It was a rare date with my sister. After days of heavy snow squall warnings that cancelled our attempt to get together after the New Year, the weather finally cleared enough for me to venture north to spend a day with my younger sister before she disappeared to Florida to spend her first winter of retirement.
I’m not familiar with the area around the small village where she lives, so in spite of the white-knuckle ride I had on a snow-packed and icy road, we decided to take a drive to nearby Penetanguishene.
Yes, I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s pronounced more or less as it’s spelled … Pen-ah-tang-gwish-een.
I’ve only known ‘Penetang’ as that-place-where-the-prison-is. I had a preconceived impression of a gritty, beat-up little bump on the map, but instead I discovered an interesting town full of early frontier history.
I’ve never been to an active jail or prison – I strongly believe in the 11th Commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Get Caught, and the best way to accomplish that is to stay on the side of the angels.
So, of course curiosity required that we actually check out the “Central North Correctional Centre”.
I’m not sure what I was expecting of a maximum security facility but it wasn’t the squat, sprawling complex that reminded me of a high school built in the 1970s … at least, not until we got past the mountainous snowbanks lining the road and I saw the barbed wire. I don’t know about your’s, but my high school didn’t have barbed wire.
We drew attention to ourselves almost immediately when my sister ignored the ‘no public access’ sign and attempted to drive up to what appeared to be the front entrance. We were not more than 20 feet past the sign when a guard (a woman with a big blonde ponytail) came outside and started walking towards us.
Have you ever noticed that security guards – regardless of gender – have a certain no-nonsense swagger about them that can’t be mistaken for friendliness?
Tina quickly put the car in reverse and we hastily retreated back behind the sign … and the guard retreated in kind.
We parked the car behind the cover of snow and I approached on foot to sneak in a couple of photos, but when the Ponytail Guard came back out again, we skulked away.
We drove a short distance down the road to the WayPoint Centre For Mental Health Care. It is described on their website as a psychiatric forensic hospital, but regardless of how they attempt to soften the language, this is also a high security facility for the criminally insane.
That is why I was surprised by the lack of obvious security features like the ubiquitous barbed wire and external cameras we had encounter at the Correctional Centre down the road. Even more so, I was stunned by Tina’s casual comment that she’s taken her grandson there for swimming lessons.
… and they have swimming lessons there for small children???
I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that one.
In between WayPoint and the Correctional Centre are all that remain of the former psychiatric facility – the stone pillars and wooden gate, now mostly buried under snow.
The former facility was torn down a number of years ago to prevent trespassing by urban explorers (those who explore the abandoned ruins of man-made structures), or simply the idle curious.
I’m vaguely offended by that – of course I would.