Greetings from the Abyss by Jack (Part 18)

Last month, while I was writing the beginning of this letter, an officer was assaulted in one of the other buildings on our yard. The immediate knee-jerk response of the prison was to rush in their Tactical Support Unit (TSU). These guys consider themselves above all of the rules, regulations and laws. When they show up on a unit, their decisions overrule those of all of the officers assigned to that yard, up to and including the deputy warden. They are notorious for their cruelty and disregard for basic human rights.

The first thing they did was rush the buildings, screaming and shouting at everyone, dressed in black fatigues, helmets, arm and shin guards, doing their best to intimidate everyone into complying with their orders. If you don’t comply, you get cuffed up and physically assaulted. Think of every film you ever saw about the Gestapo and you’ll get the idea.

They rushed our pod with their usual tactics and rounded us up. They stripped us out – which in most cases isn’t so much a search for contraband as an opportunity they seize upon to intimidate and embarrass us – and herded us outside onto the recreation field.

My problems started because I didn’t have both of my hands on the top of my head on my way outside. Didn’t matter that my hand wasn’t on my head because I have to use a cane to walk, so I got shoved into a wall. I hit the wall hard enough that it caused sharp intense pain where my chemo port is placed in my chest.

My second mistake was involuntarily raising my hand to my port. The TSU officer who shoved me slammed his hand over mine which slammed into my port. The pain was so intense that I dropped to my knees, which brought two more TSU officers over to help their buddy “control the unruly inmate.”

Luckily for me, one of the officers who came over normally works for prison transportation and had taken me to the oncologist and to my chemo treatments several times. He recognized me and interceded on my behalf. I was able to stand back up and he escorted me to the rec field.

My building sat out for most of the night on the rec field in our underwear. No moving. No talking. No bathroom breaks. It was cold and damp. I was nauseas from the pain and in quite a bit of discomfort from sitting on the hard ground all that time.     

TSU finally let us back into the building after they had trashed all of our belongings. As usual they didn’t take anything, just destroyed what they could reasonably assert was necessary in their search for contraband.
I was tired, in pain and not feeling very good, so I just pushed everything together near the head of my bed and went to sleep.

I don’t remember much about the next nine days. My fever went up and down like a rollercoaster and I don’t remember eating much. A couple of guys on the run took care of me because they couldn’t get me seen by Medical.

Once the fever finally broke, it took me a few days to regain my strength. I haven’t done very much since then and just went back to work today.

I don’t feel that bad now so I thought I should write you and apologize for taking so long to respond to your letter.

Jack is serving life without parole, and has terminal cancer. Throughout my incarceration, Jack was a positive influence. He encouraged me to keep writing, to enter short-story competitions, and we proofread each other’s chapters. Jack is seeking pen pals, so anyone interested please email me at for his details.

 Shaun Attwood  

Shaun Attwood Slams Chris Grayling's Prison Book Ban on The Wright Stuff

Video of my call to Matthew Wright today stating how books were integral to my rehabilitation and how Chris Grayling's prison book ban is obscene. The audio starts out wonky at the studio's end but they fix it half way through.

Shaun Attwood Slams Chris Grayling's Prison Book Ban on The Wright Stuff from shaunattwood on Vimeo.

Banning Books from UK Prisoners is Obscene

The UK has followed Arizona's lead in banning books from being sent into prisons. In a move reminiscent of a Sheriff Joe Arpaio publicity stunt, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has introduced a rule preventing inmates from receiving parcels from outside unless they have “exceptional circumstances” such as a medical condition. Books and subscription magazines are prohibited.

Chris Grayling
During the almost 6 years I served in Arizona, books were the lifeblood of my rehabilitation. My family, friends and kind blog readers from around the world sent in hundreds of books via Amazon. I shared them with my friends in prison and donated them to the prison library, which was lacking in contemporary literature and stocked mostly mass-market fiction and a few dusty classics. By reading books from the psychology, self-help and philosophy genres, I was able to better understand myself and my past criminal behaviour. Books instilled me with a value system that was integral to my rehabilitation. Reading honed my writing skills, which led to a career as an author with Random House. Being an author gave me the credibility to talk in schools.

