Authors: Andrew Fraser
Tags: #ebook, #book
I went up to Joe's cell. The screws opened the cell door, and there was Joe sitting in the corner like a caged animal. I must say that, looking back now, I don't think I would do this again. As I have said, Joe was immensely strong, and he could have snapped me in half if he felt like it. Instead he was sitting there like a kid. I walked in, and said to him, “Joey, it's Andrew, I'm your friend, you know. Let's have a chat about whatever the problem is.” Joe looked at me and my heart was in my mouth. Luckily everything went the right way and Joe calmed down sufficiently for the nurses to get some medication into him, which effectively knocked him rotten. He was then taken to the hospital.
Joey was eventually released, and I've since found out that he was uncomfortable back in society. He committed more offences, and is now back in jail where he is more comfortable. This is a crying shame. This bloke needs help. He needs to be looked after. He doesn't need to be locked in a maximum security prison every time he offends. He never gets leaves, which are designed to help people re-integrate. Why? Because everyone's too terrified to take him on leaves; so he gets no counselling, nothing to help him re-integrate into society. He merely concludes his sentence, then the door is opened and out he walks, back into the world that he is not ready for. What happens? He can't cope. He reoffends. Put back into jail, released again and so the merry-go-round continues forever for poor Joe Smith. Joey, if you read this book, I'm saying these things about you in a compassionate manner because I really like you. Joe Smith looked out for me while I was in jail, but he should be in an institution where he can be looked after properly.
Joe Smith wasn't the only prisoner who fell into that category. That's why this has become a pet issue of mine: I saw far too many mentally ill people in jail. It is a disgrace. Nobody says anything about it. And when I start up, everybody hopes I will go away. I won't. I will continue agitating until somebody does something for these people.
The other important aspect of life in Sirius East was, of course, the screws. These officers tended to be the more experienced officers, placed into a unit which was highly volatile. There were a lot of old Pentridge screws there. Pentridge Prison was the now defunct maximum security prison in Coburg in Melbourne. It was a Dickensian prison, all bluestone, buggery and violence, and these officers had spent their working lives in that hardened environment. Not quite the appropriate qualification to bring new hope to prisoners in the modern-day prison. Old-fashioned screws set in their old-fashioned Dickensian violent and lazy ways â¦ what hope rehabilitation?
I look around the unit and wonder how the lunatics have been left in charge of the asylum. This is surely going to be an interesting time for young Andrew!
Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don't give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn.
He ain't been right since Vietnam.
â WARREN ZEVON,
PLAY IT ALL NIGHT LONG
Toby Fraser (no relation) was considered by everybody in Sirius East to be nothing but a pest. Toby was about twenty when I met him and had been in and out of jail for drug- and alcohol-related offences for most of his adult life. He had been in boys' homes before that. He was in jail because he had robbed a couple of teenagers on the beach at Frankston while in an alcohol- and drug-induced state. After the robbery he had poured some lighter fluid on one of the victims and stood there with a cigarette lighter threatening to ignite him. For that Toby received a sentence of imprisonment, which was subject to appeal at the time I met him.
To date, Toby had received extraordinarily light sentences because â as is the way of the Children's Court â he had been treated extremely leniently. He had serious problems in an adult jail, mainly because of his general demeanour. His trick, because he had no money, was to borrow from other prisoners with the promise that he would repay them on canteen day, which was once a week. Of course, when canteen day came, there was no repayment. Toby would then proceed to borrow from somebody else in the unit to square off with the previous week's benefactor. Don't forget that when the music stops there is always someone left without a chair, so the rort always came to an end when Toby ran out of creditors. The debt was always for White Ox roll-your-own tobacco, which is about as rough as Hessian underpants, and that is only to smell! Tobacco is real currency within the jail, even if you don't smoke. Most things can be purchased for a small or large pouch of “Ox”. Once Toby had exhausted all means of rorting in that unit, he would “bail” to another unit. This meant he would say he was in danger in that particular unit and then be moved to another unit within the protection area. He would wait for the prisoners that he had short-changed to be sent to other units or jails, then he would go back to that unit and start his little scam all over again. Due to his notorious behaviour he had no friends and was constantly getting a smack in the mouth from older prisoners. As one bloke said to me, “It's only a rort if you're not in it!”
