- Branded a whore
Inmates’ stories intertwined with a musical composition in a new album by Inki
Stories about imprisonment, crime, and criminals are a large part of today‘s entertainment industry, where the dark aspect of human life becomes a shining marketing product. After all, these stories arouse natural curiosity. From a secure distance, they are interesting and exciting, but for those closer to them, the entertainment value decreases. This is true for the Icelandic Women‘s Prison. Fortified house in the middle of the capital, so close and uncomfortable that it became invisible – part of the surrounding.
The inmates, on the other hand, heard people pass by; the traffic, people on their way to the swimming pool, and children at the kindergarten next door. The experience was fragmented – sometimes the outside world existed and other times it was silent. It didn't shine. But can you lend it a little shine?
Table of Contents
On the album Brotabrot, meaning fractions in Icelandic, where I blend original music, the environmental sounds of the prison, and interviews with former prisoners into a danceable, hip-hop-inspired composition that asks aggressive questions about the relationship between imprisonment and entertainment.
The result will be familiar but at the same time foreign, a bleak reality and a cloudy memory – sort of like a small white house in the capital, surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
Dance To Forget
True crime content has become widely popular. I became addicted to all these shows myself after I worked as a producer at San Quentin Prison in California helping the inmates release San Quentin Mixtape, the first album released from behind bars in America.
I wondered about the irony of enjoying learning about other people’s worst moments and how complicated it is to turn inmates’ stories into a product. Not to say that those stories should not be told, they need to be heard. But we have to know who is behind the product and how they went about getting the true crime stories.
I thought I would make a dance hit infused with inmates’ stories into the track. Sarcastically blending together people’s worst moments with a pop hit. I asked people who are not currently incarcerated but used to be at the Women’s Prison in Iceland to participate, explaining to them my goals with this project. I asked them to share their memories of this particular prison and what led to them being incarcerated there.
Love Of My Life, Bad Guy
I interviewed both men and women because even though there were only 12 cells in the Women’s Prison, there were not enough female inmates to fill it so in reality, it became a mixed-gender prison.
After I had interviewed everyone the piece took on a life of its own. The album became a journey. It starts with a field recording from the prison yard where you can hear the children play next door, which in my mind is an extra punishment for incarcerated mothers to listen to other kids play. Then some acoustic instruments appear; flute, clarinet, elbows on a piano, and a horn.
Gradually the piece builds up, a beat starts pulsing and it becomes impossible not to dance, at least bounce your head a little, while listening to an inmate tell the story of how his father, also a former prison inmate, loved to torture him and finally leading to him being homeless at only 6 years old.
Let‘s dance to forget.
Translation Of Interviews
Translations of interviews with former incarcerated people at The Icelandic Women’s Prison. Listen to Brotabrot album by Inki, released on 5th of August 2022.
Track 1: Áhlaup á fangelsið
You saw and heard the traffic pass by. And you heard sounds from the nearby pool. You hear people. Exactly, the kindergarten was right next door, wasn‘t it? Everything about this place was simply negative.
I recall that most of the people who worked there were very nice.
Still, a lot of ugly things happened there. But when I was there it was fine, maybe they were just so happy that I became a part of the group.
And the women make it very clear if they dislike some men (inmates). Get out, this is my prison! Out of my prison. Apply for transfer. They are so f*** rough. I just had a great time there.
It was such misery, you won‘t believe it. And the new Women‘s prison, it´s just horrible!
It was also fun to chat with the girls, you know. At night, we would sit in the living room and chat, tell stories and exaggerate, it was a lot of fun.
[EN] I had nobody to talk to. Because everybody was into pills and drugs, you know, you never know who you can trust. It was very hard to be around this type of vibe in the prison system.
Because we (women) are more devious, we are. We are more devious. Especially on drugs. Of course, men also do everything to get the drugs. But we can clean up the crime scene. We can rearrange, and create a new stage.
Men definitely have a harder time doing that, especially under influence. When we have gotten away from the crime scene, the director of this scene disappeared.
When I was released from the Women‘s prison, the girls used to call me: „Can you bring me some drugs?“ and I was always driving to town, man. Throw drugs through the window. The girls lowered coffee cups in strings so that I could deliver the drugs to them.
It was such a mess; I will show you exactly how it was. They (the prison guards) hated me when they saw me in the surveillance system approaching the area.
