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Purgatory: A Prison Diary Volume 2

Purgatory: A Prison Diary Volume 2

by Jeffrey Archer

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On July 19, 2001, following a conviction for perjury, international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years in prison. Prisoner FF8282, as Archer is now known, spent the first three weeks in the notorious HMP Belmarsh, a high-security prison in South London, home to murderers, terrorists and some of Britain's most violent criminals.



On July 19, 2001, following a conviction for perjury, international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years in prison. Prisoner FF8282, as Archer is now known, spent the first three weeks in the notorious HMP Belmarsh, a high-security prison in South London, home to murderers, terrorists and some of Britain's most violent criminals.

On the last day of the trial, his mother dies, and the world's press accompany him to the funeral. On returning to prison, he's placed on the lifer's wing, where a cellmate sells his story to the tabloids. Prisoners and guards routinely line up outside his cell to ask for his autograph, to write letters, and to seek advice on their appeals.

For twenty-two days, Archer was locked in a cell with a murderer and a drug baron. He decided to use that time to write an hour-by-hour diary, detailing the worst three weeks of his life.

When A Prison Diary was published in England, it was condemned by the prison authorities, and praised by the critics.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As recounted in this second installment of his prison diary, Archer's 67 days at Wayland, a medium-security facility in Norfolk, sounds much more pleasant than the time he spent at a maximum-security facility in London, where his status as a bestselling novelist and member of the House of Lords didn't help much. At Wayland, after making the right connections, he could use his considerable fortune to buy decent food, extra phone cards, have his laundry done-even arrange to bid on a $900,000 painting by the Colombian artist Botero, thanks to an inmate being deported back to that country. But as he points out after a fight between prisoners results in a man's head being split open by a snooker ball, "I go into great detail to describe this incident simply because those casually reading this diary might be left with an impression that life at Wayland is almost bearable. It isn't." Archer comes across as a remarkable piece of work-a character only a novelist as subtle as Anthony Powell could invent. At one moment he's remembering discussions with fellow Conservative politicians about the future of the party; the next he's complaining about the prison menu. What obviously kept him going-and will keep readers turning the pages-is his ability to write by hand up to 3,000 words a day of his journals and his 2002 novel, Sons of Fortune, while maintaining the wry humor that can cause him to comment, after seeing a recent TV adaptation of Great Expectations, "If I hadn't been in prison, I would have walked out after fifteen minutes." Agent, Jonathan Lloyd at Curtis Brown. (July 3) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Novelist, lord, and now criminal, Archer continues his tale of life in prison after being convicted of perjury. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When last we heard of the adventures of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare (A Prison Diary, 2003), our noble prisoner had completed three weeks of his four-year sentence for perjury, forgery, and obstruction of justice. He's back. Of course. Prisoner FF8282, author of many fanciful adventures (Sons of Fortune, 2003, etc.), has been transferred from maximum security HMP Belmarsh. Now he records nine weeks at medium security HMP Wayland before heading for an open prison in 2001. Still not pleased with standard accommodations, he arranges with fellow inmates for extra bedding, laundry service, and bottled water. He dines on toad-in-the-hole, beans on toast, Spam, Weetabix, and marmalade. His Lordship is busy in the pokey, attempting to fashion a flower pot, refereeing cricket matches, getting his cell redecorated, watching Jane Austen on the telly, and checking out all of Shakespeare's plays. ("Tonight, King Lear. If only the Bard had experienced a few months in prison . . .") A man of some sensibility, he engages with another convict, soon to return to his native Colombia, in a scheme to get a fine emerald and a fine painting by the celebrated Colombian Botero. (The plan carries the only hint of suspense, so we won't reveal if it works.) There are sketches of friendly inmates, like "Dale (wounding with intent), Darren (marijuana only), Jimmy (Ecstasy courier), Steve (conspiracy to murder), and Jules (drug dealing)" and visits from friends and family. Other than his conventional take on the events of September 11th, this is not terribly different from his previous outing (if that's the right word). Archer is, understandably, still unhappy with the prison system; he has ideas for reform. Histext is still larded with cricketer jargon indecipherable this side of the Atlantic. A toff in HM's bridewell, it's toad-in-the-hole once more. Plan an escape. (8-page photo insert)

