Jon’s Jail Journal, by guest blogger Shaun Attwood


Welcome again to our ongoing series on censorship, subtle and otherwise. Fair warning: today’s is of the not-so-subtle variety, so as they say on television, viewer discretion is advised.

I’m quite serious: this is most emphatically not going to be a guest post for the queasy. It is, however, an important voice talking about often-taboo subjects — and, I think, a fairly stunning tale about a writer struggling against incredible odds to tell a story that desperately needed (and still needs) to be told.

Therefore, I’m delighted to be introducing today’s guest author, Shaun Attwood, blogger extraordinaire. Since 2004, he has been writing Jon’s Jail Journal — and yes, in response to what half of you just thought, it was not safe for him to write under his own name when he first began trying to expose the grim realities of prison life.

Inexplicably, the folks who ran the prison took exception to that. I imagine that the authorities in the Dreyfus case objected to Emile Zola’s writing about that, too.

As my parents liked to point approximately once every 42 seconds throughout my excruciatingly literary childhood, that’s precisely what good writers are supposed to do, isn’t it?

To give you a sense of the scope of the incredible story Shaun has to tell, here is a blurb for his memoir-in-progress — which I, for one, cannot wait to read — that he was kind enough to share with me:

Green Bologna and Pink Boxers: Surviving Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jail is an account of my journey through America’s most notorious jail system, a netherworld revolving around gang violence, drug use and racism. It provides a revealing glimpse into the tragedy, brutality, comedy and eccentricity of jail life and the men inside. It is also a story of my redemption, as incarceration leads to introspection, and a passion for literature, philosophy, and yoga. The book ends with me starting Jon’s Jail Journal, exposing the conditions in the jail.

Call me zany, but I suspect he knows more than most of the rest of us about institutional censorship. So I am positively overjoyed that he has agreed to share some of his thoughts on the subject with all of us here at Author! Author!

Those of you reading in the UK may already be familiar with Shaun’s writing, either through excerpts of his prison diary published in The Guardian or the numerous articles on his efforts to bring public attention to appalling conditions for prisoners. He also speaks to young people about his jail experiences and the consequences of his drug use.

Even if prison memoir is not your proverbial cup of tea — even if memoir isn’t your usual reading material — please try not to turn away from the horrendous story Shaun is about to share with you. Read it, and read his bio, below. Consider visiting his blog to read what a talented writer has to say about being denied the right to share his writing with the world.

As writers, no one knows better than we the vital importance of self-expression to the human soul; this entire series has been about that, hasn’t it? After all, telling the truth, regardless of obstacles, is what good writers are supposed to do.

So please join me in welcoming a very brave and interesting writer, Shaun Attwood. Take it away, Shaun!


Towards the end of my stay at the Madison Street jail in Phoenix, Arizona, I asked a guard how Sheriff Joe Arpaio got away with flagrantly violating federal law by maintaining such subhuman conditions.

“The world has no idea what really goes on in here,” he replied.

I decided that was about to change.

sheriff_joeSome of you may be familiar with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the star of the reality TV show, Smile…You’re Under Arrest! He’s the sheriff who feeds his prisoners green bologna, puts them to work on chain gangs, and makes them wear black-and-white bee stripes and pink underwear.

He has labelled himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” but he never mentions that he is the most sued sheriff in America due to the deaths, violence and medical negligence in a jail system subject to investigation by human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a maximum-security cell — about the size of a bus-stop shelter, with two steel bunks and a seatless toilet — I used a golf pencil sharpened on the cement-block wall to document the characters, cockroaches, suicide attempts, and deaths. Wearing only pink boxers, I wrote at the tiny stool and table bolted to the wall, trying to ignore the discomfort from my bleeding bedsores. Outdoor temperatures — that sometimes soared up to 120 °F — converted the cell into a concrete oven, making it difficult to write without the sweat from my hands and arms moistening the paper.

Here are the first few paragraphs I wrote:

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 from the rotten chow. 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.

Fearing reprisals from guards notorious for murdering prisoners, I wrote under the pseudonym Jon. As the mail officer could inspect outgoing letters, posting my words was too risky. To get my words out undetected by the staff, I employed my aunt.

She visited every week, and I was allowed to release property to her, such as mail I’d received, legal papers, and books I’d read. The visitation staff’s chief concern was stopping incoming contraband such as drugs and tobacco, so they never thoroughly examined outgoing property.

I hid my words in the property I released to my aunt. She smuggled them out of the jail, typed them up and emailed them to my parents who posted them to the Internet. Considering the time involved in maintaining a blog, I was lucky to have such outside help.

