My brother, the Brit in a US jail (by Karen Attwood)
My sister Karen recently had this article published. Click here for the original on page 4 of The Record. Click here for Karen's ebook, English Shaun.
My family’s ordeal began in May 2002, with a phone call from my Aunt Ann, who lived in Arizona, usa. She called to tell my mother that my older brother, shaun, had been arrested. Shaun and I come from an ordinary, loving home in Cheshire. But at the age of 21, Shaun was eager to spread his wings and he followed other members of the family by emigrating to the states. For many years he enjoyed a successful career as a stockbroker and our parents had been proud of his achievements. But he had been living a double life.
He had been involved in organizing drugs sales at the raves he ran around Phoenix. His criminal activity finally caught up with him and led to a swat team knocking down his door in a dawn raid. After his arrest Shaun spent two years on remand in some of the toughest jails in America. This was a horrendous time for my family stuck on the other side of the Atlantic. At first my parents didn’t tell any of their friends as, despite the fact they had brought Shaun up well, my mother was consumed with guilt and they both felt deeply ashamed. My parents used up their life savings to get Shaun a lawyer and we flew several times a year to visit him in jail. We are used to hearing stories of life
Inside prisons but rarely do we hear what it is like for the families. Yet family members and loved ones serve the sentence alongside the prisoner and the impact of an arrest is devastating for everyone. After a local Phoenix newspaper ran a sensational article painting shaun as a vampire-like gangster, my mother had a nervous breakdown. My father started to have panic attacks. I was full of conflicting emotions. I was angry with my brother for being so stupid and selfish but I also loved him and wanted him to be safe. I had nightmares of terrible things happening to him while inside. Eventually we told all our friends and neighbours and everyone was incredibly supportive, many writing letters to the judge about Shaun’s previous good character. In 2004, two dozen friends and family members gathered in an Arizonan court room where Shaun was to be sentenced after pleading guilty to drugs offences. Both of my parents, my two aunts and I, all spoke in mitigation, pleading with the judge to be lenient. This was the most stressful day of all of our lives. Shaun was sentenced to almost 10 years but he came out after five and three quarter years. My parents and I were there once more to welcome him back to the uk where he has - slowly but surely - rebuilt his life.