The Birdman (Guest Blog by Randall Radic)

Randall Radic is a former priest who served time for fraudulently remortgaging his church and rectory and spending hundreds of thousands on a luxury lifestyle. By helping convict a rapist murderer who had confessed to him, Randall was released early.

Virtually every stereotypically "grizzled" city newspaper columnist has made reference to how tough the pigeons of his city are.  Rats with wings, vermin, there's lots of colorful vernacular used to describe the notorious difficulty of getting rid of birds.  They're prolific and unmovingly territorial, and, yes, they do seem pretty tough, surviving mostly on trash and garbage, enduring all kinds of abuse from the humans who inhabit their cities with them.

     Pigeons, or rock doves (Columbidae for you science types), exist pretty much everywhere humans are.  That includes prisons, where the relationships between these feral birds and the men and women they're caged with can be quite unique.  There is an old, sometimes brutal symbiotic relationship between these two species of much maligned, and forgotten, souls.

     Every prison has a Birdman, one of these eccentric types who feeds the birds, sometimes claiming ownership over a flock of pigeons or seagulls that are ubiquitous at any prison around the world.  You'll see him standing in the recreation yard, maybe throwing scraps of bread to the local birds, or even acting as an impromptu veterinarian who untangles twine from a pigeon's foot or nurses injured baby pigeons back to life.  The Birdman-type comes in all shapes and sizes and colors, with the common denominator being that each appears to be crazy, or eccentric at best. Where I was housed was no different.

Randall Radic outside court
    He's an older convict with a limping gait and long blond hair that the birds seem to recognize easily.  And he talks to the birds.  The first time I saw him with the birds out there next to the basketball court, he was sitting Indian style, with a couple of pigeons on each knee and one perched on his shoulder like an ugly cockatoo.  And he was chattering at them.  I thought he was batshit crazy.  He waived a hello to me, but I was a bit too embarrassed to say anything back.  I mean, he was carrying on conversations with the birds that were engulfing him.

     It was crazier that the birds seemed to be listening.  I recall that Birdman was scolding a particular pigeon.  "Terry!  Come over here!"  I quickly stepped away to finish my workout.  Later, I told my friend Dave, who is as non-crazy as they come, and he replied, "Oh yeah, he's probably talking to Terry Dactyl -- Terry gets in weird moods when he won't come up to the front and eat."

     "Oh," I said.  "Of course."  Everyone had some Avian Flu or something.  They're all crazy.  Dave laughed.  "You haven't seen him with them?  Anything with wings, they all wait up by the metal detector for him every morning.  Pigeons, starlings, sparrows, seagulls -- even a crow sometimes."

     It was true.  I went out the next morning, and as soon as the sun came up, the Birdman appeared at the Rec Gate, mesh gym bag over his shoulder, and before he could even get through the metal detector, about 30 pigeons came parachuting down to him, flapping and squeaking.  Another few dozen others circled above, and a squadron of noisy little black birds -- starlings, I later learned -- landed on the razor wire.  Indeed, even a swarm of tiny sparrows zoomed in to join the festivities.

     I couldn't help but snicker when several cornrowed, tattooed gangsta types passing through the gate began cringing and swatting at the air as they hurried through the chaos, cursing and sputtering.  Not everyone is a nature freak, apparently.  Birdman yelled after them, "Don't worry!  They won't hurt you!  I'll protect you!"  The sarcasm in his voice was barely discernable, and the gangbangers missed it.  "Protect me?" one of the men snarled.  "Muthafucka, I ain't afraid of them fuckin' birds!"  Birdman's replay was so sincere-sounding, I had to laugh out loud: "Oh, I'm sorry, sir -- I thought you were afraid of being attacked, the way you were ducking.  My mistake.  But don't fear, these aren't attack pigeons."

     The gangstas stomped away, suspecting that they had been insulted somehow, and Birdman went along his merry way.  The 100 or so creatures with him floated around him, some of them racing ahead to the regular feeding spot, already jockeying for position, flapping, squealing, chirping in a frenzy.  Feeding time.

     Birdman was already speaking to the flock, saying good morning to individual birds by name, asking after one's sore foot, like he was greeting old friends at dinner.  I watched him pull out a giant plastic bag of food: rice, Ramen Noodle soup, oatmeal.  Easily several pounds of it.

     The birds went ballistic -- Birdman seemed to disappear in a haze of feathers as he attempted to toss handfuls of the food on the ground, with pigeons landing on his arms and shoulders and kinds of other birds diving at his feet.  A wild swarm developed in seconds, with several dozen pigeons piling up so that only their tails, pointing straight up, were visible.  A gang of starlings were frantically crowd surging over the pigeons and diving down into the mosh pit.  The noise from the seagulls was annoyingly oppressive: a dozen or so angrily darted into the scrum, trying for a mouthful of food but repelled by the sheer volume of the smaller birds.