In recent years however, my attempts to get books into Arizona prisons have been increasingly obstructed. I've attempted to send books to T-Bone in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail via Amazon, and all of the books were returned to the sender. The state prison, the Arizona Department of Corrections, now requires anyone sending books via Amazon to be on the inmates approved visitor list, which excludes me from sending books to all of my friends in prison because ex-inmates aren't allowed to be on visitors' lists.

Society should be doing everything that it can to rehabilitate prisoners. Banning books is an obscene move in the opposite direction. Why is Chris Grayling adopting the failed policies of the USA which has the highest incarceration rate in the world? Why is Chris Grayling adopting the policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio who boasts that the jail system he runs is a Nazi concentration camp? Arizona, which prides itself on its hard prisons, has some of the highest crime and re-offending rates in America according to FBI statistics. At the end of the day, the taxpayers will foot the bill for the mess Chris Grayling is creating.

If you believe that prisoners should have more access to books, please sign this petition.   

Click here for my original blog on receiving books in jail

Discussing books with Two Tonys an old-school Mafia associate serving 112 years.

More with Two Tonys

Click here for questions that I answered about my Banged Up Abroad episode for National Geographic

The books my Banged Up Abroad episode was based on - Party TimeHard Time and Prison Time - are all available on Amazon here.  

Click here to read about the prisoners at this blog who range from Mafia hit men to giant transsexuals.  

If you have any questions for me, please Tweet me here, or post them to my Facebook here or post them in the comments below.

Shaun Attwood

Prison Pee Test (Guest blog by Joe Guerrero)

Thirty-one-year old Joe Guerrero is incarcerated at Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Virginia. He is serving 7½ years for drug charges and still has a little under 2 years left. He has spent the past 5 years focusing on bettering his life in which cartooning, caricatures, painting and writing are his main focus. 

In prison, there are lists you don’t want to be on. They include known gang members, tattoo artists and guys who run gambling operations. But the worst list is the “hot list.”

The hot list is reserved for individuals who fit one of two criteria or both:

1 The prisoner has previously provided a urine sample that tested positive for drugs

2 The prisoner has a drug conviction history.

Being as I have a drug conviction history, I am on the hot list.

This means that once or twice a month, I am called to various locations around the facility at any random time to urinate in a cup. Tests are usually administered by the hardest officers who go completely by the book and play no games. I have to urinate in front of the officer. It’s a hell of a lot of pressure, and some prisoners can’t handle it.

I am asked to step into a single-stall restroom with a male officer, to drop my pants to my knees, to lift my shirt to my chin, and to hold my penis over a cup. The officer watches closely as the urine exits my urethra.

Recently, my entire housing unit was locked down and urine tested. All 82 of us in a chaotic fashion.

It came about because a snitch told on someone with drugs. In the middle of the night, officers searched a cell and found the drugs. That prisoner, the entire housing unit and eventually my housing unit (three days later) were all locked-down.  

The first sign of trouble came when we weren’t allowed to leave the building. The rest of the compound was under normal operations, but the prisoners in my unit were being sent back from work and school.

Oh shit, I thought, this isn’t good.

We knew the housing unit in the other building where all of this started had been urine tested, so most of us had an idea of what was coming. Yet there were still a few silly guys refusing to accept the inevitable.

“Maybe it’s a surprise pizza party” one said.

“I’m too young to die! They’re gonna pump chlorine gas through the ventilation system and kill us!”

The tension mounted.

A team of officers burst through the front door with coolers in tow full of urine-test kits. The housing unit erupted with noise.

Prisoners began drinking loads of water in the hope it would dilute the drugs and they’d pass the test. Some just to make sure they could urinate on demand.

Long lines began forming in front of the restroom. Officers were barking out orders and commands.

Some of the guys who had been drinking water ended up having to urinate long before they made it to the test. They had to urinate so badly they ended up peeing in bags in the back corner of the housing unit.

One guy had to crap so bad, he was shaking uncontrollably and crying while begging an officer to either let him go crap next door in the other housing unit or kill him before his intestines ruptured.

Finally, I lined up, hoping to get it over with. The line was long and everyone at the front was crowding around the entrance to the restroom, transfixed on the action taking place inside. At first, I thought maybe something bad had happen on the inside. I mean, why else would all these guys be standing around staring in there like that? But nothing was happening other than the tests being administered. The nosy prisoners just had to gawk.

