The Incarcerated InkWell

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


Iridian (Ira) M. GreNada is a writer who has drunk the poison — and lived to tell the tale. He is a son, a husband, a brother, a father, a killer and healer, a freed man and a prisoner, a lover and a hater, a true believer and cynic, a reader, a writer, and above all, a watcher. His view through the window of a life sentence in the Canadian federal penitentiary — a view he has shared with thousands of readers — provides a surprisingly fresh perspective on what it means to do the crime and the time.

Born in western Canada, GreNada grew up under a completely different name, in a completely different century. His first taste of prison culture came in 1984 — at British Columbia’s infamous hate factory, Okalla Correctional Center. Since then, federal prisoner #619816B has spent more than twenty four years either behind bars, sawing through bars, or running from those who wanted him back behind bars. Like many of his neighbours, I.M. GreNada has done — and seen — it all. What makes him unique is an ability to share the prisoner’s POV in an unsullied way, absent of the rhetoric that typically characterizes the genre.

“Show don’t tell”, and “when there’s something to say, say it” are the two pillars on which GreNada has built an international readership. It’s a readership that features as many critics as fans — the hallmark of a successful writer. In January of 2010, GreNada started writing “LIVE from the House of the Dead,” a weekly column published in the online edition of British Columbia’s The Province newspaper. His designation as Canada’s only incarcerated columnist is one he wears with dignity — especially important at a time when the topic of crime and punishment is tearing his country apart.

Since 2011, GreNada has been housed in a prison in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, where he has stayed busy in both the pursuit of restorative justice, and writing. His work earned him first prize at the prestigious Knowlton WordFest literary festival in the summer of 2011, and was also featured in Canadian Today’s Parent magazine in September of the same year. Currently, he is working on a compilation of his first year Province columns, as well as a larger fiction project.

While GreNada brings pathos, irony and a biting sense of humour to his exclusive — sometimes bizarre — stories of a life that no one wants, he is also an hawk-eyed student of road less travelled, and an absolute advocate for the lessons it teaches. For him, life is not just a word. It’s a whole sentence.

The Incarcerated Inkwell is the official blog site for the writings of I.M. GreNada.