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St. Martin's Press
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A Prison Diary , #2
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A Prison Diary Volume 2

By Jeffrey Archer

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Jeffrey Archer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-5410-5


Day 22

Thursday 9 August 2001

10.21 am

It is a glorious day: a day for watching cricket, for drinking Pimm's, for building sandcastles, for mowing the lawn. Not a day to be travelling in a sweatbox for 120 miles.

Having served twenty-one days and fourteen hours in Belmarsh, I am about to be transported to HMP Wayland, a Category C prison in Norfolk. A Group 4 van is my chauffeur-driven transport, with two cubicles for two prisoners. I remain locked in for fifteen minutes awaiting the arrival of a second prisoner. I hear him talking, but can't see him. Is he also going to Wayland?

At last the great electric gates of Belmarsh slide open and we begin our journey east. My temporary moving residence is a compartment four feet by three with a plastic seat. I feel nauseous within ten minutes, and am covered in sweat within fifteen.

The journey to Wayland prison in Norfolk takes just over three hours. As I peer through my tiny window I recognize the occasional familiar landmark on the Cambridge leg of the trip. Once the university city is behind us, I have to satisfy myself with a glimpse at signposts whenever we slow down at roundabouts to pinpoint where we are: Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford. So for this particular period of my life that very special lady, Gillian Shephard, will be my Member of Parliament.

The roads become narrower and the trees taller the further east we travel. When we finally arrive at Wayland it couldn't be in starker contrast to the entrance of Belmarsh with its foreboding high walls and electric gates. And – most pleasing of all – not a member of the press in sight. We drive into the yard and come to a halt outside the reception area. I sense immediately a different atmosphere and a more casual approach by prison officers. But then their daily tariff is not gangland murderers, IRA terrorists, rapists and drug barons.

The first officer I meet as I walk into reception is Mr Knowles. Once he has completed the paperwork, he signs me over to a Mr Brown, as if I were a registered parcel. Once again, I am strip-searched before the officer empties my HMP Belmarsh plastic bag onto the counter and rummages through my possessions. He removes my dressing gown, the two large blue towels William had so thoughtfully supplied and a blue tracksuit. He informs me that they will be returned to me as soon as I am enhanced.

'How long will that take?' I ask.

'Usually about three months,' he replies casually, as if it were a few grains of sand passing through an hourglass. I don't think I'll mention to Mr Brown that I'm hoping to be moved within a few days, once the police enquiry into Baroness Nicholson's complaint concerning the Simple Truth appeal has been seen for what it is.

Mr Brown then places my beige slacks and blue shirt on one side, explaining that I won't get those back until I've been released or transferred. He replaces them with a striped blue prison shirt and a pair of jeans. After signing over my personal possessions, my photograph is taken, holding up a little blackboard with the chalk letters FF8282 under my chin, just as you've seen in films.

I am escorted by another officer to what I would describe as the quartermaster's stores. There I am handed one towel (green), one toothbrush (red), one tube of toothpaste, one comb, two Bic razors and one plastic plate, plastic bowl and plastic cutlery.

Having placed my new prison property in the plastic bag along with the few possessions I am allowed to retain, I am escorted to the induction wing. Mr Thompson, the induction officer, invites me into his office. He begins by telling me that he has been in the Prison Service for ten years, and therefore hopes he will be able to answer any questions I might have.

'You begin your life on the induction wing,' he explains, 'where you'll share a cell with another prisoner.' My heart sinks as I recall my experience at Belmarsh. I warn him that whoever I share a cell with will sell his story to the tabloids. Mr Thompson laughs. How quickly will he find out? Prison would be so much more bearable if you could share a cell with someone you know. I can think of a dozen people I'd be happy to share a cell with, and more than a dozen who ought to be in one.

