Question 8: Locked-Up Abroad Raving Arizona

For the next 3 days, I'm going to post a question about the episode and my answer.

How did you feel when you returned to England again, a free man?

I got off the plane with a small box containing my scant belongings. Walking through Gatwick Airport, I worried that UK officials might want a word about my criminal activity and lifelong ban from America, but I breezed through customs, which was a relief. With blurred vision, I had difficulty locating my parents among the hundred or so people thronging around the gate. Out of nowhere, Mum ran at me, her jacket flying and landing on the floor, my sister behind, tears streaming. I dropped my box, and with an adrenalin rush hugged Mum off her feet, and hugged my sister and Dad. After I reassured them that I was OK, we made jokes about me looking like a Russian dissident due to my lengthy stubble and gaunt face.

Day of my release

At airport with my sister and mum
On what felt like the wrong side of the road, Dad drove us away. For the first time, I read Jon’s Jail Journal on a computer, and posted a blog entry myself:

13 Dec 07

I'm free!

This is Jon/Shaun.

I can't thank you enough for all of your comments and support over the years. My prison journey is finally at an end! I'm at my sister's flat in Fulham, London. Tomorrow, I'm heading for my parents' house in Cheshire. Tonight, I'm being treated to Indian food with my family, and I hope to get a good night's sleep after several harrowing days spent in transportation (no food, sleep, showers, etc).

Much love. Talk to you soon.


Blog comments poured in from all over the world, congratulations and well wishes, raising my spirits. A documentary maker arrived to capture my return to society on film. At night, we went for an Indian meal. I tried chicken tikka masala, my former favourite, but the meat activated my gag reflex, and brought back memories of the mystery-meat slop known as “red death” in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail, so I decided to remain vegetarian.

The next day, I did two BBC interviews. We travelled home on the motorway, a five-hour drive. We stopped at a fish ’n’ chip shop. I tried to order curry and rice – popular in in the northwest – but the young server’s thick northern accent was incomprehensible to me. He fetched a girl who spoke to me slowly and concisely as if I were mentally handicapped.

The drive through my town brought back memories as if I were in a dream. Inside my parents’ home, the feeling intensified as I checked out each room. I ate, read the latest blog comments, and tried to sleep. Wearing socks, a beanie, a dressing gown, and buried under two fifteen-tog duvets in a room with a radiator on, I couldn’t stop shivering as I was so used to the desert heat. My ears turned to ice. I sneezed. My nose ran. I only slept for a few hours, and woke up with my vision still blurred.

The next morning, I went on a food-shopping spree, loading up on fruit, nuts, cheese, bread and beans. Going from aisle to aisle, being able to buy a banana was the height of ecstasy for me. At home, I filled a spoon with peanut butter and a cup with milk, and tried to consume them like I did daily in prison, but they wouldn’t go down, so I spat them out. After it being my main source of protein for almost six years, I could no longer eat peanut butter.

Claudia called to wish me good luck. One of my best friends, Hammy, showed up with champagne, and offered to hook me up with a local nymphomaniac, so I could make up for lost time.

In the day, my mood was mostly up, but exhaustion came in waves. The next night, I slept for thirteen hours.
Still traumatised from the journey and the whole experience, I sat down at a desk upstairs in my parents’ house and wrote about my release to the people who understand Arizona prison the most and with whom I feel a lifelong bond because of the intensity of what we went through: my prison friends I left behind. Longing for their company, I filled with sadness, almost wishing I could return to prison just to be with them. An ache expanded from my jaw up through my face. Tears fell on the paper, moistening it like my sweat did when I wrote from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail. My teeth chattered. I missed them so much, I couldn’t stop crying – no matter how hard I tried.

It took months to adjust back to society. My parents helped tremendously. I was institutionalised, and used to being told what I could and couldn’t do. My mum said I was like a puppy dog following her around the house, awaiting orders. At first, it was hard to stop reacting as if I was in prison, but over time, I returned to normal. To adjust in a healthy way, I structured my life around positive activity. Exercise keeps me mentally strong. Writing books and talking at schools keep me focussed.    

Shaun Attwood


Anonymous said...

Shaun, I'm watching a recorded episode of your show right now, "locked up abroad". I'm not sure if you'll ever read this, but in the event you do, know this.. That by only going through hell, I believe one finds true salvation. I believe this "hell" is individualized and, it appears you most definitely experienced it. I know in my heart and, seeing your eyes, that you are a better and much changed person for this... and, know that today, on a beautiful spring day on the east coast of America - that someone cared enough to write you.. Just an FYI, this is my first post on the Internet. God Bless You and, may your life be filled with peace and happiness knowing you have been given, a true second chance at life..

Anonymous said...


Have you accumulated much "stuff" since your release?

I'm curious as to whether there was a need to own things that were yours alone or you have kept to only having minimalist posessions.

Really enjoying the last week's posts!


Shaun Attwood said...

Thanks for both comments. Yes, enduring the jail strengthened me for life. I don't accumulate stuff anymore. I'm a minimalist.

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