The Incarcerated InkWell

Federal Inmate in a Canadian Prison with a Life Sentence writes about prison life

The Hate Factory

?When I was five-years-old, the babysitter tied me with a dog-leash to the hot-water-heater in our basement. He diddled my two-and-a-half-year-old sister in front of me while she cried for me to make him stop. I can?t stop seeing it.?
The day Billy said those words we were walking laps on the half-mile track of a max called Kent. The company had been easy. Much of Billy?s young life had been in custody of some sort, so he made a good yard dog. Conversation that day was light, with lots of empty spaces between ? none of it awkward. The sun-washed spring day highlighted snow-capped Mt. Cheam in the distance ? and the lime-coloured?budding of?saplings nearer by. Billy?s unprompted declaration vacuumed the breath from what should have been a perfect moment. We walked-on in silence.
A half-lap later, the echo from Billy?s explosive revelation finally faded enough for me to respond. ?Wow bro. That?s heavy,? was all I could muster. A glance revealed his rolling tears. I quickly looked away.
?Yeah, I know,? Billy said in a nasally voice. ?She?s all I have left in this world. I got to get out of here and help her. She?s having a hard time right now.?
I removed my jacket. My body would need all of the sun?s strength to evict the death-chill that Billy?s comment had injected in it. I didn?t question his inability to erase those memories of his early life. Twelve years on, I still can?t forget.
Billy is the kind of prisoner that ? at one time in my life ? was a strong magnet for me. Masculine, rebellious, and aggressive ? he said what he meant and meant what he said. Disrespect him and you always paid the price, often with scars as a memento. Billy made no exception for guards. When hassled by them, he attacked like a cougar. All the same, he was no bully. Billy never preyed on weaker prisoners. Neither did he seek trouble with the guards. But if he saw a prisoner being picked-on by a bigger man ? be a bull or a con ? he took it personally. Over the years, Billy earned a reputation as the kind of dangerous, anti-authoritarian con that prison staff hate ? and prisoners love. Now he walked beside me in anguish, while a guard-tower sniper tracked our every move.
Prison is a place typically reserved for the most dangerous of citizenry. The events that make people prisoners are the same ones that regularly lead the evening news. But the advent of 24-hour-cable-news channels is giving Canadians an incomplete picture of crime. By cycling its most sensationalistic ? often violent ? stories in half-hour loops, these ?if it bleeds it leads news portals are whipping up a public frenzy for retribution.?What those three-minute news clips don?t provide is context. The standard violent crime is counted in seconds. The consequences ? for offenders and victims ? are counted in years. But the footprints leading up to violent crime are usually counted in a lifetime of tragic vignettes. That?s where the real story is. One of them is Billy?s.
Shortly after our walk in the yard that day, Billy and I lost each other in the ebbing tide of penitentiary life. He transferred to one medium-security prison, I to another. As I sat in my cell writing one afternoon, P.P. – Penthouse Perry – came knocking. ?Did you hear about Billy Y?? he asked. I put my pen down, bracing for the latest cluster of gossip from the prison grapevine.
?No, why? Is he here?? I asked.
?Nah, he?s over at the nuthouse,? P.P. responded, referring to the psychiatric prison facility next door. ?He?s been there a year now. But now he?s blind.?
?What? What do you mean blind?? I asked, shaken. The thought of my robust friend without his vision was unimaginable.
?Yah, it?s not good. He sliced his eyes in half with a razor blade. He?s completely lost it.? P.P. delivered this last detail with a disbelieving shake of his head, as if for emphasis. An emphasis unneeded. For the second time, events in Billy?s sad life had stolen my breath.
I spent the rest of that afternoon on my bunk, staring at the ceiling. I kept hearing Billy?s words on that perfect spring day in the Fraser Valley. Was his brutal act of self-hatred an extreme attempt to erase what he had seen as a child? Or was it an act of exchange ? bartering the pain in his head for pain in the flesh? I?ll probably never know. No one has heard about Billy for many years now. What I do know is that no prison whip conceived by man can exceed the self-induced torture of a hate-filled mind.


  1. Andrea W.

    What a powerful story that makes me want to hug the child in Billy and tell him that things can get better. Thank you for sharing your gripping and mind-boggling story. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

    1. I.M. GreNada (Post author)

      I don’t know if a hug will get it done. Neither am I sure how much little boy Billy has in him. Prison is a place full of grown-ups who’ve done some very evil things. I realize that some sort of containment is required when violent crime presents an immediate threat to public safety, but once the person is confined, then society has to figure out if they’re going to help him or put a bullet in him. The current model is more akin to purgatory, and to hear the media tell it, the public hunger is for hellfire. No matter what any politician says, you CAN’T get any tougher on crime than what the current model allows. Keep your eyes open for a column towards the end of November discussing how some Canadian citizens are helping the Billy’s in the pen.
      Thanks for reading Andrea.

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  3. Doc

    Doc just isn’t my nickname i got while doing time, I am a surgeon who got into writing my own scripts and escalating to “hands up”……..I even get a bit of a gut flip when I hear a story like that………your eyes…….and I was on a self pity trip……..god i hope this man finds some peace……..somehow,somewhere………Jesus that was a fing downer, I wanna kill the babysitter, I’m not kidding, and I know how to do it over a painful 18 month cycle of unreal pain.

  4. I.M. GreNada (Post author)

    Thanks for reading, Doc.

    Men like Billy never ask for pity. The greatest act you can give is to be a witness and to simply acknowledge that this is their reality.

    As for the ‘tough on skinners’ prescription, I spent a long time thinking about the same question – namely, how do we kill the babysitter. Recently in Canada, a very high profile case showed that there’s no end to the babysitters and that they can even be hiding in the most honoured of uniforms. There was an interview with the brother of one of this man’s victims and when asked the brother expressed a desire not dissimilar to yours. But it made me think, if we deal out to the predators the same treatment they gave their victims, have we not descended to the predator’s level? And if we choose that path, how will we ever unlearn it?
    Tit for tat might feel good on day one but it’s a slippery slope. Just ask the Palestinians.
    Keep reading Doc. Love your comments.

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