When Mr Thompson finishes his introductory talk, he goes on to assure me that I will be moved into a single cell on another block once I've completed my induction.

'How long will that take?' I ask.

'We're so overcrowded at the moment,' he admits, 'that it could take anything up to a month.' He pauses. 'But in your case I hope it will be only a few days.'

Mr Thompson then describes a typical day in the life of Wayland, making it clear that prisoners spend considerably less time locked in their cells than they do at Belmarsh, which is a slight relief. He then lists the work choices: education, gardening, kitchen, workshop or wing cleaner. But he warns me that it will take a few days before this can be sorted out. Nothing is ever done today in the Prison Service, and rarely even tomorrow. He describes how the canteen works, and confirms that I will be allowed to spend £12.50 per week there. I pray that the food will be an improvement on Belmarsh. Surely it can't be worse.

Mr Thompson ends his dissertation by telling me that he's selected a quiet room-mate, who shouldn't cause me any trouble. Finally, as I have no more questions, he accompanies me out of his little office down a crowded corridor packed with young men aged between eighteen to twenty-five, who just stand around and stare at me.

My heart sinks when he unlocks the door. The cell is filthy and would have been the subject of a court order by the RSPCA if any animal had been discovered locked inside. The window and window sill are caked in thick dirt – not dust, months of accumulated dirt – the lavatory and the wash basin are covered not with dirt, but shit. I need to get out of here as quickly as possible. It is clear that Mr Thompson doesn't see the dirt and is oblivious to the cell's filthy condition. He leaves me alone only for a few moments before my cell-mate strolls in. He tells me his name, but his Yorkshire accent is so broad that I can't make it out and resort to checking on the cell card attached to the door.

Chris is about my height but more stocky. He goes on talking at me, but I can understand only about one word in three. When he finally stops talking he settles down on the top bunk to read a letter from his mother while I begin to make up my bed on the bunk below. He chuckles and reads out a sentence from her letter: 'If you don't get this letter, let me know and I'll send you another one.' By the time we are let out to collect our supper I have discovered that he is serving a five-year sentence for GBH (grievous bodily harm), having stabbed his victim with a Stanley knife. This is Mr Thompson's idea of someone who isn't going to cause me any trouble.

6.00 pm

All meals are served at a hotplate, situated on the floor below. I wait patiently in a long queue only to discover that the food is every bit as bad as Belmarsh. I return to my cell empty-handed, grateful that canteen orders at Wayland are on a Friday (tomorrow). I extract a box of Sugar Puffs from my plastic bag and fill the bowl, adding long-life milk. I munch a Belmarsh apple and silently thank Del Boy.

6.30 pm

Exercise: there are several differences between Belmarsh and Wayland that are immediately apparent when you walk out into the exercise yard. First, you are not searched, second, the distance you can cover without retracing your steps can be multiplied by five – about a quarter of a mile – third, the ratio of black to white prisoners is now 30/70 – compared to 70/30 at Belmarsh – and fourth, my arrival in Norfolk causes even more unsolicited pointing, sniggering and loutish remarks, which only force me to curtail my walk fifteen minutes early. I wish Mr Justice Potts could experience this for just one day.

On the first long circuit, the salesmen move in.

'Anything you need, Jeff? Drugs, tobacco, phonecards?'

They're all quite happy to receive payment on the outside by cheque or cash. I explain to them all firmly that I'm not interested, but it's clearly going to take a few days before they realize I mean it.

When the barrow boys and second-hand salesmen have departed empty-handed, I'm joined by a lifer who tells me he's also sixty-one, but the difference is that he's already served twenty-seven years in prison and still doesn't know when, if ever, he'll be released. When I ask him what he's in for, he admits to killing a policeman. I begin a conversation with a black man on the other side of me, and the lifer melts away.

