My twelve riotous years working behind bars in some of Canada's toughest jails
If he hadn't been rear-ended on a Vancouver street and knocked unconscious into the car ahead of him, it's unlikely that the poet J. Michael Yates would ever have become a prison guard. But the accident temporarily messed up his memory, and being a prison guard or "line screw" looked like a job he could handle. He signed up and for the next dozen years worked behind bars.
Line Screw is his tough, chilling, yet frequently comic account of his years working as a guard in three quite different jails: Oakalla, now demolished, but once Canada's answer to Alcatraz; Vancouver Pretrial, the most hi-tech jail in North America; and New Haven, a unique minimum-security jail, where young adults really are rehabilitated.
This book is a first. No one before has ever written about what prison life is like on the guard's side of the bars. And few writers have ever written about prison with such skill and humour. Life in prison is rough, dangerous, full of bureaucratic idiocy, enlivened by hilarious pranks, and kept sane by a gallows humour shared by cons and guards.
The tales here cover the spectrum from slapstick to great poignancy, even tragedy. They include revealing stories on such celebrity cons as Clifford Olson and the Squamish Five; on what it's like to quell a major prison riot; and on the quiet pride taken on watching young men straighten out. J. Michael Yates' remarkable storytelling skills make Line Screw a compelling read.