It's run by Carl Cattermole (me). I make bits when compelled.
I'll try to post articles, interviews, features and whatever else here. Most recent first...
CC on Ear Hustle
Society Of Authors interview
Prisons are Petri dishes for pandemics (Freedom News)
Interview with Megan Wallace (Hunger Magazine)
Suggestions for writing to prisoners (Dog Section)
Diary Of A Squat more info (Freedom News)
Eye witness account of London Bridge terror attack
Noise demo at HMP Wandsworth (The Independent)
Justice Dark Ages poster explainer (The Modernist)
Toshiba stereo and some dubbed cassettes (The Wire)
Pentonville murder lifts lid on prisons crisis (The Guardian)
Prisons... luxury flats... I despair (The Guardian)
Prisoners out-debated Harvard, not surprised (The Guardian)
HMP Pentonville is the WORST (The Guardian)
Carl is on the latest episode of Ear Hustle along with Brenda Birungi.
Listen from the start of Series 1 if you haven't already.
Being sent to prison is like being abducted by aliens. The pork creed beam you into a bully van, then the arch-pork lazers you to a hellish planet that floats on the outer regions of Norfolk or the Welsh Valleys.
I'm not exaggerating - go look at HMP Woodhill, Milton Keynes - it's fully sci-fi (until you get up close and see the decomposing pigeons stuck in the netting).
I went to visit my mate up there and on the train home I started looking at all UK prisons on Google Earth. I got stuck in an iHole (where you get stuck on your iPhone like a k-hole) until I got home and ended up with aerial screenshots of every single UK prison. The following week me and my mate Joel made it into this poster.
It occurred to me that the 150 prisons fell into three distinctive categories - Victorian, post-war and modern.
Victorian prisons have high, red-brick walls, giant gates and gargoyles. They were plonked in city centres - HMP Manchester, Cardiff, Wandsworth and Pentonville to name a few. All of the above have wings that extend from a central rotary. This design is known as the 'panopticon' and it was deployed to allow a small number of prison guards to surveil a large number of prisoners. I've spent time in multiple and, how do I describe it... they feel like museums of misery.
Post-war prisons were built cheap'n'quick in semi-urban and suburban areas, like many municipal buildings of the time. During this period people were re-evaluating the staples of our society and in response these prison buildings were more light and airy in comparison to the dark punishment blocks of the previous era. But, like other post-war progressive steps (the NHS, social care and council housing) this first step in improving prison conditions was undermined, rubbished then privatised. They are now dishevelled, verminous and overcrowded. Serving time in them feels like being trapped in a ramshackle leisure centre.
Modern mega-jails are storage units for humans. They look and feel like e-retail warehouses; they're hidden far from population centres so there's no need for ornate displays of authority as-per-Victoriana. HMP Oakwood, Berwyn and Woodhill to name a few. Being locked in these places makes you feel like an out-of-date box of Doritos.
Architectural aesthetic, especially when it comes to governmental buildings, scream purpose into my eyeballs.
Victorian prisons - heavy, dark, plonked in city centres - a more comprehendable, vintage cruelty. Victorian Britain, like modern Britain, is ridden with inequality and to keep this running the state needs a heavy fist to corral the citizenry. Anyone who refuses to settle for this system (ideological radicals, thieves, defaulters of rent and bank robbers alike) will be incarcerated. Simply put: if you baulk at the loss of freedom that capitalism entails, then you will lose your liberty completely.
Now it's a more complex cruelty, a profit-turning industry in it's own right. DHL monopolise the market to prisoners, overcharging them for tins of tuna and Snickers (... they give socialism to billionaires but deny the freemarket to the poor). BT charge prisoners more for phone calls (... no wonder they hate illegal mobile phones so much!). Construction giants like Kier and Carillion are currently making millions upon millions from building mega-jails. Failed public-private companies like Serco are stripped of contracts for mass scale fraud, they walk away scott free and are then re-awarded contracts once the furore has died down. Jesus would weep.
To paraphrase Woodie Guthrie...
This article was written in London 2020
Of prison industrialist, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee
They wouldn't lay poor Jesus in the grave
... they'd stick Him in HMP Pentonville on two man bang-up and deny him a phone call to his apostles
TBH I wouldn't mind sharing a cell with him. I think we'd get along: we're both a bit preachy, morally 100% pure and not driven by money. We'd sit there doing crosswords, slagging off Channel 4 News liberal waffle, surrounded by the state's evil, picking it apart bit by bit.
Talking off liberal waffle, here's a question that you should keep out of your mouth: "why does government do expensive and disastrous stuff that doesn't work?!?!"
The obvious answer is that IT DOES WORK! Just not for you, me, Jesus, Mohammed, Olumba Olumba Obu or anyone else known for their moral steadfastliness. It works phenomenally well for the ruling class, it's evil genius... think about it.
You like money more than people. So you get VERY RICH by exploiting others. You don't really give a fuck about how this leaves the other half in poverty, neck deep in the 40-40-40 scam (work 40hrs a week for 40 years and get paid 40% of what you deserve). You create a law every day and 100,000+ prison places (soon come).
