Thursday, December 17, 2009

How jailbirds Marcus Einfeld and Mark Standen met over Scrabble

By Lisa Davies From: The Daily Telegraph December 17, 2009 12:00AM

Marcus Einfeld and Mark Standen. Source: The

Daily Telegraph THEY both have at least one major thing in common.

Mark Standen and Marcus Einfeld were at the top of their chosen fields before criminal allegations landed at their feet.

Now, they reside just metres apart in a high-security NSW prison with only Scrabble, crosswords and the shared torture of life behind bars to help pass the time.

Standen, once the most senior investigator for the NSW Crime Commission, testified in court many times.

He is to face trial in the Supreme Court next year on charges he conspired to import a chemical precursor to make the drug ice, which he denies.

Einfeld was a federal court judge and respected human rights activist who is serving up to two years in jail for blaming a $77 fine on a dead professor friend.

Today they are not quite room-mates, but share adjoining cells in a strict security jail, split only by a common kitchen.

Each man is the other's only friend, both "intelligent" people who rely on each other to help them keep their brains ticking over.

They even at one stage agreed to attend an art appreciation course to help pass the time.

"(The instructor) tried to teach us to draw and without being flippant, stick figures are about the best of my drawings so we mainly talked about art history," Standen told the Supreme Court yesterday.

The detail about the pair's life in prison came as Standen made an application for bail yesterday.

His pending trial date of February 1 was vacated ahead of a High Court decision expected early next year that may have an effect on the technicalities of the charges laid.

His barrister Mark Ierace SC called his client to give evidence about his conditions in jail, the court hearing he was locked alone in his cell at least between 2.30pm and 7am, or - occasionally - for more than 24 hours at a single time.

At times, Standen said, the only way to pass the time was to peer through the glass viewing window of his cell to see what his friend Einfeld - referred to as Inmate A in court - was doing.

The former judge's classification allows him longer access to their communal kitchen area and tiny yard.

"I don't see or speak with anybody after 2.30 in the afternoon," Standen said yesterday.

While the pair have access to the gym, they rarely use it because "Inmate A doesn't have much inclination to go the gym".

Instead, they prefer some of the more intellectual pursuits.

"We play Scrabble, do crosswords. I like to do both but if I have a choice of going to the gym on my own or doing these other activities with him, I'd rather do the latter," he said.

However, both inmates are kept strictly separate from the prison community due to a threat on their safety from other inmates.

Standen said they hear the inmates communicating with each other in friendly and, from time to time, "in an unbelievably unfriendly manner".

The same inmates would communicate with him and Einfeld "usually in either a mocking or an unfriendly manner", he said.

The bail hearing continues today.