Penitentiary Farm

Street Address : Richardson Stadium
Period : 1850-1900

Queen’s University West Campus: this area, which encompasses Richardson Stadium, was previously used as the Penitentiary Farm. This land was owned by the institution and referred to as the ‘Kingston Penitentiary Reserve’. This was also the location of several stone quarries. The farm was in operation for approximately a century, between 1862 and 1963. In the first years of the penitentiary, all quarrying and farming was kept inside the institutional compound as most of the convict’s labour was directed towards the completion of the prison itself. This continued for approximately twenty-five years. In 1860, plans were laid to begin farming on the Penitentiary Reserve. Before any work was done on the land, a stable and a cottage were constructed in 1861. By 1862 a small frame barn and a wooden piggery were built. Unfortunately at this time the heavy-clay soil of this area was found to be poorly suited to agriculture. Thus, in 1864 a concerted effort was made to improve the quality of the land for farming through the addition of huge quantities of soil and fertilizers.

The farm served a variety of purposes for the Kingston Penitentiary. It kept the inmates who worked there sufficiently employed which aided in their reformation and taught them a trade that they could use upon leaving the penitentiary. In addition to this, the produce raised on the farm was used to supplement the diet of the inmates. The produce also provided feed for the animals on the farm and any excess was sold to consumers. Those who worked on the farm were also in charge on maintaining the prison grounds, including roads and the dock. The penitentiary employed ‘farm instructors’ to help run the farm and instruct the prison labourers.

The Penitentiary farm was considered beneficial to both the prisoners and the prison. This was emphasized after the first prison riot in 1932 as “outside work” was considered beneficial to the prisoners to help them positively release their contained emotions. Despite this it was difficult to employ too many inmates in the quarries or on the farm because of the increased security risk and the need to employ guards. To be eligible to work outside prisoners needed to possess a short sentence or have already completed half of their sentence. It was also difficult to accommodate the inmate’s short working days and maintain a productive farm.

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