Kingston Pen front entrance
|Security class||Maximum security|
|Opened||June 1, 1835|
|Managed by||Correctional Service Canada|
Originally constructed in 1833–1834, and officially opened on June 1, 1835 as the "Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Upper Canada," it is one of the oldest prisons in continuous use in the world. Kingston Penitentiary is one of nine prisons in the Kingston area which range from low-security facilities to the maximum-security facilities Kingston Penitentiary and Millhaven Institution (which was initially built to replace Kingston Pen).
The institution was built on land, described as "Lot number twenty, in the first concession of the Township of Kingston" The site was chosen for "combining the advantages of perfect salubrity, ready access to the water, and abundant quantities of fine limestone." Six inmates were accepted when the penitentiary was opened.
The penitentiary's western wall adjoins the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, which hosted the sailing events for the 1976 Summer Olympics. Immediately across the road to the north is the now closed Kingston Prison For Women (the property is now owned by Queen's University), officially opened on January 24, 1934 to take female prisoners who had originally been housed in segregated quarters in the main facility.
On August 15, 1954, a two-hour riot broke out in the penitentiary—the worst in its history up to that point—involving 900 inmates. During the riot a breakout was attempted, but was foiled by the guards at the gate. The trouble apparently began during a morning baseball game in the exercise yard, when a guard was attacked, followed by several inmates setting fire to various buildings in the yard, including the shops and a warehouse, causing an estimated $2 million in damages. The disturbance was quelled by the guards aided by 160 Canadian Army troops and a squad of RCMP officers. The 50 ringleaders were placed in solitary confinement.
On April 14, 1971, a riot lasted four days and resulted in the death of two inmates and destruction of much of the prison. Security was substantially increased and prison reforms were instituted. Six guards were held hostage, but all were eventually released unharmed. The prisoners issued formal grievances to the media including lack of recreational time, lack of work, and concerns about their future conditions in the newly built Millhaven Prison. A 1971 inquiry into the riot, chaired by Justice J.W. Swackhamer, reported that that they had "already noted a number of causes for Kingston's failure: the aged physical facilities, overcrowding, the shortage of professional staff, a program that had been substantially curtailed, the confinement in the institution of a number of people who did not require maximum security confinement, too much time spent in cells, a lack of adequate channels to deal with complaints and the lack of an adequate staff which resulted in the breakdowns of established procedures to deal with inmate requests. The polarization between inmates and custodial staff, between custodial staff and professional staff, led inevitably to the destruction of the program and deterioration in the life of the institution." This riot, together with successors in 1975, led to an official Sub-Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada, chaired by Justice Mark MacGuigan. The 1977 MacGuigan Report recommended the creation of an Independent Chairperson (ICP) to investigate prisoner complaints.
From 1971–1981, the penitentiary served as Corrections Canada's Ontario Region Reception Centre. Today the facility houses between 350 and 500 inmates plus another 120 at R.T.C. (the Regional Treatment Centre) contained within the prison. Every inmate is given an individual cell.
On April 19, 2012, the Government of Canada announced plans to close the Kingston Penitentiary, along with the Leclerc Institution in Laval, Quebec and the Regional Treatment Centre in Kingston, Ontario. The three correctional facilities will be closed by 2014.
On September 10, 1923, inmate Norman "Red" Ryan, planned and carried out an escape with a number of fellow inmates. After setting fire to a shed as a distraction, the gang used a ladder and went over the wall. They stole a car from a near by property and fled the city.
In 1999, prisoner Ty Conn escaped from the prison. Although there have been at least 26 escape attempts since 1836, Conn was the first to succeed since 1958. Two weeks later, surrounded by police in Toronto, Conn committed suicide while speaking on the telephone to CBC producer Theresa Burke.
Infamous inmates 
Kingston Penitentiary has been home to many of Canada's most dangerous and notorious criminals. James Donnelly, patriarch of the infamous Black Donnellys, was sentenced to be hanged on September 17, 1859, for the murder of Patrick Farrell. A petition for clemency started by his wife Johannah saw his sentence reduced to seven years in Kingston Penitentiary.
Other notable inmates include Russell Williams, Paul Bernardo, Clifford Olson, Roger Caron and Grace Marks. Wayne Boden, the Canadian "Vampire Rapist" died there in March 2006. Tim Buck, leader of the Communist Party, was a prisoner at Kingston convicted under Section 98 of the Criminal Code during the early 1930s. Marie-Anne Houde, formerly convicted for the murder of her stepdaughter Aurore Gagnon, was sentenced to life in Kingston Penitentiary, following the appeal to commute her sentence to death citing health reasons. She was released on June 29, 1935. Mohammad and Hamed Shafia were imprisoned in the penitentiary after being convicted of killing Mohammad`s three daughters and first wife. Michael Rafferty is currently serving a life sentence for his role in the kidnapping and murder of 8 year old Victoria Stafford of Woodstock
Correctional Service of Canada Museum 
Located directly across from Kingston Penitentiary, the Correctional Service of Canada Museum (also known as "Canada's Penitentiary Museum") explains the history of Kingston Penitentiary and other correctional centres using displays that incorporate artifacts, photographs, equipment, and replicas. The museum also houses most of the institution's historical records as well as those of other Canadian penitentiaries, and provides the only penitentiary research service in Canada. The museum is located in "Cedarhedge", the former Warden's residence of Kingston Penitentiary that was constructed between 1870 to 1873.
See also 
- J. A. Edmison The History of Kingston Penitentiary Kingston, Ontario Queen's University. p. 25. Retrieved 2010-01-20
- "Fire and Riot sweep Kingston Penitentiary". The Lethbridge Herald, 16 August 1954, p.1
- "Extra Guards Patrol Big Pen After Riot". Syracuse Herald Journal, 16 August 1954, p.7
- Special Report: 'A horrendous scene', Kingston Whig-Standard April 9, 2011
- Annual Report 2007/08, 35th Anniversary, Office of the Correctional Investigator, 1973-2008
- Independent Chairperson to Adjudicate Disciplinary Proceedings 1977
- Kingston Penitentiary, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
- Kingston Penitentiary. Canadian Register of Historic Places.
- "Kingston penitentiary in Ontario to close", CBC News. Retrieved 2012-04-19
-  The Big Red Fox: The Incredible Story of Norman "Red" Ryan, Canada's Most Notorious Criminal by Peter McSherry (Paperback - Sep 1 1999)
- Who Killed Ty Conn. (Macintyre, Linden). Penguin Group Canada, 11 October 2001. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- A Difficult Story to Tell, CBC, The Fifth Estate. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
- 'Two life sentences for sex killer Williams's 'despicable crimes Retrieved: Oct 21, 2010
- Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canada - Aurore, The Mystery of a Martyred Child Retrieved 2010-12-04
- "The History of Cedarhedge". Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- Official website
- Correctional Service of Canada Museum website
- Kingston Pen's children, child killers, murderers and monsters, CBCNews.ca, April 22, 2012
- In pictures: A look at the notorious Kingston Penitentiary (1835-2012) (Globe & Mail, 20 April 2012)