I just had to run as fast as I could. I just had to raid the prison, throw the stuff in the cup, and be gone. My sport was smuggling drugs into the prison, it was great fun.
Track 2: In The System
[EN] The prison guard, the people working there, sometimes cross the line. Like the guy that worked there for so many years, and when I talked to him, he used to grab my breast, my ass.
[EN] And I was very silent, I didn’t know what to do. Because I am in the system, nobody believed me.
[EN] So I feel like I was sexually abused somehow, by the prison guard. I was trying to behave so that I could get out so I allowed this behavior to go on around me.
It is so strange that all these women that I remember knowing there, it wasn‘t so many women, they are all dead now.
It was such a boring place. Every day I probably spent one and a half hours on that treadmill in the basement, which was more or less out of order.
Then there was a mattress on the floor and a broken dumbbell, it was horrible. And of course, you spent as much time as possible in this gym.
It was a very boring place. Also, because, it was so small somehow. When you are in other prisons and you have enough to do somehow, better conditions, and more space, it is much easier to deal with being locked up.
[EN] Only thing
[EN] I did
Not at all
Of the opinion
[EN] I got a very bad lawyer
That there are more
[EN] To defend me
Men that are murderers.
[EN] The best lawyer in Iceland
To be locked up.
Track 3: Sótthreinsi Myglulykt
Track 3: Musty Sterile Smell
Even when people brought AA meetings to the prison, there was a certain misery about them. Somehow it was disconnected, because usually only guys brought the meeting, and there was no connection to anything.
[EN) The funny thing about prison, when you get out of there, your memory blocks out. I block everything, I don’t even remember how the smell was.
Such a musty, sterile smell.
I think everyone got a job. Some idiotic job, stapling packages together, or something like that.
Do you know that it used to be a home for troubled teens before it became a prison?
I was sent there when I was a teenager. Did you know that there used to be a pool there and everything? Kópavogsbraut 17, that was the prison. Then there was number nine, where we were sent for isolation. I was kept there for 3 months in isolation when I was only a 14 years old kid. It was just for punishment. You were also beaten there. You were completely ripped apart. It was a home for troubled teens, today this would not be allowed. Later we got some compensation.
The one that was supposed to be so freaking dangerous, that one woman, all the prisoners were scared shitless of her. I was surprised when I met this Ísafjarðar-Begga, I had heard about this woman.
She was the one who welcomed me when I came straight off the street to the prison. She lent me socks and something like that. No one understood what was happening. I was so surprised!
„No you haven‘t killed anyone,“ I just said. I‘m not saying that someone hasn‘t died because of you. When it came down to it, she had not been alone.
So, if she had not taken care of me, even if she hadn‘t done it, the place would never have come close to Konukot [Shelter for Homeless Women]. Konukot should be banned.
So, I got into a fight with a guy at Litla-Hraun prison and we were both transferred to different prisons. There were only two spaces available, one at Hegningarhúsið prison and one at The Women‘s Prison. I would never have been able to go to the Women‘s Prison because of my record. You know, I have such a rough record. I have committed a lot of crimes. But this time, the only place available was at The Women‘s Prison, so they took me in and after 4 days they said: „We are welcome to have you here, but if you do something wrong you will immediately be transferred!“
And then I met a stripper. She was smuggling ecstasy, and was scared or something and asked me to protect her. So, I did and we became good friends. One morning as I was leaving her cell at eight in the morning I met a prison guard. That was bad!
There was a basketball court and something. There were only two other guys there at my time. There were so few people, you didn’t get much exercise at all.
There was an awful lot of cookies and stuff like that in the kitchen, always! Constantly new packets of biscuits, always!
Then the craft room, for example, was just closed when we weren’t working. I remember I wanted to paint or do something like that, but couldn’t. IT would have meant extra work for the guards.
Track 4: Strauk Sjö Sinnum
I only have good memories from the Women‘s Prison. That‘s what´s so strange.
The thing is that the food was better there than in the mental ward, it was much more relaxed than at Vogur [Treament Center for drug addicts]. You aren‘t kicked out of bed, thrown out on the street at 10 a.m. like at Konukot. What a break not to have to go out for a whole week. At least, you don‘t deserve much pity for being there, as I see it.