That’s how Jon’s Jail Journal came about. It was one of the first prison blogs, and went on to attract international media attention after excerpts were published in The Guardian.

After serving almost six years for money laundering and drugs, I’m now a free man. I’ve kept Jon’s Jail Journal going, so the friends I made inside can share their stories.

Like most prisoners, those in Arizona do not have Internet access. To get their writing online, they need outside help. Unfortunately, most of them do not have family members willing to run a blog for them.

I started Jon’s Jail Journal unaware Arizona had been the first state to censor its prisoners from the Internet. This came about after the widow of a murder victim read an online pen-pal ad in which her husband’s murderer described himself as a kind-hearted lover of cats. A law passed in 2000 carried penalties for prisoners writing for the Internet. Privileges could be taken away, sentences lengthened.

The freedom to speak without censorship or limitation is guaranteed by the First Amendment, so the ACLU stepped in and challenged this law. In May 2003, Judge Earl Carroll declared the law unconstitutional. Since then, no other state has attempted to introduce such a law.

But even with that law repealed, any inmate writing openly about prison is running the risk of reprisals from the staff and the prisoners. The threat of being harmed or killed by your custodians or neighbours is a strong form of censorship.

I always got permission from the prisoners I wrote about. I hate to think of the consequences if I hadn’t. But even with that safeguard in place, I still ran into occasional problems.

I once wrote about how the prisoners made syringes from commissary items. A prisoner received a copy of that blog in the mail, and circulated it on the yard. Some of the older white gang members gave the order to have me smashed, claiming they were concerned the staff would read that blog and stop the inmate store from selling the items the prisoners needed to make the syringes.

Fortunately, I was writing stories about some well-established prisoners at the time. Like Two Tonys, a Mafia associate classified as a mass murderer. Frankie, a Mexican Mafia hitman. C-Ducc, a Crip with one of the toughest reputations on the yard. They intervened, pointing out that the staff were well aware of how the prisoners made syringes, and that I hadn’t divulged anything that the staff didn’t already know about. After a few tense days during which they instructed me not to walk the yard alone, the matter died down.


To avoid conflict with the administration, I never used real staff or prisoner names. Using real names would have enabled the administration to classify me as a threat to the security of the institution. If you are deemed such a threat, the administration can invoke laws that strip you of your standard human rights. You can lose your privileges, be housed in the system’s darkest quarters, and if the staff really have it in for you, you may suddenly receive a gorilla-sized cellmate intent on using you as his plaything.

On that front, I must credit Shannon Clark — my friend in prison who writes the blog Persevering Prison Pages — for being a much braver man than I. He has sprinkled guards’ names liberally throughout his blog, and he’s not exactly praising them for their humanity. Shannon has a reputation for being fast to slap lawsuits on the staff, which I hope continues to protect him from major retaliation.

After my release in December 2007, I figured my censorship battles with the Arizona Department of Corrections were over. I was maintaining the blog mostly for the stories of the friends I’d made inside, stories they were mailing to me in England. But in August 2008, I stopped receiving mail from them. Then in September, I received a disturbing email:

I wanted to let you know that *** called me today with a message for you. I guess the prison spoke to all of the guys that write to you and told them they are not allowed to write to you anymore. He thinks it’s because they (the prison) don’t like what is being said on your blog. It is a free country isn’t it? Can they do that? It’s ridiculous!

Attempting to sabotage Jon’s Jail Journal, certain staff members had ordered the contributors to stop writing to me. If they continued to write to me, they would receive disciplinary sanctions such as losing their visits, phone calls, and commissary.

This violation of their freedom of speech earned me a nerve-racking live spot on Sky’s headline news. The publicity attracted a prisoners’-rights attorney, and the problem eventually went away.

With all of these obstacles, it’s unsurprising that so few prisoners are writing for the Internet.

Googling for prison bloggers, I immediately noticed the absence of women in this fledgling community. I found one writer, but she had been released. Hoping to bring the voices of women prisoners online, I wrote to two women — Renee, a lifer in America serving 60 years, and Andrea, a Scottish woman arrested for the attempted murder of her abusive boyfriend in England. I’m delighted that these two women are now regular contributors to Jon’s Jail Journal, giving their unique insights on what it’s like in women’s prisons.

To keep Jon’s Jail Journal going, I’ve had to overcome censorship from many angles, some foreseen, some unexpected. The blog has managed to survive these challenges, and to build up a loyal readership over the years. It has become a bridge to the outside world for my prisoner friends. They really enjoy the feedback from the public, and some of them receive pen pals from around the world. Through blogging, they are cultivating their own writing skills, and focusing on something positive in such a negative environment. Jon’s Jail Journal has come a long way since when I lived with the cockroaches.

shaun-attwoodShaun Attwood grew up in North West England where he was an early participant in the burgeoning rave scene that soon took over the whole country. Graduating from Liverpool University in 1991 with a business degree, he immigrated to Phoenix, Arizona to try his luck in the world of finance, and rose quickly through the ranks to become a top-producing stockbroker.