Several of the more mature prisoners turn out to be in for 'white collar' crimes: fiddling the DSS, the DTI or HM Customs. One of them, David, joins me and immediately tells me that he's serving five years.

'What for?' I ask.



'No, spirits,' he confesses.

'I didn't realize that was against the law. I thought you could pop across to Calais and ...'

'Yeah, you can, but not sixty-five times in sixty-five days with a two-ton lorry, carrying twenty million quid's worth of whisky.' He pauses. 'It's when you forget to cough up eight million quid in duty that the Customs and Excise become a little upset.'

A young man in his late twenties takes the place of the police murderer on the other side of me. He brags that he's been banged up in six jails during the past ten years, so if I need a Cook's tour he's the best-qualified operator.

'Why have you been sent to six jails in ten years?' I enquire.

'No one wants me,' he admits. 'I've done over two thousand burglaries since the age of nineteen, and every time they let me out, I just start up again.'

'Isn't it time to give it up, and find something more worthwhile to do?' I ask naively.

'No chance,' he replies. 'Not while I'm making over two hundred grand a year, Jeff.'

After a time, I become sick of the catcalling, so leave the exercise yard and return to my cell, more and more disillusioned, more and more cynical. I don't consider young people, who are first offenders and have been charged with minor offences, should be sent to establishments like this, where one in three will end up on drugs, and one in three will commit a far more serious offence once they've received tuition from the prison professors.

The next humiliation I have to endure is prisoners queuing up silently outside my cell door to get a look at me. No 'Hi, Jeff, how are you?' Just staring and pointing, as if I'm some kind of an animal at the zoo. I sit in my cage, relieved when at eight o'clock an officer slams the doors closed.

8.00 pm

I'm just about to start writing up what has happened to me today when Chris switches on the television. First we have half an hour of EastEnders followed by Top Gear, and then a documentary on Robbie Williams. Chris is clearly establishing his right to leave the TV on, with a programme he has selected, at a volume that suits him. Will he allow me to watch Frasier tomorrow?

I lie in bed on my thin mattress, my head resting on a rock-hard pillow, and think about Mary and the boys, aware that they too must be enduring their own private hell. I feel as low as I did during my first night at Belmarsh. I have no idea what time I finally fall asleep. I thought I had escaped from hell.

So much for purgatory.


Day 23

Friday 10 August 2001

5.49 am

Intermittent, fitful sleep, unaided by a rock-hard pillow, a cellmate who snores and occasionally talks in his sleep; sadly, nothing of literary interest. Rise and write for two hours.

7.33 am

Cell-mate wakes and grunts. I carry on writing. He then jumps off the top bunk and goes to the lavatory in the corner of the cell. He has no inhibitions in front of me, but then he has been in prison for five years. I am determined never to go to the loo in my cell, while I'm still in a one-up, one-down, unless he is out. I go on working as if nothing is happening. It's quite hard to distract me when I'm writing, but when I look up I see Chris standing there in the nude. His chest is almost completely covered with a tattoo of an eagle towering over a snake, which he tells me with pride he did himself with a tattoo gun. On the knuckles of his fingers on both hands are diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs, while on his shoulders he has a massive spider's web that creeps down his back. There's not much pink flesh left unmarked. He's a walking canvas.

8.00 am

The cell doors are unlocked so we can all go and have breakfast; one hour earlier than in Belmarsh. Chris and I walk down to the hotplate. At least the eggs have been boiled quite recently – like today. We're also given a half carton of semi-skimmed milk, which means that I can drop the long-life version from my weekly shopping list and spend the extra 79p on some other luxury, like marmalade.

9.40 am

Mr Newport pops his head round the cell door to announce that Mr Tinkler, the principal officer, would like a word with me. Even the language at Wayland is more conciliatory. When I leave my cell, he adds, 'It's down the corridor, second door on the left.'

