Thursday, December 15, 2011

Abandonment Issues: Rideau Correctional & Treatment Centre


Opened in 1947, The Rideau Correctional Centre in Merrickville, Ontario originally served as a minimum security facility where inmates learned farming skills while serving out their sentences. The agricultural component was phased out over the years, in favour of treatment programs. In the latter years of the jails operations, it housed mainly sex offenders and drug addicts in the 354 beds, and offered various treatment programs in an attempt to combat recidivism. These treatment programs included anger management, substance abuse, and relapse prevention.

The Rideau Correctional & Treatment Centre closed in 2004 as part of the Ontario governments Infrastructure Renewal Program, and the inmate population was transferred to the new super jail in Lindsay. The program also brought about the closure of almost twenty other provincial jails, including the Millbrook Correctional Centre, which I also explored recently.

Our exploration begins with a long walk across the farmer's field, which was once maintained by the inmate population. We continue through dense vegetation and thick brush under the hot summer sun. Ninja and I, clothing covered in thistles and thorns, eventually make our way down a steep embankment, and then back up the other side of the crevice, pushing aside grasses and weeds that are taller than ourselves. We are overjoyed to come across what inmates here would surely have loved to encounter: A hole in the fence.

And so here we are, breaking into prison.

breaking into prison

The basketball courts, the red brick building exteriors and the perimeter fence towering overhead instantly pay a handsome reward for the long treacherous walk, but as is our modus operandi, we immediately seek the safety of shelter inside the closest building, so as not to be seen. A helicopter flies overhead just after we enter what turns out to be the minimum security building.

We explore each and every accessible building in complete silence, unaware if there is security present on site. We have acquired proficient skills at team stealth and communicating with hand gestures and whispered code words. We take our time in each building, photographing and soaking in the energy, but we scurry hurriedly like mice between the buildings. Significant damage has occurred in the seven years since the jails closure, by the hands of man and mother nature alike. In some areas, the black mould is absolutely overwhelming, especially in some of the cell blocks.

When we come across the solitary confinement cells, I enter a cell and lay down on the cold blue steel bed frame, and Ninja closes the door behind me, enclosing me in darkness. A sense of utter loneliness and claustrophobia sets in and after about 3 minutes I hop to my feet and exit the cell. Inmates would have spent 23 hours per day in these cells while serving time in solitary confinement. We make our way outside to the tiny rec yard where solitary inmates would have spent only one hour of each day, before returning to their cells, which would have been as bare as they are on this day, with the possible exception of a mattress and some bedding.

In the long hallways of the office buildings, that were likely used for therapy sessions, rooms repeat themselves endlessly. The basement of one such building contains several large open rooms, used for group therapy sessions, I assume. We quickly wander through the cafeteria, and the gymnasium, where basketball hoops still hang from the walls surrounded by orange stencils of athletes that conjure up visions of artwork by my friend Pahnl. The Admitting & Discharge area fascinates us, as this was the first and last room that inmates would see during their stay at Rideau Correctional. We discuss this admission process at length and walk ourselves through it, then we sit down in the holding cell together and share a brief hug and kiss. Our discussion carries itself forward quietly, touching on the irony of the situation: The sense of freedom that we feel having this entire jail to ourselves, enclosed in this holding cell.

After scouring every inch of every accessible building, we conclude that we are indeed alone, and we make our way back through each and every cell block before calmly walking the interior of the perimeter fence to get our exterior photos.

And so here we are, breaking out of prison.

Through the hole in the fence, down and back up the embankment, through the brush, across the farmer's field, and into our getaway car.


the riot

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16  1 2


minimum security building

time served



no jail guards on duty


outlook not so good


corridor of doors

substance abuse

anger management

chow time

solitary yard

solitary yard

solitary confinement A

solitary confinement B

solitary single cell amoeba


open 5


gated community

mess hall

inside out



bars and stripes

cell block

peeling paint and black mould

bottom bunk blues

cell block

chow time



purple stools

slop hall


rec room

the cage


get out of jail free

Not Locked

home sweet home

where the wild things are

let the courts decide your 

leaving the minimum security building


We hope you enjoyed your time served at Rideau Correctional & Treatment Centre with us, and hereby release you from our custody due to good behavior. Hopefully you will be recidivists and return to our blog site, but not to our prison cells.

