Well thanks to Lord Justice Hooper on September 17th at the court of appeal I made it out of the prison system, not without time.
The final nail that was hammered into the prosecutions ‘argument’ was when they could not name anybody that I was supposed to have conspired with, so my conviction was quashed there and then, at that point I was in disbelief so I bugged the screw who was sat next to me for absolute confirmation, he did a good job too there and then but of course my mind was still fixed on returning to the horrible shithole HMP Brixton so I saved the elation until I heard it from my barrister.
I got out of the court building after all the formalities of being released were complete, free train ticket in my grubby hand, left two bin bags of belongings behind at the court and asked them to be trashed, duvet, magazines etc I didn’t want to bring the stench of prison home with me, fuck that.
After thanking the legal team (Bindmans llp) it was straight to the pub across the road from the courts with a friend for a swift half before jumping into a taxi to Paddington station and the long ride back to where I belong.
The train couldn’t go fast enough for me. Once again listening to the incesant chat on mobile phones, stupid ring tones and people having conversation with people who weren’t on the train .. the usual impersonal bollocks that is the “technological age”, crap.
I did often ponder in those small hours in my various cell’s in various prison’s who I may have conspired with, Jesus? the holy ghost? Superman? all the mythical and religious figures came to mind, I settled on Jesus, we must have done a good job “together” to be in this predicament.
Myself and my now realised co-conspirator just got on with the sometimes dreary prison industrial estate existance but had plenty, and I’m mean plenty of laughs along the way with fellow inmates. I was never alone inside, not for a moment, someone was looking after me from day one right until the bitter end, of which I’m eternally grateful.
All in all I had seventeen padmates, yes seventeen over the sixteen months of my stay at HMP! These lads ranged from from a manic schizophrenic rastafarian who showed me the ropes early on to young ‘uns with attention deficit disorders to lads on suicide watch (I was’nt allowed a razor in the cell!) even a vegetarian who later went vegan for four and a half months whilst we were sharing a cell.
Another lad I met also took the vegan option after some enlightening conversations.
Prison is a dirty nasty ghetto which creates a mad atmosphere where everyone alleviates the boredom by taking the piss out of each other, playfighting, gambling, wheelin and dealin in whatever you can get your hands on etc, it’s like a huge social club where when you just let go and don’t get easily offended and accept others the time really does fly by.
This attitude helped me where it came to missing my loved ones. Some good friends were made along the way that I’ll never forget.
Two things I did nurture and develop in prison were tolerance and patience which I know will be with me for the rest of my days. You have to tolerate so many kinds of different people, their attitudes and ways, and you have to be so patient knowing that you’re in for a while plus the system is so deliberately slow in there.
The slightest ‘request’ takes days, weeks, sometimes months! So I did’nt ask for much at all unless it was an emergency which usually constituted a lack of toilet roll in the middle of the night!
Vegan Prisoner Support
To be a vegan in prison is tough at first but the place to be if you want to lose weight (I lost 1 1/4 stones) some prisons being well versed in vegan catering others obviously had a lack of vegan guests so had limited knowledge.
This situation is where the Vegan Prisoners Support Group really kick in and help educate the kitchen staff and governers as to what are the essential components of the vegan diet and do everything in their power to make sure you get what you need.
Here the VPSG truly are a mighty force backing you all the way, helping out whenever any difficulty arises regarding vegan issues. As well as the support from the VPSG there is of course The Vegan Society who also play an important role looking after your wellbeing whilst inside.
The Vegan Society would regularly send VEG 1 multivatimins which I’d pick up from reception where there would usually be a stand off between different screws on whether I was allowed them or not! Never the less I always came away with these ‘boosters’ and always had a good stash of them in my cell.
There’s so many people with heavy colds or flu in prison it’s hard for the average person to avoid falling ill, these ailments are like a constant pandemic on the inside, thankfully I avoided being constantly ill and put that down to my VEG 1 supplement!
In the early days before I started to recieve the supplement I did have one heavy dose of killer flu which lasted about a month and contracted a couple of styes around the eyes which are usually related to being run down which stood to good reason given my predicament.
