Corrections. He started PPP after I told him about Jon’s Jail Journal. As a direct punishment for blogging, Shane has been moved to five different prisons in the last year, and has lost his early release. The frequency of moves seriously disrupted Shane’s blogging. Despite the prison coming down hard on him, Shane continues to bravely expose what’s going on. With outside help, his first blog post in months just went up – about the corpse of a prisoner. I’ve posted a comment at PPP to show support for Shane, and I urge others to offer encouragement in the comments.

Shaun Attwood

Question Time: Yoga for Prison Recovery

A PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) sufferer recently asked if I had residual trauma from the jail experience, and if so, how I deal with it. Fresh from prison, I was tense, edgy, and uptight. It took a year before I began to feel normal again. Here's what I looked like:

Now, I’m mostly happy and relaxed, but I still have nightmares. I recommended yoga for PTSD.

For many people, yoga brings to mind dozens of sweaty people in a studio, stretching into bizarre postures. But that’s only a small part. Yoga is a system of many parts developed over 1000’s of years for psychological well-being, not just physical development. Besides exercises, yoga provides ways to train the mind, and meditation is one of the most powerful. My Mum, who suffers from depression, uses Vipassana meditation. The initiation includes ten days of complete silence, and ten hours a day sat cross-legged meditating. When Vipassana was introduced to a high-security prison in Alabama tremendous transformation occurred in a variety of prisoners, including murderers. Below is a trailer for a documentary movie called the Dhamma Brothers about Vipassana at the Donaldson Correctional Facility, Bessemer, Alabama.

Most of the prison doctors I saw were happy to dole out medication, but I was lucky enough to run into Dr. O who prescribed plenty of yoga. Medication undoubtedly helps serious cases, but it seems so oversubscribed.    

The weekend just gone, I participated in two days of yoga with an emphasis on meditation. Here’s what I posted to Facebook when I got home:

Just got home blissed out from two days of Isha Yoga at the ExCel Centre, London with 1000 yoga freaks and the hilarious yoga master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who flew in from India. Sadhguru had people laughing, crying and at the end, dancing like wild moonies.
I actually left the building in the pouring rain, wearing only flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt, with my arms in the air, getting soaked to the bone, yelling, "Mother Nature embrace me!" :) Must have looked like I was on drugs. :) Who needs drugs when you've got yoga? :)

On a more serious note, during the morning meditation and breathing exercises on the second day, I flashed back to jail. The experience ran through my mind like a film on fast forward, even including the visuals I saw after meditating for hours on end in my cell back in 2003/2004. My face wouldn't stop contorting as if I were experiencing various emotional states in rapid succession. The tingling at the base of my spine built into an intense warm feeling that slowly rose through my torso and out of the top of my head. I shed a few tears. It was my trauma. I immediately felt lighter, and still do. I heard other loud emotional reactions – screaming, shouting, laughing – but afterwards those people looked joyous and said they felt unburdened.

Today, I woke up with Sadhguru's chanting in my brain. I had no nightmares last night, and I wonder if they've gone.

The two day’s of yoga were part of a course called Inner Engineering by Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation doing good work around the world. Isha holds the Guinness World Record for the most trees planted in a day with 700,000 saplings in Tamil Nadu.

We have the ability to heal ourselves with a powerful tool called the brain. Thanks to yoga, I’m learning to harness that power.

Shaun Attwood  

Shane Punished for Prison Blogging (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. 

Sorry it took so long to write. Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) is coming down hard on me because of my blogging.  I’ve been moved around a lot. From Eagle Point to Barchey to Buckley to Stiner detention to Rast Unit. I suspect I’ll be here until Nov 15th, my release. Despite all of the disciplinary sanctions, moves and lack of blogging, I’m OK. 

The blogs that upset ADOC are the ones about former Senate President Russell Pearce’s son, Josh Pearce and the one about the murder of Shannon Palmer.  

