Monday, 2 July 2007

Chapter 31 - Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre

August 2000

The harsh tones of the intercom roused me from my slumber. To my surprise I had been sleeping well in the watch house. The light was kept on all night and we slept on a mattress with a thin blanket, no sheet or pillow. But this morning I was very relieved, my name had been called and that meant I was being transferred to Arthur Gorrie.

After breakfast inmates who were to be transferred from the watch house at Roma Street to the Arthur Gorrie Remand and Reception Centre (click on this link to see a google earth view of the prison) (R&R) were taken from their cells and escorted to the prisoner transfer vehicles. These unmarked 3 tonne trucks, could take about 8 inmates and each inmate was handcuffed and a placed in cramped confines with only a tiny window to look out of.

The trip from Roma street to Wacol took about 25 minutes and I kept worrying what might happen if we were in an accident, locked in and cuffed I would not be able to escape I felt slightly claustrophobic. As we pulled into R&R I could see the shiny steel fences with razor wire and the drab buildings that made up the gaol.

The intake process at R&R takes an hour or two. Most of this time is spent waiting to be seen. Firstly you are taken to a long corridor with cells on one side and offices and consulting rooms on the other. New inmates proceed along the corridor, to complete a variety of processes. We are strip searched, have a shower, wash with special shampoo to kill any parasites living on our bodies, receive a set of new browns, thongs and bedding, fill in a form, and talk to a counsellor for 5 minutes.

A pretty young girl with a pony tail asks me “Is this your first time in prison” , as she looks at me I imagine she is thinking, ‘well this one’s going to get it, pretty boy here, they’ll love him’.


“Are you fearful about entering the general population?”, she stares at me rather blankly, and I wonder if she is a virgin. She has seen fear before, but she’s not really sure what it means, she knows its frightful, but what really happens. But you see I had heard plenty of stories and was familiar with the case of Scott Topping who was serving time for $1200 in unpaid traffic fines when he was brutally raped and murdered at Woodford prison in 1997.

Sp my answer to this question was of course, “Yes”

“Because this is your first time inside and you have mentioned that you have a history of suicide attempts you will probably be sent to the OBs unit at first”

“What’s that?”

“It is a special unit where inmates can be more carefully supervised during the initial settling in period. “

Then we were lead back to the cells on the other side of the corridor to await the next stage of processing. I felt like a commodity a product being pushed on an assembly line, ready for life as a prisoner.

Next we were sent off to the medical unit for an interview with a Nurse who also takes a blood sample to be tested for HEP C, HIV etc. Once this is completed we were then escorted to our unit.

Upon arrival at the OBS unit or W1 as it is known, I was issued with one packet of White Ox cigarettes with a lighter and papers, standard issued for all new arrivals. With my full packet of White Ox I soon found friends, or smoking comrades at least. White OX would have to be one of the strongest tobaccos available and one which was favoured by prisoners.

“Can I get a rolly off ya mate?”

“You got a ciggy mate?”

“Can I get a pinch of backy off ya bro?”

“Give us a couple a rollies I’ll fix ya up on Buyup day.”

“hey buddy got a dury?”

It seemed strange that they gave me a free packet of the strongest cigarettes available upon arrival. Could they be sued for encouraging smoking, and not just that but encouraging inmates to become addicted to the most potent tobacco available, white ox. But I was relieved and soon found my head spinning as I inhaled the first rolly.

I was allocated to cell number 33 in block W1 the observation unit for inmates at risk of self harm.

There are four blocks (W1 {obs}, W2, W3 W4) and each unit consists of 40 cells in 2 levels. Each cell has its own shower, toilet, and TV for one prisoner. The unit has a kitchen, and exercise area. The exercise area is approximately 15X15 metres and contains, a chinning bar, dipping bar, b/ball hoop, punching bag. There is only one screw in each section.

I soon found that my supply of tally ho papers was all gone but luckily, Hung the Vietnamese heroin dealer, gave me a couple of packets.

Len had been involved in a break and enter and arson where he had gone to rob a house at night and as he was leaving decided that he would burn it down.

“I’ve always loved fire, you know the flames are alive, rising up to consume everything, the power of it the way it eats everything, its fuckin beautiful man you know god, anyway, I’m havin a great time watchin the inferno, but I get lost staring into the fire and before I know it there are fire engines and cop cars pulling into the house, and I’m still standing their fuckin transfixed by this fire , anyway the fuckin pigs got me and so here I am.”

