Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge



jail on a shoestring

bang-kwang-prisonThe phone is tapped. The bed is bugged. And that ice cream van outside ain’t selling too many ice creams. So I’ll get to the point. I’m with the East Mayo Boys, outta East Mayo. You might not a heard of us, but we’ve heard of you. We’re hip to every scam. Wise to every scheme. Abreast of all the latest developments on the street. Oh yeah and we move fast, constantly changing our underpants to avoid detection. You might say we’re the best.

But even the best slip up from time to time and this crew, unfortunately, is no exception. Between us we’ve slipped up in pretty much any country you care to name. Japan, Switzerland, Lesotho – there are a lotta countries. Come to think of it, we’re really, really bad. We’re the worst, in fact. But fuck it; we know a lot about prison. So check it out. There’s more to doing time than drug addiction and male rape. That is what I’m here to tell you. Don’t get me wrong, those are still both important parts of the equation. But the big house has a lot more to offer besides that. The secret is to know what you’re looking for.

If you’re the outdoors-y type; join a chain gang in the redneck penitentiaries of Alabama. ‘Taking my shirt off boss’, ‘Putting my shirt back on boss’ – you’ve seen it in the movies, why not do it for real? Or maybe you’re a sports nut. Commit a crime in China and you’ll be sewing soccer balls for Adidas faster than you can find out the Chinese for lawyer. The bottom line is whatever you’re looking for, it’s out there. You just need to get off your ass, commit an offence, get caught, get sentenced and get stuck in. Pick n’ mix baby, pick n’ mix.

Here’s a couple of suggestions to get you started:

Bangkok, Thailand

Sleeps: 7,000
Notoriety: ****
Location: ***
Cuisine: ½
Staff: *

This place was really in the doldrums for a while. But then the Thai government starting going apeshit on drugs again and the crowds been flocking back. Unfortunately this new found popularity has been a bit of a – whadaya call – a mixed blessing for residents, our boy Declan included. He been kinda going apeshit on drugs in his own right. Hehe.

This place is fucking crowded and they never turn the lights off. You sleep with your arms folded, shoulder to shoulder to the next guy. And he could be any kind of freak – 62% of prisoners are mentally disturbed (which makes Declan about the mean) but 10% of them are also suicidal. Now you gotta say, if those ten per cent were more proactive about things, there might be 11.11% more leg room for everyone else. But that’s just me talking here.

New York State, USA

Sleeps: 2,000
Notoriety: ****
Location: *****
Cuisine: ***
Staff: **

You know what’s a fucking mystery to me? Multiculturalism. I don’t mean like how all these people can live together in the same place without killing each other. I mean more like, so what? You pick any city that has a bunch of black people, bunch of white people, Chinese, Arabs all living together in the same place and I guarantee you page one, first paragraph of the tourist guide will say “New York [or London or Rio] is a multicultural city, it’s got different cultures coming out its ass…” Like that on its own should makes it a tourist attraction.

What am I supposed to do? Can I buy tickets? Do they do a matinee? Am I supposed to stop people in the street and ask them to do a folk dance? It don’t make no sense. But people sure seem to go for it so I’ll tell you something for free:the U.S. prison system is a fucking hotbed of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism’s fucking thriving in there, believe you me.

Sing Sing is a classic example. It’s one of the few great American joints of it’s vintage that’s still in business. Sadly, what remains is little more than a goddamned shadow of a one formidable institution. They don’t chain you to the guy next to you no more. There’s no whipping, no getting hung up by your thumbs. Hell, you’re ever allowed talk to each other in the yard now. Hell, they should just throw in Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck, call it goddamned Disneyland and be done with it. Bunch of pussies.

West Virginia, USA

Sleeps: 1,055
Notoriety: ½
Location: ****
Staff: ***½
Cuisine: ****

Two words you never wanna hear when you’re pulling a job with our girl Geraldine – Bacardi Breezer. Sweet Holy Mary…. I end up in knife fight with couple a Mexicans, she ends up in a minimum security female slammer, enduring a brutal regimen of volleyball, tennis and Trivial Pursuit. I’m bound and gagged and half way to El Paso, she’s drinking cappuccino and hob-nobbing with Martha ‘The Killer’ Stewart. What she musta gone during those first few nights of arts and crafts… Well, I don’t even like to think about it.

La Paz, Bolivia

Sleeps: 1,500
Notoriety: ***½
Location: **
Cuisine: ***½
Staff: ***

San Pedro is one of those new themed places that a lot of people could take or leave. (Well, not leave obviously. Not unless you bribe the governor about a billion Bolivianos, believe me.) But I liked it. The gimmick here is that it’s an outside world-themed prison – so you can move your wife and kids in, wear your own clothes, prepare you own food and even run your own cocaine manufacturing business. As part of the wheeze, you even have to pay for accommodation, which can run from as much as $15,000 (for a five star swankpad with satellite TV and internet) to as little as about a dollar (for a broom cupboard with four base cocaine addicts in it.)

Just one quick tip here – guests accused of rape or child molestation are often beaten to death and dumped in the communal pool, so if you’re planning on swimming you might want to check in advance with your friendly neighbour lynch mob. Fun for all the family, eh?

Co. Roscommon, Ireland

Notoriety: *
Cuisine: *****
Sleeps: 200
Staff: *****

You read the papers? You see which way this world is going? What I’m here to tell you is that some day this country is gonna have to get itself the bomb. And when we do, you know where we should test it? County Roscommon. Don’t even bother evacuating the civilian population first either. Fuck ’em. If they were ever gonna do anything they’d a done it by now.

Location aside, this is one of the softest jailhouses in the business. Shit, you need connections to get INTO this place. These suckers give you your own condo your own cooking area. If you can’t cook, they’ll will run out and get you a Chinese. I’m not shittin’ you, this is better than where I live. Except that, as I may have mentioned, it’s in Roscommon.

Baghdad, Iraq

Sleeps: 6,900
Notoriety: *****
Location: *
Cuisine: **
Staff: ½

My guys in Iraq were pretty impressed with how Abu Ghraib retained its own inimitable personality despite, y’know, the change of management. Saddam was a legend in this business and it was hard to see a bunch of pansy-ass part-timers ever fillin’ his shoes. But those green-horns surprised us all, bringin’ in a raft a innovations that complimented, and in some cases actually enhanced, the institution’s brutal reputation. Their sexual humiliation routines in particular, while not entirely original, brought international acclaim and secured the joint’s reputation for some time to come. Way to go guys.

[This article originally appeared in Mongrel magazine’s prison-themed issue some time in 2005. Why I was asked to write on a subject I knew absolutely nothing about, and why I chose to do so in a bizarre American gangster voice I have absolutely no idea whatsoever…]

July 6th, 2009.

One Response to “CHECKING IN”

  1. The phone is tapped. | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    […] changing our underwear to avoid detection by the authorities. You might say we’re the best. Read the rest of this article here. March 25th, […]

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