4. Bath and 5. Millhaven Institution

Bath and Millhaven Institutions are located outside of Kingston, about a 30 minute drive west. A scenic drive through the countryside and along Lake Ontario, this prison is tucked away on a hill off of Route 33 which is lined with residential neighborhoods. The approach to the campus is more reminiscent of a suburban shopping center than a two prisons housing 900+/-offenders of various security levels. Beginning with Bath Institution, I spent the entire day at both facilities with Mr. Paul Cybulski who gave me quite an extensive tour, introducing me to various departments where I had the opportunity to learn about the operations of the facilities. I was not allowed to take photographs inside of these facilities for both security and offender privacy reasons, so I relied on quick sketching to document my experience.

To give an overall description of the close proximity and layout of the campuses, a quick GoogleEarth image tells the story of where the facilities are located and the amount of structures that make up the prisons. Bath Institution currently houses 530 medium security male offenders and Millhaven has 400 maximum security male offenders. These facilities are run by the Correctional Services Canada as opposed to territorial jurisdiction (similar to the U.S. system of federal vs. state). It is a common theme at Bath to have offenders live communally in the various forms of apartment style housing. Collectively, they must grocery shop, prepare food, and maintain the cleanliness of their living quarters. Mr. Cybulski mentioned that there is no violence in the Bath facility and he believes it is because the offenders have more freedoms (circulation throughout the campus, choice of foods and the ability to work). Inmates must apply to come to this facility and there is a waiting list.

When discussing the architecture and design of the buildings inside of the perimeter fence, it is common to the other facilities in Canada I visited that they are out-of-date. There is not a demand for new prisons to be built because the low/steady population, but the existing structures need to be updated/renovated. One main area where this was apparent was in the temporary housing trailers which were meant to last 3-5 years but are still in use after 18 years. A guard on duty at the trailer residences explained that offenders cannot be “double bunked” because the structure would not be able to support the added weight.

As is common to most prisons in Ontario, there is an aboriginal garden which can only be entered by aboriginal offenders. This is where rituals and gatherings are held to maintain the traditions of aboriginal inmates. If you are not aboriginal, you must be invited to enter and this includes guards and staff as well (unless there is an emergency).

Touring Millhaven Institution was the second part of the day. This is a maximum security men’s facility equipped with a gallery where guards can walk through hidden halls above the offender communal spaces so they can look down on the activity below. I was able to walk through this dark, secret corridor, and experience the routine activity of a prison guard. It was in this facility as well that I experienced my first solitary confinement area, something which Canada is phasing out of their correctional practices.

3. Collins Bay Institution

Today I visited the currently operating institution of Collins Bay located in the city limits of Kingston, Ontario. Joining me again on this tour are Maria and Yomna from the CSC who have not previously toured this institution- this is a learning experience for all of us. A federally owned prison, Collins Bay Institution was built in 1930 and after the closing of Kingston Penitentiary, it became the oldest operating facility in Ontario. This multi-security level facility houses minimum, medium, and maximum security level inmates and currently sits slightly below the rated capacity of 600+ male offenders.

Security is maintained by this perimeter wall seen below with guard watchtowers. Similar to ideas used in the Scandinavian countries, there is maximum security on the outside of the prison with various levels of freedoms inside this wall.

Modern additions for housing were added in 2006 inside of this secure perimeter in an apartment style for offenders who have proven they can co-habitat peacefully with other inmates in these individually operated units. Shown below are the new medium security level units with the rated capacity for 96 offenders but which only hold 74 currently because they are under capacity.

The tour of Collins Bay Institution was extremely in depth-I was granted guided access to any area of the prison I requested to see. The staff was very accommodating and open to sharing experiences and ideas which may guide my research to a better prison design. We all share the common goal of improving the conditions and outcomes of prisons by treating the incarcerated offenders humanely.

2. Kingston Penitentiary

The second of two decommissioned prisons I will visit in Ontario, Kingston Penitentiary is the oldest prison in Canada. Formerly a maximum security prison, this institution closed it’s doors in 2016. When it opened in 1835, it housed offending men, women, and children until 1935 when a separate facility was constructed for women nearby (the Kingston Women’s Prison).

When organizing this trip to Canada, I had been in contact with Erik Gaudreault, Senior Project Officer, Intergovernmental Relations who helped me to schedule each institutional tour. Erik put me in contact with the curator of the CSC Museum who graciously offered to give me a private tour of Kingston Penitentiary before it opened to the public for tours in the summer months. Yomna Anani and Maria Cinquino from the CSC were also available to join on this tour and I believe we all learned a great deal from this behind the scenes exposure to the history of Kingston Penitentiary.

In the attic of the prison, we could see how the cells were configured prior to a renovation which widened them from 27″ wide to double that in size.

