Friday, April 20, 2012

Historic Kingston Penitentiary slated to close

Kingston Penitentiary, Postcard circa. 1905

On the 20-year anniversary of the murder of St. Catharines, Ontario teenager Kristen French at the hands of serial predators Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka, Public Safety Minister Vic Teows announced that the prison Bernardo has called home since his conviction is slated to close its doors forever.

The maximum security institution has housed some of Canada's most notorious criminals in its 177-year history, including: disgraced former military commander Russell Williams, mastermind of the "honour killing" plot that claimed the lives of four women Mohammad Shafia, outspoken serial killer Clifford Olsen, and bank robber-turned escape artist Ty Conn.

Notorious inmates of Kingston Penitentiary
Clockwise from top left: Paul Bernardo, Paul Bernardo,
Russell Williams, Clifford Olsen

Kingston Penitentiary was officially recognized as a Federal Historic Building on May 18, 1990:

"Kingston Penitentiary was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1990 because of: the sophistication of its plan, its size, its age and the number of its physical facilities of special architectural merit that survive from the 19th century.
The heritage value of the Kingston Penitentiary resides in its illustration of the early design and construction of prisons through the legibility of its planned 19th-century cultural landscape, its scale, its Auburn-style layout, its neoclassical inspired design, and its site and setting. Value also lies in the architectural excellence of the early penitentiary buildings, their aesthetic and functional design, original materials, craftsmanship and composition.
Opened in 1835, the Kingston Penitentiary is Canada’s oldest reformatory prison. Its layout, with an imposing front gate leading to a cross-shaped cellblock and three rear workshops, became the model for other federal prisons for more than a century. William Powers, the Deputy warden of Auburn Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, furnished designs for the facilities inside the walls, an impressive architectural grouping of 19th-century classically styled structures. These were built in local stone, largely by the inmates, to working plans of local architects and builders John Mills, William Coverdale, and Edward Horsey. Original components of the prison include the south wing (1834-35), the north wing (1836-40), the east wing (1836-57), the west wing (1838-57), the kitchen and dining hall (1839-41), the hospital (1847-49), and the rotunda (1859-61)."
Source: Canada's Historic Places 

Kingston Penitentiary inmates riot in 1971

So, where will all the baddies go after Kingston Pen is emptied out? The Conservative government promises that no new prisons will be erected; all inmates currently residing at K.P. will be folded into other institutions across Canada. As for the 465 people employed there, it is hoped that many of them will be transferred across the remaining six correctional facilities in the area.

Ted Hsu, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands has said that he was surprised by the sudden announcement that K.P. was slated to close:

“A lot of things have happened in 200 years. Kingston Penitentiary has changed to meet the changing times for two centuries now. The question has to be asked: Why can't it keep doing that? Why can't Kingston Penitentiary keep up with the times, just like it has been keeping up with the times for 200 years?”
Source: The Kingston Whig Standard 

Hsu added that finding new homes for the Penitentiary's 346 inmates would further stress a prison system which is already struggling to house current inmates.

More Information...

Some truly amazing photos captured over the 177-year history of Canada's oldest prison

1 comment:

  1. Hey, nice info!, very informative post.............
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