Prison Time - Book 3 of the English Shaun Trilogy
Prison Time, the sequel to Hard Time, is the story of Shaun Attwood's journey through the Arizona Department of Corrections and his deportation to England.
Sentenced to 9½ years in Arizona’s state prison for distributing Ecstasy, Shaun finds himself living among gang members, sexual predators and drug-crazed psychopaths. After being attacked by a 20-stone California biker, Shaun writes about the prisoners who befriend, protect and inspire him. They include T-Bone, a massive African American ex-Marine who risks his life saving vulnerable inmates from rape, and Two Tonys, an old-school Mafia murderer who left the corpses of his rivals from Tucson to Alaska. They teach Shaun how to turn incarceration to his advantage, and to learn from his mistakes.
Shaun is no stranger to love and lust in the heterosexual world, but the tables are turned on him inside. Sexual advances come at him from all directions, some cleverly disguised, others more sinister - making Shaun question his sexual identity. Prison Time is the first ever book to detail the sex lives of prisoners.
Resigned to living alongside violent, mentally-ill and drug-addicted inmates, Shaun immerses himself in psychology and philosophy to try to make sense of his past behaviour, and begins applying what he learns as he adapts to prison life. Encouraged by Two Tonys to explore fiction as well, Shaun reads over 1000 books which, with support from brilliant psychotherapist Dr. Owen, speed along his personal development. As his ability to deflect daily threats improves, Shaun begins to look forward to his release with optimism and a new love waiting for him. Yet the words of Aristotle from one of Shaun’s books will prove prophetic: “We cannot learn without pain.”
Nov 18th 2004
“I’ve got a padlock in a sock. I can smash your brains in while you’re asleep. I can kill you whenever I want.” My new cellmate sizes me up with no trace of human feeling in his eyes. Muscular and pot-bellied, he’s caked in prison ink, including six snakes on his skull, slithering side by side. The top of his right ear is missing in a semi-circle.
The waves of fear are overwhelming. After being in transportation all day, I can feel my bladder hurting. “I’m not looking to cause any trouble. I’m the quietest cellmate you’ll ever have. All I do is read and write.”
Scowling, he shakes his head. “Why’ve they put a fish in with me?” He swaggers close enough for me to smell his cigarette breath. “Us convicts don’t get along with fresh fish.”
“Should I ask to move then?” I say, hoping he’ll agree if he hates new prisoners so much.
“No! They’ll think I threatened you!”
In the 8 by 12 feet slab of space, I swerve around him, and place my property box on the top bunk.
He pushes me aside and grabs the box. “You just put that on my artwork! I ought to fucking smash you, fish!”
“Sorry, I didn’t see it.”
“You need to be more aware of your fucking surroundings! What you in for anyway, fish?”
I explain my charges, Ecstasy dealing, and how I spent 26 months fighting my case.
“How come the cops were so hard-core after you?” he asks, squinting.
“It was a big case, a multi-million dollar investigation. They raided over a hundred people, and didn’t find any drugs. They were pretty pissed off. I’d stopped dealing by the time they caught up with me, but I’d done plenty over the years, so I accept my punishment.”
“Throwing raves,” he says, staring at the ceiling as if remembering something. “Were you partying with underage girls?” he asks, his voice slow, coaxing.
Being called a sex offender is the worst insult in prison. Into my third year of incarceration, I’m conditioned to react. “What you trying to say?” I yell angrily, brow clenched.
“Were you fucking underage girls?” Flexing his body, he shakes both fists as if about to punch me.
“Hey, I’m no child molester , and I’d prefer you didn’t say shit like that!”
“My buddy next door is doing 25 to life for murdering a child molester . How do I know Ecstasy dealing ain’t your cover story?” He inhales loudly, nostrils flaring.
“You want to see my fucking paperwork?”
A stocky prisoner walks in. Short hair. Dark eyes. Powerful neck. On one arm: a tattoo of a man in handcuffs above the word OMERTA – the Mafia code of silence towards law enforcement. “What the fuck’s going on in here, Bud?” asks Junior Bull – the son of “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, a Mafia mass murderer who was my biggest competitor in the Ecstasy market.
Relieved to see a familiar face, I say, “How’re you doing?”
Shaking my hand, he says in a New York Italian accent, “I’m doing alright. I read that shit in the newspaper about you starting a blog in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail.”
“The blog’s been bringing media heat on the conditions.” While in the Maricopa County jail, I documented the human rights violations on sweat-soaked scraps of paper, using a tiny pencil sharpened on the door. Hidden in legal paperwork and the binding of books, my writing was smuggled out of Visitation by my aunt – right under the noses of armed guards – and posted to the Internet as a blog, Jon’s Jail Journal. In recent months, it drew international media attention.
“You know him?” Bud asks.
“Yeah, from Towers jail. He’s a good dude. He’s in for dealing Ecstasy like me.”
“It’s a good job you said that ’cause I was about to smash his ass,” Bud says.
“It’s a good job Wild Man ain’t here ’cause you’d a got your ass thrown off the balcony,” Junior Bull says.
I laugh. The presence of my best friend, Wild Man, was partly the reason I never took a beating at the county jail, but with Wild Man in a different prison, I feel vulnerable. When Bud casts a death stare on me, my smile fades.
