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Kingston Penitentiary-Canada's Oldest Prison to Close

Updated on October 13, 2012
Front entrance Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Front entrance Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario, Canada | Source

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

Kingston Penitentiary Photo taken in 1919
Kingston Penitentiary Photo taken in 1919 | Source

Ontario, Canada

A
560 King St. West, Kingston, Ontario, :
560 King St W, Kingston, ON K7M 8W6, Canada

get directions

Kingston Penitentiary

B
Toronto, Ontario:
Toronto, ON, Canada

get directions

C
Ottawa, Ontario:
Ottawa, ON, Canada

get directions

D
Ontario Regional Treatment Centre:
Kingston Regional Treatment Centre, Kingston, ON K7M, Canada

get directions

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      LOL Shall we buy the place and open up a Restaurant/Bar? Maybe Martha Stewart could help us out with some of her famous prison dishes too.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Ha! That's an even better idea!

      I can see the menu, "mystery soy 'meat' surprise!" Or, "I Can't Believe It's Chicken Codon Blue!"

      Drinks like, "Mouthwash Hurricane," or "Stolen Vanilla Extract Ice Tea!"

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wesman, Thanks. I was thinking it would make a great hotel with a bar and restaurant myself. They could leave the cells or some of them as they are for those of us that want to have a feel for what prison life is like. :)

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Very interesting!

      I hope they make it into a nice museum :)

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Dale, Always nice to see you. Glad you liked my hub and hope to talk to you soon. Take care.

    • hillrider profile image

      hillrider 

      5 years ago from Mid-west United States

      Susan, came to say hello. This is both informative and very readable. Something most writers strive for you always seem to manage with relative ease. Nicely compiled and presented my friend. Hope you are well it's been awhile since I have been around to see ya...

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Jenna, Glad you liked it, and thanks.

    • Jenna Pope profile image

      Jenna Pope 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      Very interesting Hub. I say turn it into a museum or cultural center. Voted up.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thomas, I recently read that they are thinking of turning it into a museum (Alcatraz North) and the government has it for sale for a mere $17.6 Mil.

      Helz ya I'd want my own room too with an ensuite :)

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 

      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Susan,

      There are always so many variables when it comes to these closures. We have a prison here in Carson City that was built in 1862 and all the exact same questions apply. Here in Nevada...They have decided to goose this one along for another 5 years or so until they build a new one.

      We shall see. Personally, I'm for a lot of prisons...if shit goes south for me...I want my own room. Right?

      Thomas

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Shows where my head is Susan, I forgot about "pre-approval"...knew it cause I use it too, but forgot!

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      tillsontitan, Sorry for taking a few days to reply. Been busy with guests. Your comments are here. I have the comment box set up to approve comments before they appear as I've been getting a lot of spam lately. Thanks again.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      MG Singh, Thank you.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      tillsontitan, The movies that have been filmed at Alcatraz were all great ones. I'm sure someone will use Kingston Pen for a movie set too. Wish I'd gone over to see Alcatraz the last time I was in San Francisco.

      Thanks for the votes and comments.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I commented on this hub yesterday but don't see it here today...I think sometimes I forget to hit Post Comment.

      Anyway, it is always a shame when they close down a prison...scary as well though they find a place for the 'inmates' it seems they belong where they are.

      In California they made Alcatraz into a tourist attraction. People flock to it every year and come back with tee shirts saying they were at Alcatraz.

      Your hub was well written and definitely thought-provoking. I hope it comes to a beneficial conclusion. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sue, I'm sure they'll figure out some way for it to become a money maker. On the bright side I've always want to see the inside of it so maybe now I'll get to.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Very nice post. Enjoyed it. Closing a prison is not a good thing

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      As chrissieklinger mentioned, the State of California turned Alcatraz into a tourist attraction. Alcatraz housed some of the U.S.'s most famous criminals including Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz. As a tourist attraction it is also a place to see rare flowers and plants, marine wildlife, and thousands of roosting and nesting sea birds.

      The loss of jobs from the closing of Kingston is the saddest part. They will always find somewhere to put the criminals but you wonder what percipates a decision to close a prison?

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thundermama, In the city where I live they are constantly putting in the big box stores and then the old stores sit there vacant. Some parts of town seem almost like a ghost town. Seems like such a waste.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      nmdonders, Nice to meet you. I'm sure they will make the prison into a tourist attraction. It is a historical site so I'm pretty sure the buildings themselves are safe from being torn down.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 

      6 years ago

      Hi Susan,

      I had no idea that Kingston Penitentiary is going to be closed. I can see it becoming a tourist attraction.

      Voted up and awesome

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Tammy, I hope Paul Bernardo gets put somewhere far away from me. He a really scary one. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Fabulous hub! I'm with you, I can't understand why they wouldn't plan to fix the prison? We all know that new ones will have to be built to house these extra prisoners eventually.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 

      6 years ago from Wales, UK

      I wouldn't ever want to visit an old prison - the very walls must be saturated in negative energy. Scary places.

      Interesting hub, Susan.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      RH, No he didn't escape to commit suicide. There are two theories. One being that the police had found the apartment where he was staying and had it surrounded. He killed himself as he didn't want to be locked up again. The other theory is that the shotgun he was in possession of back fired on him during a standoff. There is a book about this man as well that is called "Who Killed Ty Conn"

    • nmdonders profile image

      Nira Perkins 

      6 years ago

      It's a sad scenario all around. It's too bad jobs have to be lost and the building was to old and costly to maintain. I love old buildings and it saddens me when they're taken down.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      That is going to be some undertaking transferring all those prisoners. That is a shame this will have a negative impact on the community, especially during the global economic crisis. That is one scary guest list!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Are you serious? He broke out so he could kill himself?? Seems dumb but I am sure he had a reason. Interesting though!

      Yeah I am going to go and see what I can find on Amazon! I could use some new material and I bet it is absorbing!

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      RH, Go Boy is a really good book. I believe they sell both books on Amazon. I tried to insert the link for them but for some reason it wouldn't work. Ty Conn committed suicide two weeks after he escaped.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Oh I want to read Go Boy now - and Bingo!

      Super idea! This was fascinating...I wonder what they will do with it? A hotel? Lol

      Hey did Ty Conn (funny name for a criminal!) get caught?

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Ruby, I read Go Boy many years ago. What a book, I couldn't put it down till I finished it.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Chrissie, I'd wish I'd visited Alcatraz when I was in San Francisco. That must have been quite the prison to see up close.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Susan, This is one of your best. I would love to read the book, ' Go Boy ' I wonder how many more will close all over the nation. This economy sure sucks....

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Mike, I hope it doesn't change Kingston too much. The city still has quite a bit going for it as it is a University town. Thanks for the visit.

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I visted Alcatraz last year, quite an interesting place. I agree that the jobs that will be lost are bad, but some prisons are beyond repair.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Frank. The vampire rapist was active between 1969 and 1971.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 

      6 years ago from New York City

      This hub was very well written and informative about that place being shutdown, what I found quite interesting about it all is the background history you provided for it all, as well as the inmate history.

      Great hub here Susan, voted up and getting shared for sure.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      what a great informative feature.. even the famous prisoners kept me glued.. I never heard of the Vampire Rapist.. damn..

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