But it was not quite plain sailing. Shaun lost control of his life and finances in the mid-nineties, declared bankruptcy and quit his job.

The rave bug had never left him, and Shaun started to throw raves in Arizona while investing in technology stocks online. By 1999, he was living in a luxurious mountainside home in Tucson’s Sin Vacas, working as a day trader in the day and partying at night. It was the time of the dot-com bubble and he made over a million on paper, but the bubble was soon to burst and Shaun lost most of his fortune and moved back to Phoenix.

In May 2002, he was arrested in Scottsdale during a SWAT-team dawn raid, and alleged to be the head of an organisation involved in a club-drug conspiracy. The local media described him as “bigger than Sammy the Bull.” Facing a life sentence, he entered a lengthy legal battle.

In 2004, Shaun started the blog,Jon’s Jail Journal, documenting the inhumane conditions at the cockroach-infested Madison Street jail run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After two years of being held on remand while three trial dates were cancelled, Shaun signed a plea bargain admitting guilt to money laundering and drug offences. He was sentenced to 9 ½ years, of which he served almost 6.

Shaun had only read finance books prior to his arrest. While incarcerated, he submerged himself in literature – reading 268 books in 2006 alone, including many literary classics. By reading original texts in philosophy and psychology he sought to better understand himself and his past behaviour. His sister sent him a book on yoga, which he still practices.

In September 2004, blog excerpts were published in The Guardian attracting further media attention, including several BBC news stories.

Shaun was released in December 2007, and has since kept Jon’s Jail Journal going by posting prison stories sent to him from the friends he made inside. In July 2008, Shaun won a first prize, a Koestler/Hamish Hamilton Award, for a short story, which he read to an audience at the Royal Festival Hall. In February 2009, Shaun moved to London to work for the McLellan Practice speaking to audiences of youths about his jail experiences and the consequences of his drug taking. He is presently working on his memoir, Green Bologna and Pink Boxers: Surviving Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jail.

51 Replies to “Jon’s Jail Journal, by guest blogger Shaun Attwood”

  1. I have been following Shaun’s writings from (almost) the beginning and have learnt so much about incarceration, the psychology of prisoners and the dynamics of whole prison system.

    Shaun has shone light on a subject that most of us don’t care to or perhaps dare to look at closely.

    Can’t wait for the book!!

    Rachel xx

  2. Hello Anne,

    I am the girlfriend from Shaun.
    I would like to say THANK YOU!

    Greetings and Love from Germany.

    Kathi xo

  3. I’ve been following Shaun on his blog for around three years now, and not only is it a fascinating read, but the message he is putting out there is a very important one that clearly needs to be heard. The particular situation he was in was terrible, but it’s clearly part of a greater system which is broken and the more people find out about its faults, the better.

    I would highly advise reading through his writings from the beginning. Watching Shaun change over his time in incarceration is truly eye-opening and makes for an incredible story.

  4. A fascinating tale, well told – thanks Shaun. Prison life is a mystery to us on the outside, and so we need brave writers like Shaun to tell us what’s being done in our name. The more we know, the easier it is for society to make rational and well-informed decisions about what to do with people who break the law, rather than just thinking that the problem is ‘out of sight out of mind’.

    So well done Shaun for speaking out!

  5. I went to University with Shaun and was so shocked to hear what had happened to him. I read Shaun’s blogs while he was in prison and would love to read a book about his experiences – he has so much to say about himself and the people he shared his life with in jail. While some of the stories are shocking, both Shaun’s humanity and humour shine through. He is an exceptionally talented writer and I want to see his work out there!

  6. I’d like to thank Anne Mini for the opportunity to be her guest blogger this weekend, and also to thank the people for their kind comments.
    It’s breakfast time here in England, so I’m about to eat my cheese and onions on toast with pineapple juice.
    Bye for now!

  7. FBI figures for 2006 and 2007 indicate an overall drop in crime rates in Arizona of around 2%, while in Sheriff Arpaio’s Maricopa County crime rates increased by a fifth over the same period.

