Robert Carter Jr. (Letters, May 22) called for a rational discussion on the issue of prison construction. An obvious step in this direction is to examine a city that throws considerable light on this problem. The city is Kingston, Ont., Canada, where three federal penitentiaries exist cheek by jowl, with one of Canada's most prestigious universities. It is a serene and beautiful little city with tree-lined streets, old limestone houses and Lake Ontario lapping at its doorstep.
Kingston Federal Penitentiary (maximum security for men), Collin's Bay Penitentiary (medium security), and the federal penitentiary for women called the Prison For Women, are all located within the city.
Two of these maximum security prisons are both within comfortable walking distance of the university and this is an important factor in bringing the resources of Queen's University to the prisons. Even more important, it means that the town's people themselves have the opportunity to walk to prisons, visit the prisoners and if they are so inclined, may help to implement programs that will help the prisoners prepare for their paroles.
How do those who advocate isolation of these citizens explain the fact that the most exclusive and expensive neighborhood in Kingston is smack up against the fortress of a prison, built more than 100 years ago, the Kingston Federal Penitentiary? It is probably the safest area in Canada. The people I knew there didn't even double lock their doors!
This location of the prisons enable some of the prisoners to take courses at the university on day parole and when there were days off the voluntary organizations in the community, such as The John Howard Society for the men and The Elizabeth Fry Society for the women, furnished escorts for the prisoners and learned to become their friends. From firsthand experience I learned that rehabilitation is possible under these circumstances and that cuts both ways--we make a far safer, saner and more prosperous society in the bargain, as the saving in tax money is enormous.