Friday, October 04, 2013

Behind Bars


Besides being known for having an excellent university - Queen's - Kingston is known for it's penitentiaries.  There were 10 at one time and I believe they are down to 8 now.   

The most famous penitentiary is Kingston Pen - a maximum security institution that housed some infamous criminals.  

When I arrived here in July everyone was all a flutter over the closing of the Kingston Pen........ being me I didn't pay much attention.  Then a couple of weeks ago W asked me if I would like to take a tour of the Kingston Pen when it closed.  It turns out that the United Way (a charitable association) were holding a fund raiser by offering tours of the penitentiary. 

The day the tickets went on sale - W was sitting on line waiting with credit card in hand.  I thought it was just his enthusiasm - smiled - and thought nothing more of it - until that night on the news they announced that the tours had sold out in the first hour!!  The United Way brought in two more sets of tours and they too sold out in just hours.  It would seem there are a  whole mess of people with a morbid interest in seeing in the inside of a maximum security penitentiary.

Well yesterday was our day to take the tour - from 11:00 a.m. till 12:30 a.m.  We were there when the doors opened.  

I didn't have a clue what to expect - but brought along my camera knowing full well there would be lots of opportunity to test out my knowledge on photo taking.

We were fortunate enough to have a retired Warden from the prison as our tour guide and he was full of stories of how things worked - riots - and  - the one bit that caught my attention - of tunnels that ran under the prison.  An example he gave - there used to be women housed in the Kingston Pen along with the men, and they would serve as maids etc for the Warden's house - which was across the street.  There is apparently a tunnel that runs underground from the main gate to the Warden's house.  These women would be shepherded through the tunnels to the Warden's house in the morning and back again in the evening.  I wanted to see the tunnels !!!  They - unfortunately - were off limits to tourists.

The tour was really amazing and we went through the oldest parts of it - built in 1845.   I took pictures of the architecture more than anything else.......... 



There was something unnerving about the miles of  barbed wire twisted and turned and threatening........


   
In the cells there was grafitti - from a calendar scratched into the wall.......



to the normal four letter words.............. 



these - believe it or not - were used by the prisoner to exercise



I kept reminding myself this wasn't a made for TV movie set - this was a prison that had held real prisoners for over a hundred years................







But there was something breath taking about the architecture.  (oh btw - the prisoners built the prisons - cutting the limestone into blocks - forming and creating the buildings)

These next shots were in the work shop wing............ the stone walls took my breath away..............









I







It absolutely boggled my mind that prisoners were housed behind these walls right up to and including last Friday!!

It certainly was a tour I won't soon forget!

 

1 comment:

Ordalie said...

Very interesting! I would have expected the building to be as grimy as in The Shawshank Redemption.