I waited for all eternity until finally it was my turn to enter the restroom.

The first thing I noticed were prisoners stood behind the wall in the shower area. Unable to urinate, they were mocked by anyone new entering the area.

“Hey, look at you bunch of sorry assholes! What’s the matter? Did your dick shrivel up inside your stomachs! You guys suck!”

A prisoner in a wheelchair was parked in the corner by the urinals. His head was in his hands as if he were having no easy time of this.

OK, I’ve got this, I thought.

I pulled up to the urinal, took the cup, dropped my pants to my knees and lifted my shirt to my chin as instructed to do.

With an officer gazing at my inadequate man parts, the psychological pressure rose.

Oh my God! I thought. I’m standing here with my entire ass out for the world to see in front of a bunch of guys staring at me.

I had to pull it together. On one side of me was wheelchair guy and on the other was a Robocop officer.

I decided to attempt a little small talk to lighten the load: “Pretty nice weather we’re having wouldn’t you say?” I said, looking the officer straight in the face.

His eyes never left my penis. “Sir, do not say anything to me. Just fill the cup.”

Holy shit, I thought. I’m about to lose it.

With no dignity left and no urine in the cup, I handed it back to the officer. I told him that I was unable to perform at the moment and would have to join the reluctant others behind the wall.

Behind the wall, I suddenly had the urge to crap. With that thought festering, I listened as the other guys discussed why they couldn’t urinate.

“Dicks too big, one said.

“I can’t do this, man. They’re watching us piss! Everyone is watching us piss!”

I peeked around the corner (yes, I know, I’m no better than the rest of the onlookers), and saw the wheelchair guy standing up, or more so, leaning against a wall in front of the urinal, his back to me as he tried for what must have been his fourth or fifth attempt to urinate in front of two officers.

At that moment, he lost it. He threw the plastic cup at the urinal which clink-tink-tinked as it ricocheted off multiple surfaces and hit the ground.

“I just can’t do it!” he snapped. “I just can’t do it! Maybe if I can sit down I can do it!”

“What?” an officer said.

“Maybe if I can sit down I can take the test! I need to sit down to pee!”

“Did you just say you need to sit down to pee? Sir, you are going to stand and take this test!”

At this point, I once again lost it. It was too crazy. I came from behind the wall and said, “Hey look, I gotta shit.”

The officers must have forgotten I had been in there because they acted like I hadn’t.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” one yelled.

“You are in violation of the rules! This is a restricted area!” another shouted.

“Whatever,” I said. “I’m going to take a shit.”

I walked out, and went next door to the other housing unit. They were letting guys crap who really had to go now.

I did it and swaggered back to the restroom like I owned the place. I cut in front of twenty people including the wheelchair guy, and said, “Hey officer, give me that freaking cup. Let’s do this thing.”

I took my shirt completely off and threw it on the ground. I leaned into that cup and squeezed out ten drops. Then I urinated. I finally did it and passed the test.

As for everyone else, they eventually produced as well. Some passed. Some failed. For some it was easier. For some it was harder. For a few it was life altering. They might never be the same again.

The wheelchair guy did just fine. The guy who had to crap so bad he that was in tears failed and was locked down in the hole. Another guy took four hours to pee. He passed though. And now every time he’s in the restroom urinating, he screams at passers-by, “Stop staring at me!”

After all that, it was over. The day went back to normal operations. Or at least as normal as it could get after going through something like that. 

Read more stories by Joe at his blog, Joe Writes His wrongs.

Shaun Attwood

Unborn Baby Killed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Rotten Jail Food (by Shaun Attwood)

Kayla Hornewer, a 22-year-old un-sentenced woman arrested for drug offences lost her unborn child because of food poisoning at Estrella jail. Food poisoning is widespread in the jail system run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who boasts that it costs him more to feed his police dogs than his prisoners. Lots of the food at the jail comes from businesses that are getting rid of it because it has expired. Kayla contacted bacillus cereus, and had a spontaneous abortion due to severe sepsis. She was in her fourth month of pregnancy.

