Jonnie Marbles – the Prison Blogs
At the start of August, activist Jonnie Marbles was sentenced to six weeks for throwing a shaving foam pie at Rupert Murdoch. He has agreed to let Bright Green re-post his blogs from prison. Below, we have the first two posts. These first appeared on his blog, anarchish.
Day 1 – going down
by Jonnie Marbles – 13 August
Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
I remember the blood rushing through my ears and the sick cramp in my stomach as the judge passed her sentence. My probation officer, my lawyer and the law of the land all agreed that I should not go to jail. Rupert Murdoch had dropped the charges. But this woman, alone and unaccountable, was having none of it. There were rules, she said, but she, like I, was willing to break them to make a political point. I got 6 weeks.
My girlfriend was in tears and I was in shock as I was led into custody. The man who took me down worked for SERCO, a private contractor, the same one currently bidding to run the probation service. My own probation officer was hard working and overworked, dedicated, caring, fastidious and fair. I dread to think of the plight of future defendants if his job is taken by the lazy gang of plastic pigs who clumsily processed me.
The one exception was Amy, SERCO’s sole female guard. She came and asked if I was OK and I burst into tears. As she comforted me I told her about my son and the summer I would miss with him.
Minimarbles, if you are reading this, whenever that is, I am deeply sorry from the depths of my heart. I love you and miss you. Not seeing you is my real punishment here; the only one I care about, anyway.
My first contact with another prisoner, in the dungeon beneath Westminster Magistrates Court was a trifle unsettling. As the plastic SERCO pig opened the door to my new, temporary digs the man inside (we shall call him Dangermouse, because that is not his name) leapt to his feet. He wasn’t supposed to be put in with anyone else, he protested. There had been problems. Violence. The look of fear in his eyes matched the one growing in my heart, but the SERCO screw locked the door on us anyway.
The mood soon changed once I introduced myself to Dangermouse and we got talking. I was relieved to hear that we would soon be furnished with dinner and tobacco. Dangermouse and I traded prison tips for protest anecdotes till the time came for my appeal.
To nobody’s great surprise the same power-drunk petty dictator who had sentenced me also refused my bail application. She did not give her reasons. It must be excruciating to live a life where everything you do is so utterly predictable.
An hour later and we’re rolling through the gates of Wandsworth Prison. Its 40 foot walls are iced with barbed wire and spikes, which I reckon is gilding the lilly, to be honest. Who has a 40 foot ladder?
I’d been advised by Dangermouse not to say what I’d done, just that I was in for assault. This plan went up like a lit fart the moment I stepped into E-Wing. “Oi, Pie man!” shouted one of my fellow lags. A few cons come over to alternately shake my hand and take the piss. We have some of what I believe is known colloquially as “banter”, something I have not enjoyed since university. It is not like riding a bike.
An “insider”- a prisoner whose job it is to show n00bs like me the ropes. I’m told I’ll be on E wing for a week before being moved. “Go to A wing if you want a quiet life” says a man who was not called Donatello “Go to B or C if you like socialising. If they try to take you to D wing, protest. That’s where they put all the drug addicts”.
I’ve already been advised to keep my tobacco in my sock and never leave it in my cell. “It’s the main currency in here” confides Donatello “That and coffee”. Suddenly I wish I was better at giving stuff up.
My tobacco comes, along with a bag of sundries: 1 plastic plate, 1 plastic bowl, 1 plastic knife, fork and spoon, 1 plastic cup which I immediately lose, 1 tube of toothpaste, 1 toothbrush, 2 sachets of shampoo which state that they have not been tested on animals, 1 bar of soap which does not, 1 envelope, 1 pen, 1 sheet of HM prisons paper. The spartan functionality of my welcome pack immediately focuses the mind. I decide straight away that the item in shortest supply is paper. Donatello quickly finds me some through some quasi-contraband process which I do not understand but for which I am eternally grateful.
That night I watch Celebrity Juice with Mr. Magoo, a sickly Romanian man recovering from an operation who is my new cell mate. Celebrity Juice is easily the worst thing that has happened to me in jail so far.
As I lie on my bunk drifting to sleep I notice a 2Pac quote inked on the wall above my head.
“Please father, I’m a sinner
I’m living in hell
Just let me live on the street
cos there ain’t no peace in jail.”
I hope this place won’t be like that. Maybe 2Pac was a wimp.
