Sunday October 08, 2017

'It's a young man's game': What it's like to age in prison

Stephen Reid was a member of the so-called Stopwatch Gang during the 1970s and 1980s and is currently out on parole after serving an 18-year sentence in prison on southern Vancouver Island for a 1999 bank robbery and shootout with police in Victoria.

Stephen Reid was a member of the so-called Stopwatch Gang during the 1970s and 1980s and is currently out on parole after serving an 18-year sentence in prison on southern Vancouver Island for a 1999 bank robbery and shootout with police in Victoria. (CBC)

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Stephen Reid spent decades behind bars.

He was a member of the Canadian trio of bank robbers called the Stopwatch Gang. They pulled more than 100 heists and got away with millions of dollars.

At 67-years-old, Stephen is out on parole now in Victoria.

At the age of 50, he was sentenced to another 18 years in prison.

Stephen spent a lot of his youth behind bars, but his latest stint as an older man felt different.

He says he wasn't much of a fighter but never really felt physical fear and knew he could take care of himself as a younger man in prison.

"But when I went backā€¦This time I realized looking around me...I had this whole other layer of being old and not so great health wise," says Stephen, who had heart problems.
 
As Stephen explains, part of prison culture is about lifting weights, strength, and being able to defend yourself.

I was just sitting there on my bunk and realized I had just grown old. I was facing my mortality, right there in front of me, and I had to show up." - Stephen Reid

He remembers one particular run-in with another inmate that terrified him because Stephen knew he'd have to fight.

"This great, sort of, wave of everything went out of me. I was just sitting there on my bunk and realized I had just grown old. I was facing my mortality, right there in front of me, and I had to show up."

Stephen says a few younger inmates he befriended jail, "who are in tip top shape," heard about the situation and confronted the man themselves.

"Prison really is, it's like war. It's a young man's game. And, my limitations were so obvious at that point, in that situation, it just brought me up flat faced against it."