After watching some of the best jailbreak movies such as The Shawshank Redemption and many others, do you ever wonder what the inside of an actual jail looks like? What it feels like when you walk down those hallways? Do you want to hear stories of people who escaped as you imagine how it happened?
You can experience all this at the Kingston penitentiary, as you walk down its limestone passageways where some of Canada’s most notorious prisoners were held, namely Wayne Boyden, Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olsen.
The prison built mostly by its inmates, officially closed on September 30th ,2013 after 178 years, since it was first opened in 1835. The Kingston Penitentiary now offers guided tours due to a partnership between the Correctional Services of Canada, the City of Kingston and the St. Lawerence Parks Commission.
What to See & Do at Kingston Penitentiary
Join for guided tours by correction officers who have spent several years working at the penitentiary which makes the entire experience feel more realistic . The G range cells are set up to look exactly like how they would look when the prison was open. The tour is of 90 minutes and is pretty fast paced, and bracelets are provided to each member of the group in case anyone gets lost.
The great Charles Dickens mentioned the penitentiary in his book American Notes as an “admirable gaol, well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated in every respect.” even though that was far from the truth. The penitentiary had some extreme rules and regulations in its early days, which stated that the inmates had to “preserve unbroken silence,” they “must not exchange a word with one another under any pretence whatever.” They couldn’t even “exchange looks, wink, laugh, nod or gesticulate to each other.” Anyone who broke these rules was lashed as a punishment
The inmates were required to come out of their cells once the bell rang “in regular order and march with their faces inclined [in one direction].” If they disobeyed “Corporal punishment will be instantly inflicted.”
These extreme rules weren’t only for the men but also for women and children as well. An eight-year-old boy, Antoine Beauche was the youngest child on record, who was imprisoned for three years because of his role in a pickpocket operation. According to the records, Antoine was given 47 lashes due to “Offences of the most childish character”. A 12-year old, Elizabeth Breen was flogged 6 times in the Penitentiary. Another child, Alex Lafleur who was only 11 years old was flogged for speaking in French.
The Penitentiary thought that using these extreme methods to rehabilitate the inmates would help them re-enter society, but it actually drove some of them insane.
The Penitentiary has seen a total of three riots, out of which the four-day riot in April 1971 is the most interesting because of why it happened. According to a former inmate Wayne Ford, it started because another inmate Brian Knight was writing a book and the only thing missing was a riot. So Brian decided to get some other guys and start a riot just for his book!
You’ll also get to hear a funny story about a former inmate who broke in the Kingston Penitentiary a few days before Christmas to steal money . He used a ladder and a rope to cross over the wall, but on his way out the rope broke and he was stuck there till the next morning.
He was sentenced to 18 months behind bars as a punishment
Another inmate called “Red” Ryan, Canada’s most notorious bank robber escaped with four inmates by scaling the wall in the recreation yard at its lowest point.However, he didn’t give up his old life and was caught by the police and sent back to KP.
The great thing about visiting Kingston Penitentiary is that you get to learn everything about it, from its history to its interesting and funny escape stories while you create images and stories in your head. This makes the whole experience one of a kind.
TRIP PLANNING – Kingston Penitentiary
When to visit:
July 23 to October 31, 2021 | 9:00 am – 5:30 pm (hours may vary)
Approximately one-third of the tour is held outside. Tours operate rain or shine. Dress appropriately.
How much to visit:
You can buy your tickets to visit this amazing historical building from the website. The tours are given in French and English. The standard ticket costs only $40 and if you want an in-depth tour you can buy the extended tour ticket for $80.
Parking is available at no charge onsite.