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Built by its own inhabitants before Canada was born, the Kingston Maximum Security Penitentiary is one of the oldest functioning prisons in the world.  Through its 177 year long history, the country's most famous prison has faced riots, fires, and hundreds of escape attempts.  With the recent announcement that it will be shutting its doors in just under two years, a chapter of our history is ending as well. But the stories live on forever.


Photo Credit: Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, York University

In Tales from KP, we will unlock some of the most carefully guarded secrets of the Kingston Pen. Did you know, for example, that prisoners were not allowed to talk at all? And if they broke this rule, or any other, they can be flogged, sent to solitary confinement, or be forced to stand in a coffin! Through the voices of ex-inmates and ex-guards, you will learn what it took to survive in KP. Everything was a potential threat, from knives fashioned out of toothbrushes, to soup infused with spit or urine.

Tension was always high in the penitentiary. There were riots, but none so bad as the uprising in 1971. The prison was practically destroyed and the shockwaves it sent across the country led to important reforms. In Tales from KP you will hear rare interviews from those who were there—the inmates, a negotiator, and the last surviving hostage.

Tales From KP is also a reflection on 177 years of crime and punishment in Canada.  What started as a noble experiment in social enlightenment evolved into a hated and feared institution where only the worst criminals were sent and still remain.  Clifford Olson spent time at KP. Prisoners like Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams are still behind their bars. Soon they and the others will be moved to other institutions. But the stories which resonate behind those large grey limestone walls will live on forever, raising  questions which will not be easily answered.

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