[EN] Like you can see in the news my room was on fire. Somebody set my clothes on fire when I was there. I don’t know if you know the lady, she served for a long time, I think she was a big lady. So when I arrived there, there was like “we need to talk to you! We need to tell you the rules of the house.” But I’m the kind who is always myself. So I never really want to listen to such messages and that is why she set my clothes on fire. When I woke up and she said “oh come by my room,” I said to her “no, I don’t want to come! I need to go downstairs to eat. While I was downstairs everything in my room was on fire.”
Most of the women that were repeatedly incarcerated there, basically it‘s the same women that are in and out of prison. These women were my friends. Very good friends of mine.
They stood by me in everything, like at Hólmsheiði prison if I had to go into a fight or something. They said: „Let‘s manipulate him! He just tried to rape me. We just accuse him of rape.“
They really helped me if there was something going on. They were my very good friends.
Women carry much more shame than men. They have completely different feelings. You just see it. They shut down, and become more apathetic. They brood and gain a lot of weight in no time. Everyone got fat and disgusting in prison.
This is the only prison I have not broken out of. Look, I have broken out seven times, both from Akureyri and Litla-Hraun, I have even broken into Litla Hraun and then out again. It is wonderful! Yes, mam. I broke out seven times.
[EN] That’s what I think. Most people go back to the same crime as before because they do not get enough help.
If you look at the regulations, this is not a prison for rehabilitation. This is penal servitude.
A general penitentiary. It is supposed to be a prison for rehabilitation. I don‘t know what that would really mean today. Never really understood that.
This is a penitentiary policy. You are being punished. There is nothing constructive there, although there is some work to be had and such. There is no attempt to build one up.
Regarding therapy offered in the prisons, there is no such service in the Women‘s Prison. At Litla Hraun prison there is one treatment corridor with space for 11 men. But there is no treatment for women, although their need is really greater than the men´s. They are much rougher in their drug abuse than men. They scream if they don‘t get their fix. More support is needed for women. Today, it‘s just frost.
This is in a frozen state. Such a shitty place.
I am very grateful, and I keep on saying this, that I get to be a part of this alcoholic community. Because otherwise, I wouldn‘t be in a position to focus on working on my mental health and my life in general. That‘s what matters most.
Track 5: Í Gegnum Alheiminn Til Hennar
Track 5: Through the universe to her
I felt very strongly that I was harming my daughter by doping so much, that I began getting those nightmares and I thought: „I´ll try to be sober today, at least I´ll try to stay sober until I go to sleep tonight!“.
I didn‘t care how I was going to feel. I just didn‘t want to feel this way about my daughter. In fact, I often dreamt about what would become of her if I continued down this road. So now, even though I am not allowed to see her, I know that everything will be fine because I‘m on a good track. And I just try to send her positive vibes through the universe.
She is such a champion. She can sing the Frozen song by heart, and quite a few other songs. Benedikt Búálfur, all by heart!
I was just so old when I started using drugs so the shame immediately was there for me. I was 35 years old, no I‘m lying! I must have been 33 years old.
When I smoked weed for the first time, in fact, it was because I forgot to order my painkillers. One thing just led to another. At the time, I even contacted my medical doctor and gynecologist to let them know that I was going to try to use weed instead of chemical drugs for a little while. It hadn‘t occurred to them that I could go this way.
I really just grew up on my own. Already at 6 years, I had really hit the street. My dad was in prison in the US. He was locked up for beating a British soldier at Litla-Hraun Prison. He was very violent. He loved torturing people, you see. He really enjoyed torturing.
Track 6: Love Of My Life, Bad Guy
Everything can be mastered. Everyone can do whatever they want. If I could manage what I have done then everyone can do anything.
Do you need women, do you want visits every week? I´ll fix you a girl! What´s wrong with you man? You don‘t need to be here without a woman.
When you hate something, you must have loved it before. I hate Iceland! I hate the system, I hate the circumstances, just the way it has played with my life, basically. I hate Iceland.
The most serious? I don‘t know what is serious and what is not serious. Importing drugs or setting someone on fire or?
[EN] Players was in Kópavogur.
The love of my life,
They always say that it ends with insanity or death, and I always wanted to die. Until then, I hadn‘t realized that I could end up insane, and know for the rest of my life that I made myself insane. That was not an option!
[EN] The love of my life,
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Producer, Recording & Mix: Inki
Mastering: Addi 800
Released in August 2022