I mean, you have slight problems like critical liberals as they vote and have half-baked empathic tendencies. However, these people are solveable with the idea of 'rehabilitation' so all you need to do is waft a few education courses, windows without bars and art exhibitions in the direction of the Guardian, whilst also reminding them of the dangers that chronically poor people can pose - "... if I'm deadly honest I will be glad my lawnmower isn't at risk from a ne'er-do-well".
Another problem is the working class people that you fucked over since day one. That might be a bit more of an uphill struggle but where there's a will (a bill) there's a way. Get old matey Murdoch to spin a banging narrative of THEM (paedos, yobbos, benefit fraudsters, refugees and 'skivers') and US ('strivers'). And secondarily you promise that prisons will 'provide jobs and kick-start economies' in communities that desperately need them since you eviscerated farming, manufacturing and the mines. Prisons are marvellous aren't they: you don't need minerals, animals or cotton, your only raw product is the despicable humans who are beyond the Tabloidocracy's definition of pale.
There you have it - bish bash bosh - everyone from Dave to Apple to Tarquin has a stake in this system that is more morally repugnant than any mass murderer EVER. But no one will realise because they haven't clocked the concept of state violence.
Here here! I can definitely raise a glass of childs blood to that, old chap!
Listen. My gran would've told you that Britain was unimaginable without Woolworths. She will now tell you that Britain is unimaginable without prisons. My gran obviously did the blue pill, she's so based, it's bullshit. This system is psychopathic state violence and justifying it is to aid and abet.
When you let your lips off the exhaust pipe you realise that fresh air is widely available. Fuck the 'Great Train Robbery', capitalism is the greatest robbery of all time.
Unfortunately, instead of moving towards a more positive world we are undergoing 'Americanisation'. I slightly object to this word as it lets Britain off the historical hook, but you know what I mean. We geographically remain 30 miles off the coast of Europe, but it feels like the ropes are being severed, we're setting sail on a cross-Atlantic voyage towards the tried-and-failed lands of steroid meat, stars, stripes, crass populism and mass incarceration.
It's our responsibility to about-ship, not just back to the Neoliberal EU but further south... I'm on turning the UK into Cuba and that's just the start.
Without capitalism you don't need prisons or police. Abolish the lot. Say abolish ten times and realise that the word is onomatopaeic:
AB- (an abrupt impact, like the revolution that is a must)
-OLI- (bit of a transition phase...)
-SHhhhhh (tapers off into silky smoothness like the society we desperately need to create).
23rd March 2020
This past Tory decade has left public services looking like a bicycle locked up too long in East London: valuable parts stolen, everything else rusted. And if the public service still has two wheels I guarantee it doesn't have the suspension to cope with bumps, and COVID-19 isn't a bump, it's an assault course.
Prisons are Petri dishes for this pandemic. Overcrowded, understaffed, completely filthy, full of vulnerable individuals without the agency to self isolate. Telephones shared by hundreds while soap is no longer given out as standard: personal hygiene is now a privilege.
30th January 2019
Carl Cattermole is no stranger to controversy. 'Outraged' law chiefs have accused him of 'showing crooks how to live the high life behind bars.' According to the Sunday People, a Tory MP called for the book to be banned. Priti Patel MP said: "It's irresponsible, it makes a mockery of our criminal justice system and proves the Government must reform our prisons and make them tough and unpleasant places." The MoJ also said that Cattermole could face legal action for using the copyrighted Prison Service logo for the front of the book.
Inside Time managed to speak with Carl in order to get his take on prison in general and the controversial book. Carl is 31 and has spent most of his life in London. He has served time in HMPs Wandsworth, Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville and Wellingborough.
Dog Section Press
3rd August 2020
If communication was water then the 'free world' is like an average British afternoon - the internet is pissing down on our minds. Notification! Email! Ding ding bzz bzz!
Prisons, on the other hand, have a micro-climate like Arizona. It's dry as hell.
So, when an officer slides a letter under your door it's like the rumbling thunder in one of those euphoric movie sequences when the monsoons break.
Once you've understood that the subtext of prison is to further exclude the excluded (dress people in grey trackies, refer to them as numbers and deny them contact with the people they love) then it should become patently obvious why putting pen to paper throws a real spanner in its works.
But if you write in the wrong way you can do more harm than good. So, here are a few suggestions when it comes to prison letter writing.
We catch up with 2019 Imison Award shortlisted playwright Carl Cattermole - to talk about his shortlisted play, the realm of audio drama, and what he's learnt along the way.
What is your play trying to say?
CC: My play is talking about the debt cycle behind prison walls. If you thought that high street payday lenders are bad, then wait until you know about Double Bubble.
Audio drama can be a challenging field - what roadblocks have you faced so far?
This was the first drama I've ever written. Prison Radio Association really believed in me and encouraged me to do it. I wrote this drama in an industrial freight train yard in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico - my main roadblock was the stray dogs trying to eat my queso and the narco traffickers burning a bonfire making me a bit paranoid.
Despite the quality of work on show, some still say audio drama is dead. What do you think might change their minds?
