Kingston – Prisons

Photo of Kingston Penitentiary
Kingston Penitentiary

Photo of Kingston Penitentiary

The biggest employer in Kingston is government. And one of the biggest government departments providing jobs to Kingstonians is the federal Ministry of Correctional Services.

One of the most prominent features of Portsmouth, Kingston Penitentiary was the first “modern” prison in Canada, built in 1835. Designed after an institution in Auburn, New York, it was intended to reform, and not just punish prisoners.

“KP” experienced three major prison riots in 1932, 1954, and 1971. After the 1971 riot, which inflicted a great deal of damage to the prison, the role of the prison changed to Ontario Region’s Reception Centre. In 1981, it returned to a maximum security prison, and housed some of the worst of Canada’s prisoners, including convicted serial killer Paul Bernardo.

In the late 1970’s, one of the guard towers was used as filming location for the final scene in the movie “Superman”. That’s the scene where a flying Superman delivers the bad guys to prison.

Today, Kingston Penitentiary is no longer used as a prison. During the Summer, tours take visitors through the former prison. If you want to take a tour, get your tickets well in advance.

Photo of former Prison for Women
Former Prison for Women

The former Prison for Women, just up the street from Kingston Pen, was for a time home to Karla Homolka, wife of Paul Bernardo. When this prison closed, the women were moved to new regional centers closer to home.

Between these two prisons is the former wardens house, now a museum.

Photo of Collins Bay Pen
Collins Bay Penitentiary

The Collins Bay Penitentiary, sometimes informally called “Disneyland” by locals after the central tower, is a prominent feature of the west end of the city. Other prisons in the vicinity of Kingston include the Millhaven Institution (maximum security) and Bath Institution (medium security) to the west, and the Joyceville Institution (minimum-medium security) and Pittsburgh Institution (minimum security) to the north-east.