Kingston Penitentiary-Canada's Oldest Prison to Close
Opened in 1835, Kingston Penitentiary, maximum security prison, is slated to close its doors along with Ontario Regional Treatment Centre, which is a psychiatric facility on the penitentiary's grounds. Both of these facilities are slated to be shut down over the next two years.
Why Close Kingston Pen?
Due to the prisons age it costs quite a bit to maintain according to Vic Toews, Public Safety Minister. A minimum security institution in Quebec is also being closed, and Toews figures that by closing both places 120 million a year will be saved. The government is also looking to cut close to 300 million from Correctional Service Canada budget.
Sadly many people's jobs will be affected. Kingston Penitentiary has more than 460 employees, and the psychiatric facility employs 42.
Kingston Penitentiary sits on the shore of Lake Ontario
A few interesting facts about Kingston Penitentiary over the years.
- First six inmates arrive in June of 1835.
- The first warden of Kingston Penitentiary was dismissed in 1848, and charged with 11 criminal charges due to overzealous disciplinary actions.
- A northwest block is opened to house female prisoners in 1913.
- A decision is made that Kingston Pen will only house men and the women are transferred to their own facility in 1934.
- A riot breaks out in 1954 involving hundreds of inmates.
- Guards were taken hostage, and two inmates were killed during a riot in 1971 that lasted for 96 hours. The Canadian Army was called in to help stop the riot.
- The prison is designated a National Historical Site in 1990.
- Ty Conn a bank robber manages to successfully escape in 1999, being the first to do this in over 40 years.
- Kingston Penitentiary has been noted as being the toughest and oldest prison in the land.
Is closing the prison a good idea?
Does the government look at everything that is affected by closing down these facilities such as:
- Even though they currently do not plan on building any new prisons to house inmates, eventually they are going to have to. Why not repair and keep what they have, as in the long run I personally think that it is going to cost more down the road.
- Prisoners will be transferred to other facilities that may or may not have room, which means inmates may have to double bunk. This to me spells out trouble, which could potentially lead to unrest among the prisoners.
- The penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario is the third largest job provider in the city. This obviously will have an effect on the economy of Kingston and its surrounding areas. Not everyone that works at the prison will be offered jobs elsewhere. The unemployed will no longer have the money to spend within the community, and this in turn will cause layoffs in other businesses, causing a trickle-down effect.
Notorious Inmates of Kingston Penitentiary
Over the years there have been many criminals housed at Kingston Penitentiary such as James Donnelly, Clifford Olsen, Russell Williams, and Wayne Bowden (Canadian Vampire Rapist). Paul Bernardo known as The Scarborough Rapist and The Schoolgirl Killer is currently imprisoned at Kingston Pen.
Roger Caron famous Canadian bank robber, who liked to wear Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon masks during bank robberies, was given the nickname Mad Dog Caron. His criminal career started out when he was a teenager. Caron holds the record in Canadian history of successfully breaking out of 13 prisons and jails.
In 1978 he won the Governor Generals award for a book he'd written called Go Boy. This non-fiction book is about his life, and a look into prison life that includes time spent behind bars at Kingston Penitentiary. Go Boy is a prison yell that inmates use when other inmates are attempting to escape. Caron's second book titled Bingo is an accounting of what happened during the 1971 Kingston Pen riot.
Once Kingston Penitentiary closes down it will be interesting to see what becomes of it. Will it become a tourist attraction? Some are saying perhaps it will be turned into a shopping mall. If you have any thoughts about this landmark please leave a comment below. Thank you for visiting.