April 26th – “Prison-bound”

I booked a ticket today to do something that has been on my Bucket List.  On May 18th I’m going to take a tour of the Kingston Penitentiary.  I even booked the extended tour, to make sure I see it all! 

Ever since I can remember I have found prisons fascinating.  I’m not sure why.  When we were kids my parents drove us across the US to San Francisco.  The only thing about San Francisco that I can remember is gazing across the harbour at Alcatraz riveted by the fact that people had been imprisoned there.  Movies about prisons have always been on my short list of favourite films, including the Birdman of Alcatraz, The Green Mile, and The Shawshank Redemption.  I have also read my fair share of books about prisons and prisoners.  Most recently I spent two days at the cottage consumed by a book called, “A House In The Sky”, the gut-wrenching book about Amanda Lindhout, the Canadian traveller imprisoned for 15 months in Somalia.  It was a difficult book to read, but a tale of tremendous hope and heroism.

As for the Kingston Penitentiary, it is the stuff of Canadian history and Canadian legend. It has housed such interesting characters as Edwin Boyd, a man who achieved near folk-hero status in the 1950’s for his string of daring bank robberies, Tim Buck whose only crime was being a Communist in the 1930’s and stirring up trouble for the government.  And it has been home to what some may refer to as Canada’s “worst of the worst”, including Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo, and Russell Williams.   

Someone once said that you should judge a nation based not on how they treat their princes, but on how they treat their prisoners.  I wonder what this will tell me about our country of Canada.

I’m really not sure what I will find behind the walls of the Kingston Pen.  I don’t know if I will like it or if this experience will cure me of my interest in prisons.  I’m going in with an open mind, and open ears, ready to hear the stories, and hopefully deepen my knowledge of an interesting, albeit seamier side of Canadian history. 

I invited Lori to join me on this adventure.  She declined, very quickly I might add.  But she’s happy to come along for the ride to Kingston and has asked me to drop her off at the Mall while I’m on the tour.  So, we will both be spending time in prison that afternoon.  😉 

My Bucket List is getting smaller.  J