Now at Amazon as PAPERBACK and Kindle
Time for Cannabis - The Prison Years" is a true-life story of the journey through arrest, time on remand, trial and conviction and time served in 4 UK prisons.
This book is a valuable comparsion of prison regimes and personal experiences of the damage and the healing possible, and how the treatment of prisoners can affect them upon release.
All this in prisons that claim their aim is to treat inmates with humanity.
This book is not meant to be humorous, although a certain amount of humour is unavoidable, partly because the nonsense and inconsistencies which I came up against during my time served, and partly because sometimes it hurts so much that one has to either laugh or cry. I fully intend to criticise the prison and the court systems, but not, I hope, unnecessarily, and, I also hope, positively.
This is not meant as a horror story, a fiction, or an analytical work, although I will admit in advance to colouring and flavouring events, changing names, and interspersing actual events with thoughts of the occasion. This is to increase the readability of what might otherwise be a very 'flat' book, considering the flatness of the system.
I consider myself very fortunate, even in this experience, as I have previously travelled to many different countries, and witnessed the different languages and customs therein, which I feel has enabled me to adopt a more detached and somewhat enlightened attitude to the strangeness which I constantly experienced. Many inmates are either the well learned ‘old lags’ who have been in and out of the system for years, or else are younger and more naive.
I was also fortunate to have already received an education, thus being able to further it using the institution's facilities and classes, able to write and read easily, unlike many of my comrades, and thus help the time pass easily and productively. I was also fortunate enough, for want of a better phrase although it may sound as selfish as it is, to have first arrived at a prison along with some acquaintances, and to recognise a few faces already there who I could turn to for help with day to day life. Once again I sympathise greatly with the young, scared and lonely convict or detainee.
Although it is only natural that I feel some anger and resentment against the way I have sometimes been treated, in particular by the courts, this emotion has never overwhelmed me.
I see so many things wrong with the world that Mankind has created, not least the way in which selfish and greedy individuals have polluted our beautiful planet and continue to do so, perhaps to the point of no return and the devastation of possibly all life. I fail to see how the Governments on this world, who often seem to me to be evil, can allow the future to develop in this way, ruining the chances of happiness and health for their descendants. In the sixties I grew up under the constant threat of nuclear devastation imposed by individuals so many miles away, whose identities would never be known to most of us. But this being bad enough, at least there was a chance of survival.
As the sixties have become the nineties there are so many problems in this world, any one of which will destroy us as individuals or as a race, including Aids, acid rain, radiation poisoning, the 'Greenhouse Effect', the ozone depletion, the pollution of the air, sea and land, space junk, chemical additives in our food and water, and on and on and on.
Add to this unemployment and the violence shown on TV, in video’s and in the press, to the point of saturation and ‘normality’, and it is less surprising what is happening on our streets. It has been said that by the age of twelve the average American child has witnessed several thousand murders on the screen, and doubtless a similar figure is true for British children.
In the East they say life is cheap, and death is all around, and certainly it seems that in many countries where overpopulation has become such an everyday burden, there are constantly civil wars or violent freedom fighters whom the various governments call terrorists. But do the governments and industrial bosses realise the terror which they daily cause us in our lives, through their greed? Is it surprising there is so much violence and crime in the country?
Advertising is a strange practice to apply to people who are unable to afford the goods or services advertised, and although increasing sales amongst the select few, causes nothing but unsatisfied desire amongst everyone else. Consider this story. It concerns a village deep in the heart of the Egyptian desert near Libya. I forget the name, but that is unimportant. This small oasis settlement had been there for hundreds if not thousands of years, the locals content to grow what they could, and keep their livestock. In years past they may even have profited from accommodating the occasional traveller. They were certainly unlikely to attract any tourists, unless some big archaeological discovery was ever made. Being short of power, having no electricity and little means of producing it, they were unlikely to attract much big industry.
The locals remained poor people, but never starved. They were basically content, having what they needed and most of what they wanted. This is the point: they had most of what they wanted, or rather most of what they knew about that they could want. Of course they may have wanted a better doctor, a panacea, a magic carpet, but these were merely dreams.
