Experience this once in a lifetime opportunity to see behind the doors of one of Canada’s most notorious and oldest prisons. You’ll wander in amazement and awe as you tour this architectural wonder, rich with history.
By 1867, Kingston Penitentiary was the principal facility of three such institutions placed under the control of the federal government, the others being the “Provincial Penitentiary of New Brunswick” Saint John, New Brunswick (1842) and the “Provincial Penitentiary of Nova Scotia” in Halifax (1845). For the first 99 years, women were incarcerated within its walls, although segregated from the male population. Children as young as 8 years old were also incarcerated here in the early days.
Kingston Penitentiary experienced three major riots, with the first in October 1932. The second in August 1954 destroyed the prison’s iconic grand dome. Two days later, fires broke out in the prison’s horse stable and shops. Prisoners were ordered to repair the damage they inflicted. The third and most serious, in April 1971, involved the taking of staff hostages, inmate deaths and extensive damage. The south wing was so badly damaged that it never reopened as a cell block. In the aftermath of the 1971 riot, Kingston Penitentiary became the Regional Reception Centre, receiving and assessing all newly admitted inmates in the Ontario Region and classifying them for transfer to a parent institution. It held this role until 1981.
In its most recent history, Kingston Penitentiary provided accommodation to a static inmate population classified at the maximum-security level, many of whom could not safely integrate into other institutional populations. Additionally, the Temporary Detention Unit was relocated from Millhaven Institution to Kingston Penitentiary in February 1998. This unit consisted of a range of cells with the capacity for 37 offenders who had been readmitted under Temporary Detention status in the Ontario Region. More than 1000 offenders were re-assessed annually for placement at a parent institution by this unit. The Regional Hospital, which provided twenty-four-hour palliative nursing care, was also on site, as was the Regional Treatment Centre, an independently managed facility providing in-house mental health and treatment services to the Ontario regional population.
Within the general population, convictions ranged across the broad spectrum of Canadian Criminal Code offences. The population represented a cross-section of the multi-cultural/religious mosaic of Canadian society. There were a number of foreign nationals incarcerated at Kingston Penitentiary with the majority of them being subject to a Deportation Order upon release. Most of Canada’s more notorious inmates have been held at Kingston Penitentiary over the years.
In April 2012, the federal government announced that Kingston Penitentiary, the Regional Treatment Centre and Leclerc Institution in Québec would cease operations in fall 2013 due to aging infrastructure that does not lend itself well to the challenges of managing the institutional routines of today’s complex and diverse offender population. Kingston Penitentiary’s final day of operation was September 30, 2013.