Queen’s University graduate Rhodri Bassett is the group lead at Kingston Penitentiary, a role that helps keep tours of the 178-year-old institution on schedule. With an education in sociology, philosophy and criminology, and two summers of working at Fort Henry National Historic Site, Bassett brings an appreciation and understanding of Kingston Penitentiary’s place in the city’s heritage.
What did you do before joining the team at Kingston Penitentiary?
I received my bachelor’s degree in sociology and philosophy from Queen’s University, where I studied the Kingston Penitentiary and the Prison for Women in a Gender, Law and Crime course. I then completed a master’s degree in criminology in Sweden, which was an amazing opportunity to learn about progressive and humane treatments of offenders. When I returned to Kingston in June, a supervisor position at Kingston Penitentiary was posted. Having worked with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission at Fort Henry for the past two summers, things just fell into place.
What fascinates you about Kingston Penitentiary?
While the history of Kingston Penitentiary is very interesting, the stories from the retired correctional staff have been the most fascinating aspect of working at Kingston Penitentiary this year. I think the media depicts incarceration in a particularly oppressive way, but the retired staff shared many touching stories of redemption and humanity of inmates, something the public rarely hears.
What have you enjoyed the most about working at Kingston Penitentiary?
I feel particularly humbled to get the chance to work with an amazing group of people. Being able to help retired staff share their stories with our student tour guides and the public is a really meaningful endeavour to me - it is what really brings Kingston Pen to life. I’m proud to think the hard work we’ve put in all summer will help to preserve the prison as well as the stories.