Both forearms were heavily bandaged, it was obvious he had tried to slash himself that’s why he was in the obs unit.

Chris Petrie could never remember my name so he called me “that Guy” and from this he got Guy Fawkes which later lead to him giving me the nick name Fawksee. We spent a lot of time giggling like school girls over the most inane shit, it was a kind of hysteria induced by the surreal nature of our surroundings. For some reason we called him glucose, he used to work in the army stores, schizo, highly intelligent, funny, witty (brainy brawny guy), cataracs,

Ian was in gaol for fraud a direct result of his hard core gambling addiction. I am not talking pokies here he was more into the roulette, black jack and good ole two up. He was a down to earth, and very sincere bloke, and seemed a genuinely good person (900,000 fraud). More sophisticated than most of the others we got along well. There was a table tennis table in the unit and we played a few games, Ian was a pretty good player and we had some decent matches.

Stephen Baine knew some of the guys from the stripping group I had been in , Muscle Down Under, and we swapped stories about our experiences in this profession.

One of the screws looks out of place, with his round, soft face and timid voice. We call him the “kindergarten teacher”, when ever he calls us up for muster he speaks in a soft voice and a sense of foreboding dominates his posture.

Mich the sincere, good natured bloke I met in the watch house, was in my section he is unusual in that he shows empathy, but is missing 2 front teeth.

“Curly haired nice guy” – went to Camp Hill knew Mr Kealin (weighlifting coach), Sankey and Nimmo were both weightlifters who were also in the QLD team at the same time as me.

“You like training mate?”

“yeah always been into the gym a bit.”

Fredrick – the mystic, muscle man, very insightful, man read tarot, Maori/Hawaiian/German/Irish.

“G’day mate, me names Jim.”

“How are ya mate, Daves my name”

“Good to meet ya Dave, where are ya from?”

“Ah well I’ve been in Brisbane for the last 15 years or so”

“How about you?”

“Yeah from Brissie, went to Churchie, got into smack and here I am.”

“Oh yeah that shit will do that for ya, I was a bit partial to the smack myself”

“Yeah its fuckin wicked when your on, and a bloody horror story when your off it,”

“I used to score from a bloke that sold gear at East Brisbane near Churchie.”

“Oh yeah what was his name?”

“Alex, do you know him”

“Fuckin, know him, I used to score off the cunt, hows that fuckin small world hey, Alex has gone straight now though, you know how he used to be a real skinny fuck well he’s a fat bastard now.”

“You might have known Bongey as well then”

“”Fuckin oath, that dodgy cunt, fuck he had a filthy habit, jeesus,

“Yeah last time I saw him he was headed to the Buttery for rehab”

“I used to work at a needle exchange for a while GAIN on the Gold Coast, a bit like Quivaa.”

“Oh yeah Quivva hey, have you met Dougie yet?”

“Ah no don’t think so”

“ah well you’ll laugh at this shit he used to work at QUivaa man, I’ll introduce ya to him, he’s just over there on the next table, come on this is a laugh.”

“Hey Dougie, another one of your needle exchange mates here you know him, “

“Ah no, don’t think we’ve met, Dave is it, yeah nah, we havnt met but you worked at Quivaa”

“For a bit, mostly at GAIN on the coast”

“I went to school with Pomy, he’s always been the fuckin same” Dougie said

Pomy got his knickname because, you guessed it he is a pom, and despite being in Australia for 15 years still sounds like one. Thinking back now Pomy reminds me of the Office’s Ricky Gervais, he even looked a bit like him.

“Yeah I’m an accountant got my own firm no one knows I’m in here though told everyone at the office I’m on a bloody cruise” , he grinned and slapped me on the back heartily Pomy liked a good joke. But as time went on he was deceptive, and a bit of a user.

You know “Hey got any fags mate”

“Nah Dougie I’ve only got a few left”

“Oh come on mate, just give us pinch I’ll fix ya up later you know me come on mate…..”

“Oh alright, here that’s all, I cant give ya any more”

But despite that he did make me laugh till I cried on numerous occasions, but the exact nature of what he said eludes me.

