Canadians are celebrating 150 years of nationhood on July 1, marking the birth of the Dominion in 1867. The year also marks an origin point for Kingston Penitentiary, although the institution already was 32 years old at the time of Confederation. Built on the north shore of Lake Ontario in eastern Ontario, on a small bay adjacent to the Village of Portsmouth, the facility was known for the first three decades of its existence as the Provincial Penitentiary at Portsmouth. It received its first prisoners on June 1, 1835. It was renamed Kingston Penitentiary in 1867, becoming the new nation’s first federal prison. Confederation may have stirred joy and national pride, but it was not a happy time for prisoners of the Dominion. A repressive regime of enforced silence, punishment and hard labour persisted at Kingston Pen.
When the Conservative government shuttered 178-year-old Kingston Penitentiary, Canada’s oldest prison, in the fall of 2013, it was briefly opened for two rounds of public tours. Tickets, at $20 each with proceeds to charity, were snapped up quickly and the website selling them crashed under demand. Many people were left disappointed. Unfulfilled curiosity for what lies beyond the 10-metre high, truck-thick stone walls will be satisfied this summer, with the announcement that public tours will resume in late June 2016 and run until the end of October. The tours are possible because the 20-acre complex is mostly empty and disused. While tours may offer a fascinating view of prison conditions, did you know you could have owned a piece of the pen, for a pittance?
Contaminants that cause cancer, neurological impairment and a host of other ailments have been found in soil around a closed federal prison in Kingston, Ontario at concentrations as high as 93 times federal guidelines, secret documents reveal. Copies of the documents, two briefing notes prepared by Corrections Canada for Public Safety Minster Steven Blaney, were obtained by Cancrime (read them in full after the jump). One briefing note, dated January 29, 2014, reported that “widespread soil contamination” was found around 179-year-old Kingston Penitentiary, which ceased to operate as a prison in September 2013. The note explains that lead, arsenic and hexavalent chromium – substances described in the note as “hazardous to human health” – were found “in exceedance of Federal and Provincial guidelines.” Corrections Canada, which will conduct an open house on the issue today (April 25) in Kingston, has revealed publicly only that areas around the prison show “preliminary evidence of possible soil contamination.” Information posted online at a website established by Corrections – the agency that manages the federal prison system – omits many details contained in the briefing notes, notably that the contaminants were found at levels far in excess of federal guidelines.
The CSC Pipes & Drums performed “Amazing Grace” from an upper tier catwalk overlooking the main dome of Kingston Penitentiary during the private decommissioning ceremony held at the prison on October 24 (video after jump). VIPs, including former staff, family of staff who died at KP, and Corrections brass were on hand for the formal event marking the end of the facility’s life as a functioning penitentiary, 178 years after it opened in 1835 at Hatter’s Bay. No decision has been made about the fate of the vast property, which comprises more than 40 buildings within the 20-acre walled compound on the shore of Lake Ontario.
It is unlikely, if history is a guide, that Constable James Forcillo (inset), the Toronto police officer charged in a fatal streetcar shooting, will be convicted and sent to prison. No Toronto officer has ever been convicted of murder in an on-duty killing, according to the Toronto Star. But, if Forcillo were convicted, what would life be like in prison? It would be a hellish experience in which he’d be forced to live in protective custody, segregated from other prisoners, mindful always that fellow convicts would be plotting to kill him. A bounty might be placed on his head and the fellow con who succeeded in killing him would be regarded by other inmates as a hero. “To be a police officer in prison is very difficult,” former Niagara Region officer Lawrence Squire said in feeble voice, speaking to a documentary film crew from his solitary confinement cell at maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, where he had been confined after his conviction for non-capital murder more than 30 years ago.
The new political boss of Canada’s prison system appears to have ignored privacy laws, interfered politically in a system governed strictly by the law and intentionally sought to mislead the public. At least, this is what we can infer from the public statement of rookie Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, issued with lightning speed soon after media across Canada matched the story reported first at Cancrime that serial sex killer Paul Bernardo asked for a transfer to a lower security prison. Blaney was quick to announce that he had been assured by Corrections Canada that there there are “no plans” to move Bernardo to a medium-security penitentiary. Blaney’s terse statement was confirmation that Corrections had refused to provide about Bernardo’s intentions and an indication that the minister stuck his nose in where he had no business.
A relentless serial rapist who police believe sexually assaulted hundreds of women has been transferred to a lower security prison. Selva Subbiah (inset) has been moved from maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary to medium-security Warkworth Institution, near Campbellford, Ontario, sources tell me. Corrections Canada routinely cites privacy rules in refusing to discuss decisions about where criminals are imprisoned. Subbiah was convicted of beating, drugging and raping more than 30 women, although police investigators believe he attacked at least 500 women, and perhaps as many as 1,000. Police fear many women never knew for certain that they were victims because Subbiah used powerful drugs to render his victims unconscious before he molested and raped them.
Sex slayer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo believes he deserves to live in the more comfortable and less restrictive confines of a medium-security prison. After 18 lonely years in the mind-numbing isolation of a super-secure segregation unit inside maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, Bernardo has asked for a transfer to a lower-security prison, sources tell me. Soon, he will have to be moved to a new home because Kingston Pen is slated to close. Bernardo covets a spot at medium-security Bath Institution, a complex of cottage-style dormitories on a sprawling 640-acre lakefront property just west of Kingston, according to my sources. Bernardo wants to stay in Ontario to remain close to family. He does not want to be shipped to a penitentiary in another province. Bernardo has been visited in prison by his mother, according to sources.