Eating Prison Food

An excerpt from my jail memoir, Hard Time, which Banged-Up Abroad Raving Arizona was based on.

An inmate worker handed me a large brown plastic tray. The slop – red death – looked like carroty vomit blended with blood. Meat and gristle in assorted shapes, shades and  sizes were protruding from it. Gagging on the smell, I placed the tray on the nearest table, and sat down. Because I was one of the first to get served, the prisoners hadn’t mobbed the tables yet, so I’d forgotten about the racial segregation.
Seconds later, a cannonball of a Mexican tapped me on the shoulder. “You can’t sit here!” He had a shaved head, deep-set eyes and long eyelashes.
Dozens of men focussed on us. I maintained eye contact.
The Mexican put his hands on his hips. Raising his voice, he said, “This table paisas’ table!”
Mexicans surrounded me. None smiling. Where are all of these Mexicans coming from? I thought. I’ve got to get out of here, but not in a cowardly way. “No problem,” I said in a deep voice, trying to sound tough. Standing up, I looked around.
My cellmate, Troll, flew down the stairs. “England, you can’t sit there!” Turning to the Mexican who’d tapped me on the shoulder, he said, “Hey, Carlo, this is England, your new neighbour. England say hello to Carlo, the head of the Mexicans.”
The atmosphere turned friendly as fast as it had soured. I bumped fists with Carlo, greeting him with the limited Spanish I knew. He seemed to appreciate my effort.
“Come over here!” a white prisoner yelled.
The whites were laughing at what I saw as a potentially life-threatening situation. Had I blown it out of proportion? I thought of Rob the skinhead’s words in Tower 2: You’ve gotta lot to learn, dawg. It was standing room only at the whites’ table.
“Give him some room on the corner,” said Outlaw, the head of the whites prisoners.
The whites were shovelling down slop, chatting, gnawing on the mystery meat. Some of them eyeballed my tray.
With my stomach cramping as if it were trying to digest its own walls, I was in a hurry to eat. I dunked my plastic Spork into the red death, fished out a chunk of potato, and scraped most of the slop off. I raised my Spork – salivating in the way Englishmen are conditioned to do at the prospect of a good spud – and was just about to devour it when I spotted the lesions. Large. Brown. Deeply engrained. My Spork stopped short of my lower lip. Devastated, I returned the potato to the slop. Eating the two slices of bread that didn’t have any mould on them dried my mouth up.

by Shaun Attwood author of Hard Time and Party Time

Links to some of most popular entries over the years:
Rapist on the Yard by Warrior

MMA Crossfire Conversations – Locked Up Abroad: Shaun Attwood’s cautionary tale of ecstasy

I really enjoyed being interviewed by Kenai Andrews of MMA Crossfire - a mixed martial arts blog featured at Postmedia's news/information website. It's the most comprehensive interview I've done so far. The subject matter ranges from karate to old-school rave anthems. If you like the interview, please vote at the bottom.

Please click here to read the interview packed with pics, videos and lots of laughs. 

Please click here to read my interview for National Geographic Channel.

Shaun Attwood

Where Are You Reading Party Time? Bondi Beach, Australia

Sue Sandiford hugging Party Time at Bondi Beach, Australia

Shaun Attwood 

T-Bone Court Update

T-Bone went to court on Aug 6th in the hope of getting a trial and proving his innocence. Still refusing to go to trial, the prosecutor requested a continuance. During the hearing, the judge set a new trial date of Oct 7th and a motion hearing on Oct 4th. T-Bone’s public defender asked for an exclusion of time in June, and the judge granted that without T-Bone’s permission.  T-Bone’s last date for a trial should have been in June. Every time T-Bone goes to court, legal tricks are played on him. It looks like he is going to be in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail for months yet.  It is bad, but he is taking it OK.  He has become the spiritual leader of the unsentenced prisoners. He is a real comfort and inspiration to the men awaiting trial in that hellhole of a jail.

Jon's Jail Journal Hits Surge Past 1,000,000!

A big thank you to all of the readers over the last decade!
Links to some of most popular blog entries over the years:
Rapist on the Yard by Warrior

Jon's Jail Journal started in February 2004 to expose the human rights violations in the maximum-security Madison Street jail run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The blog attracted international media attention. The jail was shut down two years later. But Sheriff Joe is still in charge of six jails in the Maricopa County jail system. His detractors call him the Angel of Death not just because of the abnormally high death rate in his jails - 62 inmates died from 2003 to 2007 - but also because some of the guards found responsible by a federal court for the deaths of inmates were subsequently promoted by Arpaio.