“He watch out boy, they’ll be after your ass…..”

“Ah get fucked Pomy, you fuckin faggot”

“Calm down sweet heart don’t get so huffy…..see that boys the little princess is in a tizzy.”

“Yeah whatever, you fuckin cock sucking fuck.” It was a game but it still pissed me off a bit and you know how a bit of fun can sometimes get out of hand.

Ray Rifle the brother of Steve Rifle were notorious Gold Coast drug lords, Ray was in W4 so I crossed paths with him occassionaly.

Then there was Darren he was withdrawing from methadone, cold turkey. They had given him some clonidine and a few valium other than that he just had to wait it out.

Girmay Gebru Habtu killed Elias Ertito Nedebo with a machete inflicting 19 wounds and chopping off his dick. Habtu believed that Nedebo was screwing his wife so he attacked him. Well known Australian swimmer Hayley Lewis was a witness at his trial. Apparently she had heard the murder but had assumed it was someone having loud sex. The victim was killed in the unit next to her house, she was quoted as saying that “I thought it was two people having sex….I was a bit embarrassed,” she said. To Lewis the agony of murder sounded like sex, which begs the question what sort of sex do you like Hayley? A bit of S&M maybe?

Habtu was from Sudan and had a poor understanding of English. I felt sorry for him he was a total outsider here. A couple of the boys were stirring Habtu , teasing him and leaving orange peels on his bed. He responded by yelling in a distinct voice very high pitched voice “he kill you” and running his hand across his throat in a threatening gesture. The boys laughed it off and thought it was great fun.

Food fights – like a bunch of kids on camp – although you know that any moment it could get ugly. (Habtu –is getting angry)

Susan Maureen Robinson, was the gaol psychologist, rather attractive, tall, slender, blonde and she spoke with an American twang in her voice. Rumour had it that she was fucking one of the inmates. But I thought it was bullshit, as if an attractive intelligent professional woman would get it on with criminals.

In our first session together we discussed my situation.

“My parents won’t bail me out I feel intense anger towards them”

“Don’t you think it’s about time that you took responsibility for your actions?”

Her eyes were cold and distant, I could feel her disapproval, I could sense her dislike.

“Yeah I suppose so, but its not like I have done some serious crime, I am in here for non-payment of fines, not armed robbery or murder”

“Still you have done the wrong thing, and this is how society punishes people who transgress the law, the sooner you accept that the sooner you be on your way to recovery.”

“Recovery, from what? I never mentioned anything about recovery, what are you on about, I have a right to be angry about bad treatment, I mean if you go to a restaurant and get bad service you have a right to complain. “

“Yes, I didn’t quite mean it like that you see, what I meant was that you need to focus on what you can do not what you cant”

Later she would be charged for having a sexual relationship with a client and advised to “avoid client sex” Her lover, Mark Nolan was an armed robber who, moved in with her following his release. The story was in the courier mail a couple of years after I was got out. After a few years of love he ended up back inside.

Justin Paul Jones was one of the accused who bashed Peter Cribb. Peter Cribb was a promising university student who was bashed unconscious when he was ambushed while riding home from QUT. Justin and some mates were drinking under the William Jolly Bridge along the bike path near the freeway. They bashed Peter and left him for dead his body floating face down in the murky Brisbane River. Peter is now a vegetable and requires 24 hour care.

Justin smiled a lot and looked to be from the Torres Strait. He was quiet but well spoken and a big fan of the Broncos. He didn’t look dangerous just a very young man who made a tragic mistake, that cost another young man his life.

Out of range of Jones, I mentioned that I thought “the bashing of Cribb was a cowardly act”, the other inmate I spoke to looked at me, with cool hostility, it was clear I had said the wrong thing to this man.

