Hi there and welcome back to the blog! Today I’ll be sharing with you yet another interesting place that I discovered right here in Quebec. When I visited Kingston, Ontario during the summer we ended up actually taking a guided tour through the Kingston Penitentiary (stay tuned for a full blog post about that coming soon) and it was probably one of the funnest things we did on that whole trip. After that, it got me wondering if there were any old, abandoned prisons closer to me that I could go explore and get some pictures of. I recently discovered the Old Prison of Trois Rivieres which can be found only about 1h30 away from where I live so today I’ll be sharing with you a few pictures from that as well as a little bit of the history of the prison. Enjoy!
History of the Prison
The prison was built in 1822 and soon became the oldest working penitentiary in Canada until it’s closure in 1986. The facility was operational for 160 years and was meant to house up to 40 prisoners at a time. This was rarely the case however and due to an influx of prisoners, the prison sometimes had over 100 inmates within it’s walls. One of the main reasons in which the prison decided to close it’s doors for good was because of unsanitary and unhygienic conditions throughout the prison. The cells and the common rooms in which the prisoners frequented day in and day out were rarely cleaned and were breeding with bacteria, diseases, mold, bugs, and rodents. This resulted in the inmates getting sick often and most of those who did get sick behind bars ultimately died because of it. Up until the year that the prison shut down, it was also operating under the ‘bucket system’ which didn’t help the health conditions the prison was already facing. The bucket system was basically the toilet system for the prisoners where one bucket was allotted for seven inmates and that was where they were to relieve themselves when needed. The buckets would be found in the middle of the cells in which the prisoners were and when they would get full of feces and urine, they would be emptied out into holes in the floor of the prison. As the years went on people started to realize that the prisoners were actual human beings and should be treated likewise regardless of the crimes that they committed. The bucket system was deemed to be not humane and not sanitary but because the walls of the prison are made of stone and cement it would’ve been nearly impossible to cut through the walls to install proper piping to in turn install toilets. Since this would be an extremely costly procedure, the prison decided to close it’s doors instead and to move the prisoners to a different prison which was the cheaper and more efficient solution to the problem.
After the prison was shut down it was left in a bit of despair and was left that way for a while until the Quebec Museum of Popular Culture took it over and incorporated it into their museum program. The prison was slightly renovated before being opened to the public mainly for safety reasons but remains largely intact as it was when it was in use. The doors, windows and furniture, as well as the prison dungeon are all the originals.
Admission Fees & Visitor’s Information
The Old Prison of Trois Rivieres is the holder of a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor and has quickly become a popular tourist destination for those visiting the town and the Mauricie region of Quebec. The tour of the prison allows you to walk through the jail (including the cells, dungeon, solitary confinement, etc) and hear testimonies from former inmates of the prison in order to get a sense of what life behind bars was really like. The prison is open all year round with dates and hours varying depending on the season. The tour lasts roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes and costs $15 per adult to attend. The price is cheaper however for children, students, and elders and there are also family packs available.
If the regular tour isn’t enough for you, there is also the option of spending the night in the jail for $75 per person. This is available for groups of people with a minimum of 15 people per group and entails you to spend the night in the prison where you will go through booking and processing like the prisoners before you. You will spend the night in a cell with your other cellmates and be under the watchful eye of the warden.
The visit to the old prison was definitely worth the price and the time. Though our tour guide wasn’t an ex inmate to the prison, he was still very informative in letting us know the history of the prison and a little bit about what a day in the life of a prisoner there was. Though the prison is quite small in size there was still a lot to see once inside and it really puts everything into perspective once you’re in there. Visiting old jails might not be everyone’s idea of a fun day out but for what it’s worth, this is one to not be missed. It was a great way to spend the day out, explore a new place, and to learn a bit about a piece of history.
For more information or to plan your own visit to the Old Prison of Trois Rivieres, visit the prison’s website here.