Toby befriended me because he probably saw me as an easy touch. However, I was never sucked in to his little schemes and accordingly he would sit for some time talking to me about his problems and how he would be going home immediately after his appeal. He repeatedly stated he wouldn't be drinking any more and that he was a reformed person. When you have these discussions in jail, which you do frequently, you always take them with a grain of salt. Most of it is crap and the blokes have absolutely no intention of reforming, let alone never offending again. As proof of this Toby was the designated unit brewer of “lunatic soup”. Lunatic soup is the home brew that is cooked up by prisoners within the jail. This was one way he could ingratiate himself with the other prisoners.
Bearing in mind that we were in maximum security, protection from protection, it never ceased to amaze me how slack the prison officers were and how easy it was for Toby to brew up a batch of lunatic soup.
The only equipment required was a large plastic empty tomato sauce bottle with half gallon capacity. The crucial ingredient was bread, which has some live yeast remaining in it even after cooking and is enough to get a fermentation happening. The brewer would soak the bread until fermentation began, then cram it into the neck of the bottle together with whatever sliced fruit was available â usually oranges and orange peel â add sugar and water, and put the lid on. The favourite place to hide the bottle while the brew was taking place was in one of the large plastic rubbish bins in the unit. Twice a day, the bin billet responsible takes the liner full of rubbish out of the bin and replaces it with a fresh liner. The first time I was the bin billet I noticed the tomato sauce bottle and was told in no uncertain terms that it was not to be touched. The procedure was merely to put a fresh liner in the bin over the bottle and leave it alone. This I did. I don't know how long the brew took, but it certainly wasn't long, because a little while later there was quite some excitement in the unit as the word got around that the brew was ready.
I was sitting in my cell when Toby lurched in holding his china cup and asked me if I wanted a drink. The smell was putrid. It was like that of a fermenting compost heap and when I looked in the cup I saw a milky-grey liquid. Toby was clearly drunk, as was just about everybody else in the unit. He strongly recommended the drink, adding “Have a look how much alcohol's in it!” With that, he pulled out his cigarette lighter and held it near the top of the cup. Immediately a blue flame burst forth from the cup. I couldn't believe my eyes. These blokes were drinking a very, very powerful brew, strong enough to keep most of the unit pissed for a couple of days. And to think: the screws were watching the whole time as somebody walked around with a large tomato sauce bottle full of liquid. How that happened and nobody asked what was in it, I do not know. I don't mind enjoying the odd glass of red, as I am now while I write this book, but this stuff was beyond the pale â¦ and I didn't need the dose of the trots that always followed a good dose of lunatic soup! So I never touched the stuff.
The lunatic soup was a big hit â and boy, did it ever turn the partakers into lunatics. There were blokes falling over, blokes asleep and blokes hardly able to stand up on muster. All this happening in a maximum security prison!
Toby was sharing a cell with another youngster called Chris Reynolds. Chris's claim to fame was that he, like Toby, clearly liked playing with fire as he had fatally incinerated a homeless person on the banks of the Murray River at Mildura.
Chris had never been in jail before and was not coping at all well â that's why he was placed in a protected unit, and placed in with Toby. They were left well alone so that they could do the brew, because everybody wanted a drink.
Anyone who was young was constantly being harassed by older prisoners for sex. Unfortunately one young bloke was out in the yard with the rest of us one day, assembling Dynabolts, when he was grabbed by an older prisoner who was in jail for rape. He was dragged into the toilet in the workroom where he was bashed and his anus slit open with a razor blade, then he was raped in full view of everybody else.
