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From concrete floor to celebrity police escort in five-and-a-half weeks

The following is an excerpt of a post written by Alan Shadrake for Yawning Bread.

I began the six weeks prison sentence on June 1. Because I couldn’t pay the fine, another two weeks were added.  With remission for good behaviour this would mean five and a half weeks.  I had been ordered to surrender to the sheriff at the Supreme Court at 9 a.m. and was quite looking forward to the experience as I defiantly told a Straits Times reporter who turned up mysteriously at a lively pre-jail party at The Old Brown Shoe, a British pub on Bukit Timah Road the night before.  The words that headlined the report announced that I was going to have a ‘ball’ in Changi Prison. Despite having a slight hangover, I was awake early and arrived at the sheriff’s office dead on time.

My lawyer M. Ravi came with me and a few moments later I was being handcuffed and manacled, then locked in a tiny cell inside a police van which sped off to Changi Prison.  I always wondered why such stringent security precautions were taken wherever I went each time I was in police hands.   The answer was always ‘standard procedure’ and that everyone was treated the same way – murderers, drug traffickers, robbers, gangsters and terrorists.  During the journey, being shackled and handcuffed with my hands behind my back and kept in such tight confinement, I asked the guards who would save me if we were involved in an accident, and the van turned over, bursting into flames?   The response was a few chuckles from the other side of the cell.

At Changi Prison I was taken to an ‘admittance’ room, this time surrounded by about six prison officers.  I was the only prisoner being admitted at that moment. I was told later that this was for ‘security’ reasons as the prison authorities were trying to keep my presence there a complete secret. I became known as the VIP – a Very Important Prisoner!  My holdall which contained spare clothes and three books – the maximum permitted – with provocative titles like 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury – were returned to me later in my cell.  Books of a political nature are normally banned but it seemed whoever approved them had no idea what they were about.   While still in the ‘admittance’ room I was ordered to undress for a strip search, then given a pair of black shorts, a white t-shirt and a pair of painful, plastic  sandals which soon caused sores between my toes!

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