04/19/2012 10:52 EDT

Kingston Penitentiary To Close: Ottawa To Shut Maximum-Security Prison Built In 1835


Ottawa will be closing Kingston Penitentiary, Canada's most notorious maximum-security prison in the next two years, the government announced on Thursday morning.

"Kingston Penitentiary opened its doors in 1835, well before Confederation," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

"The time has come to recognize its crumbling infrastructure, costly upkeep and severe limitations in effectively managing a population of maximum-security male offenders," he added.

Kingston Penitentiary, which can hold 421 inmates, currently holds some of Canada's worst criminals, including serial killers Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams. More than 460 employees work there. Kingston's inmates will be sent to maximum-security units at other facilities, Minister Toews said.

A second prison, the medium-security Leclerc prison north of Montreal will also be closed in the next two years. That prison can hold 288 inmates and employs 358 people, according to Correctional Service Canada.

Closing both prisons will save around $120-million a year, Toews said. He also said that the staff at these prisons should be able to find work at facilities near Kingston and Montreal.

Toews cited security concerns such as bad sightlines and bars that "allowed inmates to throw objects at staff," as some of the issues with older facilities like Kingston and Leclerc.

The government has faced criticism over a possible rise in the prison population due to new rules in the Conservative Omnibus Crime Bill. But the government has said that it is not planning to build new prisons because it has not seen a rise in the prison population from tougher penalties enacted in previous legislation.

"Every step of the way, our government was told by our opponents that our policies would create a wave of inmates that would swamp the correctional system. Quite simply they have not arrived," Toews said.

In the latest budget, the government indicated that new cells will be built at existing facilities across Canada.

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