The Kingston Pen and Prison Tourism

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Kingston Penitentiary is older than the country itself but the time has come to lock it down for good. What to do with Canada's famous crowbar hotel? Raze it to the ground, turn it into Condo's or how about a museum? The tour may short but the memories will last from 25 to life. We talk about the past of Kingston Pen with a former warden and it's future with the city's business development boss. 

Part Three of The Current

The Kingston Pen and Prison Tourism - Former Kingston Pen Warden

Well, the drama is just about over at Kingston Penitentiary. A prison that's older than Canada is set to close after nearly two centuries of housing some of the country's worst criminals. The dark, imposing buildings are a Kingston landmark and a symbol of human cruelty -- in more ways than one. Brian Osborne is an historian and author of Kingston: Building on the Past.

The prison has a nice lakefront lot, but a condo renovation seems unlikely. What then to do with a massive pre-Victorian stone warehouse with a reputation for cruelty, violence and suffering? Some people are convinced there's only one real answer: Tourist Attraction. Maybe. The place has had visitors for years -- but they usually had a friend on the inside. It was certainly no tourist attraction when my next guest ran the place.

Tom Epp was in charge of the safety and security of all the prisoners and the correctional officers when he was warden from 1989 to 1992. He was in Kingston.

The Kingston Pen and Prison Tourism - Kingston Economic Development

One of the original intentions of prisons was to force inmates to meditate quietly and privately on their crimes. In a way, a chance to get away from it all....

(Thanks to our friends at the Content Factory in Winnipeg for that skit.)

In fact, all around the world, from the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, to Robben Island in Cape Town, to the Clink Prison in London ...crowds of tourists going to jail has never been more popular.

Our next guest believes the Kingston Pen could also become a must-visit destination for dark tourism. Jeff Garrah is the CEO of the Kingston Economic Development Corporation. He was in Kingston.

The Kingston Pen and Prison Tourism - Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

We started this segment with Historian Brian Osborne from the other big institution in Kingston -- Queen's University.

Our fascination with crime and punishment has certainly come out of the shadows. Our next guest studies dark tourism and he says it's an industry that is taking off.

Kevin Walby is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Victoria, and an editor for the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. He was in Victoria, B.C.

This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins.


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