When I arrived in HMP Stafford there was a couple of vegans I made contact with (fake ones at that only after the weekly vegan pack that could be exchanged for tobacco etc).
I recieved my first ‘vegan pack’ almost straight away and was horrified to see that included was only five small Alpro soya milks for the entire week! This is how it always had been in Stafford I learnt.
Seeing my health was on the line and that of any other real vegans in the prison I passed a message on to the VPSG who immediately took action and informed the prison that the recommended weekly amount is fourteen small Alpro soya milks.
The following week every pack had fourteen soya milks included, even the fake vegans could’nt believe their luck! That’s how it stayed in Stafford and still to this day (I imagine!!) ..the VPSG had changed things for the better.
The Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group also played a great part in ensuring that my stay at HMP was as comfortable as possible, enough said. They deserve a medal too!
It’s raining letters, cards, postcards and love!
Recieving visits was always the best and I had plenty of them throughout. All of my co-defendants from the conspiracy trial regularly visited, plus other faces from the Animal Liberation Movement and of course from my family which I cherished. I always held my head up high and buzzed for days on end after these visits. Visits in prison are the business no doubt about it and play a great part in a prisoners mental wellbeing.
The amount of correspondence I recieved in the three nicks I spent time at was phenominal, uplifting and essential! Some screws hated it as they delivered letter after letter under the cell door virtually on a daily basis. Poor bastards (not!).
“You’re very popular for a “convicted” criminal Kirtley” one sneered (little did he know where I’d be sitting now!) others just took the piss. The screws took the piss a but then again so did we which evened things out.
So I spent virtually all of my free time replying to every letter that I recieved. Luckily all my cell mates were happy that I could chat shit and write at the same time bless’ em! Thank you from the heart to everyone who wrote and even to those who thought about writing (but did’nt have the minerals – you know who you are! haha).
My personal account was always full of cash too thanks to constant generous donations from supporters.
I can just say the support from ‘the outside’ was incredible, so please, please pick up a pen and paper today and continue to support our comrades that are still ‘behind enemy lines’. You don’t know what a letter means until you’ve been in the prison environment, each letter gives that momentary burst of elation just when it’s needed and that’s exactly what we want our incarcerated brothers and sisters to feel every day.
Our non-human family behind enemy lines
Every few days in prison I’d sit silent in my cell and connect with those holed up inside the cells of laboratories, those imprisoned on factory farms, in zoos, circuses, fish farms, fur farms, you know the score. I’d look around me, see all my provisions, the coloured tv in the corner, the food in the cupboard, my bunk with it’s blankets, see my cell mate doing whatever and it just did’nt compare in the slightest to the hell that our non-human family suffer.
The ever present image and a haunting feeling of the nazi concentration camps was always present in my mind in regards to mass non-human animal incarceration and torture, which was a far cry from the situation I was in.
So at any point where I felt myself even beginning to feel sorry about my circumstances I’d knock it on the head and just say to myself “get fucking real”.
That never really stopped the occasional real tear from falling usually late at night when I was alone when I did contemplate ‘the non-human prisons’ and the torture of existance within these hell holes.
Human prison just does’nt even begin to compare…
Back on ‘the out
So I hoped I may have helped in some little way in explaining how I personally viewed prison and indeed how I learnt to cope day by day.
Since being out in the larger world again I’ve been spending loads of time with my partner, family, canine friend and human friends. Eating so much real vegan food it’s stupid. I’m going through about a loaf of wholegrain bread a day! and of course drinking my fair share of my fave beverage .. water (ok ok Special Brew! but not half as much as I consumed before the trial – that was just pre-trial nerves!)
There won’t be any compo coming my way as ‘fresh evidence’ wasn’t used to overturn my conviction so their purses remain stiched shut, no real surprise there. It rests in the hands of the court of appeal right now as to whether or not I can claim my pre-trial expenses back.
The campaign against Sequani vivisection labs continues to grow and get stronger, infact the authorities have made it so much stronger it seems by banging me up! New faces are now joining the campaign against animal torture on the Bromyard road in Ledbury. Things are looking up.
Thank you for your time in reading this and for your support, sincerly.
Love, Solidarity, Anarchy and Total Liberation!
Free Sean Kirtley