Original stone and iron flooring, jail cells, ironwork... everything about the place is interesting.
Attached to the active Don Jail
Built: 1864 Closed: 1977
The Don Jail is a notorious municipal jail in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the Riverdale neighbourhood on Gerrard Street East near its intersection with Broadview Avenue. It is named for the nearby Don River.
The current Don Jail was built between 1862 and 1865 (predating Canadian Confederation by two years) with most of the current jail facilities being built in the 1950s, although a jail has stood on the site since 1858. Designed by architect William Thomas in 1852, its distinctive façade in the Italianate style with a pedimented central pavilion and vermiculated columns flanking the main entrance portico is, ironically, one of the architectural treasures of the city and one of very few pre-Confederation (1867) structures that remains intact in Toronto. For example, it is over thirty years older than Toronto's Romanesque Old City Hall.
However, owing to its sturdy construction, its interior has gone largely unchanged in the last fifty years as renovations would be both difficult and expensive, even in an empty facility. As such, it is considered badly outdated as a prison facility. Originally constructed to house 275 prisoners, its "rated capacity" is now 550, and its average prisoner load is about 620. In addition, as a "short-term" jail, it was not designed with adequate visitor facilities, exercise areas, telephones, lawyer meeting rooms, showers, or even laundry facilities. However, the average stay is 30-90 days, and many prisoners are kept there for months. Many attempts have been made to close it as politicians, international human rights organizations, prisoner advocate groups and even prison guards have decried its overcrowding and inadequate facilities. However, despite several attempts to close the facility, it remains open primarily to deal with the large number of remand prisoners awaiting trial. It is often overburdened by a large number of arrested persons awaiting arraignment.
Courts have taken judicial notice of the deplorable conditions in "The Don" and judge Richard Schneider set a precedent of crediting persons serving time in the facility awaiting trial with three days for every day spent in the facility. The judge noted that the prison no longer met the minimum standards set by the United Nations. These conditions were also brought to light by a controversial article in the Toronto Star in which a reporter was smuggled into the prison by a sympathetic Member of Provincial Parliament, Dave Levac, MPP. Mr. Levac faced censure for bringing in the reporter, although as an MPP he had a right to free access to the facility.
It should be noted that the prison is only for remand prisoners, and it does not hold any persons actually found guilty of an offence.
The jail was the subject of the first ever television news report on the CBC English network when the Boyd Gang, a notorious group of bank robbers, broke out of the facility for the second time. The news anchor was future Bonanza star, Lorne Greene.
The Don Jail was also the site of Canada's last hangings. On 11 December 1962, Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were hanged in the Jail's execution chamber. They had each been convicted in separate murder cases. (from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Jail ) --- The CBC has online the news story footage of the Boyd Gang's second escape from the Don Jail (their recapture lead to a special set of triple bars, photo in gallery, being installed in their area).
"Unbelievably, the Boyd Gang busts out of the Don Jail a second time! For some reason, the four men had been placed in neighbouring cells. Soon they saw through the bars once more, and become the quarry of the largest manhunt in Canadian history. And it's not just newspapers covering the story now: the escape is the subject of the very first news report of the fledgling CBC English Television network.
While in the Don Jail, Willie Jackson jokingly grabbed a key from the guards, offering to lock Steve Suchan in his cell. Jackson squeezed the key tightly, and soon after was able to trace the impression it left on his hand. He acquired a hacksaw blade and small piece of metal from an unscrupulous lawyer, and Boyd used them to fashion a working key that opened all four cells." Watch the report: http://archives.cb...ty/boyd_gang/clip4
Toronto ‘Don’ Jail The last two executions in Canada were Arthur Lucas (#709) for shooting a Toronto Police Constable and Robert Turpin (#710) for the killings of a prostitute and pimp. They stood back to back, and were executed at two minutes after midnight on 11 Dec. 1962. A small group of vocal protesters has gathered outside the Toronto ‘Don’ Jail. Both were arrested, tried and executed in less than l4 months.
Both were represented by the same defence counsel, Ross MacKay, who was devastated by the executions. Author Jack Batten says of him that, before "... he was a heavy drinker. Afterwards, he was an alcoholic. He lost his family, his practice, his money." Although he was able, years later, to rebuild his life and his career, he was one of the indirect victims of these cases.
Chief Justice James McRurer, who sentenced Lucas and many others to death, later commented that "There was one good thing about Lucas' hanging. It was the last. Parliament ended the death penalty, and sentencing a man to hang is one part of the administration of justice that judges need have no fear of now."
There were 34 persons hanged at the Toronto ‘Don’ Jail. There have been four York County or Toronto Jails since 1800. 1872-02-22 – John Traviss – 20 years – murdered John Johnson 1877-11-30 – John Williams – murdered Ann Williams (wife) 1880-07-23 – George (Dickson) Bennett – murdered George Brown 1888-02-18 – Robert Neil – 19 years – murdered John Rutlidge (prison guard) 1890-02-12 – Thomas Kane – murdered Mary Kane 1900-04-14 – William Henry – murdered John Varco (robbery) 1902-07-18 – Fred Lee Rice – murdered William Boyd 1905-03-10 – Alexander Martin - 22 years – murdered baby sons (7 months old) 1908-01-08 – John Boyd – murdered E.A. Wandle 1909-12-23 – Poral Steffoff – murdered Simoff 1910-06-10 – Pasquale Ventricini – 45 years – murdered Raffael Fabbio 1915-04-13 – Jan Ziolko – 31 years – murdered Tony Trendo (robbery) 1919-01-03 – Hassen Neby – murdered George H. Tucker 1919-06-13 – Frank McCullough – murdered Frank Williams (policeman) 1921-08-03 – Roy Hotrum (Patsy Lewis) – 21 years – murdered Leonard Sabine (robbery) 1921-08-03 – William McFadden – 33 years – murdered Leonard Sabine (robbery) 1922-05-09 – Frederick (Danis) Davis – 46 years – raped Philip Goldberg (age 8) 1930-03-24 – Edward Stewart – 33 years – murdered John Freeland (robbery) 1931-07-14 – Abraham Steinberg – 50 years – murdered Samuel Goldberg 1931-09-23 – John Brockenshire – 22 years – murdered Roy McQuillin (policeman) 1933-02-03 – Ewart G. Warren – 26 years – murdered William Moore (robbery) 1933-04-03 – Mike Tach (Michael Tkach) – 30 years – murdered Fannie Robulock 1936-05-05 – Harry O’Donnell – 25 years – raped Ruth Taylor 1938-06-30 – Thomas (Louis) Bryans – 38 years – murdered Norman Ford 1939-10-04 – Bill Petrekowich – 29 years – murdered Annie Gerozenic (ex-wife) 1940-07-03 – Joseph Dlugos – 41 years – murdered Annie Mysian 1942-02-12 – Hugh Alex. William Newell – 27 years – murdered Aune Paalov (wife) 1948-06-29 – Leslie Robert Davidson – 29 years – murdered Margaret Meredith (wife) 1952-12-16 – Leonard Jackson (Fred Wilson) – 30 years – murdered Edmund Tong (policeman) 1952-12-16 – Valent Lesso (Lenoff Suchan) – 24 years – murdered Edmund Tong (policeman) 1956-11-21 – Robert George Fitton – 22 years – raped Linda Lampkin (13) 1961-06-27 – Louis William Baldwin Fisher – 24 years – raped Peggy Bennett 1962-12-11 – Arthur Lucas – 54 years – murdered Thomas Crater & Carol Newman 1962-12-11 – Ronald Turpin – 29 years – murdered Frederick Nash (policeman)
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