  8. I found Shaun’s blog about two years ago. My son was charged with third degree murder after killing his best friend while drunk and involved in extremely reckless behavior. Our family was simply devastated. I tried to continue on with life, hold on to my faith and believe all would be well, but inside I was falling apart, terrified, imagining my son going through the worst. I needed someone who was inside to help me understand real life in jail. It seems a miracle that after searching the internet, there was this google entry that looked really interesting. I went to jonsjailjournal and began to read. I could identify with this young man who so honestly depicted prison life. Just knowing it was surviveable by a middle class, non-career criminal was heartening. I wrote to Shaun and we formed a great friendship. He was a constant support, intelligent and strong, and anwered questions I had concerning prison life as truthfully as he could. We are still friends and I’m thrilled to see his progress out of prison and into a new life! He gives hope to any incarcerated person that things can change, that the experiences mean something and that life goes on. He’s a unique voice in the prison literary genre.

      1. Thanks, Anne-I don’t really consider myself brave because prison is part of our reality now. I do appreciate Gregory pointing out the obvious, but hopefully once again the point is made through Shaun…inmates are human beings. We are past the place of incarceration being enough. Shaun is one of the amazing and lucky ones who used the experience for his good and growth. Many do not. Many are trapped in the cycle of the system, no home plan, no family, bridges burnt, drug addicted with little information on how to get help past a cell, mentally ill and misplaced-the variety of types of people and situations is as great as on the outside. You can’t do a “one size fits all” even as I agree prison is needed. I’m a volunteer now, working with incarcerated substance abusers. I’m not saying don’t punish, but what I am saying is, put as much energy into giving inmates a chance to survive on the outside as punishment is meted out on the inside. As my son’s public defender reminded us, the defence side of the courtroom is usually empty. Even if we don’t want it to be, this is society’s problem.

  9. Censorship is the antithesis of true freedom
    and a threat to all free thinking people. The fact that Joe Arpaio wears a badge in a country which has both a Constitution and a Bill of Rights is frightening enough but when you realize that this fear monger
    continues to get reelected things really get scary. Most people find Arpaio mildly amusing and laugh off his inane press releases until they or someone they love ends up in one of his jails. I know that was the case with me. I myself have sued Joe Arpaio six ways from Sunday, won every time, but nothing has changed nor will it until the people who vote for him come to their collective senses. Do not wait for Arpaio to change, it won’t happen. I too look forward to my friend Shaun’s book.

  10. I first read Shaun while he was still incarcerated, after reading one of the Guardian’s article, and blog entries, I just wrote to say hey..nice writing not expecting a reply. But he wrote back..and he did so even when he was down to golf pencil that he would sharpen on the wall (was it?).

    I like the fact Shaun brought to our knowledge that prisoners are people too. Revealing from the jail journal, daily routine. Living on the outside is a full time job, imagine what it is like on the inside where suddenly there is a new set of rules..

    I enjoyed very much every word Shaun so brilliantly put together.

    I’m looking forward to read his book..Come on..Let’s get this baby published!!

  11. Censorship comes in many forms. I myself feel the most dangerous is the self-imposed censorship we often place on our own hearts and souls. It prevents their true nature from being seen, heard, and experienced. It stifles our happiness.

  12. Confession time. I admit it, I was one of those “GO JOE!” supporters in the 90′s, laughing at the prisoners on TV eating ostrich meat and wearing pink boxers thinking what a clever and innovative man that Sheriff Joe was. It wasn’t until my family got a real up close and personal look into life on the inside that any of us stopped and took notice. Thank you, Shaun, for helping to open our eyes to what really goes on under Sheriff Joe’s command. We are human beings. We all make mistakes and while we do deserve punishment, we also deserve humanity. Unfortunately in Maricopa County we also need protection from the very people employed to uphold the punishment! Voters in Arizona need to realize what is really going on inside the jails. There but for the grace of God, could go any of us. To sit and rot in these deplorable, inhumane conditions BEFORE sentencing, before ever being found guilty of anything is shocking. And like Derick pointed out, it’s not keeping crime down in the city with the “toughest Sheriff in America.” So we have to ask ourselves, what is really going on here?

    Keep up the good fight, Shaun. We are all behind you and we know you’re going to set the world on fire. Let’s just hope Arpaio is in the center on a big stake. I’ll bring the marshmallows.

  13. It’s never easy to expose, and then talk about the underbelly of society. Especially when most hard working citizens have been duped into thinking their tax dollars have been spent wisely. No one likes to hear that they have been fooled, and no less cheated out of there money by trusted elected officials. But this is what’s happening in Arizona right now. And, yes it’s dangerous for anyone, let alone an up and coming writer, who for over 5 years has exposed these corruptions and frauds. I was there in the beginning when you started your “blog”, and I am still reading it today. With your writing I am sure you kept your self from going mad. But more then that, you have given voice to those that have no voice. A voice now heard from the underbelly that lives in Arizona. Keep up the good fight, and the good work.