The institution’s workshop is a highlight of the prison tour boasting a grand staircase, skylight, and intricate stonework.

1. Kingston Women’s Prison

In my meeting with CSC Design Coordinators Yomna Anani and Maria Cinquino, they informed me that the former Kingston Women’s Prison was located a short walk from the Regional Headquarters. While in operation, this was a multi-level security institution, as are all of the women’s facilities in Canada. Though I was unable to go inside, I was able to walk around the building and observe the architectural style, materials, and security elements. The building currently stands vacant and is owned by Queen’s University in Kingston.

The Kingston Women’s Prison closed on July 6, 2000 and the offenders were relocated to the five institutions for women located across Canada; Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia; Joliette Institution in Joliette, Quebec; Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario; Edmonton Institution for Women in Edmonton, Alberta; and the Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge, in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.

 

Day 1: Regional Headquarters

To kick off my prison tour here in Ontario, Canada, I met with two Design Coordinators from the Correctional Service Canada (CSC), Yomna Anani and Maria Cinquino. Though they work out of the Ottawa office, they were kind enough to travel here to Kingston to meet with me at the Regional Headquarters and share a great deal of information regarding design practices for the correctional system, both past ideas and how they want to design their future prisons to promote a normative lifestyle.

CSC works on a transitional system; it is preferred that offenders begin their sentences in higher security facilities and gradually move to minimum security accommodations. This idea is shared with the Scandinavian countries I previously visited over the summer of 2017 meant to transition the inmates into society without the burden of reintegration practices upon release.

When discussing where the CSC prefers to locate their prisons, Yomna informed me that they have no plans to construct new prisons as they do not currently have a need and they are focusing their efforts on updating their existing institutions to meet the new goals of corrections in Canada.

Breaking the Cycle film

While in Norway, I visited this prison, Halden Fengsel, on July 4th where I met with Warden Are Hoidal and he showed me clips of this film.
Deputy Warden Jan R Strømnes recently emailed me that this was now available on Netflix here in the U.S. and below you will find a link to YouTube showing the full version.

While at Halden prison, I had the amazing opportunity to tour the entire facility and sat with Sam Tax, the musician in the recording studio, and staff member Rune Ulfeng to discuss prisons in both the United States and in Norway. It was such an uplifting and once in a lifetime experience I will always cherish. All of the people I encountered at Halden prison – staff and inmates alike- were positive and respectful, urging me to bring their ideas of incarceration here to the United States. I am striving to do just that through this research.

I have also spoken with Karianne Wolfer from North Dakota and her point of view on corrections is absolutely positive and inspiring. I wish her the best with her endeavors of continuing improvements to carceral facilities in North Dakota and to the rest of the country. I only hope that my research leads to improvements on the design of the facilities, though design is not the main issue. Respect is lacking and design cannot solve that problem. Pushing for humane facilities that bring a sense of normalcy in regards to how inmates live daily, abolishing solitary confinement, and providing areas that foster self improvement over pure punishment are proven to work, as shown in this film.

I believe everyone should watch this film whether involved with corrections or not.

Getting Inside

As you can see from this blog, I have successfully toured 9 prison facilities across Scandinavia. Attempting to do the same in the United States has been a struggle (which may soon change-so stay tuned!) due to security and privacy concerns. In the meantime, I seek out sources that tell what it is really like to be incarcerated from those that are currently living in a prison- NOT using TV and other media sources as truth (Orange is the New Black, etc.) This includes writing letters to inmates and this awesome podcast created by inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams along with Bay Area artist Nigel Poor, out of San Quentin Prison called EarHustle.

https://www.earhustlesq.com/

One quote from Earlonne that really hit home for me when referring to the SHU (Security Housing Unit) or most commonly known as solitary confinement:

“Think about all the things you did from 1989-2014. Now imagine most of those things was in one room”

If you want to hear real, current stories from incarcerated men, I highly recommend listening to this first season of EarHustle. The second season is currently in production. If you have a question you’d like to ask, you can send a postcard and maybe they will answer it in their next season. I have been in contact with Nigel already and look forward to a written response from Earlonne.

Breakdown of the Research

The diagram below explains in the most basic sense the areas of inquiry for my research. I will begin with exploring how our prisons became so isolated from society. From there, the method is a zoom-in approach beginning with the birds eye view of location; where are prisons located and is this the best approach (rural vs. city, etc.) Arriving at the site of the prison, I examine the campus and the structures that make up the complex. From here, we begin to look at the building itself and the form it takes. Inside of the structure, I will examine the interior organization relating to programmatic needs that should be separated or adjacent and how the inmates use the space. The most specific area of investigation are the design elements required to fulfill human needs (operable windows for fresh air and sunlight!), especially considering these are spaces that the inmates are confined to for years on end.