     Birdman then pulled out a bag of Spanish peanuts.  The sound of the plastic reignited the frenzy, and this time, the birds went bonkers.  Within seconds, 10 to 15 pigeons dove onto Birdman, clinging to his arms, shoulders, and even his chest.  Another 3 or 4 wrestled their way onto the bag at his hip and the whole mass shifted in a wave where Birdman held out a palm full of peanuts.  The pigeons dove into Birdman's hand, piling up three high, climbing over each other to get a peanut.

     After several minutes of this mayhem, I watched the Birdman turn his attention to individual animals.  I watched in awe as he called them -- each by name -- and that particular pigeon flew up into his hand, waiting to be fed.

   These are feral animals.  As far as I can tell, out of the 100 to 120 pigeons who appeared to inhabit the prison (they never seemed to leave, except in a hawk's grasp), there were maybe two or three that appeared to have even been domesticated (as evident by numbered bands around their legs).  The rest were obviously feral.  I found it bizarre.  When the feeding was over, some birds stayed to peck at whatever miniscule scraps of food that could be found in the dirt, but most of the birds, from four different species, followed Birdman across the yard, squealing and "face-flapping" him all the way.

     So, while newspaper writers from various cities and states might feel as if they have the most hardened, grizzled pigeons, I'm a firm believer that they don't.  Prison does.  And we have the Birdman, too.  I'm sure that our prison pigeons would put even the pigeons of New York City's Central Park to shame.

Randall Radic is an advocate for Prison Education and the reinstatement of Pell Grants for Prisoners. He writes about prison education at and prison law at

Click here for the previous guest blog: Fleecing an Oligarch

Blog I wrote about prisoners saving a pigeon.

Shaun Attwood

From T-Bone (Letter 24)

T-Bone is a massively-built spiritual ex-Marine, who uses fighting skills to stop prison rape. T-Bone’s latest letter describes how the food is causing illness in the jail:

Because of the food in this place people are becoming constipated. One guy was unable to go the toilet to take a crap for six days. His breath was deadly. You couldn’t stand 8 feet from the poor guy and not gag. It’s so serious, it’s sickening.

Something happened to his system so that the smell would not stop coming out of his mouth. He raised hell with the guards. He had to pay $10 to see a doctor and then another and another, until it cost him $50. The final doctor was only a personal assistant who charged him $5 for five pills, so that he could take a crap.

He still doesn’t even come out of his cell because he is so embarrassed about his breath.

I thank God for everything that I have in here and for the help of all those people out there who have a heart to help me the way they are and the way they have.

I now have 2 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  

From T-Bone (Letter 23)

T-Bone is a massively-built spiritual ex-Marine, who uses fighting skills to stop prison rape. Gang members are now threatening T-bone for smashing the rapist. Here’s his latest letter:

People here are talking because of what I did to the shower rapist. Some are saying that he deserved it, but there are others who want to force themselves on another man in this environment. I hope that all the people who think like that find peace and turn to Jesus for help and guidance in all things.

I believe you have to stand up for what is right, no matter where you are. I’ve done a lot of bad in my life, but that doesn’t stop the fact that we all can do something to help someone who is in need when the opportunity arises.

When the kid got raped in the shower, I couldn’t just run up in there and stop it because I would have been labelled a rat, and also if the guards saw me kick that guy’s butt in the shower, I would have got into more trouble than I’m in. I did what I did when I could because I had to stand up.

There are lots of things going on in here like making some kid stick dope up his butt, so that the head of some gang or race doesn’t get caught with it. There’s always someone getting jumped or run-off because they can’t pay for something stupid. People get beat up just so others can steal the few items of food they bought from the store.

Now shower jumper’s gang members have a problem with me because I called him out.

I will write more later on this. Please tell everyone who has helped me thank you and God Bless.

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

Shaun Attwood  

Radio Interview and Soho Reading

On Sunday, I'm doing live talk radio for over an hour. You are welcome to call in to join the discussion after 8.15pm (UK time). Listen live here and hot line info.

On Wednesday, I'm doing a reading in Soho at The Wheatsheaf pub, whose reading nights Karl Marx and George Orwell used to attend. In the function room, I'm reading Chapter 1 from Party Time and Prison Time between 8-8.30pm. Further info.

Shaun Attwood

2nd video of Q&A in London

From T-Bone (Letter 22)

T-Bone is a massively-built spiritual ex-Marine, who uses his fighting skills to stop prison rape. Things have turned violent for T-Bone in the jail. Here’s his latest letter:

I had to put my hands on a guy who was picking on a little skinny kid because he could. The kid had his grandfather put money on the guys inmate account, and when the kid went into the shower, the guy went in there with him. All I could hear was, “No! No! No! Please no!” and then smack and ouch. The kid was crying. The piece of human crap came out of there smiling like he’d just won a gold medal. He’d forgot about me.

I called him a punk in front of his lowlife friends and his eyes gave him away.
“How much do you weigh?” I said.
“268 pounds.”
“Come, boy,” I said.
“What?” he said.
“Enough talk.” I pretended to turn my back on him.
He made his move. Bam! I hit him and you know the rest.