  14. My apologies to those of you who posted your comments a couple of times — my blogging program is set up so I must individually approve each first-time commenter, and I hadn’t anticipated just how great the response to Shaun’s guest post would be! I’ll try to check in a bit more often, so everyone’s voice gets heard in a timely manner.

    But please don’t panic if your comment doesn’t appear right away! It’s just the nature of the beast, I’m afraid.

  15. Thanks again for the latest round of comments!

    For those of you inquiring about my jail memoir, here’s where I’m at with it:

    Last month, I finished getting the entire story down. Now I’m adding details from the hundreds of letters I wrote from the jail. I have a whole box of letters I sent to my finacee, Claudia, alone. The letters are rich in details I couldn’t possibly remember, including various smells and the tastes of the different meals. The letters are also full of dialogue. Just last week I found pages of the chief visitation officer’s warning lecture to the jail visitors. I’m lucky to have written so much down at the time. I have copies of grievance forms documenting the cockroach infestation and the medical issues that came about because of the conditions.

    Once I’ve layered more details in, I’m going to begin polishing the middle and later chapters.

    It’s been a multi-year project, and I doubt I could have brought it this far without the feedback and support from my family and blog readers.

    As they say in the jail:

    Good lookin’ out, dawgs!

  16. Amid all this praise everyone’s forgetting that this guy was involved in criminal activity. There’s no denying that he’s learned to write and he’s used prison to improve himself. But the fact is he went off to Arizona and ended up selling drugs for greed and profit. He must have been aware of the strict anti drugs regime in force in that State yet he chose to disregard it and continue with his criminal activity. Therefore he deserved to injure the pain of his punishment. There are hard prisons throughout the world. You chose to sell drugs in one of these places and you take your chances. I, like many others think prison should be hard. I’m sure Shaun won’t be rushing back to Arizona to commit more crime. It’s been a deterrent that’s worked in his case.

    As this blog is all about censorship, I’d be interested to watch whether Anne allows it to be published.

    Gregory UK

    1. Gregory Perkins,

      I agree with you. I most certainly put myself in pink boxer shorts, and I deserved to be punished. I take full responsibility for my crimes. I also agree that prisons should not be holiday camps.

      But how hard should prisons be? The conditions I experienced in Arpaio’s jail system were way beyond the minimum requirements established in federal law. Arpaio should not be allowed to maintain illegal conditions that jeopardize everyone’s safety and health.

      Treating people like animals causes them to return to society like animals, and they commit more crimes. The FBI crime stats for Phoenix back this up. Arpaio even commissioned Arizona State Uni to see if his policies reduced recidivism. When ASU stated he was making recidivism worse, he refused to accept their findings.

      Arpaio’s hardline policies have failed. The deaths and lawsuits are off the scale, and the taxpayers are footing the bill.

      I’ve paid my debt back to society. When is Arpaio going to be held accountable for his human rights crimes?

      Greg, would you still consider the conditions appropriate if you had a young family member arrested for drugs and then beaten to death in Arpaio’s jail by the gangs or the guards? This stuff is really going on in Arpaio’s jail system. Here’s a link to some of the murders.

      Many people are unaware of the extent of the conditions. Maybe you are one of them. That’s understandable. I was oblivious before my arrest. It’s my hope that my book changes that.

      Thanks for your comment! I believe a diversity of viewpoints is necessary for a healthy debate.


      Shaun Attwood

      1. One more thing and then I’ll shut up. Your prison sentence, your removal from free society, is your punishement. You are not sent to prison to be further punished. If this was the case, why not torture all prisoners? Surely, that will make them better members of society once they are eventually released.

    2. To Gregory Perkins:
      Ever smoked a joint Greg? Do you have anyone close to you who has? Let’s lock them up and throw away the key. You are the very person I was addressing when I wrote that most people do not realize what the esteemed Joe Arpio is doing until you or someone you care about ends up in one of his dungeons. Please keep in mind Greg that in the United States one is presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. This distinction is lost on the good Sheriff Arpaio. I can’t help but wonder what a sactactimonious person such as yourself would say, on Mothers Day, to a Mom who has lost her only son. His only crime was being mentally ill and having the bad fortune to end up in ” Sheriff’ Joe’s” custody. This is not a theoretical question Greg, it really did and does continue to happen. It Cost the taxpayers of Maricopa County 7.5 Million dollars. The actual bill to the taxpayers of Maricopa County for these “erros in judgment” as Arpaio calls them, now hovers at about 50 million dollars. The hallowed halls of Joe Arpaio’s Madison Street Jail cry out loud to you Greg with the sounds of souls who needlessly perished in one of Arpaio’s jails. I wonder if you hear them? If not, listen up. There but for the grace of God go you or I.

