cover image Down Inside: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service

Down Inside: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service

Robert Clark. Goose Lane (UTP, dist.), $22.95 trade paper (277p) ISBN 978-0-86492-969-3

Clark’s honest insider’s review of the Canadian federal prison system, which draws on his 30-year career from guard to deputy warden, is a clarion call responding to the growing prevalence of U.S.-style incarceration practices. It’s also a rare glimpse into daily life behind the walls, and it thoroughly indicts human warehousing and, especially, the overuse of solitary confinement. Clark writes in compelling prose about his own transition from singing the company song to growing cynical over top-down bureaucratic directives that seemed unconnected with on-the-ground reality. Having worked at seven federal penitentiaries, dealing with some of Canada’s most notorious convicts, Clark speaks with the authority to name a growing prison culture of indifference and dehumanization girded by a blue wall of guards more interested in punching clocks than caring for prisoners’ welfare. Witnessing casual brutality and the growing gap between his rehabilitative vision for the system and the punishing inanity of federal policies took a personal toll on Clark, contributing to his alcohol abuse and divorce, but he resisted falling into tough-on-crime cynicism. Instead, by sharing his personal experiences of how certain policies and working relationships proved successful in the past, he persuasively points the way to a more humane pathway for the future. (May)