Former Sask. prison guard hopes book shows 'what goes on behind the walls'

Pat Bliss worked for 27 years as a correctional officer. Now, he's written a book about his experiences in hopes of showing people what their work is really like inside the prison.

'I'm hoping just to lift some of that negative feeling that we're faced with everyday,' the author said

'Day One' represents Pat Bliss' first day of work and first day of retirement. (Submitted by Pat Bliss)

A former Saskatchewan correctional officer is hoping to change the perception of what life is like for prison guards. 

Pat Bliss worked as a prison guard for 27 years. Now, he has written a book about his experiences called, Behind the razor ribbon: A Correctional Officer's Perspective.

"It originally started as a means to open the gates to get a better understanding of prison," Bliss said. "In the process, I found myself reliving a multitude of incidents and experiences and feelings — good and bad."

Bliss coped with his past experiences through painting and artwork. The book is truly an art project made up of 29 pieces, he said, and the writing was secondary.

Bliss was inspired to start sharing his art because of how prison guards are portrayed in television, movies and on the news. 

'Tower Duty' is one of the pieces done by Pat Bliss while remembering his time as a prison guard. (Submitted by Pat Bliss )

"Prison guards are always portrayed in such a horribly negative way. People don't understand who are the people that they're portraying," Bliss said. "I just wanted to bring to light that what you're watching on television is just totally wrong."

There are great stressors put on officers and civilian staff, he said. Including the people they work with and being around highly infectious diseases, he said. 

"Can you imagine having to go to work every day — as a parent — and having to work with somebody that's possibly raped and murdered a dozen children?" Bliss said. "And be professional about it?"

Pat Bliss is the author and illustrator hoping to show a new side of what prison guards go through. (Submitted by Pat Bliss)

While working, Bliss formed a strong camaraderie with his coworkers to the point where they became a family, he said. However, he's lost 13 colleagues that took their own lives from the stresses of the job, Bliss said. 

"It's for people like that, that have left us and because they had no voice and being depicted negatively all the time," he said. "I'm hoping just to lift some of that negative feeling that we're faced with everyday."

The portrayal weighs on you, Bliss said. He decided to paint. At first, it was difficult to paint every day he went to the studio, but as time went on, it got easier. 

'NIGHT WATCH' is one of the pieces painted by Pat Bliss. It is acrylic on canvas. (Pat Bliss/Website)

Bliss is signing books on Dec. 19 in Prince Albert. His former colleagues are excited about the new book, he said. He's been receiving support from past coworkers and from the general public.

"People really want to know what goes on behind the walls," Bliss said. 

"There's thousands of correctional officers across this country and we don't have a voice," he said. "And I'm really looking forward to having a chance to spread this word."

With files from The Morning Edition