One day however, one of the locals had to traverse the desert to Cairo, for personal reasons. Suddenly, instead of being surrounded by friends and sands, he found himself in a huge city, some fifteen million souls, tall buildings, thousands of cars, buses, trucks, bicycles, people in all style of dress, restaurants, businesses and even more foreigners than the population of his home village. What did he see? Advertising. Somehow he managed to get hold of a television, battery operated, and having been shown how to work it, he took it home with him.
Fortunately, or maybe not so, they could pick up signals in the village and they were able to watch films, news and documentaries about a country and a world they never new existed. The children and young men were, of course, able to watch too. And what did they see? Advertising Young mini-skirted girls drinking cola, cowboys with their special cigarettes, the blond bombshell in the tight jeans, the fast car and the gorgeous lady who went with it, watches, stereos, holidays, household appliances and magical gadgets, and so on.
So, what happened to their simple needs and desires? They multiplied out of all proportion. They wanted all these things too, but of course they had no money so they could only dream on in frustration. Until one day three or four young men themselves set off to Cairo, where the streets were paved with gold and one could make enough money to buy some of the well and ‘successfully’ advertised wares. Unfortunately when they got there they found not thousands but millions of people in the same position, unemployment ridiculously high, the city impersonal and apparently uncaring, and their chances of even getting enough food for tomorrow rapidly dwindling. But not everybody was poor. Some people had cars, wore expensive watches and clothes, and drank cola, and presumably had many more modern goods to make their lives apparently easier and happier. So what did our young and impressionable brothers do? They stole. They broke into a house and took what they could. Unfortunately these men were nothing of the professional burglar, knew nothing of finger prints and forensics, and were soon caught. The result? Four more inmates in the hell hole of Cairo prison. Once again the advertising agents had done their job well, convincing the people that they needed the junk they had to sell!
Of course the situation in Britain is not as extreme, but nevertheless it is surely obvious that if one successfully creates an intense desire for something, in the minds of often uneducated and impressionable people, in a time of unemployment when their cash is hard come by, at the same time blasting them with crime on the TV, something somewhere is going to give. A percentage of them, being unable to earn an honest buck, will hit the streets, either taking what they want through robbery and theft, or dealing in drugs or stolen property, prostitution, or any of the many other ways of getting a ‘few readies’.
This is why the prisons are so full. Add to that the people who drink and drive, maybe take drugs steal to get money for their next hit to lift them out of their boredom and fears, everybody taxed beyond what they can afford, and the prison population begins to overflow.
Having stated that as my beliefs as to why so much crime occurs, I now have to say that this was only a very minor cause of my conviction. I will not in this book, attempt to discuss my personal level of guilt or innocence, but I would like to stress the view I had of my offences at the time.
My charges were concerned with cannabis, a so-called drug. Having consumed it for a number of years, and met untold people in nearly every country I ever visited, smoked with young and old, people new to it and those who had smoked very heavily for very many years, for social, recreational and also ‘spiritual’ purposes,
I did not and do not understand why it remains illegal! In its pure uncut form it certainly seems to have done me no harm, or anyone I have met.
No matter how much one consumes there is no danger for a reasonably balanced person. It has been said that the fatal dose is two kilos, dropped on the head from a great height! There is no heavy withdrawal, no side effects.
The real problems are that it is often cut with possibly damaging impurities, ranging from sawdust to barbiturates, solvents to boot polish and evencow shit, by the less than scrupulous illegal suppliers; that it is normally mixed with the legal and deadly poisonous tobacco; and that it remains illegal and therefore in the control of the underworld. The so-called controlled drugs are controlled not by the Government, who should concern themselves with the lack of purity of consumables, but by crooks.
Added to this are the many acclaimed medical benefits of cannabis to sufferers of ailments such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, asthma and arthritis, its pain-killing properties, and relaxing properties, and the uses of the plant - hemp, for the non-polluting manufacture of paper, linen, rope - all the old maps, Bibles, sails, ropes etc were made from hemp - its use as a food supply (seeds crushed to make gruel are highly nutritious) for humans and animals, and its use as a clean, renewable (two crops a year) and highly efficacious fuel, cannabis is probably the most versatile God-given substance on earth! Of course, it makes some people apparently lazier, but not all, and many of these become more creative even if only privately.
There is a vast amount of music and art forms produced under the effect of cannabis.
