Prison and Beyond


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By John Simons

ISBN: 978-1-84747-268-7
Published: 2007
Pages: 84
Key Themes: prison, drugs, autobiography, mental health, personal growth



This book is one mans experience of his time incarcerated in the prison system of this country. Basically it is a diatribe against the system, what it does to human beings and how it affects the lives of those unfortunate enough to have been in the same predicament. The injustice of it all and the corruption that is so rife within the system but no one wants to acknowledge or talk about. Lots of books have been written on this subject but I have tried to take a slightly different slant on the story and go through some of the different types of people we have locked away in our prisons and their plights. We are always trying to find someone else to blame when we come across a bad situation instead of taking a good look at ourselves. This is the attitude taken through the whole of society, from the top to the bottom. Billions of pounds of taxpayers money is spent on trying to find solutions to our problems hence jails full of people who have no right in being there in the first place. The people that are responsible for this situation are the ones making the laws, you cannot fart in public these days without some individual proclaiming him or herself as the fart police and giving you a fine, madness, the whole kit and caboodle. I have not produced an answer to these problems, although I know there is one, I have merely tried to point out the madness of our prison system. The second part of this story is about getting out of prison and the changes I have noticed since my release, which are considerable and quite unbelievable in some cases.

About the Author

I am John Harry Simons and was born in Berwick on Tweed on 22nd August 1952, my dad was a sailor and my mum a housewife and mother, I have a younger brother called Andy. We lived in Wooler in Northumberland for the first 6 years of my life and then moved to Gravesend in Kent. My mum became a schoolteacher and my dad carried on sailing for a while. I ended up going to the H.M.S. Worcester nautical training college, a big square rigger moored at Greenhithe on the River Thames, where I learned to become a navigating officer in the Merchant Navy. I did my apprenticeship in the Merchant Navy and then left to pursue other ways of living and eventually got married and had 2 children, both of whom are now over 30 years old. I was divorced in 1982 and have had a very colourful career since then. I became a single parent when my son came to live with me in 1986 and was one until he went to university some six years later. I eventually got caught up in the world of cocaine smuggling and was caught in 2002 and sentenced to 8 years for my efforts. I have now been at liberty for just over a year and am trying my hand at writing, a skill which I picked up whilst at Her Majesty’s Prisons.

Book Extract

When I got caught and put in prison there was no doubt about my guilt, I was caught bang to rights and I was prepared to take my just deserts. I was on remand; I knew there was no way I would get bail, not for the importation of two kilos of premium grade cocaine. I had no idea what was in store for me in prison and I had serious misgivings about the whole thing but there was nothing I could do about it, I was locked up and that was that. There is nothing that can prepare a person for jail and its nothing like people imagine it to be, and it definitely is not like anything you see on TV, Bad Girls etc. They are pure fantasy. It was all a bit surreal for me at first but I soon got the measure of the situation, it was very much like the expensive boarding school I went to when I was a teenager. I suppose, looking back on it, that the school stood me in better stead than I could have thought. Yes, it was like a school for exceptionally naughty boys, it almost felt like home after a while. One thing that really surprised me when I arrived at my first prison was how clean everything looked, the floor was shiny and the paintwork everywhere was pretty good, now I know why. They ain’t all like that!

One of the most striking things is the way that the reality of the situation comes rolling in after the initial righteous indignation wears off. Surprisingly enough I soon started to get into the way of life, the first thing was to get a job and do something, anything. So I got a job in the prison laundry and went on from there, working out that there is always a way to make a little extra by using the workplace to do a little private work for some of the other inmates. I was soon pressing peoples clothes and picking up my pay in other ways. One guy I washed and pressed for was the no.1 on the serving area in the food queue so I didn’t have to worry about milk and sugar and all that sort of thing. Another had a bit of puff (Cannabis) so he used to pay me with that, others gave me tobacco and sweets or whatever I needed at the time. Yes, you need to get a job in the nick.

There are a few things I would like to clear up before I go any further, I have mentioned that nothing could prepare a person for jail, it’s not so much the jail but the feelings that affect you once that door is locked behind you and there you are inside the cell. The isolation is terrible, but worse than that is the realisation that your rights as a human being ceased to exist the moment you entered the prison doors. The fact that you are powerless and can do nothing about the situation, your life has been taken over and that is not a good feeling. Having to jump through hoops for someone you wouldn’t give the time of day normally, being ordered around by some power crazed screw just for the hell of it. Having some con come to you and try to relieve you of whatever they think they can get from you. I have seen people really freaking out about their situation but being powerless to do anything about it. This is time for some serious self examination and to try to come to terms with the tangle you’re in. It doesn’t improve as you go through the system, if anything it gets worse. The thing is that by the time I got to a “D” cat prison I’d gotten used to the ways of the system.

Here I was, now a criminal working five days a week for £7.50 washing and pressing laundry for other nicks and the one I was in. The righteous indignation was hard to get over and some things still rankle after all this time (three and a half years) especially the hypocrisy of the system. It’s very weird being in jail, I didn’t think I was a criminal or I certainly didn’t feel like one but what exactly does a criminal feel like? This is some fantasy we all indulge in, we think we know about someone but what do we really know about them? What do we really know about ourselves is more to the point. Why do we have to bow down to what someone else tells us is right and proper? Right and proper for whom? I suppose the criminals of today are anarchists, although most of them wouldn’t know what anarchy meant if it kicked them up the arse but none the less they are the true anarchists.


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