Josh Pearce ended up at Eagle point. I asked him questions and showed him the blog about his dad. Shortly after that, a CO4 warned me about blogging inmates. A few weeks later, the same CO4 accused me of dealing/financing drugs, and I was moved to Barchy Unit. 

Around the same time, I blogged the murder of Shannon Palmer and did an interview with the Phoenix New times for their article. Every disciplinary ticket I received I was found guilty, and given maximum punishment by the Disciplinary Captain. For the drug paraphernalia ticket, an inmate claimed possession and stated he committed the violation, yet I was still found guilty with maximum punishment. 

ADOC can do whatever they want, I will be blogging soon. It is a violation of my freedom of speech for them to try and stop me like this.

Shane’s original blog about Shannon Palmer, a prisoner Shane was helping get his story out until his cellmate murdered him by slashing his throat and castrating him: 

This week I learned that a mentally ill inmate who left Eagle Point Unit a couple of weeks ago was murdered while in a lock-down detention unit.

I knew the guy. Sharing first names, we had spoken on occasion. Shannon Palmer appeared to be a normal, polite person. Somewhat stand-offish, but harmless.

One day Shannon asked me if I would help him get his story out to the public. I agreed to listen and sat in my cell with him for nearly two hours as he told me his entire story, which he also told me he had written down and kept in his cell.

It was an extremely far-fetched conspiracy, which he told me I'd think it was. It involved the MCSO, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, CIA, US Military Black ops, and various other agencies who were after him. Men in suits of shimmering armor that cloak a person making them invisible. He believed these invisible assassins had been following him and were waiting outside the prison fence to kill him. He also believed he had been given an implant in his thigh by the CIA.

A couple of weeks ago he was just removed off of the yard here. Rumor has it that he was moved to detention for a "Psych Watch".

Based on news reports, and comments I heard from brown & orange shirts, Shannon's cellmate (another guy I know from Tucson's Manzanita Unit) cut his throat and castrated him.

I don't know exactly what happened, but I do know that there are multiple things that trouble me about this.

Shannon Palmer seemed severely paranoid and delusional. He needed psych help. He was put in detention, which is generally used for discipline or protection. He was put in a lock-down cell with another prisoner. He DIED! A horrible death...

Is ADOC so over-crowded and under-staffed that severely mentally ill prisoners aren't receiving adequate mental health care, protection from other prisoners and themselves, and simply ignored until blood is spilled?

I'm fairly certain Shannon Palmer was a minimum security inmate. I also suspect that his cellmate was not. Why did Mr. Palmer have a cellmate, let alone a higher security one?

How did he get his throat cut in a lock-down unit that doesn't allow shaving razors to be possessed by prisoners and is supposed to be a highly secure unit?

These are all questions that should be asked. Who will investigate this preventable murder?  

Shane’s original blog about corrupt Senate President Russell Pearce’s background and sinister links to the prison-industrial complex:

Born June 23, 1947, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce represents District 18, which covers most of Western and Central Mesa, and a small portion of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Previously, this Republican lawmaker also served in the Arizona House of Representatives, and is widely known for sponsoring legislation seeking to stop illegal immigration. Senator Pearce favors a strong border security policy. In January 2011, Sen. Pearce became the President of the Arizona State Senate.

Pearce grew up in a troubled and impoverished home. His father was an alcoholic. At times he would come home from school and find that the neighbors had left groceries for his family. However, his mother would always put the food aside, not accepting charity.

Initially, Pearce wanted to attend medical school, but his family wasn't able to afford it. Russell Pearce joined the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. In time he became a highly decorated peace officer and even received the Medal of Valor for his 35 years of service. Pearce rose to the level of Second in Command, Chief Deputy Sheriff, under Joe Arpaio. Interestingly, Pearce claims credit for one of the most publicized and controversial actions of MCSO, under Arpaio's cruel reign, that of housing jail inmates in military-type tents. During his tenure with MCSO, Pearce investigated many violent crimes and was also the victim of a violent crime when he was shot in the chest while on duty. In 1994, Russell Pearce was appointed to the position of Director of the State Highway Safety Department.