“What the fuck you guys on about?” Bud asks.
“Let’s go talk downstairs.” Junior Bull leads Bud out.
I rush to a stainless steel sink/toilet bolted to a cement-block wall by the front of the cell, unbutton my orange jumpsuit and crane my neck to watch the upper-tier walkway in case Bud returns. I bask in relief as my bladder deflates. After flushing, I take stock of my new home, grateful for the slight improvement in the conditions versus what I’d grown accustomed to in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail. No cockroaches. No blood stains. A working swamp cooler. Something I’ve never seen in a cell before: shelves. The steel table bolted to the wall is slightly larger, too. But how will I concentrate on writing with Bud around? There’s a mixture of smells in the room. Cleaning chemicals. Aftershave. Tobacco. A vinegar-like odour. The slit of a window at the back overlooks gravel in a no-man’s-land before the next building with gleaming curls of razor wire around its roof.
From the doorway upstairs, I’m facing two storeys of cells overlooking a day room with shower cubicles at the end of both tiers. At two white plastic circular tables, prisoners are playing dominoes, cards, chess and Scrabble, some concentrating, others yelling obscenities, contributing to a brain-scraping din that I hope to block out by purchasing a Walkman. In a raised box-shaped Plexiglas control tower, two guards are monitoring the prisoners.
Bud returns. My pulse jumps. Not wanting to feel like I’m stuck in a kennel with a rabid dog, I grab a notepad and pen and head for the day room.
Focussed on my body language, not wanting to signal any weakness, I’m striding along the upper tier, head and chest elevated, when two hands appear from a doorway and grab me. I drop the pad. The pen clinks against grid-metal and tumbles to the day room as I’m pulled into a cell reeking of backside sweat and masturbation, a cheese-tinted funk.
“I’m Booga. Let’s fuck,” says a squat man in urine-stained boxers, with WHITE TRASH tattooed on his torso below a mobile home, and an arm sleeved with the Virgin Mary.
Shocked, I brace to flee or fight to preserve my anal virginity. I can’t believe my eyes when he drops his boxers and waggles his penis.
Dancing to music playing through a speaker he has rigged up, Booga smiles in a sexy way. “Come on,” he says in a husky voice. “Drop your pants. Let’s fuck.” He pulls pornography faces. I question his sanity. He moves closer. “If I let you fart in my mouth, can I fart in yours?”
“You can fuck off,” I say, springing towards the doorway.
He grabs me. We scuffle. Every time I make progress towards the doorway, he clings to my clothes, dragging me back in. When I feel his penis rub against my leg, my adrenalin kicks in so forcefully I experience a burst of strength and wriggle free. I bolt out as fast as my shower sandals will allow, and snatch my pad. Looking over my shoulder, I see him stood calmly in the doorway, smiling. He points at me. “You have to walk past my door every day. We’re gonna get together. I’ll lick your ass, and you can fart in my mouth.” Booga blows a kiss and disappears.
I rush downstairs. With my back to a wall, I pause to steady my thoughts and breathing. In survival mode, I think, What’s going to come at me next? In the hope of reducing my tension, I borrow a pen to do what helps me stay sane: writing. With the details fresh in my mind, I document my journey to the prison for my blog readers, keeping an eye out in case anyone else wants to test the new prisoner. The more I write, the more I fill with a sense of purpose. Jon’s Jail Journal is a connection to the outside world that I cherish.
Someone yells, “One time!” The din lowers. A door rumbles open. A guard does a security walk, his every move scrutinised by dozens of scornful eyes staring from cells. When he exits, the din resumes, and the prisoners return to injecting drugs to escape from reality, including the length of their sentences. This continues all day with “Two times!” signifying two approaching guards, and “Three times!” three and so on. Every now and then an announcement by a guard over the speakers briefly lowers the din.
Before lockdown, I join the line for a shower, holding bars of soap in a towel that I aim to swing at the head of the next person to try me. With boisterous inmates a few feet away, yelling at the men in the showers to “Stop jerking off,” and “Hurry the fuck up,” I get in a cubicle that reeks of bleach and mildew. With every nerve strained, I undress and rinse fast.
At night, despite the desert heat, I cocoon myself in a blanket from head to toe and turn towards the wall, making my face more difficult to strike. I leave a hole for air, but the warm cement block inches from my mouth returns each exhalation to my face as if it’s breathing on me, creating a feeling of suffocation. For hours, my heart drums so hard against the thin mattress I feel as if I’m moving even though I’m still. I try to sleep, but my eyes keep springing open and my head turning towards the cell as I try to penetrate the darkness, searching for Bud swinging a padlock in a sock at my head.
Advance review of Prison Time by Clayton Littlewood
Books transport you to other worlds. Good books make you feel part of that world. Outstanding books make that world hard to leave. In his third book, Attwood documents the brutality of prison life, the threat of rape, the strength it takes to survive a violent, drug addicted world– introducing us to characters that fiction would find hard to invent. Attwood’s survival is nail-biting stuff. We live it with him. We pray to God we never find ourselves in that position. We follow his progress as he immerses himself in literature, psychology and philosophy. When I read Prison Time I was reminded of a book I read as a kid, Henri Charrière’s Papillon. That book stayed with me for 40 years. I have no doubt Attwood’s will do the same.