Prison for Women

Coordinates: 44°13′21″N 76°30′48″W / 44.2225°N 76.5133°W / 44.2225; -76.5133
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Prison for Women
Demolition of the stone security wall on March 10, 2008
LocationKingston, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates44°13′21″N 76°30′48″W / 44.2225°N 76.5133°W / 44.2225; -76.5133
Security classMaximum
Managed byCorrectional Service of Canada
Notable prisoners
Karla Homolka

The Prison For Women ("P4W"; French: Prison des femmes[1]), located in Kingston, Ontario, was a Correctional Service of Canada prison for women that functioned at a maximum security level from 1934 to 2000.


The first female inmates arrived on January 24, 1934. Before this date, maximum security female offenders were housed in the Female Department of the maximum security Kingston Penitentiary located across the street.[2]

Beginning in 1995, female inmates were gradually transferred to other federal correctional institutions. On May 8, 2000, the last female inmate was transferred away from the P4W.[3]

In January 2008, Queen's University took ownership of the former site of the Prison for Women. The property is 8.1 acres (33,000 m2) in size. The university archives were originally slated to be housed there once renovations were completed, but this is no longer the case.[4] The transformation of the property included the demolition of three of the four stone security walls.[5]

The institution, and several women who were incarcerated there, were profiled in Janis Cole and Holly Dale's 1981 documentary film P4W: Prison for Women.[6]


The Prison for Women was closed following a number of controversial incidents. LSD was administered to inmates at the prison as part of tests that are today considered to be ethically dubious.[7] As well, a riot at the prison in 1994 resulted in Justice Louise Arbour, then of the Ontario Court of Appeal heading up what became known as the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston which found that the treatment of prisoners at the facility had been "cruel, inhumane and degrading".[8] Routinely overclassified in their security category,[9][10] Indigenous inmates constituted a considerable proportion of the inmate population and reported particularly violent treatment by prison staff.[11]


  • 1934–1944 Ms. Edith A. Robinson, Supervising Matron[12]
  • 1944–1950 Miss Amelia May Gibson, Supervising Matron
  • 1950–1960 Miss Lorraine L. Burke, Supervising Matron
  • 1960–1966 Miss Isabel J. McNeill, Superintendent
  • 1966–1970 Mr. Donald Clarke, Warden
  • 1970–1972 Mr. C.A.M. Edwards, Warden
  • 1972–1980 Mr. Doug Chinnery, Warden
  • 1980–1987 Mr. George Caron, Warden
  • 1987–1994 Ms. Mary Cassidy, Warden
  • 1994–2000 Ms. Thérèse LeBlanc, Warden

Notable prisoners[edit]


  1. ^ "Projet de vérification de la dotation mixte 2. Contexte." Correctional Service of Canada. October 8, 1999. Retrieved on August 6, 2016. See English page
  2. ^ "The Closing of the Prison for Women in Kingston", page 4. Brochure produced by Correctional Servides Canada, July 6, 2000
  3. ^ "The Closing of the Prison for Women in Kingston", page 1. Brochure produced by Correctional Service Canada. July 6, 2000
  4. ^ "Library and Archives Master Plan – Executive Summary" (PDF). 25 September 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  5. ^ Queen's Acquires former Prison for Women Site (Press Release)
  6. ^ "Prison for Women captures the sorrow". The Globe and Mail, September 10, 1981.
  7. ^ Kathleen Cranley Glass, "Questions and Challenges in the Governance of Research Involving Humans: A Canadian Perspective" in Trudo Lemmens & Duff R. Waring, ed., Law and Ethics in Biomedical Research: Regulation, Conflict of Interest and Liability (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006) 35 at 36–37.
  8. ^ Women's Prison Riot Report, by Sharon Doyle Driedger and Patricia Chisholm, from Maclean's Magazine, April 15, 1996, reproduced by The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ Monture-Angus, P. (2000) Aboriginal Women and Correctional Practice: Reflections on the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women. IN: Hannah-Moffat, K. and Shaw, M. (eds.) (2000) An Ideal Prison? Critical Essays on Women’s Imprisonment in Canada. Pp 52–60.
  10. ^ Faith, K. (1995). Aboriginal women's healing lodge: Challenge to penal correctionalism? The Journal of Human Justice. Vol. 6 (2). Pp 79–104.
  11. ^ Sugar, F. and Fox, L. (1989). Nistum Peyako Seht'wawin Iskwewak: Breaking chains. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law. Vol 3 (2). Pp 465–482.
  12. ^ List of Prison for Women Directors
  13. ^ "Key events in the Bernardo/Homolka case." CBC News. June 17, 2010. Retrieved on August 6, 2016.