End of an Era
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"I think the Prison for Women has outlived its usefulness... We're the last physical remnants of the past."
Thérèse LeBlanc, Warden, Prison for Women
Kingston Whig Standard, September 4, 1999)
On May 8, 2000, the last inmate was transferred from the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, to Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario. The event brought an end to a process, begun in 1995, that saw scores of inmates leave the prison, bound for new institutions, challenges and opportunities.
The date of the last departure was particularly significant: it marked the early fulfillment of the Solicitor General's commitment of September 3, 1999, to close the Prison for Women within two years.
There is no denying that the Prison for Women had its shortcomings. Its design was flawed and, as the only federal women's prison in the country, it separated many of its inmates from their loved ones and support networks. Nonetheless, for some inmates, it offered hope and gave help. For many of the staff who served diligently over the years, the Prison for Women was an integral part of their lives. The memories will remain.
Closing a prison, like closing a hospital or decommissioning a naval ship, can be fraught with emotion. It can also signify progress. Today's closing ceremony is one such occasion. While the official closing of the Prison for Women marks the end of an era, it also symbolizes the progress that has been made toward improving corrections for women offenders in Canada.
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