The list below includes some of the memories from this first experience with incarceration;

  • Slashed wrists, broken hearts and drugs
  • OBS the blue light and camera, obs every 15 minutes
  • TV in “slot”
  • More food and space can go out into the sun and move within units
  • “One day someone on fines will top themselves” (Scott Topping was killed)
  • the buddies
  • “I’ll do the time standing on my head!”
  • “Trolley up”, “Muster up”, “Oval up”
  • Numerous armed robbers GBH
  • “Yes boss, no boss”
  • “Medication time”
  • Stripping of manhood , become a child


7am – let out of cells

7.30 – breakfast

10.30 – Muster – stand in front of cells

12.00 – Lunch

1.00 – out to the oval, do laps, on running track, while others play soccer or touch football on the oval

4.00 Muster up “Trolley up”

4.30 Dinner

6.00 Lockdown

On the second day at R&R we are taken to a Gaol Awareness Session, where we will learn a few key facts about gaol culture. For example we learn that;

  • Sexual acts in the common areas can offend other inmates
  • Avoid being a ‘chat’ clean up after yourself – A chat is prison slang for a dirty bastard.
  • Whispering to screws – it looks bad
  • Don’t be a dog – ie don’t tell tales or you can expect some rough justice

We are given a nice little hand book with these and other wonderfully helpful tips on prison life.


I’ve been in gaol now for nine days and during this time I have gone through a vast array of emotions.

The initial horror that sinking feeling that overwhelmed me when the police car rolled into the car park and caught me in the act of shooting up has faded. The watch house experience was the worst. They kept us in a semi starved state, confined within a small area. The food we ate was airline food from Qantas. Or it was made by the Qantas caterers, because food trolleys, the food containers and plastic utensils had the Qantas emblem on them. Imagine that they serve the same food on planes as though do in gaol. The quality was very poor and portions were small.

At the watch house I casually requested vegetarian food but it was not provided. By the time I had reached R&R I was determined to get the proper food. I approached one of the guards to discuss my request. He gives me a form to fill out and tells me to wait.

The next day I approach him to ask about my meals he replied, “Mr Hawkins you will learn that I am a man of my word, I don’t lie to crims, if I say I will do something it will be done”

“Yes boss,” I replied meekly. The guards like to be addressed in this manner and most inmates are happy to use this label, I was keen to fit in so I did so too.

Even though I was transferred out of the padded cell at Roma St I was still placed in the observation wing of R&R when I arrived. The only difference in this section is that prisoners may be in danger of self harm and are closely monitored.

In each cell there is a camera which is on 24hours and a little blue light so they can see you. Each night before lock down inmates are strip searched in the observation wing before entering their cells. This involves getting naked and putting hands behind your head and squatting while coughing. The guards then inspect behind your ears and in your hair to check for things that may be used for self harm.

During the day I pray saying a variety of mantras to calm my spirits and clear my mind. I like the “Om mani padme hum” – which means I am an infinite soul or something like, the “Hare Krishna” mantra and the Lords Prayer. While saying the mantras I kneel on the floor and lean forward to bow my whole body down. I do this for 30-45 minutes a day.

I am also doing 30 chin ups, 300 pushups, 50 hand stand should presses, 100 dips and 50 tricep presses to keep me in shape, clear the mind and discipline myself.

Other guys bash away on a bag, their punches gave me tempo to follow.

“He mate can you give me a spot “, I ask a bloke who is standing around having just had a go at the bag.

He looks at me blankly “No one ever helped me bro, ya know, do it ya self, I aint your boy.”

I felt annoyed and kind of insulted. But there was no way that I wanted to fight this bloke, so I knew to keep my mouth shut. But it was an aggressive interaction could easily have turned violent.

Inmates smoke, laze in the sun, exercise in the yard and pace up and down like dogs in a kennel. The exercise yard is enclosed by thick steel mesh within view is the fence of the prison. It consists of five sections. A small 1 metre high fence, followed by a 3 m electric fence, then a 4m razor wire fence, then a 5m steel mesh fence topped by a large steel cylinder to prevent it being climbed and finally another 4 m razor wire fence.

An armoured car regularly patrols the perimeter which is monitored by cameras and illuminated by spotlights. If an inmate even touches the fence they will be “breached” and sent to the DU (detention unit) which is the punishment section. Here the prisoners are kept locked down 24hrs a day, no TV, no cigs, and 4 hours compulsory exercise a day.

People have been known to throw tennis balls filled with drugs over the walls to get them to the eager inmates.

Just for talking to prisoners in another section through the wire we were threatened with DU, while another inmate who verbally abused a screw was in there for a week.

Two vital rules in jail.

  1. Don’t stare at anyone you don’t know
  2. Don’t ask too many questions. If people want to tell you why they are in let them but don’t force the issue.
  3. Also don’t get too friendly with the screws , if you have a problem see the buddies. The buddies are inmates in green shirts who are responsible for helping prisoners settle in.