  17. Interesting point, Gregory, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of journalistic accounts about the crimes in this case. Reporters in Phoenix documented it quite extensively at the time, as even the first page of a Google search demonstrates, so I don’t think that there is really any serious danger that the world at large would forget that there was a chain of events here. Also, I believe that Sheriff Arpaio is currently on a book tour, promoting his own views on the subject; I saw him on the Colbert Report just the other week, an interview that’s readily available online.

    There is, in short, a multiplicity of opinions out there.

    That being said, this blog is primarily concerned with writing issues; this was a guest post by a memoirist. While the non-literary questions you raise are intriguing ones that certainly deserve vigorous public debate — a debate in which I might be inclined to participate quite extensively in another forum, in fact — I’m not convinced that this is the appropriate place for it.

    To set your fears at rest about how I go about approving comments on this site, however: as I hope anyone familiar with this blog on a long-term basis is already aware, I approve comments that disagree with what I’ve said all the time. The approval requirement is in place to prevent the literally thousands of spam comments I receive each week from posting, not to stymie discussion. To be blunt about it, some of my readers are quite young, and I’d prefer that they not be exposed unnecessarily to spam intended to attract readers to adult-only sites. So far, this system has worked quite well.

    I would strongly encourage anyone who isn’t sure whether anything he plans to submit as a comment is appropriate for this site to consult the rules for posting comments here. I think they make it quite clear what kind of discourse is and is not acceptable here. If not, please post a comment asking for clarification of any particular point that’s puzzling.

    Thanks for reminding me that I should mention that from time to time, Gregory. I tend to assume that my readers are already aware of the norms of the site, but new readers show up every day.

  18. Gregory, I think you need to note Derick’s comment above. The residivism rate in Maricopa County is above the national average. Which suggests that keeping prisoners in sub-human conditions does not make them better people. They need education and rehabilitation if they are to escape the cycle of crime which lands them back in prison. Jackie

  19. Shaun is a very talented and kind soul who helps inspire the world by helping everyone.
    “people have a need to know. journalists have a right to tell. finding the facts can be difficult. reporting the story can be dangerous. freedom includes the right to be outrageous. responsibility includes the duty to be fair.
    a free press, at its best, reveals the truth”

  20. Hi, Shaun’s sister here so declaring an interest!
    I think it needs to be made clear – although it is touched on above that Sheriff Joe’s jails are mostly for people held on remand awaiting sentencing. Hence, some of these people will be innocent and later freed.
    What people in the UK are largely unaware of us that most cases in the US – abover 90% – never get to trial and instead prisoners are kept on remand for months, years awaiting sentencing while a plea deal is worked out.
    Surely, prisoners who have not been found guilty of anything (yet) have the right not to be tortured while awaitnig sentencing.
    Once Shauhn was sentenced he was moved to a prison where the conditions where 100 % better than in jail. Therefore, he was treated better once he was found guilty than when he was ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
    Also as Wierd Al points out many of the prisoners in Sheriff Joe’s jails are minor offenders, smoking joints or driving offences but they are held in conditions that perhaps Gregory believes hardened criminals should be held in.

  21. Well done to Shaun for bringing these issues into the public forum. As Jayne comments above, people are likely to remain blissfully ignorant about the shortcomings of the various criminal justice systems until one of their close family members / friends is arrested. Until that time, most people seem content to regurgitate whatever misinformation they are being fed by the Media, without truly considering the full picture. It is, after all, Society’s problem as a whole when a prisoner is released into the community full of hate because they were treated worse than most animals for years at a time.

  22. Sean’s blog is a very important one and I am grateful that he took the chances he took to get it out there. I’ve been following him for several years and some of the stories he tells make my stomach churn, but none so much as the ones that bring light to the very real censorship that goes on. That is a whole other type of crime, in my opinion. Thanks for the quality writing and I look forward to your book, Sean!

  23. Thank you Anne for publishing a dissenting voice. I came to your blog via jonsjailjournal which I came across while researching crime. The author certainly has a great many supporters, but I still remain of the opinion that prison should be hard. The money spent on education and rehabilitation in UK prisons would be better spent on the NHS and Department of Education which would benefit law abiding individuals not those who commit crime. Rehabilitation rarely works.

    I’ve never smoked marijuana or used any other drug and I believe that individuals who choose to abuse themselves in this way deserve to be punished. I think that deaths within the prison system are regrettable, but prison officers have to deal with abuse and violence everyday. They are under a great deal of stress and accidents happen.