Good content comes from free minds. Prisoners are often freer in their mindset than those stuck in a 40-hour work world. Prison is hell but the outside world is so pressured and distracted it's like a boat navigating a canal full of shopping trolleys and crisp packets.
If you could change one thing about how the industry works, what would it be?
Liberal radio types often lack the life experience, the people with life experience lack the know-how. Prison Radio Association brings both together.
What's one piece of advice you would have found valuable when you started?
Steal your lunch and bunk the train so you don't have to work so much and you can spend time reading books.
7th July 2020
Jean Delarue wrote this diary during his time spent at an autonomous squat operated by people who were homeless during Thatcher's 1980s.
It was situated in Belgravia Children's Hospital. If you know South London you'll know the building: opposite Oval Tube, a tall and ornate red brick Victorian 'arts and crafts' vestige that was designed by Charles Holden (most famous for his Art Deco London Underground stations like Arnos Grove and Park Royal).
The squat housed capitalism's castaways: migrants finding their feet, pensioners without pensions, ex-prisoners, thieves, depressed philosophers, punks, drug addicts and middle-class idealists.
8th December 2019
I witnessed the attack at London Bridge last Friday. Like the victims of the attack I'm a prison campaigner (Jack Merritt, one of the deceased, followed my work on social media). Like the assailant, I'm an ex-prisoner and I was failed by prison, as most of us are.
There's so much more than meets the eye when it comes to this case so let me explain what I saw and break down the political narratives that have ensued.
1.55pm last Friday, a metallically crisp winter day, I passed the north side of London Bridge. A big lump of a policeman frantically orders me through a construction site doorway, shouting: 'BOMB THREAT - MOOOOVVVEE!!!'.
5th August 2019
Image credit: Andrew Aitchison
Prisoners have been getting beaten by officers at my alma mater, HMP Wandsworth.
You won't see these beatings in the news, firstly because this stuff is commonplace; secondly because prisoners are largely voiceless and without proper recourse to justice; and, lastly, when one prisoner says "the officers did it!" and three officers say "rubbish, he fell down the stairs", well, there's no case is there, however black and blue they are.
Most important thing I packed in my prison bag? A mini hifi.
There's no internet, iPods or copied CDs allowed behind bars so I went neolithic and dubbed all my favourite albums to tape.
Roedelius and Gavin Bryars for zoning out to, 1980s Biltmore soundclashes, Black Ops and Skibba Shabba Kool FM sets, Flipper demos, Arthur Russell, Flying Nun compilations and a whole bag of other classics.
20th October 2016
Murder behind bars - it's a story that was already written.
In fact I could've written most of this article months before Tuesday afternoon, when a 21-year-old father lost his life.
All that needed to be filled out were the particulars - the names of the prison, the victims and the assailants.
1st October 2015
I often find myself lost when I walk through London these days. My references - age-old waypoints like pubs, estates and post offices - have been razed and replaced by cranes, foremen and "creative hubs".
Now, Michael Gove plans to close Victorian prisons in the city centre - including Pentonville - and sell the sites to developers for luxury hotels and housing, while relocating prisoners to new "super jails" in far-flung regions of the UK.
9th October 2015
It emerged this week that students from Harvard University lost when competing against a group of New York prisoners, beneficiaries of the Bard Prison Initiative - not in a bare-knuckle boxing match, but in a competitive intellectual debate.
For the inmates it's an incredible achievement that should not be underestimated, but I feel as if we are mostly impressed by it because of how it transposes with our stereotypes of criminals being a) irrational and b) stupid.
1st October 2015
HMP Pentonville is a huge category-B prison situated in the heart of Islington - the north London borough that mixes champagne socialists with tracksuit-clad boys who can wheelie all the way from Holloway to Kings Cross on Boris bikes.
Interview with Megan Wallace Hunger Magazine 2020
Surviving in prison Dazed & Confused 2015
The emotional hardship of prison OpenDemocracy 2015
Letting Yanks know Matador Network 2011
Scratchy tracksuits and emotional hell Daily Mail 2015
Britain's prisons are failing us all Little Atoms 2015
How to survive in British Prison VICE UK 2015
Como sobrevivir en una carcel Britanica VICE Mexico 2015
Stress-free walk in the park VICE UK 2015
Bumphones VICE UK 2016
Even more about bumphones The Metro 2016
Even even more about bumphones timetobreak.com 2016
Fury as ex-prisoner publishes book The Mirror 2011
An introduction godoseebuy.com 2016
10 Ways to Survive British Prison Buzzfeed 2015
How to ease yourself into HMP Financial Times 2014
Weird paraphrasing of my guide bodahub.com 2016
Double Bubble, Prison Rado Association 2018
Broadcasting House BBC Radio 4 2016
Outsourced Radio BBC Radio 4 2016
Live studio discussion Channel 4 News 2016
Live studio discussion Channel 4 News 2015
Pre-recorded interview BBC News at 10 2015
World At One BBC Radio 4 2015
Incarceration show NTS.Live 2015
CLEARSPOT Resonance FM 2014
Loads more but cba