A compelling personal memoir and a scathing indictment of bureaucratic indifference and agenda-driven government policies.
In his thirty years in the Canadian prison system, Robert Clark rose from student volunteer to deputy warden. He worked with some of Canada's most dangerous and notorious prisoners, including Paul Bernardo and Tyrone Conn. He dealt with escapes, lockdowns, prisoner murders, prisoner suicides, and a riot. But he also arranged ice-hockey games in a maximum-security institution, sat in a darkened gym watching movies with three hundred inmates, took parolees sightseeing, and consoled victims of violent crimes. He has managed cellblocks, been a parole officer, and investigated staff corruption.
Clark takes readers down inside a range of prisons, from the minimum-security Pittsburgh Institution to the Kingston Regional Treatment Centre for mentally ill prisoners and the notorious (and now closed) maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary. In Down Inside, he challenges head-on the popular belief that a "tough-on-crime" approach makes prisons and communities safer, arguing instead for humane treatment and rehabilitation. Wading into the controversy about long-term solitary confinement, Clark draws from his own experience managing solitary-confinement units to continue the discussion begun by the headline-making Ashley Smith case and to join the chorus of voices calling for an end to the abuse of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons.
"If every politician in Canada would read this book, I'm betting that we'd soon see a sweeping range of reform in our prisons, one that would benefit not only those doing time, but society as a whole."
"A critical, but fair and compassionate insider’s view of a relatively unknown sector of our society."
"It’s a rare and important perspective – a correctional-system insider offering an honest and damning take on the correctional system – that can only intensify pressure on the federal government to follow through on as-yet-unrealized election pledges to reform the country’s prisons."
"Every person who is concerned about the well-being of prisoners in Canada should read Down Inside. Robert Clark’s candid writing about the inner workings of federal corrections illustrates why things can go so terribly wrong. Robert shows us that a healthier environment results when prisoners feel that they are being treated like human beings. As he concludes, "The secret to this complex issue, the key to the lock, is the environment that we create.""
"A compelling, critical look inside Canadian prisons. Clark’s career is a compelling story, clearly and boldly recounted. He has done Canada a great service by sharing this story with us."