Photo of Sheriff Joe Arpaio boasting how bad his food is to the media:

In an incident report submitted to Mothers Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one pregnant inmate had a miscarriage while sat on the toilet and collapsed on the cell floor. The guards came in, revived her with smelling salts, and ordered her to fish the dead baby out of the toilet. The guards refused to take her to the Medical Unit and she had no subsequent treatment.   

One of my female co-defendants who spent two years on remand in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail said that she knew of many miscarriages happening in the Maricopa County jail and in the Arizona Department of Corrections as a result of malnutrition, food poisoning and the lack of medical care. In the Arizona Department of Corrections, the dead babies were buried in the desert. She added that some women serving life sentences ended up pregnant after having consensual sex with the guards. The babies that survived were handed to the next female prisoners to be released, who were basically told to have a nice life with the child. Under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) all sex in prison with staff is classified as rape.

The female inmates in Estrella jail recently went on hunger strike over what happened to Kayla and to protest the mouldy rotten food. Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s responded by locking the jail down and denying the women phone calls to the outside world.   

Shaun Attwood


My fourth book, Lessons, was published in the USA today. Here's the Amazon USA link. UK publication is Mar 20. Amazon UK pre-order link.   
Shaun Attwood

T-Bone Update

T-Bone is a deeply spiritual massive ex-Marine I met in prison who was stopping prison rape. A family member of T-Bone visited him in the jail and provided this update.

T-Bone was moved to a new cell because of a plumbing problem caused by a guard doing pull-ups on the overhead pipes in the tower. The guard was later fired for generating a flood that caused $250,000 in damage. It made the local news:

T-Bone had a trial for three offences: two of robbery and one of kidnapping.  On kidnapping and one robbery, he was found innocent.  On one robbery he was found guilty.  The circumstances on the robbery he was found guilty are in question and they are undergoing appeal.

T-Bone has another drug related charge. He is claiming innocence on this. It really sounds like the prosecutor is setting him up.

The prosecutor has offered 10 years as a plea bargain. With time served (2 years), this would mean doing 6 years in prison. T-Bone refused this deal.

T-Bone is asking us to pray for whether he should accept 6 years, if offered. This would mean serving 2 years in prison with his 2-year-credit for time served in jail. I believe he is concerned here of the risk of going to trial and getting a longer sentence.

T-Bone continues to be the pod Pastor, and ministering to the other inmates. He is an inspiration to many. He is the day to day leader in spiritual matters in his pod. This pod is known as the GOD pod in the jail. I have not seen another pod like this. All men of different races gather in common prayer. T-Bone is the facilitator of this.

T-Bone continues to protect men from rape and sexual advances from other men. He is aware of what is going on in the pod, and is on top of things. If things go bad, he is ready to intercede.

T-Bone’s primary concern is for his family. He desperately wants to be with them.  Particular concern is his wife not having a car. She takes the bus to and from work, and as a result is unable to take T-Bone’s son, Champ, to sports practice. Champ has no other way of getting to practice. Finances are the issue. Please let T-Bone know if you know anyone in Phoenix who can give Champ a ride or even donate a used car. 

T-Bone also has a hunger for better food. It has all been peanut butter now with no meat.  Sheriff Joe Arpaio has also cut him off from two milks per day to one. He is surviving but has hunger for food that can only be supplied by putting some money on his inmate account.

T-Bone’s goal is to speak before large groups of people about his experiences in the jail. He’s working on making contacts in churches and schools.

I now have two books featuring T-Bone, the hard-hitting Prison Time and a self-help book, Lessons from a Drug Lord– both include T-Bone fight stories

Shaun Attwood   

Independent Article Today

A massive thank you today to Patrick Strudwick for the hard hitting 4-page feature on prison sex in The Independent Magazine. Please click here to read it.   

The article tells the story of She-Ra (Xena). Click here to read:
Xena on Prison Rape Part 1
Xena on Prison Rape Part 2

Video of Xena's horrific gang rape story:

She-Ra is one of my prison friends in my new book, Prison Time.

Click here to read about the prisoners at this blog who range from Mafia hit men to giant transsexuals.  

My books the Banged Up Abroad episode is based on are all available with free shipping and worldwide by clicking here   and they are available on Amazon USA by clicking here. 

Shaun Attwood