So make that three vital rules, there are probably others but these ones seem rather important.

All the other inmates are dressed in ‘browns’, which include a brown shorts, brown t-shirt, thongs, cheap runners, brown track pants and brown jumper. You must supply your own underwear.

“Buy up” day is a special event and is when inmates are permitted to purchase extra food, mags, toiletries, cigs, etc from the prison store. This happens only once a week. You must complete a form the day before to place your order. The goods are then delivered to the units on large trolleys. “Buy-up” purchases are packaged in brown paper bags with a copy of the inmates order form attached. It reminded me of tuck shop when I was at school.

Friends are essential in goal, for moral support and to avoid conflict.

Most inmates are under 40 years of age with the majority under 30. In “Obs” there are numerous inmates with severe mental disturbances. Many have scars on their arms from self-harm and many have been or are addicted to drugs. The majority of prisoners are poorly educated and from the lower class. Tattoos are common and mullet hairdos and the like.

In gaol there seems to be a very high ratio of guitarists. In our section the prison has provided a couple of nylon string acoustic guitars. Two young Samoan guys grabbed the battered nylon string acoustics and began playing a beautiful duet. Then one after another different guys had a strum and each one was quite skilled.

The steel cutlery for our section is stored in wooden block and must all be accounted for after each meal.

While Jamie my neighbour from TSS is great guitarist. We sit together in the exercise yard chatting about heroin addiction and taking turns at playing guitar.

He got busted trying to do an armed robbery to support his junk habit.

“Gaol reminds me of boarding school” , Jamie said.

“The restrictions, the routine, all male environment and the playing up, it is very similar. It just that here you really can’t leave even if you want to, but that was how I felt when I was at TSS (The Southport School). “

Jamie was a tall bloke, he had long hair tied back in a pony tail, he was on remand for his trial, he had the look of the defeated. He knew he would have to serve a few years for his crimes and was resigned to the fact.

When I spoke of getting out soon he looked dejected and changed the subject.

Heroin had got the better of him. He had started off just having it for fun, but fun soon turned into dependency and dependency soon turned into desperation. He robbed a service station, got away with nearly a grand and spent it on smack. But he got caught and now he is in gaol.

“Muster up”, we respond by standing by our cell doors for the regular head counts. A screw calls out each cell number and inmate’s name and you must respond to acknowledge your presence, usually with a casual “yo” or “yes boss”, Or “here” or “yeah” etc…

(Drugs to sleep put in food – never able to stay up later than 11pm). This surprised me because when I was not stoned I would normally stay up late into the night. However, while incarcerated I would become very drowsy by 11pm so that I was unable to keep my eyes open.

I would usually watch TV every night and I can remember seeing the Brisbane doctor Trevor Sauer win the 1000 000, on Who Want to be a millionare, while sitting in my cell at R&R.

There was this movie on SBS about a lawyer who went to gaol for a fine and while in their he got framed for murder………..

The worst time is the morning when you wake and realise where you are. You think of all the people on the outside and what they are doing and you look to the clear blue sky through the barred windows wishing you could just fly away.

However, there is one thing that gets me out of bed every morning and that is Aerobics Oz style. You might be thinking that it is admirable for me to be so focused on fitness while confined but it was really about titillation. The sexy little nymphs cavorting around in their leotards were a bountiful harvest of sexual stimulation for me. It was part of my ritual, leer at their asses and wank in time to the music as they bounce across the screen. It gives me a tremendous feeling of well being and for a moment I can forget where I am.

I feel ashamed, a failure, I consider suicide. I have been down for so long. I haven’t been with a woman for 3 years. Well at least not one I didn’t pay for. I wonder whether I will ever meet a girl or if somehow I am so dysfunctional that I will always be alone.

What will I do when I get out I can’t continue to live the same way I did. The isolation was soul destroying why is it so painful if there is only more pain and suffering ahead maybe I would be better off dead.

In here all these guys seem to have girlfriends and wives and kids. Why me how come I am so absolutely hopeless at picking up women?

My drug addiction was a manifestation of my mental illness, and as treatment for this illness I find myself confined in a prison. They punish me for my sickness, hoping to scare me back to health.

