In an effort to capture the essence of this historical landmark and important part of Canada’s history, a video was created. We hope you enjoy it and share it within your networks.
This is a video of Kingston Penitentiary (KP) in Kingston, Ontario. No one speaks during the video – it is simply video footage of the penitentiary played over solemn music. The concept behind it is of a man, perhaps someone who once worked at KP, going back to the site to reflect on its history.
The video begins with the Correctional Service of Canada crest. This is followed by the music and slow aerial footage of the building, including its entrance and the dome on top of the roof. A man walks up to the doors and goes inside. The large stone walls of the building and the massive wood and metal doors are shown, followed by shots of various sets of keys hanging on hooks, a computer screen showing different areas within the prison including the North Main Gate, and a single empty office chair sitting in front of the computer screen. This was once a bustling security post.
Next you see the man walking the grounds of the building, looking up at the doors. The barbed wire fence surrounding the grounds is shown, followed by shots of the penitentiary roof and towering stone walls filled with barred windows. The man is seen walking down a hallway that is partially outdoors. It is covered by a wire screen and the cement is wet and stained.
The video then transitions to inside the penitentiary, where you see a range of empty cells with their doors open. The man steps inside of one and “I’m trapped in the Hades” is seen written on the wall. The video continues down the range and moves slowly into the famous dome area of KP. The camera looks up to the top of the dome where light shines down on the multiple layers of ranges below. Red bars and metal wire enclose each of them. It’s here that the size and grandeur of the penitentiary is evident.
Footage of a main stone staircase within the penitentiary are then shown, along with various shots of the old stone walls, beams, and ceilings. The intricate architectural details are indications of the time when this prison was built (1833-1834). The man sits on the staircase as the camera moves up to him, closer and closer to his face. This is followed by a black screen with the following text:
Kingston Penitentiary served our country from 1835 to 2013. Our since thanks to the City of Kingston.
Le Pénitencier de Kingston a servi notre pays de 1835 à 2013. Nous remercions sincèrement la Ville de Kingston.
The final shot of the video is of a white board in a room within the penitentiary with words written all over it. One message that stands out reads “Godspeed old girl, you served us well…”
The screen goes black and the Canada wordmark is shown.
Until its closure in 2013, KP played a significant role in Canadian federal corrections. Originally called the “Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Upper Canada” or the “Provincial Penitentiary” for short, it was constructed through 1833 and 1834 during the reign of King William IV.
Under the direction of William Powers, an American, its design was heavily influenced by the system in place in Auburn, New York at the time. The building consisted of a single, large limestone cellblock containing 154 cells in five tiers and some other outbuildings used as industrial shops, sheds, stables, and residences for the administration. The penitentiary officially opened with the arrival of its first six inmates on June 1, 1835 under the direction of Warden Henry Smith and Deputy Warden Mr. Powers. When completed, it was the largest public building in Upper Canada.
The original cells within the penitentiary measured just 73.7 cm (29 inches) wide by 244 cm (8 feet) deep and 200.7 cm (6 feet, 7 inches) high. The entire compound was initially surrounded by a 12-foot high picket fence made of wood. Over the course of its history, the building underwent numerous renovations and additions, including in 1959 when the Regional Treatment Centre (RTC) was developed to provide a greater focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders - an important step forward in CSC’s history. Just over three decades later, the RTC became a standalone facility.
In 1990, the Kingston Penitentiary complex was designated a National Historic Site of Canada due to “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.”
On September 30th 2013, KP and the RTC officially closed their doors as correctional facilities. Although this was a challenging time for the Ontario Region, it was an opportunity for people to reflect on 178 years of achievements for public safety, as well as to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the countless staff, volunteers, and partners and stakeholders who helped lead CSC to where it is today.