When Benito Graffagnino was thrown to a solitary cell after getting physical with a prison officer, he felt helpless and alone. The regular cells were better because he could socialize with other prisoners and pass the time. However, the alone time in that secluded cell changed his life forever and prepared him for what was ahead of him; mental health activism for inmates and pushing for criminal rehabilitation.
Prisons are tough for most people, and most will feel sorry about themselves to the extent of getting depressed and even commiting suicide. Prison suicides are common in UK jails, but prison samaritans have helped inmates regain their purpose and get hold of their thoughts. As a former prison listener, Benito Graffagnino relates to the helplessness of inmates, which fuels his desire to help them access mental health support services.
Benito has been at the forefront of fighting for inmate rights and pushing for more re-orientation and rehabilitation programs. His non-profit books talk about life in prison from his experience, touching on how inmates suffer mentally, physically, and socially due to isolation from society. He has also written articles and appeared on podcasts, discussing how drug use and alcohol abuse affects prisoners, criminal rehabilitation, and inmates' mental health issues.
In a recent interview with a lifestyle writer, Benito Graffagnino revealed how easy it is for prisoners to access drugs, most of which are harmful to their health. He says inmates who access these drugs from outside sell to other inmates, and it's a whole underwater business that ruins the prisoners' lives little by little.
"I was a prisoner who knew pretty much everyone on the wing and what was going on, and although I never got involved, there was a serious problem with buying and selling Spice. I overheard conversations about how Spice was entering Guys Marsh and I was good friends with a guy who sold it on the wing when he had it," said Benito in the interview.
"I was intrigued and I asked him questions on how much he made, and the whole process involved in obtaining and selling Spice - he even told me he could 'lay' me on some Spice and I could pay him back when I made my money from it," he added.
Benito Graffagnino said the rise in violence was the worst outcome of drug abuse among convicts in all these drug businesses that happen in prisons. His push for criminal rehabilitation and a war against drug abuse in prisons stemmed from seeing wasted inmates left helpless in their cells as others laughed at their side effects.
"With spice being sold, borrowed, and stolen, there was an increase in violence. Sometimes even after just one joint, I saw a prisoner knocked out with one punch and dragged into his cell, the alarm pressed, the door shut, waiting for the officers to attend," said Benito.
Although Benito Graffagnino's sentence was extended by six months after the altercation with a prison officer, he says this juncture was the turning point of his life. He enrolled in a Youth rehabilitation program that helped him see inmates' lives from a different perspective. Ever since his passion for helping other inmates get deliverance from drug and alcohol addiction has grown immensely.
He continues to push for inmates' rights from outside, alongside other community-centric activities such as helping the homeless and low-income areas in his neighborhood. Benito Graffagnino is not just another convict today; he is a keynote speaker, author, businessman, and philanthropist.
Born and raised in Bristol, England, the 29-year-old lives in Peru, where he runs a travel business. He has also taken his charity efforts to South America, helping the underprivileged communities with the profits of his businesses. He also runs a charity,' Fight For Pueblo' which provides food, drug rehabilitation, and support services to those living in low-income areas. Later this year, he plans to unveil a restaurant, 'Casa de Comedor' to offer free meals to Peruvians living below the poverty line.