Me and a few other believers are mentoring the kid. We pray with him. It looks like he’ll get a chance in court. The lowlife’s friends said they want a piece of me, but I told them to go onto their knees in prayer and to grow up as they don’t have a chance.

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

Shaun Attwood   

Greetings from the Abyss by Jack (Part 19)

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.

Last time I wrote to you about getting assaulted by a guard in my chemotherapy port. The fever I had as a result lasted so long, the prisoners tried to get me seen by Medical, but Medical told the officers that it sounded like I had the flu and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. So my neighbours took care of me. Nothing new on that front. After the fever finally broke, it took another week or so before I began to feel strong enough to get around again.

The nurse called me over to Medical for my monthly chemo port flush. She began to berate me because of all the bruising around my port on that side of my chest. When I told her that it was because of the Tactical Support Unit (TSU), all of a sudden, it wasn’t so bad. I don’t even try to engage them anymore if I can avoid it.

I did have to ask about why I haven’t been back to the oncologist, or why I hadn’t been rescheduled for the cancelled dermatologist appointment in December. I will give the nurse credits for calling and trying to find out what’s going on with these appointments. Unfortunately, no one knows what’s going on. She also put me back on antibiotics for an ongoing ear infection. Sometimes, I think this issue will never get better.

Before I forget, I saw Xena (She-Ra) the other day. She has hooked up with someone new now that her boyfriend has been released.

Shaun, I’m very tired and it’s very late. I’m going to close for now and pick this up later this week, I promise. Again, I apologise for my tardiness and express my hope that you are well. Take care of yourself, my friend, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Always your friend,


Shaun Attwood  

From T-Bone (Letter 21)

Thank you for everything you have done for me. Thank you for giving me a helping hand in my time of need. Because of your donations, I can now buy some extra food in here.

We are supposed to have human rights, but in here we have none. We are supposed to get outdoor recreation, but we get no sunshine at all. No one ever leaves the pod unless they go to court or Medical. There is always some kind of toxic pink dust on the floor, along with some white-powder substance. There are little bugs flying around all the time.

Shaun knows how it used to be in here with the food: green baloney and stale bread. Well, it’s gotten worse. They take water and put some kind of fake meat in it, along with hard beans, and potatoes diced up small. They then put flour or corn starch in it to make it thick. The bread is stale and or dry. Last but not least, we get a piece of fruit, an orange that is sometimes frozen and or dry. There is no juice in it at all. We get two meals a day and the same stuff every day, no matter what. Breakfast is peanut butter and stale bread. Even the guards here complain about how they feed us. This is the richest country on earth. There is no excuse to feed un-sentenced prisoners like this.

The guards won’t let us take off our shirts to exercise except for in our cells. The cells are small, 15’ x 4’. People are always on the toilet in this place because of the food.

There are almost 2000 men here yet there are only 10 places to visit. Visits are allowed on Saturday and Sunday only. People wait hours to get in if they can get in at all, and the staff don’t care.

Just two weeks ago, a guy in here hung himself because of the conditions. Every civilised nation on earth knows how to house people like this. If a person isn’t strong enough, then they will quickly fall apart in here.

I could go on about the conditions, but the truth is out now and I will be doing something about it when I am out of here. The guy running this place, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, should be ashamed of himself.

From the deepest depths of my hearts, I thank you all for your help. I thank you in the name of Jesus. I will be writing more.

Peace and God bless.


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

Shaun Attwood   

Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 14)

I just got back from Scotland were I climbed the U.K.’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, 4200 feet. The challenge was a fundraiser organised by my family for the benefit of Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital in London that has saved the life of my niece, Yasmin, who has leukaemia. Here’s our donation page.

Mist rolls across as we start off

Half way up with Stephen Abbott who joined us from Bolton
We set off at 8AM, attacked by tiny midges that bit like mosquitoes. After two hours, thigh burn started during the steep middle section, which I found the hardest. After that, my second wind carried me to the top. Snow had packed into ice with blue streaks on the lip of the north face, overhanging a steep drop. The beauty of the ice compelled me to approach it, but with no footprints near the edge, I admired it from a safe distance.

Snow fields on the final ascent

Our team at the top
Everyone we met climbing was friendly and exuding happiness as if nature brings out the best in people.
Altitude madness
Mum and Dad
View from the top

Top of the world

Three cairns
On the way down, my thighs increasingly trembled. The large jagged stones on the path jolted my body and feet. No matter how hard it got, I was inspired by the book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed who lost the majority of her toenails and sections of skin from her feet while back-packing the Pacific Coast Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.
View on the way down
Travelling at the pace of the group, the whole hike with rests and a lunch break took 10 hours. After a hot bath, I drifted off to sleep with images of the relentless stones on the path flowing like a river on my dream screen. After deep sleep, I woke up to muscle soreness in my legs.

Now I'm about to leave for Wales. As Part of the Hay Festival, I'm speaking to prisoners at HMP Parc. I'm also doing a Banged-Up Banged Up Abroad talk in Port Talbot at Route 66 Sports Bar & Lounge tonight. 

Shaun Attwood