Jon’s Jail Journal was set up anonymously to avoid retaliation from the guards. My aunt smuggled what I wrote out of the jail as shown in the video above. After I was sentenced and moved to the Arizona Department of Corrections, The Guardian and the BBC reported the blog and interest snowballed, surging to an all-time high with the worldwide broadcast of Banged-Up/Locked-Up Abroad Raving Arizona in 2013.

In the state prison system, I focussed more on the characters I met. I’ve always been fascinated by extremes of human behaviour, and there's no shortage of that in prison. If you look to the top right of Jon’s Jail Journal, you’ll see some links. If you click MEET THE PRISONERS, you’ll end up with a list of the prisoners I chose to write about. They range from Mafia murderers like Two Tonys who left the corpses of rivals from Tucson to Alaska, 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. To read the blog entries on any of these characters, just type the name of the prisoner into the Blogger search box at the top left hand side of Jon’s Jail Journal. All of their stories should come up.

The prisoners I wrote about started to receive mail from all over the world, and the blog became a bridge to the outside for all of us. When my sentence was almost up, I promised to keep the blog going so that their voices would continue to be heard. Prisoners in Arizona do not have Internet access, so they mail me their stories and I print them out with the comments and mail them back to them.

If you scroll down the right hand side of Jon’s Jail Journal, you'll arrive at an archive menu. If you click back to March 2004 you can read the early blog entries I wrote from Arpaio's jail. Here are excerpts from my first two posts:

19 Feb 04

The toilet I sleep next to is full of sewage. We’ve had no running water for three days. Yesterday, I knew we were in trouble when the mound in our steel throne peaked above sea level.

Inmates often display remarkable ingenuity during difficult occasions and this crisis has resulted in a number of my neighbours defecating in the plastic bags the mouldy breakfast bread is served in. For hours they kept those bags in their cells, then disposed of them downstairs when allowed out for showers. As I write, inmates brandishing plastic bags are going from cell door to door proudly displaying their accomplishments.

The whole building reeks like a giant Portaloo. Putting a towel over the toilet in our tiny cell offers little reprieve. My neighbour, Eduardo, is suffering diarrhoea. I can’t imagine how bad his cell stinks.

I am hearing that the local Health Department has been contacted. 
Hopefully they will come to our rescue soon.

20 Feb 04

My cellmate couldn’t hold his in any longer. He pinched his nose and lifted the towel from the toilet. Repulsed by the mound, he said, “There’s way too much crap to crap on, dawg. I’m gonna use a bag.” So as jail etiquette demands in these situations, I rolled over on my bunk and faced the wall. I heard something hit the rim of the seatless toilet, and him say, “Damn! I missed some!” When he was done, he put the finished product by the door and the stink doubled. He had no water to clean where the errant piece had fallen on the toilet, so it remained forming a crustation on the rim. We were hoping to be allowed out to dispose of the bag, until a guard announced, “There will be no one coming out for showers and phone calls, as we have to get one-hundred-and-twenty inmates water from an emergency container!”

The water came back on in stages. In our toilet, its level slowly rose.
“Oh no,” I said. “It’s about to overflow, and we’ll be stuck in here with sewage all over the floor.”
“One of us needs to stick his hand in the crap to let the water through,” my cellmate said. “And you’re the closest.”
The brown soup was threatening to spill from the bowl, so I put a sandwich bag on my hand. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I said, plunging my hand into the mound. The mound took the bag from my hand. Almost up to my elbow in sewage, I dug until the water level sank.
“I owe you one, dawg,” my cellmate said.
“It’s your turn next time,” I said.
Because the tap water hadn’t come back on, I couldn’t wash my arm. Not wanting to contaminate anything in the cell, I sat on the stool until a guard let us out for showers hours later.

The Banged-Up/Locked-Up Abroad episode is based on my two books, Party Time and Hard Time, which are available worldwide with free shipping here:
Party Time
Hard Time

Shaun Attwood

Brutal Gang Murder in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Jail

Warning, the video contains graphic scenes of violence. It shows an Aryan Brother murdering another inmate who refused to beat someone up for the gang he was trying to leave. All this happened in the jail I served time in as featured on Banged-Up Abroad and in my book Hard Time. 

Shaun Attwood

How Prisoners Are Strip-Searched (Including Anal and Foreskin Searches)

Shaun Attwood

Banged-Up Abroad World Premiere

The worldwide broadcast of my Banged-Up Abroad episode commenced this week to tens of millions of people in 40 countries. Since Monday, I’ve received thousands of messages from people as far away as Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. I’ve halted all writing to respond to the deluge. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback and questions on twitter here:
If you haven’t seen the episode yet, here it is on YouTube: 
Shaun Attwood