How does this happen in a maximum security prison? Well, let me explain the layout of Sirius East (with apologies to those who have read about this in my previous book). As you walk into the unit the first thing you see is the officers' station, then there is the unit itself, which would be, at a guess, 20 metres long. You then walk out to an exercise yard known as the “chook pen”, which is approximately 6 to 12 metres wide. After you cross the chook pen there is a prefabricated concrete workroom with a toilet off it which had no windows in it, and just one door. While the prisoners were assembling the nuts and bolts no officers were on duty in that room, ever. The officers, at best, were about 30 metres away and a designated prisoner always sat at the work table looking back into the unit and towards the officers' station. The minute an officer looked like moving in the general direction of the workroom, the word would be given and whatever nefarious activity was taking place would cease.
Sexual assault wasn't the only thing that took place in the workroom. Other prisoners were bashed there, particularly Andrew Davies. As I said earlier everybody seemed to think that it was alright to be in jail for murdering a defenceless woman, as Dupas and Camilleri had, yet to be a paedophile like Davies was reprehensible. The workroom was also where the “shivs” (jail knives) were made. There were some old wheelchairs stored in that room, for some reason, and every possible brace or piece of steel that could be removed was removed and was then filed on the floor of the workroom to a sharp point, to be used on other prisoners at some stage in the future.
Following the rape the young man completely lost his mind and was placed in the acute unit, where I visited him on a number of occasions. He was kept drugged to the eyeballs by the powers that be there â so much so that, on a couple of occasions when I went in to visit, he was unable to get off his bed. His eyes were glazed and he was starring at the ceiling. It is interesting that these categories of offences never seem to be publicised by the prison system. I was told that he had been offered a substantial amount of money by the jail as compensation for the attack, but on the basis that there was a non-disclosure clause in the settlement, so he had to keep his mouth shut. He later settled with the jail but that has never been made public. Whatever happened to accountability?
The one question I have been constantly asked since leaving jail is about jail sex. Every bloke seems to have a morbid fascination with the subject. I am regularly asked whether I was raped or sexually assaulted. I am pleased to report that I wasn't. The closest I came to an incident was after I had been moved to Fulham, near Sale. I had finished my daily run and because it was a nice day I was doing my stretching on the lawn outside my cottage. A bloke who was in for murdering his boyfriend when he discovered him in bed with another bloke had taken a bit of a shine to me, even though I was old enough to be his father. Jamie walked past me as I was stretching and said, “Oh, I could just about squeeze in there.” To which I replied: “Jamie, you couldn't get a grain of rice up my arse!” Jamie: “It's not the rice you have to worry about, it's what I am going to push it in with!” Needless to say I beat a dignified retreat to my room, where I locked the door until my fancier had gone away and cooled down.
A further example of the violence in jail, and the constant covering up of it, was the case of a young chap in a medical unit at Port Phillip. He was sitting reading the newspaper in the pool room when a fight broke out at the billiard table behind him and he was attacked from behind with a billiard cue. He was severely injured and to this day has a number of steel plates inserted in his skull. That particular prisoner is now in a protection prison, on the basis that if he were attacked again and received a blow to the scone, it would probably kill him. So he has been placed, unfortunately for him, with an old paedophile who at least is non-violent. When this young man made a claim against Port Phillip Prison, it was fought on the basis that he had contributed, in some way that was never explained, to his own assault. As a former lawyer, I fail to see how somebody sitting with their back to a fight, reading the newspaper, has contributed to a severe assault occasioned on them without warning.
The jail has now settled with that young man and paid him a substantial amount of money for the injuries he sustained, but again subject to the signing of a non-disclosure agreement. Whatever happens, we cannot possibly allow the general public to know how the prisons that are paid for with taxpayers' money are operated. In such cases, non- disclosure agreements are not because the matters are commercial-in-confidence; they are a cover-up, plain and simple, and should not be allowed. (This concept should also apply to all government contracts and agreements. In my view it is outrageous that contracts are entered into by governments â who, after all, are technically employed by us the taxpayers â without the entire contract process being open to scrutiny. The cynic in me always smells a rat when a politician claims commercial-in-confidence in refusing to disclose details of contracts entered into on our behalf. What have they got to hide?)