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Seen the Needle and the Damage Done
June 2003 - I have a confession to make. I’ve been writing ‘Letters from the Inside’ for about a year and a half now, and I’m glad my open-minded employers have never subjected me to a random urine test. I would have failed. Miserably.

You see, this is among the scant few articles I’ve scribed while not under the hazy influence of smack. If you just took a quick, chopped gasp of air in shocked surprise that I’ve been deluding readers all this time with my drug- crazed literary ravings, you most probably picked up this mag by accident. And it’s a safe bet you’re just another aimless drone who’s been conditioned by the soothing tones of the global narco-propaganda machine to know – without question – that Heroin Is Bad. (Well, you got me there: heroin IS bad.) If so, put this down now. You’re not worthy. Exchange it for a People and go sit at a table in the back some place where you’ll be out of the way of the real world.

That’s where I’d then like to join you for a cup of coffee and share with you a thing or two. For example, we could delve into the controversial issue of how heroin, like marijuana, could actually be a good thing for terminal patients if utilized in a controlled environment and circumstance. And, we might discuss the potential advantages of legalization and how subsequent governmental regulating of quality and quantity distribution would dramatically reduce the alarming rate of accidental OD’s, not to mention the criminal activities surrounding the drug trade.

However, rather than throw a radical wrench in the gears of the aforementioned propaganda machine, I’ll instead cover some of my personal experiences with usage, and how it is associated with the culture in our real world on the Inside.

If you’re familiar with past articles highlighting the horrid and depressing conditions of this institution, you might be able to even marginally identify with why drug usage – and eventual addiction – is such a widespread plague affecting this prison’s population. In fact, just about any prison you can think of globally, ones which are most certainly much cleaner and sedate compared to Bangkwang, is ravaged by similar problems. A significant difference, though, is the simple fact that our prison is situated in a heroin-producing nation. Couple this with the astonishingly low pay scale offered to the uniformed officers employed there, and the simple fact that they can near effortlessly supplement their income by bringing a block of smack or two in with them to work, and you have the necessary equation for a considerable amount of cheap, high-grade gear inside for the boys.

The boys, in this case, are pretty much anybody who wants it, and has a bit of spare cash. A large part of my wake-up call upon entering these foreboding gates – aside from the fact that I was entering these foreboding gates – had been meeting up with the multitude of Westerners who were full-on heroin addicts. Most of these guys were veterans who’d been around when Warren Fellows, author of the widely acclaimed The Damage Done and self-confessed long-time user himself, had finally received a compassionate Royal Pardon. Some of them had been seduced by the gear long before they’d wound up behind bars. Others had succumbed to the elements of prison life and adopted a habit merely to get through the friction of the day.

I fell into the latter category. I’d tried heroin a couple of times prior to my arrest just to see what the fuss was about. But, having been on the completely opposite end of the spectrum as far as health and physical conditioning go, I just couldn’t get why it was such a big deal. I mean, I was much more into island hopping and quaffing beers with fellow travelers. Nodding off on the fringes while gaggles of Swedish girls danced on the beach just didn’t seem too appealing to me.

For about the first year of my sentence I stayed faithful to this view. Besides, all those haggard junkies weren’t exactly a mountain of inspiration. But at some point, just over seven years ago, it suddenly occurred to me that being off my head day in and day out was the only way I’d have a chance of surviving this ordeal. There was simply no better way of getting through a night of a guy with T.B. hacking and coughing six inches to my right and a leprosy victim picking his scabs off six inches to my left.

Fortunately, when I reluctantly consented to the reality that I’d use heroin as a crutch to help get me through this lengthy spell in jail – the justice is profoundly poetic, innit?; heroin trafficker becomes junkie) – I also vowed not to carry a habit back out with me. I must admit that having the unique luxury of actually being able to walk out of here definitely assists in one’s quest to get off the gear. It’s just a bit painful to think that, up until very recently, I must have been serving as a wake-up call for all the weary foreigners who’d entered their own foreboding set of gates some years after me.

Hopefully this will serve as the very same kind of alarm for any of you with plans, however vague, to follow in my footsteps.

Garth Hattan
Building-2 (Now Released on Transfer Treaty)

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