ONCE (FOR SOME) ‘GOING TO KINGSTON’ MEANT GOING TO ‘THE PEN’ – TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Kingston Penitentiary is closed to convicts, but open to tourists. British North America’s first penitentiary fronts onto Lake Ontario at 56 King St. West. It’s surrounded on three sides by some of KINGSTON’s better neighbourhoods. The Pen, as it’s commonly known, was constructed between 1833 and 1834 under the reign of King William IV. The first six inmates arrived on June 1, 1835.  Aerial photo by Rob Mooy/Metroland

My visit to The Pen began in fog, then drizzle and finally pouring rain.  Mother Nature was setting the scene.

Bungalows for private family visits – PTV’s

The Main Dome – ranges are below

Typical cell range

Limestone gray throughout – entrance to the prison shops

Aboriginal Grounds

In April/2012, the federal government announced Kingston Penitentiary would be closing for good in 2013 due to aging infrastructure and today’s complex and diverse offender population. Rain or shine there are daily 3-hour tours every 15 minutes, conducted by several former employees of the institution. Personal cameras are welcome but no tripods or heavy equipment. The buildings are not air conditioned.  For tour tickets ($42-$55) and detailed information go to http://www.kingstonpentour.com

Looking down on it all, the Penitentiary’s bell tower, which normally rang twice daily, more often in emergencies.  Guards were required to live within hearing range of these bells.

ACROSS KING ST. IS THE FASCINATING PENITENTIARY MUSEUM – ADMISSION BY DONATION

The former Warden’s house is now Canada’s Penitentiary Museum, 55 King Street, KINGSTON

Crossbow made by inmates

‘The Box’ – a cruel form of solitary confinement

‘Kingston Penitentiary is On The Air’ with permission of the Commissioner of Penitentiaries and the Warden through the facilities of CKWS, your Kingston Station. Those words opened a half-hour variety show that went out each Saturday night during the summers of 1952-55.  The program included an emcee, a swing band called the Solitaires, singers, a western group called the Hay Shakers, and comedians.

Art created by prisoners

Straight Jacket

These tall easels were used to strap down prisoners when they were getting the lash. One is from the federal prison in DORCHESTER, New Brunswick.

Penitentiary Museum website – http://www.penitentiarymuseum.ca  At its peak there were ten (10!) penitentiaries operating in the KINGSTON area.