The front gate and one of the guard towers at Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, ON. The federal government announced Thurs., Apr. 19, 2012 the prison will be closing.
Credits: MICHAEL LEA/QMI AGENCY
No jail on Canadian soil is grimmer.
It was first opened in 1835, making it one of the oldest prisons in continuous use in the world.
It was built at a time in history when the average European male was only 5'6" and had a life expectancy of 39 years.
But this is also what made this gaol so perfect for locking up the worst of the worst -- Bernardo and Williams, shoeshine boy killer Saul Betesh, Toronto cop-turned-killer Richard Wills.
The often-maligned Millhaven, by comparison, is the Ritz.
It was hugely disappointing, therefore, to last week see Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, supposedly on guard for the Canadian people, and a cabinet minister in a supposedly tough-on-crime Conservative government, announce that Kingston Pen was one of two federal joints that would be closed forever, the other being the medium-security Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que.
"Institutions built in the 19th century are not appropriate for managing a 21st-century inmate population," Toews said.
Why not? Maximum-security prisons, and particularly Kingston Pen which houses Canada's worst lifers, have two purposes. One, to protect the public, and the other to punish the criminal.
The more 19th-century, the better.
A 21st-century inmate population that includes schoolgirl sex killer Paul Bernardo, disgraced air force colonel and murderous pervert Russell Williams, and "honour" killers like the odious Mohammad and Hamed Shafia, recently convicted of murdering four women, including three teenage family members, does not deserve better treatment.
What custody could be more protective and punishing than a segregation cell at KP?
Does Bernardo deserve better? Williams? The Shafias? Absolutely not.
Besides, Kingston Pen was declared a national heritage site back in 1990 -- for the "sophistication of its plan, its Auburn-style layout, its neoclassical inspired design," et cetera -- which negates it being razed to take advantage of the 80-hectares of valuable lakefront property that it has sat upon since before Confederation.
KP is too perfect to kill off. It deserves a reprieve.