Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Kingston Penitentiary, a former maximum security prison on the shores of Lake Ontario in Kingston, Ontario. It opened in 1835 and operated until 2013.
We had the opportunity to have a 'mug shot' taken in the waiting area before the tour. We were required to sign waivers absolving the institution and Correctional Service Canada (CSC) from any liability during the tour.
In the 1992 renovation, a molded plastic desk/bed was created and shelves with removable bins.
We were taken into the workshop area. There was a photo of one of the 1954 riot that took place where much of the workshop area was destroyed by fire. In the workshop they made mattresses, and Canada Post delivery bags. We learned that license plates were made in provincial jails, not here - a federal penitentiary.
Charles Dickens even visited the prison in 1842 and commented in his American Notes, "There is an admirable gaol here, well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated, in every respect. The men were employed as shoemakers, ropemakers, blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters, and stonecutters; and in building a new prison, which was pretty far advanced towards completion. The female prisoners were occupied in needlework".
Outside in the 'recreation area', we could see the observation towers and razor wire. In spite of that, there were several breakouts over the years.
In the museum was also an example of a furnished cell. On the tour we were told that inmates were not given TVs or other amenities, they were all earned.
It was a very interesting tour and not one that will be available indefinitely as the historical building is the subject of review for future development. I'm glad we took this opportunity to tour this historic site.