    I’ve read some of jonsjailjournal and the author’s writing skills are not in question. I hope he has given up all involvement in crime and that he doesn’t let down his faithful followers, but from my experience a leopard doesn’t change its spots.

    Gregory UK

    1. This is for Gregory:
      I will first say this. You have every right to your opinion and while I strongly disagree with you I would nonetheless fight to the death, as many Americans already have, for your right to publically speak your mind. Having said that, I say this; For someone who claims to have researched crime, you seem to lack even the most rudimentary understanding of the difference between a jail and a prison in the United States. About 80% of the people being held in Arpaio’s Jails have not been foung guilty of anything. They are for the most part poor people who can not afford bail. (remand) As to your simple-minded approach to the serious problem of drug abuse, punish all those who of their own free will put a substance into their own body, I can only laugh. You cannot legislate morality Greg, it has not worked for two thousand years and it never will.
      As to your statement that ” a leopard doesn’t change his spots”, often you are right about this but before you get too happy let me say this; This statement does not bode well for you my friend. It means you will be stuck with your narrow-mindedness for the rest of your time on Earth.
      Don’t just look at leopards Greg. Take a peek at how a butterfly begins it’s life and the transformation which takes place. People can change. However, you are far more likely to affect the change you seek if you use LOVE, not punishment.

    2. Gregory,

      I can see where you are coming from, so let’s look at some numbers.

      Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Record

      2,700 Lawsuits Filed Against Arpaio
      Between 2004 and 2007
      2,700 lawsuits were filed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Federal and County Courts — 50 times the number of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston combined. [Phoenix New Times, 6/10/08 and 12/7/07]

      The lawsuits have cost the taxpayers $50 million, and there are over $50 million in lawsuits pending.

      This is what happens when money is not spent on rehabilitation and education.

      All the best,

      Shaun Attwood

  24. i look forward to reading your memoirs and taking a even closer look at your blog. i just read shantaram which of course exposes (in a somewhat fictional perhaps) way the conditions of prision life. it made me think a lot about criminality, punishment, redemption and the way society treats those in the “(in)justice” system. i’m glad you are doing what you are doing and communicating with the world to expose truther and change perceptions. good luck!

  25. Thanks, Matthew and Vanessa!
    And, Matthew, I was one of those blissfully ignorant people you mentioned. My attitude was forced to change fast.

  26. Just one other point-I know so much has been talked and written to death…at the time of Shaun’s incarceration, he was getting himself “on the right path” so to speak. There was already a move in the right direction. Thousand of ex-addicts, alcoholics and any stuck in repetitive abusive behaviors have proved what works-a change of mind and of direction (known as repentence in religious circles). I have seen genuine life changes weekly. And I do believe in the power of God to make a person completely new.

  27. Brilliant! A lively discussion with people blessed with an open mind, leads towards a meeting of minds.

    I have been in contact with Shaun for 5 or 6 years, and I have seen his ideas grow.

    Like Gregory, I was once a ‘hang ‘em and flog ‘em! man, but closer experience of how government and law really operates gave me deeper insight.

    The system is dysfunctional in an ever-increasing degree, and it’s errors are simply swept under the carpet.

    Put simply, our system is built solely upon fear, and when people respond with fear-based acts, they are punished, in what is an exponentially-growing vicious circle.

    Shaun has demonstrated by his example what one man can achieve when light is brought into a dark place.

    The symbols of fear produce only more fear, because the only real defence is Love, or defencelessness.

    This takes moral courage of a spiritual nature, and requires the use of the Sixth Sense and above, in a fearful, five senses, limited world.

    That it works is shown by the writings of those that Shaun has inspired.

    My advice – if you will accept it – is to see if you can read between the lines, because nothing is ever quite what it seems.

    Your black and white approach bears no relation to life, but perfectly reflects the sound-bite spin of television propaganda put out by the political system.

    And as you may have noticed, their reality is globally destructive, and unsustainable.

    If you wish to discuss the matter with me in greater depth, I would be happy to ( contact Shaun ).

    So I wish you both well – Shaun in his Quest to Know Himself, and Gregory in his Quest to Open His Mind to Truth ( be warned – it is a slippery slope with no return! ).

    And to Anne – ‘Well done!’ for taking Shaun further.

    We cannot change the world, we can only change ourselves.

    However, as we change ourselves, The World Mind knows, and marks our progress.

    So it is with Shaun.

    You HAVE changed, and it HAS been noticed.

    Keep at it.

