September 27, 2020

WomensPrisonBY BRANDON HOMMEL

In Canada, women sentenced to prison terms of more than two years serve their time in a federal institution operated by the Correctional Service of Canada.

What a lot of K-W residents don’t know is that some of those inmates are housed in Kitchener’s own backyard.

Grand Valley Institution for Women is a prison located at 1575 Homer Watson Blvd., in Kitchener. Even though it is disguised as a beautiful building, some residents weren’t too thrilled about its construction back in 1997.

“I remember when they announced the construction of the prison,” said Gord Gugins, a local Kitchener resident of 40 years, and retired Dare’s employee.

“My wife wasn’t too happy about it, and neither was I. I drive by it every day, and I’m glad it blends in, but I feel it’s embarrassing having a women’s prison here in Kitchener. It doesn’t fit. And I’m sure visitors must think we’re insane.”

Adult women sentenced to incarceration for less than two years serve their sentences at the Vanier Centre for Women, at the Maplehurst campus in Milton.

Grand Valley Institution for Women houses approximately 171 inmates, and is the only federal women’s prison in Ontario. Plans are now underway to increase capacity at the institution. Construction of 44 new accommodation spaces is expected to be completed this year.

Back in 2007, the prison became infamous for the death of 19-year-old inmate, Ashley Smith. An inquest recently concluded, with the jury finding that her death was a homicide. However, it made 104 recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies.

Despite it being in the news, and having been around since 1997, not all Kitchener residents know it even exists.

“That’s scary!” said Anastasia Dao, a first-year Conestoga business administration student. I drive past it every day to get to school and work and I never once thought it was a prison. It’s only 10 minutes from Conestoga, and that kind of freaks me out.”

The institution offers tours of the facility for the community. For more information, call 519-894-2011.

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