Canada’s Penitentiary Museum: Innovative Inmates

The year is 1998 and you have landed yourself a bunk in the Dissociation Cell area of Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba. You have been given a toothbrush and other basic necessities. While using your toothbrush for its rudimentary purpose of brushing your teeth is an option…you could also source remnants of various household items from around the prison and engineer a crossbow. An unknown inmate from Stony Mountain Institution decided to go with the latter option.

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Materials used: 10 toothbrushes, cigarette lighter, ballpoint pen, kitchen tongs, rubber gloves, coat hanger, string, screws, Q-Tips, masking tape

This crossbow is just one example of the impressive creativity exhibited by inmates in penitentiaries. Canada’s Penitentiary Museum contains a significant amount of contraband items that have been seized by prisons across Canada. The various materials used to create weapons illustrate the resourcefulness of inmates. Not only did inmates craft dangerous weapons, they also designed tools including tattoo machines , guns, fans and even distillery devices.

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum formerly housed the wardens of Kingston Penitentiary. There is eight display rooms that each outlines a particular theme including: Correctional Service Canada (CSC) officers, confiscated contraband, punishment and rules, and artistic expression. The extensive collection of artefacts and photographs chronicle the practices employed in penitentiaries from punishment to rehabilitation.

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The emphasis on rehabilitation in the Penitentiary is evident in the art that was created by inmates. Inmate artistic talent is display throughout the Museum ranging from painting, sculpture, carving, ship models and more.

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Painting by inmate

Canada’s Penitentiary Museum is a unique destination that gives context to the incredibly popular Kingston Pen Tours. The self-guided tour is an insightful experience that is a must see for everyone!

Opening hours are listed on the website

One response to “Canada’s Penitentiary Museum: Innovative Inmates”

  1. You should put this tour on your bucket list. This is a major part of our Canadian Heritage and well worth the history lesson.

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