GO-BOY! Memories of a Life Behind Bars

Roger Caron was a professional bank robber.  He spent twenty-four years in prison and escaped an incredible thirteen times – more than anyone in Canadian history. From the 1950’s to 1970’s, Canadian penitentiaries were considered some of the most dangerous institutions in the world, rivaling conditions often cited in the Soviet Union and South Africa.  “Rehabilitation” came in the form of regular beatings, shock therapy, extended periods of solitary confinement and medical experimentation.  However, it wasn’t until Roger taught himself to write while living under the brutal conditions of the notorious Kingston Penitentiary, that he discovered a new way to escape, through the power of his words. Go-Boy! Memories of a Life Behind Bars chronicles the true story of Roger Caron, who defied all odds by becoming an award-winning author by exposing the inhumaneness and hardships of the penal system.

Roger excelled at being a “Go-Boy!”, prison slang for escaping. Every time he was captured for his numerous bank robberies, Roger escaped by cutting the bars to his cell using hacksaw blades attached to his toothbrush.   But what exactly was Roger running from? Over 24 years in prison, Roger endured corporal punishment, solitary confinement, electric shock therapy and experimental gas treatments.  When this kind of brutality is considered to be rehabilitative, it’s not surprising that he kept running away.   

In December 1963, while serving time in Kingston Penitentiary, Roger was gifted a bag of jellybeans from the Salvation Army.  This small token would unknowingly change Roger’s future.  Instead of eating the candies, he used them to spell a special Seasonal Greeting to the unassuming guards – he spelled the word PIG. His actions were rewarded with a vicious beating. Roger realized his words invoked a reaction. They had power.  One word spelled in jellybeans got more of a reaction than a lifetime of robbing banks and escaping from jail.

Roger’s grueling fifteen-year journey of self-discovery chronicling the most barbaric prison conditions ever documented almost never happened.  After the worst riot in Canadian history, Roger’s 1500-page manuscript was thrown into the city dump.  That’s when fate stepped in.  A teacher found Roger’s pages in the garbage and returned them to him.   Roger then turned those pages into the Governor General’s Award winning, “Go-Boy!”.

Go-Boy! Memories of a Life Behind Bars, examines one man’s story, who beat all odds and found the power of his words as a way to ultimately escape the harsh realities of prison. Roger Caron paved the road by speaking out against the injustices of the system. It only took a lifetime of brutality, a hacksaw blade attached to a toothbrush and a bag of jellybeans to figure out how.

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