So prison is scary, right
As I got back from my medical this morning E Wing was on lock down. From floor 4 I could hear shouting and screaming, banging of prison doors. It was a right kerfuffle. “You’re fucking dead, mate” shouts one prisoner, which is a pretty unfriendly thing to say to your mate. Floor 4. The floor I was about to be moved to.
The exercise yard is tense. I feel exposed walking laps on my own until a guy I recognised calls me over and I take a seat with his crew. They talk gangster shit I half understand interspersed with a quiz regarding my own illegal antics.
“So, why’d you do that, Blood?” asks Ruxspin. I give him the long answer: Beyond hacking dead girls phones, Murdoch supports despots in dictatorships and democracies and has poisoned the public discourse with racism, class war and ever shriller cries for harsh and punitive “justice”. The short answer is that he’s a cunt.
“You shoulda thrown a grenade, mate” suggests Ruxspin. While I might not agree with his tactics you can’t fault the boy’s spirit, particularly not to his face.
I get back to my cell and am told I’m moving in an hour. I pack my things, say goodbye to Mr. Magoo and steel myself. I’ve already gotten the knack of moving round the prison, avoiding eye contact, spotting the nutters with my peripheral vision and keeping a wide berth. It’s not too hard – after all, I was raised on the mean streets of Windsor. These tricks only work on the wings, though. It’s a different story in a 6×8 cell.
“You taking the piss, guv?” opines Splinter, my new bunk buddy. He is the very man many of my haters wished on me after my light hearted prank/vicious assault on our democracy: a big black bloke from Brixton who likes neither my ethnicity nor my proximity to him. Maybe we could both take it up with the Judge?
“I’m Jonnie” I offer, hand extended. No response. After a few silent minutes I try “I sense you’d prefer to be on your own?” I’m curtly informed that Splinter does not give a fuck.
Splinter gruffly orders me to make my bunk up, which I do. “Nah, make it up proper, I don’t want you fucking about later when I’m trying to sleep or watch telly”. By way of apology I tell him that I’m new at this. “What do you mean you’re new at this?” I explain it’s my first day in prison, like, ever.
“Why, what you in for?” he asks
20 minutes of laughter, handshakes and spreading the news down the wings later and the mood has lightened considerably. Splinter gives me some hard won prison advice. He’s been in and out of the system for 30 years.
“If someone comes at you in here you gotta come back at them hard. You’ve gotta smack them up” I tell him that I respect his counsel, but suspect that I might not be the hardest bloke in Wandsworth.
“That’s what I’m saying, bruv, people are going to come at you and you gotta show that you ain’t no dickhead.”
We break for rec. time and showers. I drop the soap, slip over and hurt my arse. Write your own joke for this, you lazy pricks.
During rec. time I also fail to get a phone call. Some bureaucratic fuck-up is still working its way through the system and the guards are unsympathetic to my plight. I’ve yet to speak to anyone in the outside world.
I get angry for the first time and kick the walls of my cell impotently. My problems, of course, are neither remarkable nor surprising. Wandsworth houses over 1600 inmates and, like everything else, is spluttering under the cuts. That means fuck-ups, and a penal system that does not keep to its already deliberately low standards. The daily frustrations must take their toll after a while. It’s no surprise people kick off.
At this point 4 huge blokes block the doorway to my cell, peering round expectantly as another slips through and squares up to me. He looks, well, hard.
“You Jonnie?” he quizzes me. It seems silly to argue. “Yeah? Well Murdoch sent me”
I scan his face for a hint of a smile but I find none, a look I’m all too familiar with from the stand-up circuit. Who is this guy? A Wendi Deng fan?
“Murdoch sent you?” I reply, remembering Splinters words and trying to hide my fear.
“Yeah, he’s my uncle” he says. We both break into grins and the familiar dance of how, why and handshakes plays out. I give him the short answer first, then the long one. Five minutes later Beebop, my newest lag friend, is getting me to sign his copy of The Sun. He says he is going to sell it on e-bay. Maybe I’ll buy it.
So, prison is scary, right? Yes and no. Yes, there are men of violence here, and others who have simply coped with the system’s bullshit for too long. So far, though, the philosophy that brought me here has served me well. Everyone is human and none above another, whether they’re a billionaire or doing bird.
As I write this Splinter is passing the time by watching Top Gear – a reminder, if one was needed, that there are far worse people than the ones you find in jail.