By Eve Pearce
One of the main problems with the prison system is that inmates are often clueless as to what they are going to do when they are finally released. This can lead prisoners to believe that they have no choice but to return to a life of crime the minute they are set free. For some, writing can provide a career path as well as a means of self-expression.
A perfect example of this is the case of former drug baron Shaun Attwood, who served twenty-six months in prison after being caught running an ecstasy ring in Arizona. During his incarceration, Attwood sent out details of everyday prison life to be published on an Internet blog. His blog was featured in a number of different national newspapers in his home country of England and sparked a passion for writing within him.
He has since had a highly successful book published entitled Hard Time, which describes his descent into crime and subsequent incarceration. He also won a Koestler Trust award for literature, which is an arts prize awarded to prisoners and ex-offenders. Creative writing has ensured that Attwood has remained on the straight and narrow.
Maricopa County Jail
Attwood was incarcerated in Maricopa County (Arizona) Jail, which is run by strict authoritarian Joe Arpaio and regarded by many people as America’s toughest jail. Attwood went from a life of drug-taking and hedonistic excess to having to quit cigarettes, alcohol and narcotics and survive amongst murderers, crystal meth addicts and violent white supremacist gang members. The Maricopa County Jail is famous for its strict routine. Inmates must go without nicotine, R- and X-rated television, and coffee. They are made to wear pink uniforms and fed food that some people argue is not fit for human consumption.
Attwood learned that crime does not pay. His blog did not attempt to justify his actions; he admitted that he had been extremely stupid. It merely chronicled the conditions that he was forced to live in and questioned whether the Maricopa County Jail was conducive to producing rehabilitated prisoners or whether it would send them back into the world worse than they were when they arrived in the jail.
Upon his release from prison, Attwood wrote Hard Time, which told his story from start to finish and concluded by saying how stupid and misguided his criminal career had been. He managed to secure a publishing deal with Mainstream Publishing and his book received critical acclaim. It was featured in numerous local and national newspapers and even appeared on Sky News.
He has since released two e-books and has a third book on the way, chronicling the time that he spent as an ecstasy dealer and reflecting upon how foolish he was. Instead of committing crime, he now travels around his native England, giving talks to schoolchildren about the dangers of breaking the law. Had he not had writing to occupy his time, who knows how differently his story might have ended.
From Jail to a Writing Career
One of the dangers of being released from prison is that an individual can have nothing to go out to. If somebody feels that he or she is doomed to a life of joblessness due to his or her criminal record then lawbreaking might take place as a result.
Writing can provide an alternative.
Everybody has a story to tell and for those who possess sufficient talent, putting pen to paper can produce financial rewards. It can mean the difference between leaving an institution without a clue what to do next and being set free with dreams of being a successful author.
Not everybody can embark upon a writing career but the most important thing is that the possibility of doing so can give people hope. It can also give individuals a much-needed channel for creative expression that can help them to reflect upon the mistakes that they have made in the past and ensure that they avoid making similar mistakes throughout the years to come.
Sometimes people commit crime because they genuinely have no idea what else to do. Writing can provide an alternative and help keep people on the correct path.
Eve Pearce is a full-time feature writer as well as an art and photography aficionado. She has written for numerous sites on various topics over the past few years.