In 1995, Pearce became the Director of the Arizona Motor Vehical Division. Two notable accomplishments he had as such were: 1) Bringing in IBM to create the first version of servicearizona.com, on online resource for Arizona citizens to update the MVD info and 2) Pearce enrolled Arizona in the then optional National Drivers Registry program, making collection of Social Security numbers for driver's licenses mandatory at the state level to comply with the federal program. According to Chris Moesor of the Arizona Republic, in his August 21, 1999 article, Russell Pearce was discharged from that position in 1999 after an investigation revealed he had been complicit in tampering with state driving records.

Russell Pearce is an advocate for the following positions:

1. Smaller and more efficient government
2. Using ID cards that link to Social Security numbers
3. Eliminating abuse of eminent domain
4. Tightening border security
5. Supporter of 2nd amendment in the context of US gun rights
6. Supporting private property rights
7. Improving education and discipline
8. Supporting Boy Scouts of America in their moral leadership goals
9. Supports traditional family values
10. Promoting pro-life views
11. Amending the Citizenship Clause of the 14th amendment to limit who can a citizen by birth on US soil
12. Supporting the Taxpayers Bill of Rights
13. Against judicial activism
14. Improving transportation

Additionally, Russell Pearce was a lead sponsor of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB-1070), which attracted nationwide attention after the Obama administration challenged the law, resulting in a federal court ruling that most of the law was unconstitutional. Pearce told gathering activists, "when you talk about jihad, that is exactly what Obama has against America, specifically the State of Arizona" (Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2011). It's also important to note that Russell Pearce has been criticized for drafting SB-1070 as a way to provide income for private prisons by incarcerating illegal immigrants. Pearce was linked to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) through a December 2009 meeting with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. It was at this meeting that Pearce and ALEC members, including CCA officials, wrote the document that would later, almost word for word, become SB-1070 in Arizona. This according to National Public Radio (NPR), October 28, 2010.

Russell Pearce now lives in Mesa, Arizona with his wife Luann. He is the father of five children, Dodi, Sean, Colten, Justin and Joshua. In February 2011, Mesa police arrested Joshua Pearce on two outstanding warrants connected to probation violations and failure to appear in court. Joshua Pearce had previous run-ins with the law and was granted probation for DUI. Recently he was taken into custody again.

With Senator Russell Pearce's extensive background in Arizona law enforcement, history of supporting Arizona's ineffective and arguably detrimental sentencing and corrections statues, and his oppositional stance on sentencing and corrections reform legislation in recent years, I'm curious to see whether his son receives the same treatment by the powers that be in his criminal justice travels or if Joshua will avoid the same "justice" the rest of us get and which his father supports, because of his father. I'm even more curious to know whether the recent changes in DUI laws in AZ got Senator Pearce's vote of approval.

Click here for Shane's previous blog

Shaun Attwood

Question Time

Nav wrote: 

Hi, I've seen one of your talks in one of my citizenship lessons at school about your experience in jail. I just wanted to ask you if American prisons are different to U.K prisons, and in what way, and ask how people cope in there. If prison actually is as daunting as it seems, and if people come out more violent or if they look at life differently. I've got to say I admire the way you've blogged your experience and stayed strong! It’s really nice how you've visited schools and shared your stories too. 

My response: 

Thanks for the questions. All prisons are different, but most are daunting. I have blogged the UK prison experience from the perspective of a young man, Chris: 

And a woman, Andrea:

I'd say the major difference is that in the US the prisons are run by gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Mexican Mafia divided by race. We are seeing some of that in the UK now, but not like in America. There seems to be more education and rehabilitation in the UK, whereas in America the emphasis is on punishment.

Some people come out of prison more violent. They join gangs. Violence and injecting drugs become a way of life. Some prisoners use the time wisely. They educate themselves and do good when they come out.

People have different ways of coping. For me, I read, did yoga, meditated, worked-out and wrote. Religion plays a big part for many people, such as T-Bone who turned to Christianity. 

Shaun Attwood