About 5% of the population admit to having used it regularly, and in private a great many barristers and other professional men. In private a great many individuals agree that it should be legalised, but are, like the majority of people living under Nazi control who witnessed the inhumane treatment of the Jews, too afraid for their own careers, and freedom, to speak out. The anti-legalisation lobby seems to be left, nowadays, with the completely unfounded statement that it ‘leads to other drugs’. True, 95% of hard drug users confess, when asked in a weighted question, that their first illegal substance was cannabis. But only 5% at most, of cannabis users ever take hard drugs. It is rather like using the argument that 99% of convicted armed robbers admit to owning water pistols as children, to bring about the prohibition of possession and sale of water pistols! Meanwhile, whilst those in authority and positions of respect usually remain silent, and the various campaigns for legalisation are left in the hands of often unemployed and outcast folk who have little or no experience of organisation, thousands of users and dealers remain in prisons, and millions risk their health by consuming street ‘crap’.
Let’s face it, even with the risk of incarceration, people still use it and will continue to use it, and continue to line the pockets of crooks, so it is really time that some government opened its own eyes, legalised it, took control of quality, gained revenue through taxation, and saved the time of police, courts and prisons. So, having said that, why was it suddenly made illegal in the 1920's? Some political reasons? Strange how the banning of cannabis and hemp suddenly created a vacuum in the supply of ropes and fabrics, shortly before the industrial giants put nylon on the market, and the huge petrochemical companies marketed their synthetics and polluting alternatives. I sometimes wonder if there was a connection.
I am not trying to excuse breaking the law. The law is the law, right or wrong, and the country cannot survive without laws. Judge Pickles, himself an advocate for the legalisation of all drugs, was correct when he said that people should not be allowed to pick and choose which laws to keep and which laws to break, that sort of freedom would be disastrous. Neither should such offenders be given leniency. In prisons there are many who would legalise all sorts of unpleasant things which they have been incarcerated for. Yet it is true, in the cases of the suffragettes and also the homosexuals, who sought to change the law by breaking it, that it can eventually lead to publicity and success.
I would, however, stress that very many people with similar experiences to me, never had any intention of hurting anyone, and mostly have never broken any other laws. Their preference for cannabis over alcohol and sedatives, has, nonetheless, resulted in their doors being kicked in, humiliating strip and personal searches, hours of solitude in filthy police cells and extended interviews often interspersed with secret threats and insults, confiscation of assets, collapse of businesses or careers, long periods in prison equivalent to sentences for armed robbery and often greater than for rape offences, and general alienation from their families, friends and society in general.
Why? All because they wanted to get high! Cannabis is used in prisons probably more than on the outside. The staff, I have been told more than once by members of that elite group, tend to turn a blind eye - it keeps the inmates quiet.
So, back to this book, like I say it is not the place to discuss guilt or innocence. Although I can hardly avoid ‘having a dig at the system’ and those who perpetuate it, that is neither my purpose.
Rather I want to present the prisons through my eyes, the eyes of an educated and travelled, non-criminally minded, and, as those who know me will agree, harmless forty year old male from Wales. I felt that by helping to organise contacts and introductions between suppliers and customers, I was helping people by enabling them to get a clean supply, by keeping them away from alcohol, hard drugs, and the dreadful tranquillisers and sedatives, benefited people.
Educated as a scientist at university, I was taught to examine the facts for myself, and not to blindly accept everything I was told.
This is all I ask of you the reader, to consider the evidence with an open mind; those who accept orders and laws without question are the true fascists.
The book is divided into four sections: the first will cover the nightmare of remand in custody.
The three prisons which I entered were category B, a maximum security, and a low security C category. I was on wings separated from the so-called vulnerable prisoners, as we call them, ‘nonces’, guilty of horrendous crimes which should not ever be even imagined.
Amongst the prisoners with whom I lived the hatred of the nonces was universal.
As for the others it seems that the longer the sentences the more respect the inmates had for each other. A man two or more years into a ten or twenty year sentence has an entirely different attitude towards his surroundings than a short-timers who is only ‘passing through’.
The main problems for the long-timers are the poor living conditions, being isolation from family and friends, and institutionalisation.
Frustration and helplessness, anger at the treatment of self and others, an authoritative hypocrisy, are what causes violence amongst these men.
This book is an attempt to portray what I saw and felt at the time.