    Zen 🙂

  28. What sheriff joe doesn’t understand is the fed’s are watching and making notes about the abuse of his power and he’s not backing down till he’s removed by a U.S. Fed judge . I’ve lived in maricopa county for 10 yr’s and i’ve seen how he act’s and i’ve seen how his deputies react while on patrol . Some of his deputies are nice and some are moron’s . But some how he get’s re-elected every 4 yr’s and the tax payer’s are not seeing how much is going out to support his law suit’s because he doesn’t care . The state of AZ need’s to set guidelines on how many yr’s a sheriff can serve . Where i’m from it’s either 2 or 4 ..He’s getting old and he won’t live forever

  29. I’m just glad that I had the means to bring his work to the attention of more and different people — and that so many have taken the time to respond thoughtfully to what he had to say. I’m really, really looking forward to the public discussion after his memoir comes out.

  30. I’ve read a good amount of Shaun’s writings while he was incarcerated. I am a retired law enforcement professional from Colorado, having lived in Phoenix now for the past five years. Prior to moving here I heard and read about Mr. Arpaio from afar, and didn’t have problems with pink underwear, tent city, or limited television. To some degree I still don’t. However, once I moved here and became close to the issue I quickly learned what a good arpaio is and how embarrassing he is to professional law enforcement, and to those who have the displeasure of working at MCSO, and can’t get away.

    I know, in my heart of hearts, that Shaun’s story is only one of probably hundreds or thousands just like it. The Department of Justice is in the process of conducting an investigation at this time and I can only hope they are paying attention to the hundreds of thousands of pages of information they have been provided.

    I have a son who is alcohol addicted and has been in and out of a county jail in Colorado three times now, the latest stretch was six months. The conditions there were tolerable and he finished his time. I don’t know that he would have done so in Maricopa County. I honestly fear for the lives and safety of every person who enters MCSO custody.

    This is NOT a joking matter, folks. Joe Arpaio is a very sick old man who doesn’t care who he has to injure or kill to get attention.

    If I were still a police officer today I would take every opportunity to release a suspect on bail (absent persons crimes) before putting them into MCSO custody.

    Shaun, I applaud your efforts to get the word out, and I appreciate your honesty regarding your debt to society for your bad decisions.

    1. That chills my blood to hear, Tommy, but thank you so much for saying it. All throughout this discussion, I’ve been wondering how responsible law enforcement staffers felt about these sorts of conditions. It would make your job harder, I would imagine, because while this kind of treatment may appeal to some in theory, the fallout must be felt throughout the prison system.

  31. Reply from Shannon Clark of Persevering Prison Pages:

    Thank you, Anne! I’ve managed to obtain a hard copy of Shaun Attwood’s gues posting on your blog. Despite Shaun being the author and the subject matter contrary to the AZ Dept. of Corrections’ desired false image, the censors missed it. Like Shaun, I’ve experienced attempts to censor my blog content. Sure, I’m known by prison staff, and even top administrators, for name-dropping and revealing things they’d like to remain hidden from public scrutiny, but not only is it my RIGHT to do so, it’s the public’s right to know what, where, their tax dollars go. Do I fear retribution? Of course. Will I censor myself? Not likely. I’ve experienced disciplinary sanctions, intimidation, veiled threats, and interference with my rights. I’ve also successfully litigated civil rights lawsuits and have a great following on my blog. Persevering Prison Pages isn’t going anywhere! I care too much about my fellow man (and woman), myself and my message to let that happen. Shaun inspired me to start the blog, as well as to see myself become a better person and help others. Had he been silent…I’d possibly been found in my cell overdosed on dope, or even worse, alive in my cell wishing I had a real friend to speak to.

    Shannon Michael Clark

    1. Keep up the good fight, Shannon! For those of you who want to check out Shannon’s blog, here’s the link.

  32. New to posting….would someone let my little brother know ive been following his blog (perservering prison pages) for many years and think about him and also a few others…keep it up…very informational. I tried to post on his but it wouldnt go thru….thx. ..big sis

  33. I have never heard anything good about Mr. Arpaio and as one law enforcement officer said, “he is an embarressment to law enforcement.” Unfortunately I spent one day in the “horseshoe”, it is the jail in Phoenix, AZ., it was terriable. This one girl, an alcoholic, was going through the ddt’s and the next day before I could be released, I had to wait in the last holding cell while they took care of this girl because she had gone into convulsions and had to be taken to the hospital. That is my only and last expierence in jail, but truely believe what Shaun has said is true and hope someday soon that something can be done. Why in the world people allow this kind of thing to happen I will never know or understand.

    I still am having a hard time understanding why the man who shot my son in the head is still a free man and all it took to keep him out of jail is that he claims it was an accident.

    Thank you Shaun for having the balls to say something.

  34. I knew Shaun in Phoenix years ago; he is real, people! You have support all over Arizona, brother, I guarantee you that!

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