When I enter Mr Tinkler's room, he stands up and ushers me into a chair on the other side of his desk as if he were my bank manager. His name is printed in silver letters on a triangular piece of wood, in case anyone should forget. Mr Tinkler resembles an old sea captain rather than a prison officer. He has weathered, lined skin and a neatly cut white beard. He's been in the service for over twenty years and I learn that he will be retiring next August. He asks me how I'm settling in – the most common question asked by an officer when meeting a prisoner for the first time. I tell him about the state of my room and the proclivities of my cell-mate. He listens attentively and, as there is little difference in our age, I detect some sympathy for my predicament. He tells me that as soon as my induction is over he plans to transfer me to a single cell on C block which houses mainly lifers. Mr Tinkler believes that I'll find the atmosphere there more settled, as I will be among a group of prisoners closer to my own age. I leave his office feeling considerably better than when I entered it.

10.01 am

I've only been back in my cell for a few minutes when Mr Newport pops his head round the door again. 'We're moving you to a cell down the corridor. Pack your belongings and follow me.' I hadn't really unpacked so this exercise doesn't take too long. The other cell also turns out to be a double, but once I'm inside Mr Newport whispers, 'We're hoping to leave you on your own.' Mr Tinkler's sympathy is translated into something far more tangible than mere words.

I slowly unpack my possessions from the regulation prison plastic bag for the seventh time in three weeks.

As I now have two small cupboards, I put all the prison clothes like shirts, socks, pants, gym kit, etc. in one, while I place my personal belongings in the other. I almost enjoy how long it takes to put my new home in order.

11.36 am

Mr Newport is back again. He's making his rounds, this time to deliver canteen lists to every cell. He has already warned me that if the computer hasn't transferred my surplus cash from Belmarsh I will be allowed an advance of only £5 this week. I quickly check the top of the list, to discover I'm in credit for £20.46. This turns out to be my weekly allowance of £12.50 plus two payments from the education department at Belmarsh for my lecture on creative writing and two sessions at the workshop. I spend the next thirty minutes planning how to spend this windfall. I allow myself such luxuries as Gillette shaving foam, Robertson's marmalade and four bottles of Evian water.

12 noon

Lunch. On Fridays at Wayland lunch comes in a plastic bag: a packet of crisps, a bar of chocolate, a bread roll accompanied by a lettuce leaf and a sachet of salad cream. I can only wonder in which prison workshop and how long ago this meal was packed, because there are rarely sell-by dates on prison food. I return to my cell to find the canteen provisions have been deposited on the end of my bed in yet another plastic bag. I celebrate by thumbing my bread roll in half and spreading Robertson's Golden Shred all over it with the aid of my toothbrush handle. I pour myself a mug of Evian. Already the world is a better place.

12.40 pm

Part of the induction process is a private session with the prison chaplain. Mr John Framlington looks to me as if it's been some years since he's administered his own parish. He explains that he's a 'fill-in', as he shares the work with a younger man. I assure him that I will be attending the service on Sunday, but would like to know if it clashes with the RCs. He looks puzzled.

'No, we both use the same chapel. Father Christopher has so many parishes outside the prison to cover each Sunday he holds his service on a Saturday morning at ten thirty.' Mr Framlington is interested to discover why I wish to attend both services. I tell him about my daily diary, and my failure to hear Father Kevin's sermon while at Belmarsh. He sighs.


Excerpted from Purgatory by Jeffrey Archer. Copyright © 2003 Jeffrey Archer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. In 1969, aged 29, he became one of the youngest Members of Parliament; he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1985, and in 1992 was elevated to the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections-including Kane and Abel, Honor Among Thieves, and most recently, Sons of Fortune-have been international bestsellers.

Archer is married, has two children, and lives in England.

Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain’s House of Commons and twenty-four years in the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections—including Best Kept Secret, The Sins of the Father, Only Time Will Tell, and Kane and Abel—have been international bestselling books. Archer is married with two sons and lives in London and Cambridge.

Brief Biography

London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester
Date of Birth:
April 15, 1940
Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute

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