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City of Kingston and Corrections Canada agree to Penitentiary tours in 2018

Whether it’s curiosity, history or notoriety, the chance to see the inside of Kingston Penitentiary is a hot ticket with the public.

Paul Finn made the trip from Lombardy, Ont. to see first-hand what the life of a federal inmate was like.

“I’m just looking to see what kind of facilities they lived in for the last 100 years.”

Rachelle Cohoe came from Belle River saying the institution is an important part of Canadian history that should be preserved.

“Looking at (history) is so important to be able to see how life was behind bars in Kingston.”

It now looks like the public will have more opportunities to tour the prison that has been home to infamous criminals like Russell Williams and Paul Bernardo.

The city of Kingston and Corrections Canada are on the verge of inking another deal for tours in 2018 pending an upcoming vote by city council.

The last two years have seen the best tourism numbers in Kingston’s history according to Mayer Bryan Paterson.

“I think the Kingston Penitentiary has played a big part in that so to know that we’ve got this deal in place again for next year it’s great news and it allows the tourism partners to start planning ahead of time,” Paterson said.

The local United Way benefits as well with half the tour profits going into their coffers.

Last year that added up to over $300,000 for the charity and the expectation is it will double this year.

Bhavana Varma, the head of the United Way for the area, says revenues from the penitentiary tours has allowed them to start a number of pilot projects aimed at youth, programs that have been tremendously successful in dealing with issues like youth homelessness.

“The family mediation worker works with them before the youth is homeless. So that has been 99 per cent successful. Only two out of forty youth actually ended up in a shelter but still they got service,” Varma said.

Over 90,000 tickets have been sold this year totalling more than $3 million in revenues.

The 2017 season continues until October 29th.

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