I ‘m in goal full of violent “hardened” criminals, for not paying some fines. I realise that I was caught driving a motor vehicle while under the influence, however I did not hurt anyone of cause damage to any property. Is this justice I think not. This will forever, tarnish me, and I know not what will become of me once released. I am so angry at my father it is typical of him to not be here when I need him. In all of the great emotional crisis of my life he has been emotional absent and withdrawn if not physically absent.

My disastrous relationship with Michelle has permanently scared me and I feel as though I will never be able to really trust again. I have difficulty being intimate with women I don’t trust and I find it takes a long time to develop that trust. I fell I have missed out on so many opportunities because of shyness and indecision. Yet I look around and I see blokes who I fell I am far superior to and they have girlfriends.

Goal is about many things and the people are here for many different reasons. But one recurrent theme is money. Whether it is because they needed it for drugs or gambling or just greed this substance leads many into trouble. It corrupts and destroys erodes and degrades it causes conflict and leads to deceit. Or it creates, heals, supports and develops how do we use money?

This is a prison that is owned by an American company (the Wakenhut Corporation). It is run as a business for profit. I am in prison for failing to pay fines totalling $1750. It costs approximately $135 per day to keep me in prison. ( I get paid while I am in here for doing very little) So if I serve the 64 days I have been sentenced to it will cost the government approximately $6400 and they will pay this to the operators of this prison in lieu of me paying them $1750. Therefore, they actually spend $8000, to confine me. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it.

Furthermore, I am in the same environment as people convicted of serious offences, grievous bodily harm(GBH), assault, armed robbery, attempted murder, drug trafficking and murder. It is inappropriate to confine people convicted of minor and serious offences together, I was confined really because I failed to pay fines imposed for traffic offences. Sure I was convicted of possessing heroin but that is a minor offence and would normally only incur a fine for a first offender such as myself.

Furthermore, it is an insult to the victims of serious crime to have people convicted of

“In gaol you get coffee in goal you get tea, in gaol you get everything except the bloody key!”

But to my surprise what do you get issued with, but a key to your cell.

There are no free weights in R&R ( Arthur Gorrie Remand and Reception) due to death of Bart Vosmaer. His head was bashed in with a barbell while he was training in the gym at Sir David Longlands (SDL), and as result he died. As a consequence of this action all the weights were removed from SDL and R&R which is just across the road.

Last night they brought in a young bloke and put him in the cell next to me. As they were bringing him in he was screaming, and thrashing his body about. I could see them through the small window in my cell door. He screamed and shouted all night, I could hear him banging his body against the door and walls all the while making the most horrendous sounds of torment. I pray for him, and wish he would be quiet. At first I am sympathetic but as the time draws on I become annoyed by his antics and wish he would just shut the fuck up and take it like a man.


Tonight they showed the Movie the Mystery Men on TV. I find that through the TV I can escape to another world. I find myself laughing hysterically. It seems the hero must endure trials and tribulations.

“When you doubt your powers you give power to your doubts”

The Sphinx – Mystery Men


I do acknowledge that I have put myself here through the decisions I have made. No one but me is to blame for the predicament I am now in but me. I accept responsibility for my action s and I am happy that I am here. For I feel that this experience will act as a catalyst to stimulate personal growth and development.

If I had not been put in gaol I would not have been forced to change. I would have continued on my errant path imprisoned by fear. For though I was not surrounded buy walls on the outside I was in an emotional prison that was crippling me.

This experience will only strengthen me and allow me to fullfill my true destiny. I am powerful, but I had forgotten that I had succumbed to fear and depression. I was lost and now I am found, I have been blessed by this experience and I know that this was meant to be.

Saw a familiar face today, which was a welcome event. Ray Rifle, Steve’s brother was in on remand, awaiting trial for a few jobs he had done. Ray had been busted a couple of weeks ago and his picture had been in the paper.

Literature blogs

Went to see the Prison administration people and they have completed my security evaluation and have told me I will be sent to Palen Creek a low security prison farm. I am due to leave tomorrow. I don’t like goodbyes and some of the blokes I do tell, you can see their underlying jealousy that I am going.

Topics to come
  • The line up for the phone
  • The visit from chaplain
  • The terrified call home
  • The big titted tranny in W1 block

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