Shaun Attwood

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Attwood visiting a school
Meditating in hometown. Photograph by Mike Polloway
Shaun Attwood. Photograph by Libi Pedder
Shaun Attwood

Shaun Attwood is a former stock-market millionaire[1][2] and Ecstasy distributor turned public speaker,[3] author and activist, who is now banned from entering the United States for life.[4] His story was featured worldwide on National Geographic Channel as an episode of Locked Up Abroad called Raving Arizona.[5] Random House published his life story as the English Shaun Trilogy.[6] "Hard Time 2nd Edition" (2014)[7] documents his time in the Maricopa County Jail. "Party Time" (2013) documents his rise in the stock market and as an Ecstasy distributor. "Prison Time" (2014) documents his time served in the Arizona Department of Corrections.[8] As well as dealing with the ever-present threat of rape, Prison Time is the first book to describe the varied sex lives of prisoners.[9] His fourth book is a self-help called Lessons (2014).[10]


Attwood grew up in Widnes, Cheshire, England. He moved to Arizona, USA with the intent of becoming rich working as a stockbroker.[11] However in Arizona, having a stressful job, and having had prior experience with the English rave scene, he began to use, and later distribute Ecstasy, which eventually became his primary source of income. His main competitor in the Ecstasy market was Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, a Mafia mass murderer and former under boss of the Gambino crime family. According to his book Party Time, Attwood operated in association with and under the protection of the New Mexican Mafia. He eventually gave up dealing after Sammy the Bull Gravano's crew knocked the teeth out of Attwood's top Ecstasy salesperson. The attack and various threats by rival gangsters convinced him that the danger was too great. He retired to his then-girlfriend's apartment. However evidence had already been collected against him from his years as an Ecstasy kingpin, and on May 16, 2002 he was arrested at the apartment. After serving two years in Maricopa County Jail prior to sentencing, Attwood pleaded guilty for a sentence of nine and a half years, and served the balance of his sentence in the Arizona Department of Corrections.[12]

While imprisoned, Attwood wrote about his experiences in jail. These accounts were posted online, on a blog titled "Jon's Jail Journal" to preserve his anonymity; this began to draw international media attention[13] to the conditions that prevail under Sheriff Arpaio.[14] While incarcerated, Attwood submerged himself in literature – reading over 1000 books in just under 6 years, including many classics. By studying original texts in psychology and philosophy, he sought to better understand himself and his past behaviour.[15] In 2007 Attwood was released and deported to the UK, where he continues to maintain his blog, now under his own name, where he publishes letters and accounts sent to him by other prisoners. Having credited books for being the lifeblood of his rehabilitation, Attwood spoke out in outrage on The Wright Stuff at the ban on sending books to UK prisons introduced by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.

Attwood now gives talks to schoolchildren and other groups about the negative consequences of drugs and crime, and advocates against Sheriff Arpaio and his methods.[16] He has appeared on the BBC, Sky News, CNN and TV in over 40 countries worldwide to talk about issues affecting prisoners' rights. In May 2017, Attwood also appeared on Newcastle born YouTuber "True Geordie"s podcast to talk about his life.


  • Hard Time (2011)
  • Party Time (2013)
  • Prison Time (2014)
  • Life lessons (2015)
  • Hard Time: New Edition (2016)
  • Pablo Escobar: Beyond Narcos (2016)
  • American Made: Who Killed Barry Seal? Pablo Escobar or George HW Bush (2016)
  • Un-Making a Murderer: The Framing of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey (2017)
  • The Cali Cartel: Beyond Narcos (2017)
  • We Are Being Lied To: The War on Drugs (expected 2017)
  • Two Tonys (expected 2019)

[17] [18]