********* UPDATE*********
*****January 28, 2013*****

The Rideau Correctional & Treatment Centre is currently being demolished.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES


Deborah said...

Disturbingly fascinating! Very impressed that you had the nerve to pretend to be in the solitary confinement. What trust you have in Ninja to set you free. Terrifying to think one's mind could be trapped in such a small space.

Anonymous said...

Released march 29th 1988..
worked maintenance during my stay,
painted many of those walls.
pics are amazing!!
can;t believe the condition after only 6 or 7 years of being closed. if there;s anymore pics.

Racket said...

Love all of your posts. Amazingly Eerily Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Was there in 93, those images have a ghostly feeling. I would be amazed to go in there now and see it first hand. Like a bird set free coming back just to "Check things out".

Anonymous said...

wow i was there in the late 90's i did a 18 week treatment beacause i got arrested for stealing all the time i was in the newr addition building witch are the first few pictures you posted,you know it is disturbing a little i met some good people in there not only hard criminals have a picture of the exact bed i slept in,if you ever need any information about the jail and exact specifications let me know ...great work

Mike B said...

Wow memories for sure I was there in the correctional side in about '98 and those pics are pretty eerie.Its funny how someone can have good memories from a jail

joseph said...

Damm why are they brakeing it down they should rebuild it I was ther in 2001 for 13months nd I learnt a lot from that jail I been out for over 10years now nd I meet some preety good imates ther I wish they never broke it down soo many memories from Rideau even the Treament side I learnt a lot from Rideau

Norma said...

I am so glad that I stumbled upon this. My friends and I were trespassing on a lot nearby and came upon this facility two Novembers ago. We so badly wanted to get past the gates and explore within the walls. I've often wondered about this place want to know more. It is such a treat for me to get to live the experience through you guys. Very jealous.

Anonymous said...

I can remember in the 50s going out to the "farm" to watch softball games between the locals and the inmates. The ball diamond was across the highway and I can recall inmates just walking across the road to play ball.... That would be before they ramped up security to Medium....

Anonymous said...

Great story and pixs...i worked thete throughout the 90s as a psychologist. as another one posted...strange to have good memories of a jail, of good people who served time and of those who worked there...

Unknown said...

I was there in the early 9`s and worked on the farm gang. We drove tractors across the road to pick corn and zuchinni. I was only 19, and it was more like a camp experience, although I was glad to get the hell out of there!! Brings back some memories.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these. I actually served a bit of time there years ago and lived in one of the rooms you posted a picture of. It stirs quite a few odd feelings in me to see it again. If you have any questions about what the rooms were used for or anything I'm happy to offer you what i know. Also, no, I'm not a bad person.

AdriennesBlogg said...

I went in during the demolition. I wish I could have went earlier they only had the one building left and the old house.

Anonymous said...

I find all these prison closures and tear downs a total waste of the taxpayers money. Take a jail that does the job required and then close it. I was here twice, also been to Guelph three times and the ghost train (bus tour of the provincial jails). Ended up going straight getting a pardon and marrying a psychologist. I don't like these jail closings, keep the inmates in their local areas, so their families can visit. Stop wasting my tax payers money building "super" jails!.

Anonymous said...

I was there in 1970,,,helped build the tuck store learned construction at the same time ,,,in the wood shop,,,instructor Mr. Rabb great teacher had a few chosen guys me included go to Winchester to replace the boards in the arena,,,great outing ,,,

Glen said...

Was here in 93, went for treatment for alcohol and found out so much more about myself. ThNk to dr Elizabeth Yates I've been clean and free ever since. This joint saved my life to bad it's gone.

Anonymous said...

Great post as I worked there for 17 yrs ,through the 80s,90s and early 2000.Our treatment programs ,education courses and shop programs helped out a lot of inmates to make themselves better people.Today's Super jails are just giant warehouses and are not conducive to change.Great pics and they brought back a lot of memories of my past.Thanks