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Kingston considers how penitentiary could be repurposed

Visitors curious to peek inside storied jail which closed after 178 years and is to be fully decommissioned by 2015

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Pedestrians walk past the outer walls of the recently closed Kingston Penitentiary on Oct. 2. About two dozen people entered its imposing limestone confines – the first in a series of tour groups allowed inside since the last prisoners were moved out.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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The visitors snapped pictures and chatted quietly, looked up at the walls, topped by barbed wire and punctuated by guard towers.

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A birdhouse stands on the grounds. The historic penitentiary dates back to 1835 and has been one of the oldest continuously used prisons in the world.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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The exercise yard. The federal government opted to close “KP” – and two other penitentiaries – on the grounds that it was outdated and too expensive to maintain.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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A metal detector in the workshop area. Corrections Canada offered tours of the prison with the proceeds going to the United Way. Within a couple of hours, 9,000 tickets were snapped up at $20 each.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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The workshop area of Kingston Penitentiary. The prison will be open for the fundraising tours for three weeks.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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The central atrium. Former warden Monty Bourke offered a running commentary as the group walked through the central dome with its concrete and iron staircases.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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An ancient locking mechanism on an exit. Mr. Bourke, who is president of the Friends of the Penitentiary Museum, is hoping to see at least part of the prison become a tourist attraction.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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A segregation cell. “It reflects the history of Canada [and] in many ways, the justice system,” Mr. Bourke says.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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“Our hope is that it’s preserved as much as possible,” Mr. Bourke said. Read more about the institutional property and the Friends of the Penitentiary Museum’s proposals to create “Alcatraz North” at the link below – Can Kingston Pen convert to a literal tourist trap?

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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